When you think of a light bulb, you probably think of the classic one. The good old incandescent light bulb pops into your head, much like cartoons show one popping up when someone has an idea. Incandescent light bulbs have been around for generations, and they’ve been working for just as long. Sure, the filament doesn’t last a super long time, and you probably spend a decent amount of time changing light bulbs. While changing a light bulb doesn’t really cost that much, and in the scheme of your power bill, lighting isn’t the biggest culprit, you might have wondered if there was a better option.
There is. But it depends on how often you use the light. LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs have started to make a big splash in the world of lighting, and for pretty good reason. They are incredibly energy efficient, using a fraction of the power that incandescent light bulbs do, and LEDs can last for decades, not months. But how do they compare to incandescent bulbs? Is the upfront cost worthwhile, and do LEDs really save you money?
If you take a quick look around the internet, you might find the article “Are LED and CFL Bulbs Worth the Money? Don’t be Left in the Dark” on Simple Family Finance. This is a great article that breaks down the comparison between LED and incandescent bulbs beautifully. First up, the article discusses the quality of light from each bulb.
The incandescent light bulb is taken as the standard. After all, it’s the light that most of us are used to, and it’s a soothing, warm light. If you pick the right LED, you can get virtually the same quality of light as an incandescent bulb. There’s really no difference. Although, if you want greater choice on color and quality, LEDs take a step ahead.
Light Bulb Lifespan
Incandescent light bulbs are typically rated around 1000 hours. With how often those bulbs have to be changed, it’s unlikely that any of us have ever gotten that much time out of an incandescent bulb. So, the lifespan is certainly one major disadvantage that incandescent light bulbs have.
LEDs, on the other hand, are rated between 25,000 to 50,000 hours. That’s a huge gap between incandescent light bulbs and LEDs. Of course, real world use will vary, but if you only used the LED three hours a day, you could potentially get over twenty years of life out of a single bulb. That’s huge. It’s pretty clear that LEDs beat out incandescent bulbs.
Light Bulb and Electricity Cost
So, LEDs are comparable to incandescent bulbs in terms of light quality, and LEDs easily win when it comes to the lifespan of the bulb. But how do they compare when it comes to the numbers? LEDs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but they use a fraction of the electricity, and a single LED will last significantly longer than an incandescent bulb.
The previous article performs some calculations using certain assumptions (such as 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour) that might be different for you. You should be able to check with your power company to determine what they charge per kilowatt hour, so you could do the math yourself. However, the results are rather interesting.
Over the course of 25,000 hours, you would need approximately 32 incandescent light bulbs. If they cost 50 cents each, you’ll be spending 16 dollars on light bulbs. That’s pretty cheap, and incandescent bulbs are still looking good. However, a 60-watt bulb would cost over 200 dollars to run. And that’s just for one light fixture.
How do LEDs compare? To run for 25,000 hours, you would need a single LED bulb. The cost has come down, but the article uses 20 dollars for the cost of the bulb. The cost of electricity would only be around 33 dollars, which brings the total cost of the LED right below 54 dollars.
Making Sense of the Numbers
Switching to an LED from an incandescent bulb is a savings of almost 150 dollars over the lifetime of the LED. That’s just one bulb. Imagine changing all of your high use and daily use light bulbs with LEDs, and that savings number just climbs. But that’s the important thing to take into consideration. If you have a light in your closet, and you barely use it, it doesn’t make sense financially to change that bulb with an LED.
So it’s definitely worth switching over to LED bulbs, but only if you use the lights for a significant amount of time during the day. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away. And that defeats the entire purpose of buying LEDs in the first place.