LED lighting gets cheaper

I saw this week on Cnet that Pharox is selling basic, bare-bones LEDs direct from its web site, hoping to get consumers to try out LED bulbs.

The Pharox 300 is a 6 watt, 360 lumen bulb priced at $6.95.

The Pharox 200 is a 5 watt, 240 lumen bulb priced at $4.95.

The bulbs aren’t dimmable, and they’re more suitable for areas like hallways, the garage, bathrooms and laundry rooms than as reading lights. The 300 is sold as a 40W equivalent and the 200 as a 25W equivalent. A traditional 40-watt incandescent gives off between 300 and 500 lumens, so that’s a fairly honest rating. Since LEDs are more directional, a downward-facing LED can get by with fewer lumens since virtually none of the light is going up to the ceiling.

Costco also sells a no-frills bulb from LG in pairs for about $18, but it’s a 7.5W bulb. A 6W bulb is a better choice for things like your laundry room, where you need some light, but not tons of it. Though the difference depends on how much you leave your lights on, too. If you’re in the habit of turning your lights off when you leave the room, or have an occupancy sensor switch that automatically turns lights on or off, that 1.5 watts won’t make much of a difference.

I’ve been chasing down ever-more-efficient LEDs, but I think at this point the best return on investment for me will be occupancy sensors, especially in rooms like bathrooms where my kids can’t reach the light switch, so the light ends up staying on for 12-plus hours a day. That would potentially reduce the amount of time the lights are on to an hour or two per day, savings that no light bulb can touch.

The last I checked, occupancy sensors cost upwards of $50. But now there are several models available for less than $25. You have to be careful because a lot of the occupancy sensors aren’t compatible with CFL and LED bulbs, and older houses don’t always have all the wires that a sensor needs. I bought a Lutron Maestro occupancy sensor switch to try out. It has pretty much everything going for it: it’s supposed to be easy to wire, compatible with CFLs and LEDs, has a design that doesn’t call attention to itself, and costs around $22. If it works out, expect a more thorough writeup very soon.

And yes, I’m continuing to chase electricity savings even though my house is pretty efficient. The local electric company is wining and dining government officials and pressing for a 15% rate increase. This after getting a 7% rate hike just six months ago. Since they’ll pretty much get any rate increase they want as long as they don’t destroy any state parks or make the state speaker of the house go without power for two weeks, I’m going to have to rely on technology to keep my electric bills low.

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