Led vs. cfl costs the financial crossover point has arrived b games play online


Coal-powered energy was damn cheap! In many ways, it still is. But it has risen to levels that can have a noticeable impact on budgets, over the last few decades. And the result has been a flurry of activity in bringing innovative, energy-saving light emitting technologies to the masses.

It couldn’t have come sooner. The incandescent light bulb needed an upgrade. It had a lifespan of about 1,000 hours, on average (merely days if you accidentally touched it with your skin and transferred body oil). It was incredibly unreliable (and occasionally explosive). But worst of all was its horrid inefficiency. At 60W of energy use, only 5% of consumption resulted in visible light – the other 95% as heat. Literally, 95% of your cash vanishing in to thin air. And, no… light bulb heat is not an efficient means of heating a house.

For these reasons, I had never purchased an incandescent bulb as a post-graduate consumer. I went straight to compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s). CFL’s, which hit the mainstream in the late 1990’s, presented vast improvements over incandescents. They promised 10,000 hour lifespans, weren’t as unreliable, and (at the time) only used 20W of electricity to produce the same light output as a 60W incandescent – for an energy/cost savings of 67%. At about $5 each, they resulted in a positive ROI in year 1.

First, there was the “they don’t turn on fast enough” objections. From my memory, this issue pretty much disappeared within the first year of mass production. Then there was the “the light isn’t incandescent-ey” crowd. This also disappeared within a few years (although the reputation has persisted). And finally, there was the “CFL’s have mercury – don’t buy them” concerns. This one grabbed me for a bit, but a few years ago an Energy Star study on CFL mercury levels showed that incandescents (through being powered mostly by mercury blasting coal plants) actually produced more mercury (5.5 mg) than CFL’s contained and produced, combined (1.6 mg). Check and mate.

Today’s CFL’s now come in at an even more economical 13W and their prices have dropped to about $1.50 per unit. With those efficiencies, the stubborn continued choice of incandescents over CFL’s proved to be an exercise in cutting off one’s nose to spite face.

That wait ended about a year ago. I made my first switch to light emitting diode (LED) technology, with replacements for my kitchen track lights. These guys run on just 5W, versus a halogen’s 45-50W. The switch produced similar energy savings as the move from incandescents to CFL’s. ROI positive in year 1.

However, price has always been the barrier to LED mass market domination. But that is quickly changing. Philips lowered the price of the SlimStyle to $8.97. And recent Energy Star certification has led to prices as low as $1.97 in some states, with state and utility subsidies. I picked one up at Home Depot for $5.97. CREE’s A19 LED previously achieved Energy Star certification and lower pricing, but is still a few dollars higher. The CREE is slightly more energy efficient at 9W for the same output – and has a 10-year warranty vs. 3.

So why buy one? For starters, there’s the whole “we’re destroying the planet” thing. According to Energy Star, “If every American home replaced just one incandescent or CFL light bulb with a certified LED, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, resulting in savings of about $680 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.” That’s a huge environmental impact.

What if you hate the environment and you only want only to watch out for el numero uno? What are the cost savings and ROI of switching to an LED? Lets assume 6 hours per day of use over the 25,000 lifespan for LED’s, 2,500 for CFL’s, and 1,000 for incandescents. And a $0.12 kWh electricity cost.

Now, until you see the discounted LED’s, it’s probably in your best financial interests to hold on to CFL’s in seldom used lights. But for heavy use LED’s, the economics are finally there. And in short time, with LED lifespans, there will rarely be a scenario where CFL’s come out ahead on purchase/energy pricing.

Update 2: the cost of the new Philips A19 bulb is now just over $1 per bulb at normal price on Amazon, which leads to me now believing that every light bulb bought should now be LED. We’ve reached the point where every cost analysis favors LED in a relatively short time frame, if not immediately.