Weighing the Switch to LED Lighting


Purchased By Sommer From Depositphotos.com

I live for those moments when saving money and making an Earth-friendly decision line up and walk hand-in-hand. Hence, my household's recent conversion to LED light bulbs.

At first, I was skeptical of LEDs because they are so costly, in comparison to incandescent or CFL light bulbs. In fact, I wondered why they cost so much more, and if they really could save me money and help the environment.

I asked my friend Anna Hackman, the blogger behind Green-Talk, for her suggestions on where I could start. She suggested this easy money saving calculator to see exactly how I could save money with LEDs, followed by a visit to the Energy Star website for more information. Both are great resources that I recommend for evaluating your own household's current lighting costs and the savings behind making a bulb switch.

Next, I wanted to learn more about the difference between LEDs and CFL light bulbs and really understand if making the switch was worth it for my family. Lynn Schwartz with LPS Green Technologiesgave me some great information explaining how using LED lights could have a long-term cost benefit. According to Schwartz, LEDs yield at least five times the return on investment of incandescents (and as she pointed out, I have less of a chance of injuring myself falling off of a ladder changing light bulbs all the time!). A high quality LED lamp or fixture will generally last 25,000 hours or more, and some LED lamps can go for 100,000 hours. Consider that the average household typically uses their lights for 2,000 hours or less each year, and the longevity of LEDs becomes clear.

The accompanying environmental benefit is easy to see: less waste, because you're using fewer light bulbs, and greater energy efficiency. LEDs generate far less heat than incandescents, reducing strain on your home's cooling system. And it gets even better: unlike CFL bulbs, LED bulbs do not have mercury in them. If CFLs are not properly disposed of, the mercury can leak out into landfills or into our water supply, but with an LED bulb, we don't have that concern.

2/14/2015 9:19:26 PM

We still have some incandescents that are used an hour a year or so. All the socket based bulbs are CFL. Naturally there are some cheap ones that have died early (I take them apart and scrounge the electronics) but the rest just keep on going. I don't foresee getting LED screw-in bulbs because they don't disperse light efficiently; I'll get direct-radiating fixtures with no shades that put light where I want it. I've built some LED lights out of stick-on strips. When you don't have to replace bulbs, you don't need screw-ins. 2800K is too orange for me. 4000K is just about right, full spectrum so you can see blue. 6000K is OK for some places where you'd use a "cool white" fluorescent. For low levels of illumination where you can't see color anyhow, it's fine. Be skeptical of reliability figures. They refer to the LED output drooping over time if they are run at a certain temperature. They'll still work after that, just dim over time. But the electronics will fail catastrophically, depending on the design, damage from power line spikes, heat, or defects like cold solder joints. With no-lead solder, tin whiskers can short out the boards especially under high humidity. Make sure to ventilate the heat sink, not enclose it. I like to spread out LEDs in a line and put the power supply somewhere else. Good LEDs will dim well, won't flicker or radiate RF interference; will have excellent power factor (not inductive); nice pattern, good color rendering index. Usually these are name brands at high prices, not the no-name Chinese ones. Since they are an investment, don't get a whole houseful at once. Try some as your CFLs die.

2/13/2015 9:36:51 AM

We are off grid and have switched completely over to LEDs. While some of them run off the inverter and are 120 volt, the majority are 12 volt...which are much harder to find and even more expensive. But what I save in power consumption saves me the cost of another solar electric panel. We've been off grid since 1984 and this is one of the greatest cost saving benefits we have...along with energy efficient danfoss compressor driven refrigerator and freezer...the prices of energy conservation items will come down as people buy more. Economy of scale. All of the LEDs we use are in the 2800 to 3000 kelvin range (the light is measured by temperature...imagine the flame of a campfire...the hottest flame is the blue/white...the cooler flames are the more yellow, which approximates the light of natural daylight...the 5000 to 6000 kelvin lights are more of a harsh white, like the moon. The hotter temps are good for shop lighting, but not for house lighting. Be aware of this. I have unused 6000 kelvin bulbs which I already purchased...just too harsh for us.

2/13/2015 8:58:48 AM

We built our efficient passive solar home two years ago and installed all LED lighting. Like Sommer said, you'll have different colors from the yellowish hue of a warm or soft white that is more like an incandescent, to a bright white thats more blue. You can really see the difference when the bulbs are lit up side by side. We like the brights for work spaces like the kitchen counter and the softs for room lighting. The exterior LED fixtures are at full brightness from the get go, even at -20F, and don't need to "warm up" like CFLs. We used the bright white there as well. The only quirk we've seen so far is in the dimmable LED bulbs. Even with the required LED compatible dimmer switches, the LEDs don't dim as low as an incandescent. Also the bulbs don't always come on if the dimmer slider is all the way down when switch is turned on. We have to bring the dimmer up for the bulb to turn on then back down to the desired light level. Not a reason not to go LED just a couple of things to be aware of. And a side note on our passive solar home: We live in the cold snowy mountains of Vermont and heated our home with just 1/2 cord of firewood and the sun last winter. It's -5 out and sunny today and 69 in the house, everybody should build this way!

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