NOVEMBER 2012 | CONSUMERREPORTS.ORG
Detergent Duds See what they did to our dishware! PAGE 8
Fuel-efficient Cars Chevrolet Volt, Fiat 500, Lexus CT, Honda Civic Hybrid, and more PAGE 52
High-tech Features Do they distract? PAGE 47
Computers New desktop models provided extra powers.
TV Finetuning Five steps to getting the right picture settings PAGE 35
$ 5.88 US
SLASH YOUR ENERGY BILLS Most efficientappliances, and more ways to save PAGE 24
special energy package 24 | Saving Energy Important steps to consider to cut your energy costs.
31| Energy-saving Bulbs Our first Ratings of LED lights. PLUS the latest on compact fluorescent choices. Ratings page 29
35 | Alternative Energy We test-drive a wind turbine. PLUS Updates on solar and other energy systems.
2012 FLAT 500
33 | Computers New desktop models provided extra powers.
34 | Tires Best choices in ultra-highpreformace treads for all seasons.
35 | TV Finetuning Five steps to getting the right picture settings
36 | Cordless Phones
5 | Ask Our Experts
14 | Safety Alerts
5 | Letters
61 | About Us
6 | ViewPoint
62 | Index
Guarding your credit score.
6 | From Our President What’s mined is yours.
7 | Up Front
40 | Shattered Glass
• How to boost your memory • New tests find glitch with dishwahers detergents. • Close-up CD rates. • Hidden catteine in food. • When do you need a paper recipt? • Red wine blends. • What is “the cloud”? • Taste Test Fruit cups for kids.
We analyze more than 140 new incidents.
12 | Health
Fifteen models that stand out.
38 | Blood-pressure Monitors Some wriest models shine in our latest tests.
How to haggle with your doctor. Did you know? Water, not hydrogen peroxide, is best for cuts.
13 | Money
63 | Selling It
INSIDERS 43 | New for 2012 What’s coming down the road for the next model year.
47 | Connected Cars New technology creates new concerns about driver distraction.
52 | Fuel-Efficient Cars Road tests of the Chevrolet Volt, Fiat 500, Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h, and Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Ratings page 53
Timing your Social Security benefits.
INSIDERS | viewpoint
WHO WE ARE
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent consumerproduct-testing organization. we also survey millions of consumers about their experiences with products and services. Wer’re based in Yonker’s, NY, and are a nonprofit prganization. What we do We buy all the products we rate.
What we don’t do We don’t accept aid advertising; we get our money mainly through subscriptions and donations. We don’t accept free test samples from manufactures. And We don’t allow our name or sontent to be used for promotional purposes. How to reach us To send a letter to the editor, go to ConsumerReports.org/ letter to editor.
Write to us at Consumer Reports, 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, NY 10703-1057, attn: Customer Services. For news tips and story ideas, go to ConsumerReports.org/tips. For subscription information, go to ConsumerReports.org/ magazine or call 800-666-5261.
FROM OUR PRESIDENT What’s mined is yours There’s no such thing as coinc idence online. You bought a grill last week and ads forT-bones keep popping up; you researched heartburn and now you’re dodging cyberpitches for antacids. Technology gives companies the ability to track your online movements like never before, and a dearth of legal limits gives them the right. Consumers are not pleased. In a May CONSUMER REPORTS poll, 82 percent of respondents said they’re at least somewhat concerned that companies they do business with online are sharing or selling their personal information without asking permission. And nearly two-thirds agree completely that there should be a single, central place where they can opt out of Internet tracking permanently.
Privacy vs. profit Many companies do manage consumer information responsibly. But data mining is extremely profitable, and voluntary industry self-regulation isn’t working for consumers. So we’re relieved that Congress is considering bills that would set comprehensive, standardized, enforceable privacy rules to spell out how companies are permitted to collect, maintain, use, and share consumer information. Besides giving consumers their say over what information is collected and where it goes, the laws would also give them the ability to easily opt out of certain forms of online tracking. Some browser-based systems already allow that, but data collectors do not, at this point, have to respect consumers’ choices. We think they should. These crucial laws would give some transparency to an opaque practice that confounds even Internet experts. And they would let consumers decide whether they want their Internet habits and history to be tracked and traded.
Jim Guest JIM GUEST President
20 MILLION The number of U.S. households each year that are victims of”cramming,” the illegal placement of unauthorized fees on monthly phone bills, the Federal Communications Commission estimates. Consumers Union is asking Congress to crack down on the practice.
CONSUMER VICTORY WHERE: Washington State THE WIN: A new law governing consumers’ right to know the reason for increases in health-insurance premiums. WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU: Consumers have been in the dark about why their health-insurance rates keep climbing. Weak oversight, little transparency, and a lack of public participation plague a state-by-state system of monitoring rates. But starting this fall, Washington State’s consumers can search rates, post comments, and sign up to get e-mail when their insurance company requests a rate change, at www.insurance.wa.gov/consumer/health/transparency/ index.shtml.
