Ordering LEDs direct from China (AliBaba/AliExpress)

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dspiffy

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We use hundreds of PAR bulbs in our buildings, many of which are on 24/7. Anything that's not dimmable I switched to CFL about a year ago, and found the light quality really really poor. I wanted to switch to LED but at $10-40/bulb at Menards (similar to Home Depot to those not familiar) we couldnt afford it. I bought a few LEDs from Menards and the local lighting supply house to try and really liked the light quality.

I buy a lot of stuff on eBay, and I've noticed the stuff that's made in China often comes direct from China at really cheap prices. The wife had bought jewelry from AliExpress before, so I figured that might be a good way to get some LEDs for pennies on the dollar.

I did a lot of research first, particularly looking for posts/articles by others who had already tried this, and couldnt find anything. So I gave it a shot and placed a few sample orders myself. I want to share what I found in case anyone else is considering it. So far I've received about 100 bulbs and installed them.

First, these:

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/10X-...2-E12-Par20-3X3W-9W-Spotlight/1470402091.html

They're advertised as PAR20 but they're actually smaller, I'd call them a PAR16 short neck. I ordered 120v, they sent me bulbs labeled 220v but assured me they would work fine on 120v and they did. I got the 30 degree beam angle (which is more spot than flood), warm white, non-dimmable. They work out to being $2.70 per bulb, shipping included. They feel very cheap and lightweight, but they are in fact brighter than the cheapest similar bulb Menards sells ($9 each) and do not get NEARLY as hot to the touch as most of the LED bulbs I've bought from Menards or the supply house. I've had several of them burning 24/7 for about 3 weeks now, and no failures. Interestingly I noticed the exact same bulbs being used in a Chipotle that just opened. Their "warm white" is a little less pink than most, which is fine by me.

Next up I tried these:

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/4pcs...arm-White-Cool-White-LED-Bulb/1688657168.html

They are a true PAR20 and more similar to what I've bought locally. I got 60 degree beam angle, warm white, non-dimmable. Their warm white is the more typical "slightly pink" warm white I am used to. These are for all intents and purposes very similar to the PAR20s from Menards, Home Depot, etc, except they are about 200 lumens less (the manufacturer's lumens rating seems accurate). They worked out to being $5.75/lamp. They also operate a lot cooler to the touch than the Menards ones. I've had some of these burning 24/7 for about a week with no failures.

ETA: Looking over my order specs, I ordered 32 but got 16. I emailed the seller, who told me "Sorry, but we cant afford to send you 32". I disputed the charges with my credit card and got half my money back. I wont be using that supplier again.

These arrived today:

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free...-265V-Lifespan-50000H-CE-RoHS/1663647796.html

I have had more interaction with this seller than any of the others. They didnt make the bulbs until I ordered them, the other sellers seemed to have them ready to ship. They were very responsive and their customer service was very good, however they seemed very new to the online ordering process and missed the deadline to have them shipped by. Rather than say anything I extended the deadline a week and they met it with no issue. I ordered 9W, 45 degree beam angle, warm white, non-dimmable. They worked out to being around $7/bulb. They are short neck PAR30 which wasnt clear from the ordering page, I was expecting long neck (which usually are cheaper). They are a traditional slightly pink warm white with excellent light quality, probably best of the three.

I have some PAR38's on the way from the same seller as the PAR30.

If anyone else cares about this, let me know and I'll keep updating.
 
Last edited:
JohnR66

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All I can say is to be careful with these. I can't say if these are really good or not. They are most likely run of the mill cheap Chinese crap. Fake or non existent safety certification, dodgy driver circuit, Bloated specification and poor electrical isolation (shock hazard). Lots of YT videos of the lousy construction of these things.
 
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mds82

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The biggest thing i would be worried about is the quality of these bulbs. Looking at the listing quickly they are not UL listed. They might be a bit less expensive but i'd be more concerned about safety
 
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dspiffy

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My biggest concern was heat. Most problems with cheap/dangerous LEDs and CFLs stem from heat. That's why I was surprised they operated much cooler to the touch than those I bought here.
 
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RoGuE_StreaK

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I'd be a little concerned about the lack of heat; it may well be that the LEDs aren't heatsinked properly, so they feel cooler because the heat is staying at the LED rather than being spread and shed, slowly roasting it. Take one apart (carefully, extra caution around capacitors etc) and check how the LED is bonded to the heatsink. Sometimes it might just be a case of needing a pair of screws to increase the bonding power, or a replacement of the thermal adhesive.
Or you could have gotten lucky and found some good ones, I've got some cheap GU10s that go pretty good.
 
