… by Slashing Utility Costs (Part 1 of 2)
Bottom line: LED bulbs now have the potential to save you tens, or even, hundreds of dollars a year.
Over the past few years, household light bulbs made from light emitting diodes (LEDs) have become a very viable, cost-effective option. Prices has dropped substantially while they have been tuned to radiate a soft white glow that is difficult to distinguish from a conventional incandescent bulb.
LED bulbs save money in two ways. First, they consume only about 20% of the electricity used by an equivalent incandescent bulb. Second is a long life: typically, 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
Granted, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have been available for 20+ years and offer both reduced electric consumption and longer life. However, LED bulbs are superior on both counts. Moreover, LEDs are rugged, they contain no mercury and most are now ‘dimmable’ (i.e., can be used with a dimmer switch.) Meanwhile CFLs still give off a cold, white light.
I should know. For years, I have attempted to smuggle CFLs into our house. My wife would notice the difference almost immediately and request (demand, actually) that I put things back the way they were. I got busted every single time. But last year, I furtively swapped out a few incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs. Days went by, then weeks, then months, with not so much as a word from my wife! I knew then that LED bulbs are a winner.
Note that LED bulbs do have a few drawbacks: their light may still be a bit harsh. While they can be dimmable, their brightness cannot be reduced to the low levels of an incandescent bulb. Some brands tend to flicker when dimmed. Finally, the LED marketplace is confusing and chaotic. There is a flood of new products and prices vary wildly even as the overall costs are plunging.
Are LED bulbs the right choice for your home or apartment? Here are some factors to consider:
- Initial cost – as I stated above, the current market is like the Wild West. Prices are all over the place. Example: a 60 watt equivalent LED bulb can go for anywhere from under a dollar to $15 or more. However, prices are a small fraction of where they were 3 to 4 years ago. This means the payback period is shorter and the ‘return on your investment’ is more attractive. Also a factor: some utilities subsidize the purchase of LED bulbs, through rebates or lower prices at retailers. This is the case in the Philadelphia area where PECO makes lower prices possible at some retail outlets. From my experience, the local Home Depot generally has better LED deals and greater variety than Lowes or Walmart. My local Home Depot was recently blowing out 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs for 97 cents!
- Cost of electricity – the higher the cost per kilowatt hour, the more attractive it is to swap out the bulbs in your home. In mid-Atlantic region, electricity is on the higher side at 14-17 cents a KWH. The average electrical cost for the US as a whole is 12 ½ cents – click here to see the average cost of electricity in your state.
- Life of the bulb – as a rule of thumb, LED bulbs are slated to last for 25,000 hours while incandescent last for 1,000 hours and CFLs for 7,000.
- How much is a given bulb used? If a bulb is rarely turned on (say, in a guest bedroom closet) then there is little economic incentive to replace it. One exception: convenience. If a bulb is in a hard-to-reach spot or, otherwise difficult to replace, the long life of an LED bulb could be a plus.
- Bulb format and availability– 40 and 60 watt equivalent models (8 and 10 watts actual) are the most common type. There are fewer offerings for 75 or 100 watt equivalent bulbs and they are not quite as good a value. 3-way bulbs (for table lamps) are even rarer. Flood light formats are pricey. A 100 or 125 watt equivalent still goes for $30 or more.
This should be enough to absorb in a single posting. In Part 2 we will crunch some numbers to see how much you might save using LED bulbs.
In the meantime, check out my LED Bulb Calculator. For today’s low prices for LED bulbs, you might be surprised how quickly they pay for themselves, even if you swap out working incandescent bulbs.
© 2016 Paul J Reimold