GUARDING YOUR CREDIT SCORE THE ISSUE Under-the-radar companies use unreliable information to create consumers’ credit scores. OUR TAKE The three major credit bureaus set scores based on credit-card payments and other obligations. Those scores help lenders and others determine a consumer’s creditworthiness. But lesser-known companies, dubbed the “fourth bureau,” create credit scores based on data that fall outside the standards used by the major credit bureaus. Those companies may track gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, and other files considered unreliable for determining creditworthiness. Consumers often aren’t aware those files exist, nor do they know how to get errors corrected. Existing standards for handling credit information don’t cover all the activities of the fourth bureau, and enforcement is spotty. Consumers Union believes that Congress and regulators should hold the fourth bureau more accountable . All data brokers should allow consumers to see their records, fix problems, and know when information is being used to make decisions about them.
December 7-9. 2012 Friday/Saturday 10 am - 6 pm Sunday 12pm - 6 pm Las Vegas Convention Center 3275 Paradise Road Las Vegas, NV 89109 The first annual Tech Expo is potentially the industry’s largest educational forum to help companies expand their businesses and understand new technology. The expo is designed for CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CXOs, and other technology staff to gain knowledge, perspective and insight into the technology issues facing associations and non profits. Learn how tech + work = what’s next! Approximately 200 sessions and 500 expert speakers encompass the conference tracks and super sessions to discuss hot industry trends and topics. Keynote addresses feature executives from the world’s largest and most successful companies and result in remarkable media coverage for the speakers.
NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
Many of the top products we test are also the most efficient
ENERGY SAVINGS (for real)
To hear critics carp about the improved efficiency standards for lightbulbs, you’d think that energy efficiency is all about sacrifice, not saving. But as our latest lighting report reveals, you don’t have to give up light quality when switching to a more efficient bulb, provided you know what to look for. In fact, some of the best appliances , electronics, and heating and cooling equipment from our recent tests are among the most efficient. And we’ve tapped a number of home-energy retrofits that, if done right, can quickly pay for themselves. But not all efficiency promises pan out. Here’s what’s new, what works, and what to think twice about, including some products that, based on our analysis, oversell their energy savings.
What’s new: Powering electronic devices can cost you almost as much as powering your kitchen appliances. Half of U.S. homes have three or more TVs, 39 percent have multiple computers, and 44 percent have four or more rechargeable devices. Then there are roughly 160 million set-top boxes, each consuming substantial power, more than a refrigerator in some cases when used with a high-definition digital video recorder. Electronics and appliances account for 30 cents of every dollar you spend on electricity. Appliances have become more efficient, but increased use of electronics has offset those gains, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Department of Energy is looking into mandatory energy-use standards for TVs and set-top boxes, but it’s likely to be years before those are adopted. Consumer Reports also advocates for increasing retail competition so that you have more purchasing options for set-top boxes. What works: Set computers to hibernate when they aren’t in use. Though no federal efficiency standard exists for TVs, those made after May 10, 2011, are required to have Energy Guide labels. Use labels to compare estimated annual energy costs among similarly sized models. The EnergyGuide’s numbers are based on a TV’s energy use in out-of-the box mode, which doesn’t necessarily offer the best picture quality. The annual energy costs in our Ratings are based on the electrical use when each set is optimized for picture quality. Our TV Ratings also indicate picture and sound quality, and ease of use.
FEATURES | envergy saving (for real)
Regarding set-top boxes, ask your cable company about replacing your current box with one that meets Energy Star’s 3.0 specifications, effective Sept. 1, 2011 . Also inquire about whole-house DVRs, which can eliminate the need for an energy - intense recording device on each TV. And unplug set-top boxes on seldom-used TVs. If you receive free , over-the-air digital TV signals via an antenna, you can even do away with the box, supplementing network broadcasts with online movies and shows streamed to an Internetconnected TV, Blu-ray player, or game console.
have improved plasma efficiency, possibly spurred by California’s 2010adoption of minimumefficiency standard for TVs. You can now find large screens that cost $70 or less per year to run, and some 42- to 46-inch models have annual operating costs around $30. But LCDs are still the most efficient type of TVs, especially those with LED instead of fluorescent backlights.
What to think twice about: Hanging onto an early-model plasma TV can be as bad as keeping an old energy-hungry refrigerator in the basement. Some of the first plasmas we tested in 2004 could cost well over $200 a year to operate. Manufacturers
What’s new: More efficient appliances perform better than older ones, and the Energy Star program has improved. Starting this year, before a product can display the Energy Star logo, it must be tested for compliance by an accredited third-party lab. In the past, manufacturers could test
Energy all-star: The 55-inch LCD Samsung UN55D65000, $1,900, has a fine picture, and its annual energy cost, $29, is almost half that of some similar models.
and certify their own products. Verification testing will soon be in full swing, ensuring that Energy Star-labeled products actually save money. And pending legislation could toughen minimum- efficiency standards for several major appliances starting in 2013.
What works: Some energysaving innobations translate into lower utility bills. Through all new refrigerators use much less energy than those made a decade ago, refrigerators with variable-speed compressors and vacuum-insulated panelsconsumed less energy in our tests. Frontloading washers use less energy and water than most top-loaders and
WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES If your household is like the national average, you can expect to spend about $2,200 thisyear on energy costs, according to the Energy Star website. Here’s a likely breakdown of how a U.S. household spends a typical energy dollar:
(includes freezers, small appliances, and electronics)
28¢ space heating and related equipment
9¢ kitchen appliances
4¢ laundry appliances
8¢ TVs, computers, and related equipment
Source: Energy Information Administration 2011 projections.
NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
extract more water in their spin cycle, so clothes spend less time in the dryer, saving even more money. But even top-loader efficiency has improved. Dishwashers with soil sensors match the cycle time to the load, saving energy and water. Though Energy Star has become more reliable and efficiency standards are getting tougher, they don’t tell you how well appliances perform. Use our Ratings to find models that combine top performance with efficiency. And check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables &Efficiency (www. dsireusa.org)for available rebates. What to think twice about: Many manufacturers say they’re introducing smart appliance lines in 2012. One example is a refrigerator that defrosts only when electricity rates are lower. You’ll probably pay more for the appliances, but those smart technologies won’t save you a dime unless your home has a smart meter and your utility lowers power rates during nonpeak hours, called time-of-use pricing. It’s estimated that only about 15 percent of U.S. homes have a smart meter, and less than 1 percent of residential customers receive time-of-use rates . Energy all-star: LGLFC25776, $1,350: 1his 25-cubic-foot, French-door bottom- freezer refrigerator, a CR Best Buy, is almost as cheap to operate as a top-freezer model- $49peryear.
Heating & Cooling
What’s new: More alterna- tive energy options exist. Check our first-ever report on a wind turbine designed for residential use, on page 30, to see how the technology stacks up against other forms of residential alternative energy, including solar and heat-pump water heaters. Geo- thermal systems, which use the relatively constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool homes, are an emerging alterna- tive to fossil-fuel-powered systems.
What works: Ahome energy audit can identify low-tech, high-yield energy ret- rofits. Your utility or state energy office might offer low-cost audits. But be sure they’re using pros certified by the Building Performance Institute or the Residential Energy Services Network. They undergo classroom and hands-on field training in whole-house energy audits , and continuing education requirements ensure that they keep up with the latest practices and tech- nologies. Expect to pay between $300 and $800 for a complete audit. The DOE’s web- site, at www.energysavers.gov, has advice for conducting your own audit. If your fur- nace or boiler needs upgrading, you’ll earn a 10 percent tax credit if you buy one with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency of 95 percent or greater. It must be installed by Dec. 31, 2011. A 30 percent tax credit is available through 2016 on alternative technologies, including wind, solar, and geothermal. What to think twice about: Using a space heater to lower winter heating bills will work only if you turn down the heat in the rest of the house. And open floor plans might need multiple heaters. Also think hard about having your ducts cleaned unless they contain visible mold or vermin, or debris is coming out of supply registers. Shoddy work by an untrained cleaner can damage your ducts, and there’s little proof that cleaning ducts prevents
WHERE THE ENERGY SAVINGS AREN’T We find many models of efficiency in our tests, but we also come across products whose energy-saving claims are mostly hype. Here are some recent offenders:
Hamilton Beach Set &. Forget Toaster Oven Our testers had good things to say about this $100 toaster oven’s broiling and toasting ability. The manufacturer claims that the product uses 65 percent less energy than a standard electric oven or range. But in our test, the savings were less. only about 15 cents for an average roast, which over the course of a year might amount to a few bucks at best. Electrolux Ultrasilencer Green Canister Vacuum With its efficient suction fan and 1,250watt motor, this $265 vacuum “uses 33 percent less energy than the average 2,000-watt vacuum;· according to Electrolux. That would net you roughly $4 a year, assuming1 hour of vacuuming per week. Then again, given its middling carpet cleaning, you might save even less because you have to run it more than a top-performing vacuum. KVAR Energy Controller The manufacturer of this $400 device claims that it can lower electric bills by as much as 10 percent by causing the motors in a home, such as the one on a refrigerator or pool pump, to run more efficiently. But many oftoday’s products already use high-efficiency motors. The Energy Star website says that those types of devices “improve power quality but do not generally improve energy efficiency (meaning they won’t reduce your energy bill):’ And the National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated that an energy controller could save about $1.80 a year on central-airconditioning costs.
Save Money & Energy with the EarthCents Home Energy FEATURES | envergy saving (for real) 28 Improvement Program health problems or improves heating- or cooling-system efficiency, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Energyall-star: A.O. Smith PHPT-80, $2,250 (installed). This hybrid electric water heater, with a heat pump that extracts heat from the air and uses it to help heat water, delivered 59 percent energy savings compared with a standard electric model.
What’s new: A “smart grid” will add digital sensors, wireless communications, and other intelligence technologies to the 72º nation’s centuryold electrical grid. The new grid could pave the way for widespread time-of-use pricing, which could help consumers lower their utility bills by using their appliances and heating and cooling equipment when rates are lower.
Can you match your home with the supplies of each improvement?
What works: Despite all the potential, the jury is still out on whether consumers will benefit from the smart grid or whether the savings will tilt toward utility compa- nies. But you· can manage your energy use. A programmable thermostat, for ex- ample, can lower your annual energy costs by as much as 10 percent by automatically turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 per- cent for 8 hours each day in the winter and turning it up in the summer. But you do have to program it, so make sure the model you choose is easy to use. Plug-in watt meters, such as the Kill A Watt P4400, can help you find energy hogs in your home.
NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
What to think twice about: Switching utility suppliers: Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have restructured markets that allow consumers to choose where their electricity comes from. Twenty- one states and the District of Columbia have similar residential choice programs for natural gas suppliers. But look before you leap. See “Switching Utilities? Here’s What to Ask,” on page24, for details. Energy all-star: Lux Smart Temp Touch Screen TX9000TS, $80. This pro- grammable thermostat was one of the easiest to use in our tests, and it kept temperatures constant.What’s new: Smaner building practices, developed for new construction, are being used to make existing homes more energy efficient. Available in light and dark colors, cool roofs use special coated pigments to reflect sunlight and emit heat more efficiently than regular roofing. They can reduce cooling costs in warm-weather climates by 20 percent on average, according to the California Energy Commission. Daylighting, the use of windows and skylights to bring more natural light into a home while moderating seasonal temperatures, is another efficient design practice that is on the rise.
What works: Keeping heated air (and cooled air in the warmer months) from leaking out of your home’s roof, walls, and windows could lower your annual energy costs by $500. Start by insulating the attic if it has less than 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose. Then seal and insulate leaky ductwork. Last: eliminate air leaks with a combination ofcaulk, foam board, expand- able sealant, and weather stripping. What to think twice about: Replacing windows solely for the sake of saving energy might not be a good idea. Our Switching utilities? Here’s what to ask: tests found it could take as long as 20 years to recoup that investment. But if your windows Changing your electricity or natural-gas supplier might help you lower your utility have deteriorated, or if you’re bills and support renewable energy. But comparison shopping can be tough, replacing them as part of a larger and the Better Business Bureau warns against exorbitant hidden fees and renova- tion, choosing doublebogus greenenergy claims. Ask these questions to make sure that your bills go glazed windows with an R-value down, not up. Check your state’s public-utility or public-service commission for of about 2 or 3 and low- emissivity more information. (low-E) coatings that manage solar heat gain can help trim your energy • Is the new supplier licensed by your state’s public-utility commission? bills by 10 to 25 percent.
Roffing, Windows, and Doors
Energy all-star: CertainTeed Land- mark asphalt shingle, $67 per square. This laminated shingle, a CR Best Buy, showed very good strength and weather resistance in our tests, and its silver birch, mist white, and star white colors are Energy Star-qualified.
• What is the price per ki lowatt-hour for electricity and perl,OOO cubic feet for natural gas? • Is the rate fixed or variable? • What is the length of the agreement? • Is there a cancellation fee or any other penalty for switching back to your old electricity or gas supplier?
December 7-9. 2012 Friday/Saturday 10 am - 6 pm Sunday 12pm - 6 pm Las Vegas Convention Center 3275 Paradise Road Las Vegas, NV 89109 The first annual Tech Expo is potentially the industry’s largest educational forum to help companies expand their businesses and understand new technology. The expo is designed for CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CXOs, and other technology staff to gain knowledge, perspective and insight into the technology issues facing associations and non profits. Learn how tech + work = what’s next! Approximately 200 sessions and 500 expert speakers encompass the conference tracks and super sessions to discuss hot industry trends and topics. Keynote addresses feature executives from the world’s largest and most successful companies and result in remarkable media coverage for the speakers. Found From Website PDF
Recreated LOGO BEST BUY
LEDs and CFLs offer more choices and savings Contrary to what you might have heard, you can still buy most incandescent lightbulbs. But we’ve found few reasons you should. Our tests of26 compact fluorescents and 10 light-emitting diodes found that though the newest bulbs might not be perfect, they last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, and many of the problems of earlier versions have been overcome.
CFLs use about 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer!
We were testing CFLs, which use about 75 percent less energy and last seven to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, even before stores began widely selling them. LEDs are the newest choice. They use even less energy than CFLs and are claimed to last for decades. And federal law is set to require most screw-in bulbs to be more efficient by 2014. 1his report includes our first full Ratings of both types. We focused on 60-watt equivalent CFLs and LEDs because those are the most popular types sold in the U.S. Here’s what we found: CFLs save money faster. It usually takes less than a year to recoup the cost of most CFLs, according to our tests, which are based on the bulbs being turned on for 3 hours a day. From that point on you’re saving money by using less electricity, about $52 dollars per 60-watt equivalent over a bulb’s lifetime. Because of the high cost of
FEATURES | lightbulbs
LEDs, $20 to $60 per bulb without rebates, they can take four to 10 years to pay for themselves, based on our tests. Even at those prices, you can still save between $65 and $400 over the 18- to 46-year life of the LED compared with an incandescent bulb. But you probably won’t save money by switching from a CFL to an LED until the price of LEDs comes down. However, our tests revealed some other reasons that you might want to switch. LEDs meet most of their claims. After 3,000 hours of testing, the best LEDs were still as bright as the incandescents they replaced. But only about half were as bright as promised. All the LEDs reached full brightness instantly, even at frigid temperatures, providing warm white light that was unaffucted by frequently turning them on and off. Energy use matched or exceeded claims, and LEDs don’t contain mercury ( CFLs do in small amounts). Some LEDs dimmed as low as incandescents. But not all LEDs are good at shining light where you need it. So we’ve added a lightdistribution score to our Ratings.
