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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Wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch

Wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch

People frequently wire a ceiling fan with a light to two light switches. That way they can control the fan with one switch and the light with the other. But what if the room has only one switch and you have to wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch? You can still do it. You just have to know what to do with the fan’s red or blue wire.

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Enerlites HOSS: an occupancy sensor switch without ground

The Enerlites Top Greener HOSS is an occupancy sensor switch without ground wire requirements, and it’s pretty cheap too, at $12. A Lutron switch costs almost twice as much.

But the HOSS does come with some compromises. The HOSS does require a neutral (white) wire. But most switch boxes will have the whites in there and accessible, so that’s not a big deal. It’s also a bit trickier to wire than a Lutron, and it doesn’t look as nice.

That said, it’s nice to have an option for older houses that may not have a ground connection available. People in older houses need energy savings too. Read more

My household’s energy usage dropped 19% in 2011

I got a letter from my utility company Saturday morning. Inside was a chart, comparing our household’s energy usage from 2010 and 2011. It dropped 19 percent.

Considering our total bill for 2011 was over $900, that’s hardly chump change. Read more

Review: The Lutron MS-OPS2 occupancy sensor switch

I installed a Lutron occupancy sensor switch this weekend. It detects you entering the room, turns the lights on, then turns them off five minutes after it detects nobody is in the room. The timeout period is adjustable. It comes in four models: MS-OPS2-WH (white), -AL (almond), -LA (light almond), and -IV (ivory) and retails for $29.

Installation was surprisingly easy–it took about 15 minutes, which is about how long it takes me to change a regular switch, and unlike most models in its price range it works with modern CFL and LED lighting, but I recommend some prep work ahead of time. Read more

Do insulated vinyl blinds work?

Back in November, I bought a bunch of insulated vinyl blinds on sale. Installing them took about a week–I had to replace all the hardware, which involves drilling, so I had to be careful what I did and when so as to not wake the kids–but they’ve all been up almost a month now, and it didn’t take long for them to leave an impression. I know you’re asking, “Do insulated vinyl blinds work?” I have to say yes.

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Spending money to save money

Last month our budget billing for our electric bill reset, and I got a pleasant surprise. The monthly bill is $7 less than last year. That’s $84 a year, which isn’t huge, but it’s significant–especially considering I never hear anyone say their electric bill went down. Only up. I had an idea in the back of my mind to spend the savings on another energy saving project, to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

Then my wife mentioned she’d like some new blinds. And the timing could scarcely have been better.

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Using child safety outlets to save energy

I got a new book recently about saving energy. I’ve read several of those, but this one had two tips I’ve never seen anywhere else: caulking baseboards and putting child safety covers on electrical outlets.

It didn’t explain caulking the baseboards, but I will. Frequently there’s a gap in the wallboard where it would normally meet the floor. Maybe it’s laziness—it’ll be covered by the baseboard, after all—but that gap is also a handy place to do after-the-fact wiring, reducing the need to cut into walls and then patch and repaint. The gap makes the area prone to drafts, however. So caulking where the baseboard meets the wall, and where it meets the floor if it’s not over carpet, makes rooms less prone to drafts.

Child safety outlet cover
These child safety outlet covers team up with foam gaskets (pictured below) to make a good energy-saving combo

The child safety outlets make for another interesting trick. I’ve talked before about foam electrical outlet inserts and their companion for light switches. And I’ve wondered about putting a child safety plug in. But recently I bought child-resistant outlet covers, after seeing them on This Old House. They come in varieties that twist or slide.  I like the sliding ones better, both from an insulating and usability standpoint. They’re convenient because you can just slide the cover out of place, rather than having to remove an insert. And these covers do two things: They put more material between you and the gap in the wall, and they cover the outlet plugs themselves, eliminating that last little source of drafts. And when you have small children like I do, they’re a necessity anyway.

I do insulate interior walls as well as those that face the outside. I didn’t used to bother. But this book mentioned that gaps in interior walls can cause them to act like chimneys, drawing heat out of the room. So I’ve changed my ways.

Foam electrical outlet insulatorsBoth of these are inexpensive upgrades that don’t take long to accomplish. When you buy the switch covers in bulk, it gets even cheaper.

I get ridiculed sometimes for talking about saving energy so much, but think about it. Energy isn’t getting any cheaper. My local utilities ask for rate increases just as frequently as the law allows them to, and more often than not, the state grants an increase. Not always as much as they ask for, but something.

More energy saving ideas

I’ve done a number of other things to help me save energy over the years. Most are pretty inexpensive. I installed thermal blinds and thermal curtains. Then I insulated my hot water pipes. And of course I use LED light bulbs.

My electric usage dropped 19 percent in 2011, so these things work.

I got an LED bulb, and it is fabulous.

I half-heartedly checked Home Depot’s web site today, and saw they had 429-lumen, 8.6-watt (40W equivalent) LED bulbs at my local store. Finally!

So when I had a chance, I drove over, plunked down my 19 bucks, and brought one home.

It’s not perfect. But I like it an awful lot.I tried the bulb out in a lamp first, to test the light quality. It’s very similar to the last batch of CFLs I bought. Not quite as yellow as my remaining incandescent bulbs, but nice.

It’s not quite bright enough to use in a lamp, and it’s fairly directional. You’ll want at least a 60W equivalent for that, and probably more. Give it time.

In my son’s bedroom, the light worked great. It works nicely in overhead lights, and it’s dimmable. Dimmable CFLs are expensive and hard to find, so I might as well buy LED bulbs instead since they use less power and last 2-3 times as long.

In operation, I found the LED bulb never got uncomfortably hot to the touch.

LED bulbs produce no UV light, so they won’t attract bugs and they won’t cause the pictures on your walls to fade. That sounds like a plus to me.

And, believe it or not, they’re assembled in the USA. Presumably most of the components, if not all of them, are made in China, but LED bulbs are one of the few things you can buy that support manufacturing jobs here in the States.

The bulbs have a five-year warranty. I suggest saving the receipt and perhaps the packaging, and writing the date of purchase on the base of the bulb in pencil. That way if the bulb fails prematurely, you can do something about it.

The 46-year life expectancy claim sounds overly optimistic, but 15-20 years wouldn’t surprise me.

I suggest you “burn in” the bulb by leaving it on for 24 hours straight. Like any other electronic device, if it survives that first 24 hours of running continuously, it’s likely to last years.

If the bulb is going in a bedroom or someplace else where leaving it on for 24 hours is impractical, put it in a lamp and leave the lamp on for 24 hours, then install the bulb where you intend to use it.

At $19 a pop, I’m not going to run out to convert the whole house. But as old bulbs burn out, I’ll buy LEDs to replace them. As time goes on, they’ll only improve, and prices will come down. But these bulbs are good enough to be useful today.

The energy savings isn’t chump change–LED bulbs pay for themselves in a couple of years if they replace old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Not only do you get more lumens per watt, but the less wattage you consume, the lower your cooling bills will be. I was an early adopter of CFLs–I have them everywhere but my kids’ rooms, and a seldom-used light in the shower of one bathroom. Between that, my thermal curtains, and a programmable thermostat, I haven’t had a $200 electric bill in years.

Energy isn’t going to get any cheaper, and we consume more of it per person than the rest of the world. We can voluntarily cut our energy usage, or we can wait for China and India to show up with guns and force the issue. I’d rather cut it voluntarily.

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