Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LED Lighting Revolution: It's About Time!

LED lights have been around for a while now (first practical use in 1962!), but with the falling prices of CFLs and the dirt cheap incandescent lights still available its been pretty hard to make a good case for a $50 LED bulb... especially with the cost of electricity at 0.12 $/kWh on average...

Things are changing though; current generation LED lights have fixed the problems with color/dispersion/dimming that plagued earlier bulbs, and LEDs are available at large retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes (and online at Amazon) which are helping to drive down costs. Right now, you can buy your standard 60 W equivalent LED bulb for around $20-30, which is a huge improvement from the past but still a large investment to make in a product with uncertain longevity. After all, my experience with CFLs has been pretty bad... they might save energy now, but in a year or two when they burn out it's hard to justify the price. I mean, they're suppose to last 5-7 years under normal use (theoretically resulting in substantial savings), but at least in my experience, that's far from the truth (judging by online reviews, it seems like I'm not alone). So, when it comes to LEDs I can see how people might be hesitant, especially with manufacturers touting 20+ year lifespans. Although in my experience, LEDs tend to last longer than the electronics their in! I'm still left thinking, if I buy one of these for 2-3 times the price of a CFL is it really going to last anywhere near 20 years or will it die 5 years from now, after the warranty runs out (and I've lost my receipt)  and with no option but to buy another one? Plus, they always make a big deal about the pay-back period for their LED bulb vs the standard incandescent... but I've never seen it compared to their real competition, the CFL bulb which would be much longer! 

Test Case (Kitchen Lighting, assuming 8 hrs/day, 0.12 $/kWh): Cost Per Year

65 W BR30 Incandescent [$4] - 0.065 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 22.78 $/year

16 W BR30 CFL [$10] - 0.016 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 5.61 $/year

13 W BR30 LED [$25] - 0.013 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 4.56 $/year