How many generations does it take to change a lightbulb joke?

Is this the end of lightbulb jokes? With a claimed life of 18 to 46 years, LED bulbs may only have to be changed once every generation—or two. So in the future when someone is asked, “How many [fill-in-the-blanks] does it take to change a lightbulb?” the answer might be, “You mean you have to change lightbulbs?” Consumer Reports is trying to answer that questions in its first full test of LEDs.

Most of the LEDs we recently tested were impressive, and when 19 staffers tried the bulbs at home, they liked them and favored some over others. But our testers also said they wouldn’t buy LEDs until prices dropped. The bulbs in our labs cost $20 to $60 each. Our tests found they can take four to 10 years to pay for themselves. But even at those prices, you can still save $65 to $400 in energy costs over the life of the LED, compared to an incandescent.

Some of our Facebook followers have asked questions about performance. We tested 10 different LEDs, 100 bulbs total, including ones for table and floor lamps, indoor downlights, outdoor floodlights, and porch/post lights. After 3,000 hours of testing, energy use matched or exceeded claims and frequently turning them on and off didn’t affect them. No one brand was consistently high performing across the different bulb types. Some LEDs are dimmable and dimmed as low as incandescents. Most LEDs are in the 2700 to 3000 Kelvin range, meaning the light’s color is warm like an incandescent’s. Our lightbulb Ratings provide important information on brightness, warm-up time, and light distribution and, of course, note which are standouts.

And that brings us back to the question of how long LEDs really last. The claims range from 20,000 to 50,000 hours. Nearly all the LEDs we tested are still burning brightly after 3,000 hours; only four stopped working. And two Cree LEDs we turned on over a year ago have been burning nonstop for more than 9,000 hours. Our tests continue, and we’ll continue to update you in the months and years to come.

—Kimberly Janeway


Avoid the 5 most common grilling mistakes

To help you sidestep typical gaffes, we sought the expert advice of Steven Raichlen (, barbecue-cookbook author and host of “Barbecue University” on PBS, as well as our in-house grillmeisters. Here are their tips:

  • Food sticks to the cooking grates and/or won’t sear properly.Preheat the grill for 15 to 20 minutes. “Gas grills have a tendency to burn cooler than charcoal, so it’s imperative that yours be fully preheated,” Raichlen says.
  • Flare-ups occur. Don’t overcrowd the cooking surface. Raichlen suggests keeping 40 percent of the grates empty. If fatty foods such as salmon or rib-eye steaks flare up, move the items to a cooler or nonflaming section of the grate.
  • Food is under- or overcooked. Cooking with the lid open allows heat to escape and compromises roasting. Use high heat for searing thick cuts of meat, then lower to finish cooking.

    To check doneness of meat, insert an instant-read thermometer into the sides of steaks and chops or into the thickest part of burgers and chicken to ensure proper temperatures have been reached. Cook food to at least the following internal temperatures, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: beef burgers, 160° F.; beef steaks, chops, and roasts, and lamb, 145° F. (medium-rare) and 160° F. (medium); chicken, 165° F.; fin fish, 145° F. or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork; pork, 160° F.

  • Food tastes bland. To add flavor and tenderness, use a marinade made with an acid–vinegar, lemon juice, plain yogurt. But marinate for too long and the food can become mushy. Marinate shrimp for 15 to 30 minutes; salmon steaks, 30 to 60 minutes. Chicken breasts need at least an hour, and up to 4. Marinate other chicken pieces for 4 hours. Tender cuts of beef need 15 minutes to 2 hours, while ­less-tender ones can take 6 to 24 hours. Always refrigerate marinating foods.

    Spice rubs are another great way to add flavor. Start with a base of sugar and salt and doctor it with the spices and herbs you enjoy–black pepper, chilies, cumin, and garlic and onion powder. Apply the rub just before cooking or, for less-tender cuts, up to one day in advance to intensify the flavor. Note: Brush on barbecue sauce near the end of the cooking time. This allows the meat to thoroughly cook without burning the sauce.

  • Smoking results are poor. People often make the mistake of trying to smoke food on a gas grill. The results will never be good even with a smoker box, says Raichlen, because too much smoke rushes out of the grill vents, making it hard to get true barbecue flavor.

Non-native insects costs taxpayers billions each year

Damage from non-native insects is costing taxpayers billions a year, according to a new study published today in the PLoS One journal. Conducted by a group of U.S. and Canadian scientists and the U.S. Forest Service the study estimates that the invaders cost governments and homeowners almost $4 billion per year. It’s a double-whammy for homeowners who are also sustaining property value losses.

“It is costing taxpayers billions as the government tries to eradicate these invaders,” says Betsy Von Holle, a University of Central Florida Biologist and one of the authors of the study. “We’re losing a variety of native species as a result of importing these pests. It’s not just aesthetics. It’s impacting our economy and our analysis shows just how much it is costing all of us, not just government.”

The authors looked at three types of invasive pests that feed on U.S. trees, the emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, and hemlock woolly adelgid. When they calculated the economic damages, the costs were staggering. Local governments spend more than $2 billion per year and residential property value loss due to forest insects averages $1.5 billion a year, according to the researchers.The federal government spends on average about $216 million a year.

Wood-boring insects such as the emerald ash borer, which often hitch a ride in packing materials, cost the most to control and do the most damage. But foliage feeders and sap feeders cause an estimated $410 million and $260 million, respectively, in lost residential property value each year. The researchers say that at least 455 types of non-native insects have established themselves in the U.S.

While there is little an individual homeowner can do, the researchers say that their information can be used in cost-benefit analysis to help governments establish import taxes or fees that can be used to fund prevention and eradication efforts.

—Mary H.J. Farrell