AmbientLED, $40, for table or floor lamps, the EcoSmart LED down light, $50, and the EcoSmart PAR38, $45, outdoor floodlight. But staffers said they wouldn’t buy them until prices drop. CFLs now have less mercury. The amount of mercury in the bulbs we tested has dropped 60 to 75 percent, compared with the already low levels we found in 2008, without affecting performance. Mercury helps CFLs produce light. And most CFLs contained less than 1 milligram of mercury. 1he one exception is the EcoSmart covered CFL, and even that has significantly less than Energy Star allows. Given our test results, Energy Star could consider lowering the mercury cap below 5 milligrams. Nevertheless, spent CFLs should be recycled. Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe’s, and some Ace Hardware stores will
How to choose It isn’t socket science, but there are a few terms you need to :!>now before buying any energy-saving bulb. Energy Star-qualified bulbs meet high standards for brightness, color, and energy use, and the mercury content is capped in CFLs. Check store displays of lit bulbs to get a feel for th eir light quality. Then use the following shopping tips: Look at lumens. You might be used to associating watts with
LEDs are supposed to last 20,000 to 50,000 hours, or about18 to 46 years when used 3 hours a day. Nearly all the LEDs are still burning brightly after 3,000 hours, and two Cree LEDs we turned on more than a year ago had been continuously burning for more than 9, 000 hours at press time. Only four of100 LEDs stopped working. Those have lower scores for life testing, and we’re continuing our testing on all the LEDs. Staffers try, and like, LEDs. We asked 19 staffers to use six different LEDs at home for two weeks each and evaluate them using a questionnaire developed by our sensory specialists. Their favorites were the Philips
accept used bulbs. Three CFLs we tested, including the top-rated GE Energy Smart Saf-T-Gard spiral, have a plastic coating that contains mercury and any shards if the bulb breaks. Follow clean-up tips at www.epa.gov/ cWcflcleanup.html. Sweep up a broken LED and recycle it with other electronic waste because it contains semiconductors .
All of the CFLs and LEDs below are Energy Star-qualified. That’s important if you’re looking for utility rebates. Both use rough ly 65 to 85 percent less electricity than regular incandescent bulbs, though LEDs aren’t much more efficient than CFLs.
Best for lamps or ceiling fixtures: A1 A2 A3 B1
RECOMMENDED All are high-performing models.
GE EcoSmart Feit Philips
$10 $1.50 $2 $40
All replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb and can be used outdoors if not exposed to moisture. Among CFLs, A1 has a protective coating that contains the bulb pieces if it breaks. A2 fully brightens the fastest, in about 19 seconds, and like A1 is a better choice if a fixture is frequently turned on and off. A3 is the brightest. B1, an LED, outperformed all tested bulbs and is dimmable. You won’t see the spiral in B3 and B4, and payback time is quicker for those low-cost CFLs. B3 is fine for fixtures that are frequently turned on and off but isn’t as bright. B4 is bright but takes more than 2 minutes to fully brighten.
NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
brightness, but watts tell you only energy use. Lumens measure brightness. In spirals look for at least 450 lumens if you’re replacing a 40-watt bulb, 800 lumens or more for a 60-watt bulb, 1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb, and 1,600 lumens or higher when replacing a 100watt bulb In R30 floodlights look for a lumen count that is at least 10 times the wattage of the bulb you’re replacing, 650 lumens to replace a 65-watt bulb, for example. Don’t confuse brightness with color. The whiteness, yellowness, or blueness of light is measured by its temperature in kelvins. Incandescents produce a warm yellowish light with a color temperature of about 2,700K. At 3,000K the light is whiter and comparable to that of a halogen bulb. Bulbs in the 3,500K to 4,100K range give off a cool, bright white light, and 5, OOOK to 6,500K bulbs
Best for recessed or track lights: D1 D2 D3 D4
EcoSmart GE Feit Sylvania
$50 $12 $4.50 $10
These replace 65-watt incandescent bulbs and can be used in semi-enclosed fixtures. They’re good choices for fixtures that will frequently be turned off and on. D1, a dimmable LED, isn’t as bright as the others but puts I ight where you need it. It fits most 6-inch cans and instantly warms up, unlike CFLs D2, D3, and D4, which take much longer. D2 is the brightest and is dimmable. D3 can also be used in fully enclosed fixtures.
Best for outdoor lights: E1 F1 F3
Utilitech EcoSmart Sylvania
$6.50 $45 $14
El replaces a 90-watt incandescent and provides excellent brightness, but like most CFLs of this type it’s slow to warm up, especially in colder weather. Among
mimic natural or daylight. But those higher temps, with their bluer tones, can be unflattering indoors. Use kelvins to get the right color light because terms like soft white and warm white mean different things to different manufacturers. Note CRI. In addition to temperature, the Color Rendering Index indicates how accurately colors appear under the light and ranges from 0 to 100, with daytime sunlight at 10’0. Most of the tested bulbs are in the low 80s; a few reached the upper 80s and low 90s. A CRI of at least 80 is generally recommended for interior lights, and differences of fewer than five points are insignificant. Few of our staffers complained about the CRI of the LEDs we tested or of the CRI of CFLs in the past.
most bulbs. It will show brightness, energy use, estimated energy costs, expected life, light color in kelvins, and, for CFLs, mercury content. But even bulbs we purchased without the new label had much of this info on the packaging. Note: Only the information on Energy Star bulbs has been independently verified. Check for rebates and coupons. Visit www.dsireusa.org/incentives or www.energystar.gov to find utility rebates and search online for manufacturer rebates and coupons. Many are instant rebates, so you won’t have to fill out any paperwork. Keep your receipts. The bulbs are supposed to last fur years, so save the receipts and UPC codes. You’ll need them to return a bulb to the manufacturer or retailer.
