Home Depot is now selling a $20 EcoSmart LED bulb — it’s dimmable, even! Margery Conner, of Electronics Design News, got one and went medieval on it to figure out what makes it tick — or in this case, glow.

I love this process of deconstructing a piece of hardware, looking up the datasheets for the components, figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of the design, etc. Here’s a bit of what she learned:

Not the usual intense light sources we’ve seen in other LED lights: These are large surface-area LEDs that make for a very pleasant diffuse light source. And the light only requires two of them to put out 429 lumens at 8.6W.

Well, I couldn’t find a manufacturer’s label, but there is an apparent part number; AM6L1, and the part looks like an LED array, meaning that, rather than a single emitter, the LED packages up several tiny LED chips in one package and covers them with a single phosphor. It’s a good choice to use such a diffused light source – no pixilation.

The e-cap (just partially visible to the right) is potential weak link and this design uses a good-quality part. Compared to other LED lights, this one has relatively little hand-soldering. As we know from Geoff Potter’s research, solder joints are the Achilles’ heel of LED lighting reliability. Going with a highly-integrated LED driver part like the LM3445 in itself gets rid of a lot of solder joints.

If you enjoy these sorts of teardown investigations, stay tuned…. We have a contest coming up to challenge you to peer under the hood of some of your gadgets and tell us what you discover. [Thanks, Tim Slagle!]

Home Depot’s $20 EcoSmart LED light: What’s inside?


HOW TO – Make your own LED bulbs

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.

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