Coming soon: Affordable LED lighting

Affordable is relative, of course. LED lights are a long way from costing less than CFLs, and of course, the old-fashioned incandescents are still cheaper. But the Ecosmart LED bulb that Home Depot is about to start selling for $20 costs half as much as competing offerings from GE and Philips.

They use 8-9 watts to provide equivalent light to a 40w incandescent, work in dimmers, are made in the USA, and have an estimated life expectancy of 17 years. So I think I could be persuaded to buy a couple.But speaking of CFLs, I’ve been buying them since at least 2003. They get a bit of a bad rap, but in my experience, not all CFLs are created equal. Some of the first CFLs that I installed 7-8 years ago are still working. I’ve had others only last a few months.

I can think of two possible reasons for this. I bought my first bulbs at Home Depot. Later, I switched to buying bulbs at Kmart. The bulbs I was buying at Kmart were considerably less reliable. A couple of years ago I switched to buying bulbs at Costco. Fed up with replacing CFLs, I started writing the date of purchase on the bulbs and saving my receipts at that point. But so far, none of my dated bulbs have burned out.

So I think changing brands can make a difference. If a bulb burns out before its time, buy a different brand next time. And write the installation date on your bulbs so you can be certain the bulb really did burn out before its time. Given the number of fixtures in most homes, it can be difficult to remember exactly when it was you changed a bulb.

The other thing to check is the fixture itself. The base of the bulb contacts a copper tab inside the fixture. Over time, this tab can get mashed down, causing poor contact, which causes arcing and damages the base of the bulb, leading to decreased bulb life. If you want to fix this, cut off power to the outlet from your breaker box or fuse box, remove the bulb, and bend the tab to about a 20-degree angle. Turn the power back on, turn on the light switch, then start twisting the bulb into the socket. Stop turning just as soon as the bulb lights.

2 thoughts on “Coming soon: Affordable LED lighting

  • May 17, 2010 at 9:07 am
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    WE don’t have screw-in light fittings – we have bayonet push-and-twist ones.

    However, the light circuit has two ends, and I’ve seen problems arise at the other end that will burn out compact fluorescent lights. It particularly applies to older houses, and that is the light switch. Over years or decades of switching on and off, the contacts arc and corrode, the circuit current flow becomes irregular, and while old-fashioned hot-wire light-bulbs are forgiving of minor irregularities in current, the CFL’s aren’t.

    Depending on how confident one is, one should either look at the light switch themselves, or have an electrician check out the whole circuit. This is fairly important – arcing mains current can burn a house down. One of the ones I found was dead scary. Heat had burnt and baked the plastic parts of the switch to brittleness, and why it hadn’t just collapsed I don’t know.

    • May 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm
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      Don, that’s something that makes perfect sense. And especially in high-humidity rooms like bathrooms, I can really see that happening.

      It makes me want to go throw the main breaker and check out my bathroom switches right now.

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