Read the package. As of] an. 1, 2012, a Lighting Facts label must appear on the packages of
replacements for 75-watt bulbs, F1 is a dimmable LED that instantly brightens, even in cold weather. It can be used with a timer. F3, a CFL, is also dimmable and works with a timer and with a motion sensor.
Guide to the Ratings Overall score combines life and rapid on/ off testing, brightness after 3,000 hours of use, light distribution, and warm-up time. Brightness indicates brightness of each bulb after life testing and was compared with the brightness of a comparable incandescent bulb. Rapid on-off testing reflects the average numberof2-minute-on and 2- minuteoff cycles each bulb survived. Warm-up time is how long the bulb took to reach near-full brightness. Life testing measures how many bulbs survived 3-hour-on and 20-minuteoff cycles after being on for 3,000 hours. Light distribution measures how well a bulb duplicates the light-dispersal pattern of an equivalent incandescent bulb. Brightness (lumens) after 3,000 and color temperature (kelvins) after 3,000 are the averaged
measured brightness and temperature of 10 bulb samples after life testing. Those with 2,700K are closest to incandescent bulbs; ones with 3,000K are similar to halogen bulbs; 4,000K and higher appear white to bluishwhite. Price is approximate retail. Payback t ime (years) is when a bulb will start to save money when compared with an equivalent incandescent bulb, assuming the bulb is on 3 hours per day.
BY THE NUMBERS 360 bulbs tested 1,080,000 hours of light generated GOOD
works with timer
payback time (yr)
color temp. (kelvins)
0 - 100
claimed life (hr)
BRAND AND MODEL
in preformace order, within types. (types designated A, B, etc.)
A SPIRAL 60-watt equivalent, can be used in many applications. Most have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) between 81 and 84. $10.00 85
2 EcoSmart 60 Watt Soft White 423-599 ES5M8144
3 Feit Electric EcoBulb Plus 60W ESL13T/5/ECO  
4 Philips Energy Saver 60W Soft White Mini 227827
5 GE Energy Smart Soft White 60W FLE13HT3/3SW 97689
6 Sylvania Soft White Micro-Mini 60W CFBEL 26959 
7 GE Energy Smart Mini Spirai13-60W Soft White 85383
8 Utilitech Soft White Mini 13W·60W 0252003 L13T6/27K
9 EcOSmart Shatter Resistant 60W Craft light ES5M814FSSS 
1 GE Energy Smart SAF·T·GARD 60W 78961
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
B COVERED SPIRAL OR LED 60-watt equivalent, can be used in many applications. All have a CRI between 81 and 86. 1 Philips AmbientLED 12.5W 12E26A60 60W
2 Sylvania 60W Ultra LED Soft White 78675  
3 EcoSmart 60 Watt Soft White A19 ES5A8142 967034
4 GE Energy Smart 60W Soft White 74437
5 ArmorLite Safety ECO CFL Safety Coating
6 Utilitech Soft White 60W LBP16AM2 0082382
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
C LED 40- to 50-watt equivalent, can be used in many applications. Most have a CRI between 81 and 88. 1 GE Energy Smart 40W LED9A19/830/CD 62180
2 EcoSmart A 19 LED Bright White 40W ECS 19WW 120 864680
3 Sylvania 8W A19 LED Dimmable 78496  
4 GeoBulb 3 Al9 Soft White LED 
✓ ✓ ✓
D FLOOD/REFLECTOR 65-watt equivalent, commonly used in recessed or track lights. Most have a CRI between 82 and 84. 1 EcoSmart LED Downlight 10.5W 65W E26 ECD-575L Dimmable 
2 GE Energy Smart 65W R30 Floodlight Dimmable 21710
3 Feit Electric EcoBulb Plus Soft White R30 65W Rohs BPESL15BR/2  
4 Sylvania R30 Soft White 65W Indoor/Outdoor 29998 
5 Utilitech R30 Reflector Soft White 65W 022419
6 EcoSmart R30 SOft White 65W Dimmable Reflector Flood 530236
7 Philips Energy Saver R30 Dimmable Reflector Flood 150417 EL/A 
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
E FLOOD/REFLECTOR 90-watt equivalent, mostly used in accent or security lights. All have a CRI between 82 and 84. 1 Utilitech Soft White PAR38 90W Outdoor Flood 075232 60064
2 Philips Energy Saver Reflector Flood PAR38 90W 406207
3 GE Energy Smart Soft White PAR38 Floodlight 90W 73796
4 EcoSmart Soft White PAR38 90W ES5P8232159979
✓ ✓ ✓
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
F FLOOD/REFLECTOR 60- to 75-watt equivalent, mostly used in accent or security lights. Most have a CRI between 84 and 86 1 EcoSmart PAR38 ECS 38 Bright White 7SW866194 Dimmable LED
2 Philips Ambient LED 16W PAR 38 outdoor & Security 40803 
3 Sylvania 75W Indoor/Outdoor CF23EL/PAR38/BL129625 
4 Sylvania LED 18W PAR 38 Flood Dimmable 78495  
✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
G PORCH/POST 40- to 60-watt equivalent, used in outdoor fixtures. CRI is 83 or 84 1 Philips Soft White 60W Postlight with Built in sensor 405852
2 GE Energy Smart 40W Postlight 85384
 Works with photo cell.  Qorks with motion sensor.  CRI is much higher than others in group.  CRI is much lower than others in group.  Some versions made before June 2010 have been recalled.
