Taobao product recommendation – LED lights

LED lights is the first thing i will recommend anyone to get from Taobao. In case you don’t know the merits of LED lights – it saves you more than 50% of electricity (as compared to fluorescent lighting aka CFL) and potentially lasts much longer. I did a rough calculation and my estimation is that i can break even on the change of CFL to LED lighting in less than 2 years. It may sound drastic, but i have changed almost all the lightings in my home to LED even though the CFL tubes have not yet broken down.

When i did my home renovation for my current home, more than 4 years ago, i installed LED downlights for the living room and also the doorway area. Each LED downlight cost me a blood sucking price of S$28! Barely 2 years later, 2 of those LED lights broke down. I was reluctant to pay the cost of getting an electrician to replace them. Finally, I decided to do it myself. I bought the LED lights from Taobao, at an unbelievable price of 9.8 Yuan each for the premium ones. This equates to S$2.3, which is less than 10 times my original buy price! The replacement work was actually very easy, although i accidentally chipped away a small bit of the false ceiling.

The 9.8 Yuan downlight

Buoyed by the success, I was determined to change the rest of the frequently used lighting in the home to LED ones – those in the living and dining room, kitchen as well as all the bedrooms. These consisted of two types of CFL light tubes – the PL-L 4P 36W and PL-C 13W. Here’s what they look like if you’re wondering:


It took a while to search on Taobao, because if you searched by those very search terms (PL-L and PL-C), it will be the CFL light tubes or other unrelated products showing up in the search result. The search terms to use are 2g11 led and g24 led. 2g11 and g24 refer to the base pin configuration of PL-L and PL-C respectively. To get comparable brightness, the wattage is the one that is slightly less than half that of CFL. For the 36W PL-L, the corresponding LED is 15W, and the LED is housed in a casing with the exact same length as the 36W CFL light, so you can’t get it wrong. If you do the sums, you save 58% electricity when you switch from CFL to LED. I found the brightness to be about equal or slightly dimmer, and it works fine for me. For a bedroom, you typically need 2 of these light tubes, so instead of 72W, you’re down to using just 30W.

For the PL-C light, you have many choices in terms of the wattage (and correspondingly the length), so you have to be careful to choose one that will fit into your downlight enclosure. For my 13W PL-C, i chose the 7W LED, for worry that if i chose the 5W one, it will turn out to be too dim. 7W is about 54% of the original 13W wattage, so the result was a very significant increase in brightness, and i can tell you it is “shiok” (exhilarating) as it makes your home feel like one of those brightly lit shopping malls! For L-Box downlight, as compared to a centrally fitted light, you need to have extra brightness to achieve sufficient lighting. To get that extra brightness at about half the electricity usage is extremely satisfying.

There are many sellers of LED light on Taobao, and as usual i chose the sellers with the highest sales volume, as the sales volume is a testament to these sellers being reliable. The 15W 2g11 LED cost me 48 Yuan (S$11) each while the 7W g24 LED cost me 23 Yuan (S$5). The pricing is not much more than their CFL counterpart actually, so i don’t see why anyone should be buying CFL anymore.


A note on the colour temperature of the light: you probably already know there are 3 types you can choose from – white, cool white, and warm white (basically yellow). In terms of Kelvin, these are 6000-6500K, 4000-4500K and 2700-3200K respectively. White is simply 白, cool white could be 暖白 or 自然白 or 中性光 while warm white is 暖黄 or 暖白. You have to read the specification of the seller very carefully to choose the colour that you want. If cool white is what you want and it is not among the options available, check with the seller if they offer it. If they do, you can ask for it by leaving a remark when placing your order.

G24 LED in the downlight housing

Now, for the installation of the lights, the PL-C or G24 type of light requires just plugging the CFL out and the LED in. That’s because, by design, the ballast and stater of the CFL is built into the PL-C lighting, and correspondingly, the driver circuitry of the LED is also built-in.

Swapping the PL-L for the LED is a little more involved, because you need to do some re-wiring to bypass the ballast and starter, which MUST NOT be used in conjunction with the LED. Fortunately, the design of modern lighting is such that you can do wiring quite easily, much like how you do it on a breadboard. I tripped the circuit breaker a few times while doing this, but nevertheless, i got the job done myself. Disclaimer: do this at your own risk, and if you are not confident, engage an electrician. See picture below to see the finished job.

2g11 LED – note the wires leading from the ballast and starter (which are already removed from the socket) are not connected to anything

Update 14 Jun 2016

One year on after switching to LED lights, they became noticeably dimmer, especially for the pair of cool white PL-L (probably because it was used more frequently). I will have to do a replacement purchase, but i don’t really mind that. Something for you to keep in mind.

