Switch to LED Light Bulbs, Save Big on Energy
When it comes to saving energy through household upgrades, homeowners often focus on the big things like HVAC systems and major appliances, overlooking the little things like light bulbs. But if you add up all the light bulbs in the average home, their combined energy consumption can let them stand toe to toe with some of the biggest energy hogs.
That is, if the light bulbs are incandescent. These old-fashioned light bulbs aren’t that different from the design patented by Thomas Edison in 1880, and they remained the standard of modern lighting for more than a century. But in the 2000s, an energy efficient challenger arrived in U.S. homes in the form of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. And just a short time later, light emitting diode (LED) bulbs took over as the leader in energy efficient lighting.
The Department of Energy estimates that if you replace your five most frequently used light bulbs with LED bulbs, you could save about $45 per year. So if you’re looking for an easy, affordable way to reduce your energy consumption, this LED lighting guide will show you how.
When LED bulbs first broke onto the market, they weren’t a practical solution for many would-be energy savers. With prices typically exceeding $30 per bulb, upgrading even a few rooms’ worth of bulbs could be prohibitively expensive -- and it would have taken years for the bulbs to pay for themselves in energy savings.
But starting in the late 2000s, those prices began to drop, and continued dropping at an accelerating pace. Today, almost all basic LED bulbs sell for less than $5, putting a whole-home upgrade within the budget of many homeowners.
Understanding LED light bulbs vs. CFLs
As previously mentioned, incandescent bulbs were initially supplanted by CFLs, but the arrival of affordable LEDs didn’t let the poor CFLs enjoy their day in the sun for long. Not only do LEDs draw fewer watts of electricity, they outperform CFLs in a variety of other ways.
Why use LED lights instead of CFLs? Here are six simple reasons:
- LED bulbs last longer. It’s common for LEDs to be rated for 50,000 hours of use, about five times longer than the average CFL bulb, and about 50 times longer than incandescents.
- LED bulbs are safer. CFL bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, which means they must be handled and disposed of carefully. If a CFL bulb breaks, it’s recommended that you ventilate and vacate the area for several minutes.
- LED bulbs light up instantly. CFL bulbs take a few seconds to warm up, and they appear dimmer during this time.
- LED bulbs often provide more pleasant lighting. Early versions of CFL bulbs were criticized for emitting harsh light. While the industry made improvements to soften this effect, LED bulbs have always come in a range of colors and levels of softness.
- LED bulbs are more versatile. The curly design of CFL bulbs makes them just as bulky as incandescents, which limits their range of applications. But light emitting diodes are comparatively small, which allows for applications like slim strips of lightweight lights that you can use for under-cabinet kitchen lighting.
- LED bulbs give off virtually no heat. Incandescent bulbs give off about 90 percent of their energy as heat, and CFL bulbs don’t fare much better. This can produce unwanted heat inside your home during warm weather. LED bulbs remain cool to the touch.
A Different Way of Buying Bulbs
When incandescent bulbs were the only game in town, we bought our bulbs based on wattage. The higher the wattage, the brighter the bulb. But LED bulbs have such low wattages that it’s impractical to choose bulbs based on this metric. Instead, the brightness of LED bulbs is measured in lumens, a unit of measurement for light.
When shopping for LED bulbs, you’ll see the lumen count right on the packaging or in the online listing. But if you still think of bulb brightness in terms of wattages, those numbers might not mean much to you at first.
A 100-watt bulb is roughly equivalent to 1,600 lumens, a 75-watt bulb is about 1,100 lumens, a 60-watt bulb is about 800 lumens and a 40-watt bulb is about 450 lumens. These equivalents aren’t exact, so if you prefer a light on the dimmer or brighter side of your incandescent benchmarks, choose an LED bulb with a lumen count that is slightly lower or higher, respectively.
Don’t Put It Off
Now that retail prices are so affordable, the benefits of LED light bulbs allow these upgrades to pay for themselves in just a few months. And because LED bulbs last for so long, the savings will continue to pay off for years. If you’re still using incandescent bulbs or even CFLs, it’s time to think about more modern lighting.