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CARS | new for 2012
THE NEW RULES FOR CAR BUYING save thousands of dollars on a new car. nogotiating is the secret. Negotiating for a new car can strike fear into the heart of even the most rugged individuals. It’s not surprising. Car dealers and manufacturers have arranged pricing in a manner designed to daze and confuse the consumer. However, simply by. understanding the tricks of the trade, consumers can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on their new cars. That’s why Consumer Reports has created The New Car Price Service. This service gives you everthing you need to walk into a showroom with confidence and walk out with a great deal. The New Car Price Service breaks down the negotiating process into a few simple rules: RULE #I: BREAK THE DEALER’S CODE. When you walk into a car showroom, you’ll see “ two prices: 1. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) 2. The Dealer Invoice Price. Naturally, most people think it is wise to negotiate down ftom the MSRP to as close t~the Dealer Invoice Price as you can get. And that’s exactly the dealer wants you to think - but it won’t get you the best deal. The reason: Both the MSRP and the Dealer Invoice Price are “artificial” numbers created by the car manufacturer and dealer to setve their negotiating purposes.
Neither price should be used by you as a starting point in your negotiation.
The New Car Price Service: 1-800-279-5658.
What you need is the real price the dealer paid for the car.
RULE #3: PLAY THE GAME.
If you know the real price, you’ll have true negotiating power because you’ll know how much wiggle’’ room you really have. You should bargain up from this real price. New-car buyers who use The New Car Price Service save an average of $2,000. Naturally, dealers don’t display this real price in the showroom. To obtain the real price for any car you’re interested in buying, call The New Car Price Service at 1-800-279-5658. RULE #2: FIND OUT ABOUT UNADVERTISED DEALER INCENTIVES AND HOLDBACKS. These are tools the dealer uses to negotiate to his favor. You should know about them so you can use them to negotiate to your favor. Take “dealer holdbacks;’ for example. A holdback is a percentage that is repaid to the dealer by the manufacturer. The holdback is designed to supplement the dealer’s cash flow (code words for sales commissions) by artificially elevating the dealership’s paper cost. If you know the dealer’s holdback, you can use that information as a negot ating tool to loweryour price. To learn how to use these powerful negotiating tools, call
THE NEW CAR PRICE SERVICE The New Car Price Service costs $14 and can save you thousands of dollars on a new car. The service gives you a complete report on the car you are interested in purchasing. The report is an organized plan and advice on playing the game. While the average savings is $2,000, the potential savings is far greater, depending on the model of car. For example, the potential savings on the Jeep Liberty is $5,757. The phone call is free: 1-800-279-5658
The Consumer Reports New Car Price Service takes you step by step through the negotiating game with professional new-car buying advice. And when it comes to options and safety equipment, you’ll know what’s really worth your money versus “dealer extras” that do nothing except cost you “extra’’ money. For example: The dealership’s “business manager” may try to sell you undercoating, rustproofmg, fabric protection, extended warranty, windshield etching, etc. But don’t bite. Such add-ons are generally worthless or overpriced. RULE #4: IF YOU HAVE A TRADE IN. Don’t even mention it until you’ve agreed on the price of your new car. But when it’s time to talk trade-in, you should know what your trade-in is worth whether you sell it privately or to a dealership. You can get that information from us too and it costs just an additional $12.
CALL TOLL-FREE 1-800-279-5658 To Save Money Fast: Ask about our newest feature “build and Buy” Please have the following ready when you call: Year, make and model of the new car, minivan, van, SU\1, or pickup truck you want to buy. (Example: 2011 Honda Accord) Year, make, model, and trim line of your trade-in, if you have one. (Example: 2004 Honda Odyssey) Your credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express)
Volkswagen Beetle fall 2012 For 2012 VW introduces the second generation of the reincarnated Beetle. lt”s wider and longer than the last one, and the trunk and cabin are much roomier, making the car a more practical choice. The base five-cylinder engine is rated at 170 hp, and a 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and 140-hp diesel are available. BOTTOM LINE. More space and power might breathe new life into the retro Beetle. But lower-trim Beetles have rather cheap interior plastics, examples of the costcutting strategy that hurt the 2011 jetta sedan we tested.
NEW FOR 2013 fuel economy drives innovation
Rising oil prices and tougher fuel-economy requirements are the inspiration for the latest wave of fuel-saving vehicles. Prominent among them are more small cars, gas-electric hybrids, and electric cars. However, many larger mainstream vehicles are being tweaked to improve their gas mileage by more conventional means , such as innovations in turbocharging, weight reduction, aerodynamics, and direct fuel injection. Moreover, even the least expensive cars will have improved safety features because federal laws now require antilock brakes and electronic stability control as standard equipment on all cars and light trucks. And backup cameras are becoming common, especially on SUVs, where they ‘re often needed the most. Following is our take on some of the most notable new models. To watch “firstdrive” videos of several of these vehicles, go to www.ConsumerReports.org.
