I was browsing the web this morning and a post on the YNAB forum got me thinking about the lighting differences between CFL’s and LED’s, not based on their quality of light output, but based on their cost. The prices of CFL’s have dropped dramatically in the last 5 years – you can get them for $1.50 each if you buy in bulk! The LED bulbs are a bit more costly starting at $12 or so (as of this writing) for a ’60W’ bulb, but will last much longer than a CFL and will cost less at the electric meter.
But really, what is the best option when you’re putting your hard earned cash on the table?
Let’s look at three bulbs, each advertised at 60W. Although their lumens (light output) and color are different, I’m not considering those factors in this brawl of three bulbs… I just want to know about my pocket book and how to keep more money in it!
|Lumens per Watt
|Price per bulb
Why did I choose these particular bulbs? The first requirement was the wattage, each advertized at 60W. I consider 60W the minimum for general household lighting, any less and the lighting is too dim. The second factor was cost – the cheapest 60W bulb on the Home Depot website was the one that I used.
After crunching some numbers, including replacement costs, and assuming 3hrs of usage a day at 12.31 cents per kilowatt-hour (my current rate) there were some surprises!
Surprise #1: The price of the CFL will be below the price of a incandescent in less than 1 year. It takes a little over 1 year for the LED bulb to be a better buy over the incandescent. So in this regard, they are both better buys than an incandescent – so why even buy and incandescent?!?!?!?!
Surprise #2: The price of the LED pays off in about 19 years, but you have to buy another bulb at 24 years putting you in the negative again! In fact, if you average the cost of the replacement bulbs over each year, then it takes 145 YEARS to recoup all of your costs!
This was shocking to me! You hear everyone say ‘it takes 15 years to make your money back on LED’s’. What a load of crap! Yeah, it takes that long to break even the first time you buy the light, but in order to truly break even it will take on the order of 100 years! Incredible! Talk about false advertizing!
Surprise #3: For the LED lighting to really break-even in a reasonable amount of time compared to a CFL (5 years) the price will need to come down to about $3.80 each. That’s quite a ways off, I think.
So what about the luxury of using a LED? Maybe you want to be greener, you just like to have the latest and greatest stuff, or you can’t stand the light emitted from CFL’s (not very valid these days, IMHO). It will take about 11 years to reach 70% savings, 19 years for 80% savings, and 37 years for 90% of the savings over CFLs, not considering inflation. I don’t mind this if you’re planning on taking the bulbs with you when you move!
A couple things to consider when choosing between CFL and LED lights: The price of LED bulbs is likely to come down significantly in the next 5 years or so. Some manufactures are selling 40W bulbs for $10 now. By the time the first bulb fails, you are likely to continue to break even. Also, talk to your electric company, some of them are offering rebates to use LED lighting. LED’s also have much longer life than CFL’s so if you have a few bulbs in hard to reach locations, it will probably be worth it to change those to LED’s next time you climb that ladder. Finally, you WILL get dud bulbs – just like incandescents, other types fail prematurely and other will last longer.
So what are the take-aways? 1) CFL’s and LED’s are much better than incandescent bulbs, both saving you money over incandescent bulbs in less than two years. For the love of God and all things Holy – don’t waste any more money on incandescent bulbs! In fact if I go to your house and I see one, I might just throw it away and force you to buy a CFL or LED! 2) Go out today and replace all of your incandescent bulbs with CFL or LEDs! 3) I’d only get the LED’s if you plan on living in your current residence for the next 15 years or if the bulbs are in hard to reach locations.
Here is the file I used to come to these numbers. If you want to play with the numbers for the lights you’d buy or changing the electric rate to your current rate, feel free, and let me know what you find out!