RetroTechie

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I'd be a little concerned about the lack of heat; it may well be that the LEDs aren't heatsinked properly, so they feel cooler because the heat is staying at the LED rather than being spread and shed, slowly roasting it.
That was my thought too - feeling hot may actually be a good thing. Especially if comparing 2 bulbs with roughly the same power consumption.

Take one apart (carefully, extra caution around capacitors etc) and check how the LED is bonded to the heatsink.
If you're buying in bulk (or planning to), I'd do that for sure. Safety first - check that! And also to get a general view of the bulbs' construction, materials / components used, etc. Simply ripping a few bulbs open & check insides, might be a much better way to determine quality than compare specs or use for a short while. Btw brighter in same size might also mean "much shorter LED live".

Best is if you can post pix or videos (on YT for example) of such teardowns. Might be useful for other buyers o/t same. And maybe snap some thermal images if you can get your hands on a camera to make those. :cool:
 
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dspiffy

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I'd be a little concerned about the lack of heat; it may well be that the LEDs aren't heatsinked properly, so they feel cooler because the heat is staying at the LED rather than being spread and shed, slowly roasting it. Take one apart (carefully, extra caution around capacitors etc) and check how the LED is bonded to the heatsink. Sometimes it might just be a case of needing a pair of screws to increase the bonding power, or a replacement of the thermal adhesive.
Or you could have gotten lucky and found some good ones, I've got some cheap GU10s that go pretty good.

That's a valid point. I was impressed with how beefy the heat sinks are in the larger ones (the ones I referred to as PAR16 short neck are tiny).

I took apart one of the PAR30s and can take pics and videos.

I'd love to take apart one of the US sold models to compare, but I dont want to spend $20-30 just to convert it to junk. Unlike the Chinese ones, I cant determine an easy way to disassemble them without causing some damage. They seem press fit together. The Chinese ones come apart with three screws.

One thing I am noticing, the power supplies are TINY. I am shocked at how small they are. A transformer the size of my pinky nail and one electrolytic cap.
 
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durallymax

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I do a lot with Chinese LED work lights for 12v stuff. The quality there is worse than something like rigid only vision X but also 20 times less money. It's not poor to the point of unsafe IMO it's just a little crude around the edges. I took apart an 80w one tonite. I'll need to get more pics tomorrow but the thermal compound between the board and housing was scarce but I'm no engineer. They were also held down with screws.


The little bit I have read about household type bulbs like you are dealing with has steered me away for now as I don't have the time to research what is good or not. There seems to be a lot worse quality being sold than with the 12v stuff and a lot of it is very unsafe.

If I were you I would do a lot of research on the lights and what to look for. There is a lot of info out there not necessarily on here that can steer you in the right direction. I would also disassemble a lot of the lights before using to make sure things are put together right. It's a hassle but so is a fire or a shock when you screw it in with the power on .

I'm doing some more research on my 12v work lights and may start disassembling more of them to double check the quality and redo the thermal compound.

I've also done some research on alibaba and other B2B sites. From what I have gathered they are handy to use but if you want the best deals it's best to go to the manufacturer. Not all of them will deal with you though and not all of them speak English. It sounds like a lot of the sellers on Alibaba and suxh are resellers. It sounds like you encountered some of them by the sounds of the missed deadlines. Often they wait for your order then place their order. In dealing with them as well as the manufacturers you have to walk into the conversation like you gotta big **** for lack of a better term. They are out to make money toi and if they sense you are new they will take advantage of you. The prices you get may seem low but often the price they initially give you is still a hefty profit for them. No matter how cheap it seems you still should talk them down and know when to walk away. It's the good of days of haggling. Just like it used to be when buying a car. Put your low offer out and when they refuse walk away. They come back trust me. I get emails blowing up my inbox daily with new lower prices simply because I never responded to their email.

Eventually you will be able to find a manufacturer that you can negotiate a fair price with and be happy with the quality and shipping.

If it was easy everyone would do it.


Here's some pictures of the 80w China work light I took apart.



 
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dspiffy

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I think if you start looking around at different import offerings, you can clearly identify junk. Some are simply a bad design. Others you can tell from the specs and the company information. Once you look at enough sites, you start to get a feel for it.

I agree that you have to approach them with balls. If they think you will be making HUGE orders in the future they will fall over themselves to help you.
 
