Are LED light bulbs worth it?

Are LED light bulbs worth it?

I’ve been buying modern forms of light bulbs for almost 15 years now. So when someone asks me, “Are LED light bulbs worth it?” or “Do LED lights really save you money?” I can answer the question. I was more accepting of CFL bulbs than most, but I had some reservations about them. On the other hand, I really like LED bulbs.

LED light bulbs have saved me a lot of money over the years, and they have quite a few advantages besides the money they save you every month on your electric bill. I thought LED light bulbs were worth it five years ago, and I really think so now.

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Compact fluorescent life expectancy

There’s a lot of talk about compact fluorescent life expectancy. I actually tracked my CFL lifespan. Here’s what I found.

I noticed this week that a compact fluorescent bulb in the kitchen had burned out, so this week I bought an LED bulb to replace it. I started writing the dates on bulbs back in 2008 so I could track how long they last. This particular bulb was dated 1-2011. So the bulb lasted 3 years, 8 months. That’s a lot better than a standard incandescent light bulb. I suspect I may have had CFL bulbs last less time than that, but I know I’ve had bulbs last longer, too. The most recent bulb I replaced prior to this one was from 2008.

If your CFL bulbs are burning out early, here are some tips. They work. Remember, my bulbs lasted three years or more.

I have about 16 CFL bulbs left in the house now, and I’ll continue using those until they die. I have around 28 LED bulbs. All in all I prefer LED; they give more lumens per watt, tend to reach full brightness faster, and generally give off a better quality of light, but the biggest advantage–an advantage they have over incandescent bulbs as well–is the complete lack of ultraviolet light so they don’t fade the paint on your walls or the stuff hanging on your walls. Supposedly they don’t attract bugs either, but that seems to not be entirely true. Still, cutting down on ultraviolet light and saving money are good things.

Of CFLs, LEDs, and modern lighting in general

Compact Fluorescent and LED light bulbs just couldn’t stay out of the news this week, and boy, is there some bad information still out there.

Let’s start with Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, who recently discovered a form of libertarianism after years of voting a straight Democratic ticket. She said three things about CFLs in an interview with Village Voice Media: Read more

Shut up, McCain. Obama is right this time.

McCain’s camp is mocking Barack Obama’s suggestion that people need to inflate their tires to save fuel.

It’s not like the senator from Illinois said let them eat cake. It’s actually good advice.The biggest problem with Washington is its disconnect with reality, such as the time Bush I went grocery shopping as a publicity stunt and marveled at the scanners at the checkout as if they were something new. Well, newer than unleaded gasoline, perhaps.

Perhaps my biggest frustration with McCain is his lack of understanding at chipping away at a problem. I have news for him. Chipping away can be very effective. I nickel-and-dimed my way to paying off a mortgage in 6 years, partly by doing things like inflating my tires and changing my air filter and using synthetic oil. Besides that, I bought a programmable thermostat, bought compact fluorescent light bulbs, and brought my own coffee to work.

Take small amounts of savings here and there and make them work for you, and you can accomplish something a lot bigger than you might think.

Too bad it’s been seven years since Washington tried to chip away at its deficit. But that’s another issue.

If every U.S. citizen did the routine maintenance that helps improve gas mileage, it would have the dual effect of reducing demand (and therefore prices) slightly, and putting a little more money in consumers’ pockets, so they could better afford the market price.

McCain would rather encourage voters to wait for Washington to fix the problem.

Tell me, which one of these guys is the Republican and which one’s the Democrat? I’m having difficulty telling them apart.

So if a McCain supporter offers you a tire gauge, take it. And by all means use it.

On this issue, Obama is right. As in correct. And conservative, apparently.

Stock up on compact fluorescent lighting

Compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs are on sale at Kmart this week. I bought a bunch.

I’ve been gradually replacing the light bulbs in my house with CFs as they burn out. CFs cost enough that I wasn’t comfortable throwing out 30 perfectly good bulbs and buying all CFs in one hit, especially not at 2002 prices.

I’m glad I took that strategy, because today’s CFs are better and they’re cheaper.Here’s the idea with CFs: a 23-watt CF gives off about as much light as a 100-watt traditional incandescent bulb. But it consumes 77 watts less power. So the 23-watt CF will save you, theoretically, about $40 in energy costs over its lifetime. Plus CFs generally last about 7 years in regular use, so you save the cost of replacing bulbs too. So that $6 light bulb could end up saving you almost 50 bucks.

