Here in New England, it’s become clear that winter is coming (Does Game of Thrones have a trademark on that? I don’t want to get sued?). With that in mind, it seems natural to look towards saving some money on energy to offset some of the costs of heat. I’ve been doing the typical looking for drafts, when I noticed that one of the lights in my kitchen was out. No big deal, just run to the nearby Home Depot and get a replacement…
Somewhere between the time that I replaced most of our home’s lightbulbs with CFLs (~2006 or so?) and today, shopping for a light bulb has gotten a lot more confusing. Now there are the old school incandescents, CFLs with evil mercury inside, and LEDs which cost tons and tons of money. Fortunately, there’s a lot of information on the boxes to help guide the decision-making process.
I was looking for a 65-watt BR30 flood light, which I was surprised to find is quite common. The incandescents were around $4 for 2 bulbs (I think), but I could buy a pack of 9 for around $10. I grabbed that box and figured that I’d have replacements for years. On the way. The lighting facts on the box here said it would cost $7.83 per bulb per year for their 600 lumen output (it’s important to focus on lumens as watts don’t help you as you move through the technologies).
On the way to the check out, I walked by a big display for Cree brand LED bulbs. Each bulb was $20… what a rip off, right? The information box said that it would only cost $1.14 per bulb per year. It might take three years, but I’d start saving money… every year. The advertising for LED light bulbs is quick to point out that they can last for 20 years, so one bulb over those 20 years should end up saving you $150 (or more) in energy and replacement costs.
Spending $20 to save $150? That’s the kind of forward-thinking that I wanted the Lazy Man brand to stand for. Sure, it will take a number of years for these savings, but you don’t have to work for it.
Still, I wanted to see if I could do better. If Cree made these light bulbs, perhaps other companies did as well. Back to the lighting section. I found that several companies did indeed make BR30 LED bulbs… and this Philips one was subsidized by my local energy company for $12. That particular bulb wasn’t 9.5w and 650 lumens like the Cree, but it was 13w and 730 lumens. That would raise the price per year to $1.57. The $0.43 cents saved per year for 20 years comes out to around $8… which was the price difference between the two bulbs. It’s essentially a wash, close enough that it isn’t my time to pinch the last penny. I figure might as well get the savings up front with the cheaper bulb.
I only bought that one LED light bulb for now. I wanted to try it out, write an article, and see if other money-saving readers are doing the same. In trying the new Philips bulb, I found that I liked it better than the other bulbs. It was definitely brighter (maybe the previous owners had the 600 lumen Sylvanias that I was going to buy). So now, I’m thinking about replacing all 6 of the bulbs. With each bulb saving around $6.25 in electricity per year (more if the price of electricity goes up) that will be around $30 in pocket each year. Clearly, I’m not going to be retiring in the Hamptons any time soon with those savings, but it’s enough to cover the government taxes on my Ooma Telo Free Landline. And quite frankly writing this article is more difficult and time-consuming than changing the light bulbs.
I was at Home Depot once again yesterday and they’ve lowered the price on the Cree’s to be competitive with the Philips’. They are still a dollar more, but they’ll save that 43 cents a year. They aren’t as bright (730 vs. 650 lumens), but still brighter than I what I currently have (650 vs. 600 lumens), and my research online says that people can’t really tell the difference. Perhaps more importantly, I like supporting the smaller company. Fortunately, I’ve got one random BR30 in another room for the Philips one, so the Cree’s will all match. I haven’t figured out what to do with the old incadescents. Yard sale or just junk them? Any thoughts?
I’d change more light bulbs around my house to LED, but most of them are very energy efficient CFLs as it is. This is one of those one-time money optimizations.
Finally, if you want to prematurely reinvest those savings, there’s some cool technology from Philips that has LEDs that change colors and can be controlled by your smartphone. They pitch some cool effects like waking up naturally as a light dims to full brightness to mimic the sun. Also, I can see some pretty good accent lighting uses with these. The problem is that they are expensive. Give it a look: Philips Hue Starter Pack