I remember responding to a reader comment left in an article about the phasing out of compact fluorescent lights (CFL) due to their mercury content. The commenter was saying how the government shouldn’t regulate the market and tell him that he can’t use CFL bulbs. He likes the light from his CFLs and thinks they’re just fine.
I don’t entirely disagree, but I think the irony was lost on him because incandescent bulb production was phased out in 2014 by — you guessed it — “the government”. Maybe he was a youngster, not old and grizzled like the Doc. Anyhow, it struck me as somewhat a case of “Get your ‘gubmint’ hands off my Medicare!” The Federal government has always regulated such stuff, and has always had a hand in the “free” market, despite what some will tell you.
In any event, I remember way back when incandescent bulbs were the only choice. They burned out regularly, usually at the most inconvenient time, like when you were digging through a mountain of dusty boxes in your garage when… *tink*… the bulb blows, leaving you stranded in the dark. I also remember that they were a pain to change, you often would burn your fingers trying to change one out, and sometimes they broke off in the socket. And god forbid you drop one… tiny, tiny glass shards everywhere. You’d be finding them for weeks. I was happy to see that ancient technology go.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) were a fine replacement for incandescent bulbs, especially when they got the issues with the color of the light worked out. And CFLs aren’t bad; you still get good energy savings and lifespan out of them. The price of a CFL has dropped to nearly the same as an incandescent bulb. I remember folks used to say that CFLs were too expensive, that nobody would use them. Basically, all the complaints people had about CFLs back then are the same you hear for LEDs these days. LEDs were horribly expensive when they first came out, somewhere near $100 a bulb I remember. But like all tech things, the price drops quickly, and LEDs make CFLs look like ancient technology
Here’s a little table I put together for you, comparing incandescent, CFL, and LED lights. The black outlined box shows the relative cost of the three bulbs. As you can see, CFLs and LEDs are quite the bargain over time! One LED light lasts 22 years when you use it 3 hours a day, so that’s where the 22 years comes from.
Another thing to note is that if you power your incandescent bulb by coal powered electricity (red outlined box on the left), you end up putting 597 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere from one single light bulb over 22 years. AND, you will need 25 incandescent bulbs, because that’s how many you’ll need to last as long as one LED bulb! Last thing to note is that if you power your LED bulb using solar power you only make 11 pounds of CO2 over 22 years of lovely LED lighting (red box on the right).
Here’s the same info in graphic form. A bit easier to see the real difference. And please remember, all this info is for just *one* single, solitary light bulb. Wow!
Which brings me back to my discovery the other day.
I was walking down the aisles at Target here in Texas, and somehow wandered into the light bulb section. To my amazement, high quality LED bulbs were on sale for 5 bucks! Can you believe it?! A GE 60-watt equivalent LED on sale for $5, what a deal! (The sale is over now, but I’m sure another will come along.)
I bought one for a little test, and installed it in my desk lamp. Wow! It was a big improvement over the CFL it replaced. Much brighter, cleaner light. Plus, although it’s rated for 60 watts, it only consumes 10.5 watts. AND, if that’s not enough, it has a 13.7 year life span.
I also happened to be wandering around CostCo recently and saw this little package of gems for only $19.99. Another great deal. These bulbs last even longer than the ones I got, 22 years versus 13.7, and they use even less power!
If you want to take a concrete step towards saving money, reducing your energy consumption, and as a fabulous side-bonus, make less carbon dioxide pollution, then buy yourself a few (or a bunch!) of LED lights. I did. Just don’t forget to take them with you when you move. Or better yet, leave them for the next folks who might not be as energy and environmentally conscious as you.
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Note, 03 May 2015: Going back and reading this article I discovered that I had over estimated LED lifespan, and underestimated the amount of CO2 produced. So this article has been updated to show more accurate numbers.