With energy costs escalating, that savings estimate might actually be a bit low. Also, it doesn’t factor in the heat. If you have 15 100-watt bulbs going in your house, it’s like running a space heater in the summer time. Your air conditioner has to make up the difference. So 15 23-watt CFs generate 77% less heat.

The other thing I’ve noticed now that I’m not living alone anymore is that light bulbs burn out a lot more often. Particularly those vanity globe lights in the bathroom. CF vanity globes last almost three times as long, use less power, and they only cost 50 cents more. My bathrooms had 25-watt bulbs in them All I can find are 11-watt CFs, which are roughly equivalent to 40W. So I’ve been using half as many bulbs, leaving burned-out bulbs in place so the fixtures don’t look funny. The light from eight of those CFs might be blinding.

New CFs light up more quickly than the ones I was buying in 2002, and I think they give off more light now too. The equivalence on the package used to be pretty optimistic; an old 23-watt CF didn’t give off quite as much light as a 100-watt bulb. Today’s bulbs seem to give off comparable light, or sometimes even a bit more.

The light from a CF is still noticeably more blue than incandescent light. My mother in law likes it better. I’m not sure if I like it better or not. But I’ve been mixing CFs with traditional bulbs to tone it down, so I still get quite a bit of savings without dealing with weird light.

And while that 7-year lifespan claim may seem optimistic, I can say this: I’ve been buying CFs for 3 1/2 years now, and I haven’t had to replace one yet. Last year, during those lean times when money was short and I couldn’t really think about the long term, I was buying regular light bulbs again, and some of those have burned out already.

The biggest problem with them is that the dimmer switches in a couple of the rooms make CFs sing. I need to take the dimmer switches out and replace them with regular light switches if I want to use CFs in those rooms.

CFs aren’t the future: I believe the future is LED light bulbs. You can’t buy those at your local Kmart just yet. But white LEDs aren’t cheap enough yet that I would consider them practical. A 2.5W LED bulb gives out comparable light to a 40W incandescent and has a life expectancy of about 17 years, but it costs $30. The equivalent of 60 watts costs about $60. For $10, I’d consider the 2.5W for some applications, but not for $30.

Maybe the technology will be ready when my CFs start burning out. I hope so.

This is a so-you-know-I’m-alive post

I don’t expect my daily doings to be interesting to anyone. I mean, c’mon. Who wants to read ordinary? But since I haven’t posted in forever, I’ll post what I’ve got, which is this.I’m getting a lawnmower today. That’s good because I can’t get anyone to mow my itsy-bitsy yard for less than $25. For that kind of money, I’ll do it myself.

A friend is coming over this afternoon to help me install a programmable thermostat. That’s good because my utility bills are out of control. If I’d done it in December, I’d be about $400 richer right now. I’m also looking at some other creative ways to knock utility costs down, like compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use about 1/5 the wattage of a standard bulb and have about 10 times the life expectancy. They claim to save you about $30 in energy costs over their life expectancy. Multiply that by the 20 or so bulbs around the house that they’d be suitable replacements for, and you’re talking some real money.

My DSL connection has been sporadic the last couple of days. It seems to finally be stable. I’d get better reliability by upgrading to a static IP, but that won’t happen before summer. I’m still dealing with those unexpected expenses that creep up on new homeowners, and, well, I’m young. I don’t have the kind of resources someone 10 years older than me would have.

If I can find a steady writing gig, that’ll help.

I’ve got a couple of tape backup issues to look at for work. And that’s pretty much my day.

I wrote what I thought was a decent piece on bleeding-edge hardware. But somehow I managed not to save it. I may get time to rewrite it tomorrow, depending on how productive I am today.

Oh, and, tee hee hee, my Royals are 8-0. The last team that started the season 8-0 won the World Series. It was the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, who beat an awfully good Oakland Athletics team. And there’s reason for hope: The Royals have been doing it without Carlos Beltran (leg injury), and yesterday they won in spite of half the team battling the flu. Beltran and Mike Sweeney are the Royals’ only star players.

But the 1990 Reds only had two bona fide stars too, in Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.

Do I really think my Royals will win the World Series? Not yet. But I think this is going to be a fun year.

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