Is Now the Time To Go All-LED?

The following is a guest post by NC State student Thomas Clark, who is an NC State Steward.

Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs have been widely available for several years, but as with any new technology, the price has been high in comparison to popular compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and traditional incandescents. But I believe that we’ve turned the corner on pricing, and right now might be a great time for you to invest in LED bulbs for your home. At many home improvement stores, LED bulbs are now so inexpensive that they pay for themselves in energy costs alone within a year of purchase.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the most common lightbulb that we use: the standard 60-watt bulb. An 8-pack of standard incandescent light bulbs costs about $9.35 or $1.17 per bulb. Compared to the best-selling equivalent LED bulbs (about $5.13 per bulb in a pack of 6), incandescents may still seem like the cheaper option. But even after only a year, the LED bulbs are by far the more cost-effective option in terms of energy, costing only $1.00 in annual energy costs compared to $4.80 in annual energy costs for the incandescent bulb.

The average LED bulb is rated to last 25,000 hours, up to 25 times longer than its incandescent counterpart (1,000 to 1,200 hours) according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  My calculations show that over the LED’s 18-year life (as a conservative estimate) you can either spend $23.13 for that LED bulb plus electricity or purchase 18 incandescent bulbs at $1.17 per bulb plus pay far more for electricity. The bottom line: the LED bulbs you buy have potential to save more than $120 over the bulbs’ lifespan. If the average household has around 40 light sockets, this means that simply switching to LEDs can save $4,800 (another conservative estimate) over the bulbs’ 18-year lifespan. Similar savings hold true for any bulb in the LED lineup, but 60-watt equivalents are the best example since they are so common.

You’re probably thinking, “But what about compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs?” CFLs cost close to the same amount as incandescents, last on average 10 times longer than incandescents, and use less than a quarter of the amount of energy of incandescents. Thus, with just the numbers in mind, fluorescent bulbs are almost on par with LEDs. But you may find, like I did, that LEDs have been made to generate light that is far warmer and pleasing to the eye without the annoying delay that some CFL bulbs still have. I also find LEDs to be significantly more efficient and durable than CFLs.

As LED technology becomes even more commonplace, prices on LEDs may drop even more. But if you want to start saving on electricity costs, then now is a great time to begin upgrading your home’s lighting. If you’re ready to buy, consider these tips as you shop:

  1. Buy one LED bulb and try it out before buying multiples of that type. Everyone has different preferences, so make sure you are satisfied with a bulb’s brightness and color before buying multiples.
  2. Pay attention to the labels. Not all LEDs are dimmable and not all LEDs are rated for the same amount of hours. For example, most baseline LED bulbs are non-dimmable and the less expensive (around $2.50 per bulb) LEDs are sometimes rated to last just 8 years.

Homes, as well as many of the items we accumulate over time, are investments. I hope you’ll consider the investment in LEDs for the benefit of your home, your wallet and the planet.


Photo credit: Image retrieved via Flickr user Dion Hinchcliffe and shared under a Creative Commons license.

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