Spotlight on LED light bulbs

There has been much consternation and media attention on the price of LED light bulbs.  LED light bulbs are new technology, and new technology can be pricey.  Think about when flat-screen HD TVs first appeared, even a moderate size TV could cost over $20,000.  Prices of LED bulbs will come down over time.

Let’s again consider the benefits of LED light bulbs:

  • They use about 1/5 as much electricity as incandescent light bulbs, and they even use less electricity than compact fluorescents.
  • Experts have estimated that if every American household bought just one, we’d collectively save close to $400 million in energy costs in just the first year (and each year thereafter).
  • They last for 25,000 hours.  To put that in perspective, if you kept an LED light bulb on for 4 hours a day – 365 days per year - it would last for more than 17 years.  

Think about that last point for a minute.  Not having to deal with the irritation of frequently replacing burned out incandescent bulbs and buying replacement bulbs at the store.  For that matter, I’ve been in auditoriums and building lobbies with ceilings so high they would have to hire Spider Man to change the light bulbs.  You’d think that just for a labor-saving reason (if for no other reason) it would be wise to replace those light bulbs with light bulbs that lasted longer than any others. 

Perhaps companies could even use their transition to LED lightbulbs to enhance their sustainability cred.  Motel 6 – We’ll leave the light on for you.  And it will always be a LED light!

I recently went to a Lowe’s and Home Depot to check on the selection and price of LED bulbs.  Each store stocked bulbs by several manufacturers, with prices ranging from just under $19 to almost $27.  At this time, LED bulbs are only available in 25 watt, 40 watt and 50 watt.  I bought a Phillips LED and a Performance LED.

The primary thing a wanted to find out is what type of light LED bulbs produce.  Some people have complained that the light produced by certain compact fluorescent bulbs isn’t as good or as warm as the light produced by incandescent bulbs.  (Candidly, I agree the light produced by certain compact fluorescent bulbs seems more harsh  or less warm than the light from incandescent bulbs).

To test the light from a LED bulb, I put the Phillips LED bulb into a 3-bulb fixture along with two incandescent bulbs I put into the fixture for the test.  The light from the LED bulb was almost identical to the light from the incandescent bulbs.

The fixture is controlled by a dimmer switch, and the LED bulb appeared to dim and brighten at the same rate as the incandescent bulbs.

Speaking of dimmer switches, another way to save electricity in your lighting is through the use of dimmer switches.  Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the brightness of lights by turning a knob instead of flipping an on-off switch.

Dimming lights has the same effect as using lower wattage light bulbs.  Not only does dimming lights save electricity, it dramatically extends the life of light bulbs.  (An additional benefit is many things look better in dimmer lighting.  I’ve been told by numerous people over the years that I look best in extremely low wattage lighting).

The following table will give you an idea of the benefits from dimming lights:

Dimming lights by:         Reduces energy use:           Extends bulb life:
            10%                                 10%                                2 times
            25%                                 20%                                4 times
            50%                                 40%                              20 times
            75%                                 60%                            20+ times

The LED bulb manufacturers need to work on a few things:

  • A larger selection of LED bulbs, including 60 watt, 75 watt and 100 watt bulbs.
  • 3-way LED bulbs.
  • LED flood lights.
  • Lower prices.

I’m sure over time they will achieve all of those goals.  In the mean time, we should all seriously consider doing our part by each household buying at least one LED light bulb.  We could collectively save about $400 million per year in energy costs (which would also be a nice savings for us individually), reduce our national energy consumption and provide a big boost to the fledgling LED industry.  What’s not to like about any of that?  What’s your reason for not buying a LED bulb?

About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.