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Will that $25 Light Bulb Really Save You Money?

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You're familiar with the situation.  You go to the store to replace a couple light bulbs that burnt out and you're faced with an entire aisle of options: incandescents, LEDs, CFLs, halogens.  Which one do you buy?  There are many factors that will influence your decision, but you'll probably go for the one that will offer the best economic value.  You've heard that the most expensive ones will last longer and use less energy, but it's important to consider all of your options.  Will you really save money paying $25 for a light bulb?

It's true.  The cheap incandescent bulbs are very inefficient since most of the energy they consume ends up being used for heat instead of light.  For this reason, these bulbs are in the process of being phased out.  Just this past month, the 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs have been banned from production, though you can probably still find them in stock at certain retail locations if you search hard enough.  So you can either stock up on these ancient bulbs or get with the times and choose a more efficient option.

Lighting typically accounts for about 20-30% of your electric bill so you want to make a wise choice when it comes to which bulb to use.  Below you will find a cost comparison of four different types of light bulbs; all emit the same amount of light, but vary in initial cost and the amount of energy consumed.

Comparing the electricity cost for one year, you'll see that you could save about $10 by switching from incandescent to LED.  Now that doesn't seem like much, but once you increase the timeframe to 15 years, and factor in how many bulbs you'll need during that time, you will notice that an incandescent will cost you almost four times as much as an LED. 

Judging by this number, you decide against the incandescent.  Halogen light bulbs have a longer lifespan, but between their high initial cost and their inability to save much energy, they're out too.

Now you're down to CFLs and LEDs.  An LED bulb will last about three times longer than a CFL and will require less energy, but its current astronomical price tag will pretty much negate all of its economic benefits.

Any one of these three light bulbs is a better option than the incandescent, but until the price of LED bulbs becomes more reasonable, it's best to stick with CFLs.

If you're finding it difficult to make the switch, think back to the humorous Cree commercial that gave it to you straight.  "The light bulbs in your house were invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.  Now think about that with your twenty-thirteen brain.  Do you still do the wash down at the creek while your eldest son stands lookout for wolves?"

It's time for you to break your old fashioned trend, just don't break the bank in the process.

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I must say Sarah I have been completely unimpressed by the actual life span of CFL and LED light bulbs. The life expectancy is highly dependent on the use and is ignored in your assessment. Putting a CFL in a fixture that is left on for many hours is the way they were intended to be used - and the way they are tested to determine life span. They are NOT intended to be turned on and off frequently. In my house those locations where the lights are turned on and off frequently CFLs starter circuitry fails after about 1 year or two. I had one explode on me.In other locations such as outside lighting where they are left on all night the life span approached what the manufacturers state.

I have only recently started to switch to LED lights in some fixtures and my experience so far has been good from a reliability perspective. I tried cheap LED night lights first that use just 0.25 watts, They were just one dollar a piece from the local dollar store (made in China of course) and so far have been on continuously for 4 years with no burn out. They turn off during daytime using built in photocell.

The only other comment I would make is Sarah is that the best way to save electricity in your lighting arrangements is simply to turn them off when no-one is in the room. Incandescent bulbs are excellent when used like that. CFLs are very poor in that mode and will fail prematurely.

And last but not least you also have to look at what the money you spent on the LED would have been able to do if instead of using it to make a small dent in your electricity bill you had invested it. Compound interest on your money over 25 years will likely give you a much better return than the electricity savings. Malcolm

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