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durallymax

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I think if you start looking around at different import offerings, you can clearly identify junk. Some are simply a bad design. Others you can tell from the specs and the company information. Once you look at enough sites, you start to get a feel for it.

I agree that you have to approach them with balls. If they think you will be making HUGE orders in the future they will fall over themselves to help you.


Yeah its pretty easy to get a feel for it all, at least with the 12v stuff there isn't a lot of variation. Most are offering the same stuff. If you were really getting into it with big orders or having things built for you then a couple hundred bucks will hire an inspector to go and check up on them to make sure they aren't cutting corners to fill your order, and if nothing else to make sure they really are a factory.

You need confidence, but do have to respect them. You can't relax and have to stay on them about quality and deadlines, but if you find a good supplier that doesn't try to pull any tricks you want to keep them around. Most work on pretty tight margins so there isn't a lot of room for price changes, but just be respectful yet firm goes a long way. As soon as one pulls a trick you dump them because they will try it again in the future.

The really are great people to work with for the most part, the cultural differences get in the way from time to time so you really need to make sure they understand the terms of the contracts but in the end I'd rather deal with them enough days than people in the states.


Didn't see you were in Madison, I'm not too far from there. Far enough to actually be in "reality" versus "Madison" which I like.
 
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dspiffy

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Come visit sometime! I prefer Madison to reality sometimes.

I managed to fix the broken one shown in the video today. Just took some soldering.
 
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dspiffy

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I also am going to try these:

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/10X-...-E12-Par20-3X4W-12W-Spotlight/1567288196.html

From the same seller as the first ones.

Got these today. They're my favorite so far, I think. For $2.70 a piece they're nearly as bright as the PAR30s. They're still very small for a PAR20, closer to a PAR16. The heat sink is more substantial than the lower watt version.

I ordered 45 degree, the boxes they sent me are labeled 60 degree, but the beams seem very narrow. I have an email in.
 
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RoGuE_StreaK

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Got these today. They're my favorite so far, I think.
Would be interesting to see what's really in them; in part of the listing they say it's 5050 LEDs, which AFAIK would give nowhere near the desired output, and AFAIK are rated at about 0.5W max each. Elsewhere in the listing they say Cree.
I don't expect either of these statements to be correct, I've got a few GU10s similar to these and they work fine for the price and the internals appear to be safely made, would just be nice to know exactly what it is you're (we're) buying
 
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dspiffy

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Would be interesting to see what's really in them; in part of the listing they say it's 5050 LEDs, which AFAIK would give nowhere near the desired output, and AFAIK are rated at about 0.5W max each. Elsewhere in the listing they say Cree.
I don't expect either of these statements to be correct, I've got a few GU10s similar to these and they work fine for the price and the internals appear to be safely made, would just be nice to know exactly what it is you're (we're) buying

Interesting.

It's not uncommon for these sellers to copy and paste from other listings, usually their own listings, sometimes others, and change details as they apply. Often details are missed.

Many of these listings claim to be UL and Energy Star. I wonder how true that is. I could care less, I know they're efficient, and can identify unsafe when I see it (or get shocked), but it is curious.
 
JohnR66

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Interesting.

Many of these listings claim to be UL and Energy Star. I wonder how true that is. I could care less, I know they're efficient, and can identify unsafe when I see it (or get shocked), but it is curious.

You don't care, eh? What about the flammability of the plastics used in them? What about the electrical analysis of the driver? What happens if one fails and burns the place down and your insurer finds you used non certified lamps? I bet you would care a lot more.
 
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dspiffy

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You don't care, eh? What about the flammability of the plastics used in them? What about the electrical analysis of the driver? What happens if one fails and burns the place down and your insurer finds you used non certified lamps? I bet you would care a lot more.

That's why I take a look at them myself and test them "on the bench". I dont claim to be anywhere as thorough or accurate as UL, but I can pretty easily spot an immediate hazard.

If the power supply fails, worst thing you'll get is some "magic smoke" and the horrible exploded capacitor smell.
There is no plastic in direct contact with anything that gets overly hot to the touch. The closest thing is the lens sitting over the LEDs themselves.
 
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durallymax

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You don't care, eh? What about the flammability of the plastics used in them? What about the electrical analysis of the driver? What happens if one fails and burns the place down and your insurer finds you used non certified lamps? I bet you would care a lot more.

UL Listed CFL's start plenty of fires.
 
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dspiffy

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I've never had any bulb catch fire. I have had some CFLs die in a dramatic cloud of black smoke. The LEDs generally just stop working.
 

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