LED Lightbulbs More Affordable, Easy on the Electric Bill

If you’d like to slash your electric bill, switch to the LED light bulb, the “light-emitting diode” that General Electric invented 50 years ago.  Now, LED bulbs are the focus of intense competition among all of the major lighting manufacturers.  “There are two races going on,” said Todd Manegold, LED product manager for Philips Electric.  “One is the race to equivalency.  It’s about delivering light bulbs that replicate or imitate what people are used to.  Once you reach equivalency, the game is how to make it more affordable.  We think we have gotten it more affordable.”

According to industry experts, within 10 years LEDs will surpass conventional lighting such as halogen and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).  This will not occur because of government regulations, but rather because it makes economic sense.  The changeover is already underway for commercial customers, particularly in new construction, where newly designed fixtures incorporated LEDs.  But there are an estimated 2.6 billion light sockets in American homes, making them a major market for the industry.  Philips for some time has offered LED bulbs to replace conventional 40-watt, 60-watt and 75-watt lamps.

LED prices are falling rapidly.  Replacing an old 60-watt bulb with a Philips 12.5-watt LED bulb cost approximately $40 one year ago.  The price now averages $25.  Introduced in 2010, the first household LED able to direct light in all directions — the 8.5-watt bulb — was $50.  Now it retails for $30 to $35.  Philips considers CFL bulbs and especially its halogen bulbs as “bridge technology” to LEDs — products that people will use until LEDs become more affordable.  GE Lighting has had virtually the same experience.  “Think of it as a lighting revolution,” said Linda Pastor, GE’s LED product manager.  The switch will take less than 10 years, industry experts say.  “I absolutely believe that the incumbent lighting technology will be replaced by solid state alternatives — all of them with very rare exceptions, within 10 years,” said Tom Griffiths, president and publisher of Austin-based Solid State Lighting Design.

Writing for MSNBC Real Estate, Brian Clark Howard says that “If you want to consider an LED bulb for your fixture, you’ll get even better efficiency and longer life.  For a 60-watt replacement, one popular choice right now is the Philips 12-watt Ambient LED, which produces remarkably soft, yellow light.  It’s also fully dimmable, and is rated to last 25,000 hours.  It costs $40, which we know is more than you’re used to spending on a bulb.  But let’s calculate potential savings.  For a lamp that’s on six hours a day, that would give us 12 watts x 6 hours x 365 = 26.3 kWh.  At 12 cents per kWh, that’s $3.12 a year to operate.  Subtract that from $16, and that’s a savings of more than $12.80 a year.  With a lifespan of 25,000 hours, it should theoretically last for about 12 years in this application.  Over 12 years, we would otherwise have to buy 24 incandescents, for a cost of $18, or about $1.50 each year.  With the annual savings of $12.80 in energy and $1.50 in bulbs, the LED will pay for itself in just under three years.´

Another advantage that LED has over CFL bulbs is that they don’t emit a mercury hazard into the atmosphere.  Many states have been instrumental in passing laws to reduce toxic pollution in their workplaces, communities and our environment.  Additionally, the majority strongly support replacing harmful products with safer alternatives when available.  In the case of light bulbs, the switch to CFLs cuts mercury and other pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.  CFLs use less mercury because they require less electricity to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a power plant emits four times more mercury pollution to produce the electricity that lights an incandescent bulb than a CFL for the same amount of time.  CFLs do contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – though  no mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use.  That is why it is important to recycle these bulbs.  Many states provide convenient venues to recycle old CFLs, which prevents spent bulbs from breaking in the trash and releasing mercury into the environment.