Update 18 Feb 2017

Besides the LED downlight and the 2 types of LED light tubes i have mentioned above, there is also the integrated type that is becoming very popular now. The integrated type means that the LED light strips are built-in and inseparable from the housing. There are pros and cons to this of course – it comes ready for installation, and you need not worry about purchasing nor installing separate light tubes, but if it breaks down, or becomes too dim over time, you’ll have to replace the entire fixture.

Some of these look very nice, and my preference is for the minimalistic ones, but some of those made for and according to Chinese taste look “obiang”, or Singlish for out-of-place ugly. The search term to use if you want to look for the minimalistic LED are “LED办公室吸顶灯” and “LED办公室吊灯”, which really means lighting for office space.

Check these out:

I bought this one for a home office space, and it has a volumetric weight of 0.09 CBM
Extremely fanciful but with a nice effect
Create any combination you want

And the “obiang” ones:

Do you want this in your bedroom?
Or this for your living room? It looks out of place in the showcase photo

These light fixtures are huge in size when packed for shipping. They are just a tad smaller than typical furniture items. There is only one way to ship them – by sea freight. Here’s how you can ship them to Singapore – 86OF.

What to do with your disused fluorescent light

Don’t bin them! They can be recycled. Please walk the extra mile and bring them to one of the collection points for recycling! A little goes a long way.

Check out my newly published definitive guide.

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9 responses to “Taobao product recommendation – LED lights”

  1. Jo Avatar

    I’m interested to know how do i claim the shopback from taobao as i’m really lost.

    1. yenkai Avatar

      Hi Jo. Yes, it is a bit confusing when it comes to getting cashback from Taobao. Here are the steps:

      1. Search and find the product you want to buy as per normal from
      2. Copy the title of the product you have selected, the entire description e.g. if i search for 吸尘机, the first search result i got is “小狗吸尘器家用超静音小型强力除螨仪大吸力大功率无耗材机D-9005”. Copy the description, the more detailed the better.
      3. Go to the Taobao page in Shopback Paste the product description into the search bar and click shop now.
      4. The result page will return with the relevant products, and usually, if the description is completely matching, the product page from the seller you have selected earlier will be in the search result. Otherwise, if the product page does not appear, you’ll just have to make a decision whether to buy from a different seller, or a different product, or to forgo the cashback. If no relevant products are displayed in the first place, then, no cashback.
      5. Add to cart and then repeat steps 1 to 4 if you are also buying other items. (I think this works although i’m not 100% sure)
      6. Once you complete the payment, the cashback should appear in your account in a few days.

  2. Marek Avatar

    Hi Yen Kai,

    Thanks so much for this post. It’s very helpful as I am about to start changing my G24 CFLs to LEDs, which I’m planning to get from AliExpress.
    Similar to your case mine are fitted in the false ceiling. Will you be able to confirm that there is no need to replace ballast and the LED bulb can be just plug in place of CFL. I have been reading online and can’t really find a uniform answer.

    Also, I am replacing 18W G24 CFL, would you think 9W LED would be a good choice?

    Thanks so much!

    1. yenkai Avatar

      Hi Marek, there is no need to worry about the ballast because it is built into the original CFL whereas an LED light does not use a ballast at all. 9W LED is good for replacing 18W CFL. Initially it will be much brighter than the 18W CFL but over time (say one year) the LED will become much dimmer, so getting something really bright compensates for this deterioration.

      There are quite a few configurations for the G24 socket, so you need to make sure what you’re getting from AliExpress will fit your socket. See this website for information:–59.html

      I think the G24d1 is the most common type and it is likely to be the default configuration if nothing is mentioned on the seller’s product information.

      1. Marek Avatar

        Great, thanks so much for your fast reply and the link! I will take a look at it before proceeding with the purchase!

  3. joyce Avatar

    Hi, may I know how do u ship in ? 4 px? Can u recommend a freight forwarder?

    1. yenkai Avatar

      Hi Joyce. For the initial shipment when i did the whole-house overhaul, i used ocean freight which was pooled together with a few other people. This is the cheapest form of shipment. Subsequently when i shipped small quantities, i have used both 4px and ezbuy. If you are thinking of shipping a lot of LED light, i suggest you use 86OF. It cost only S$11.50 for 0.1 cubic metre, which is much more than enough for you to ship LED bulbs/tubes for the whole house. If you’re shipping those LED light that already come with housing, all the more you should use 86OF as these are really bulky. You do have to do self-collection from Ang Mo Kio, or pay for the home delivery. See my review of 86OF here.

  4. Jas Avatar

    I am using those exposed downlight with screw cfl bulb, do i need to change the entire lighting or just buy a LED bulb to repalce will do?

    Thank you

    1. yenkai Avatar

      Hi Jas, when you say screw CFL bulb, I guess you mean an E24 bulb like this one? If so just buy the equivalent LED bulb, and it is commonly available even in a supermarket.

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