What’s new, redesigned, or discontinued for the 2012 model year. NEW: Audi A7 Buick Verano Chevrolet Sonic Chevrolet Spark Fiat 500 convertible Fisker Karma (EREV) Ford Focus (EV) Ford C-Max Hyundai Veloster lnfiniti M35 Hybrid Mazda CX-5 Mini Coupe Mitsubishi I EV Range Rover Evoque Saab 9-4x Saab 9-5 wagon Scion FRS Scion iQ Subaru Coupe Tesla Model S (EV) Toyota PriusV REDESIGNED: Audi A6 BMW 65 eries Chevrolet Malibu Ford Focus Honda Civic Honda Civic Hybrid Honda CR-V Hyundai Accent Hyundai Azera Kia Rio Lexus GS Mercedes-Benz CLS Mercedes-Benz M L Nissan Versa Subaru lmpreza Toyota Camry Toyota Tacoma Toyota Yaris Volkswagen Beetle Volkswagen Passa DISCONTINUED: Buick Lucerne Cadillac DTS Cadillac STS Chevrolet H H R Dodge Dakota Ford Ranger Honda Element Lotus Elise Mazda Tribute Mitsubishi Endeavor Nissan Altima Hybrid Volvo 540/VSO EV=electric vehicle; EREV= Extendedrange electric vehicle.
CARS | new for 2012
Toyota Prius V fall 2012 The Prius Vis an enlarged-wagon version of a regular Prius. slightly taller, 6 inches longer, and an inch wider. Toyota claims that cargo space has grown by more than 50 percent over the hatchback model’s. It uses the same 1.8-liter fourcylinder engine as the basic Prius, but EPA fuel economy, although still excellent, is considerably less, 44 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. The Prius Vintroduces the Entune infotainment system, which delivers telematics services and Web apps (see page 47). A weight-saving moon roof is optional on the high-end trim line. BOTTOM LINE. The V provides more cargo space than a hatchback or sedan and better fuel economy than an SUVorwagon.
Toyota Camry fall 2012 The new Camry doesn’t stray far from its traditional recipe. It comes with a fourcylinder, a hybrid, and a V6. Trim lines range from the baseL to the LE, XLE, and a mildly sporty SE. Powertrains carry overfrom the previous model. The new electric power steering should contribute to improved fuel economy. BOTTOM LINE. We would expect the Camry to retain its comfortable ride and quiet interior and hope the interior quality doesn’t backslide, as it has in some recent Toyotas.
Chevrolet Sonic fall 2012 The Korean-designed, U.S.-built Sonic is a serious attempt by General Motors to gain traction in the subcompact market now dominated by cars like the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa. A four-door hatch and sedan are available, as they were for the Aveo it replaces. They are both relatively roomy and are powered by the same engines used in the larger Chevrolet Cruze, a 1.8-literfour-cylinderor an optional turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. The Sonic’s long list of safety features includes 10 air bags. BOTTOM LINE. Our early drives with a preproduction model last winter indicate that the Sonic is far more competitive than the Aveo.
Nissan Versa fall 2012 The redesigned Versa bows as a sedan, and a hatchback will follow in spring 2012. We liked the outgoing Versa; its best features were an upscale interior and spacious rear seat, which continue in the redesign. The new car is about the same size as the old one but lower and lighter, with a smaller engine bay and larger trunk. The new engine is an advanced 109-hp, 1.6-literfour-cylinderwith a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Nissan says combined city/highway fuel economy should improve to 33 mpg. BOTTOM LINE. If the new engine has sufficient pep, this car should do well. Nissan touts a starting price of less than $11,000, but you’ll probably pay about $16,000 for a well-equipped version
NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
Volkswagen Passat summer 2012 The redesigned Passat is larger than the previous version. The interior looks solid, with a soft-touch dash and switches, buttons and knobs that it shares with the well-executed Touareg. A 170-hp five-cylinder is the base engine, which is also found in the )etta. The higher-end engine is a 280-hp V6. A 140-hp 2.0-liter diesel that Volkswagen says will get 43 mpg on the highway will be available. Allwheel drive will be optional. BOTTOM LINE. If Volkswagen’s new emphasis on value pricing doesn’t cut corners, then the new Passat might be a solid competitor. But it has lost some of the sharpness of its predecessors.
Chevrolet Malibu early 2012 The Chevrolet Malibu’s redesign shares underpinnings with the Buick Regal, an agile and well-finished car that did quite well in our road tests. The new Malibu is a bit wider than before, but its wheelbase is about 4.5 inches shorter. The primary engine is a 190-hp four-cylinder, but a mild hybrid system called eAssist, Chevrolet claims, yields 26 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway. BOTTOM LINE. The Malibu will come up against some stiff competition in this segment from midsized stalwarts such as the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. But if the Malibu retains the Buick Regal’s ride, handling, and interior quality, it should become a strong competitor. Notably, the new Malibu won’t be offered w ith a V6 engine.
Audi A6 summer 2012 TheA6 redesign features lighter aluminum body panels and a direct-injection 310-hp 3.0-literV6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission to help improve fuel economy. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 211 hp paired with a CVT. The front wheels have been moved farther forward, allowing for more cabin room, and the MMI driver-interaction system is said to be a bit easier to operate. Available gadgets include a color heads-up display, a night-vision display, and LED headlights. BOTTOM LINE. It’s significant that Audi and BMW are bringing four-cylinder engines to their elite sedans.
This is a magazine redesign I purposed for Consumer Reports.