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You’re familiar with the situation.  You go to the store to replace a couple light bulbs that burnt out and you’re faced with an entire aisle of options: incandescents, LEDs, CFLs, halogens.  Which one do you buy?  There are many factors that will influence your decision, but you’ll probably go for the one that will offer the best economic value.  You’ve heard that the most expensive ones will last longer and use less energy, but it’s important to consider all of your options.  Will you really save money paying $25 for a light bulb?

It’s true.  The cheap incandescent bulbs are very inefficient since most of the energy they consume ends up being used for heat instead of light.  For this reason, these bulbs are in the process of being phased out.  Just this past month, the 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs have been banned from production, though you can probably still find them in stock at certain retail locations if you search hard enough.  So you can either stock up on these ancient bulbs or get with the times and choose a more efficient option.

Lighting typically accounts for about 20-30% of your electric bill so you want to make a wise choice when it comes to which bulb to use.  Below you will find a cost comparison of four different types of light bulbs; all emit the same amount of light, but vary in initial cost and the amount of energy consumed.

Click the chart to see price comparisons for common light bulbs.

Comparing the electricity cost for one year, you’ll see that you could save about $10 by switching from incandescent to LED.  Now that doesn’t seem like much, but once you increase the timeframe to 15 years, and factor in how many bulbs you’ll need during that time, you will notice that an incandescent will cost you almost four times as much as an LED.

Judging by this number, you decide against the incandescent.  Halogen light bulbs have a longer lifespan, but between their high initial cost and their inability to save much energy, they’re out too.

Now you’re down to CFLs and LEDs.  An LED bulb will last about three times longer than a CFL and will require less energy, but its current astronomical price tag will pretty much negate all of its economic benefits.

Any one of these three light bulbs is a better option than the incandescent, but until the price of LED bulbs becomes more reasonable, it’s best to stick with CFLs.

If you’re finding it difficult to make the switch, think back to the humorous Cree commercial that gave it to you straight.  “The light bulbs in your house were invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.  Now think about that with your twenty-thirteen brain.  Do you still do the wash down at the creek while your eldest son stands lookout for wolves?”

It’s time for you to break your old fashioned trend, just don’t break the bank in the process.

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  • Sue

    Excellent article!
    I’ve been meaning to make the switch and now I know how to do it!!! Thank you, Sarah!

  • Carl

    Great article. I have been looking for something like this. Though in our area (San Diego, CA) you can find LED bulbs as little as $10. (Though the $25 bulbs still exist) Assuming they have the relative same lifespan of the $25 bulb, the total cost over 15 years for an LED bulb is then $1,003.75. That makes it economically viable.

    p.s. $10 bulbs can be found on Amazon.com as well.

  • Herb

    I have a different way to think about bulbs. I’ve been in my house now for about 13 years. If the bulb that burns out is original with the house, it is used less than 100 hours per year (if incandescent). Might as well put the $.20 bulb back in, as it will never cost justify the LED or even the CFL. But now that the government has taken that option away from me, just put in the cheapest thing I can find. For basements, closets, or even garages (not man caves) we still are more cost effective putting in less efficient technology, as long as it is cheaper.

  • shanon5760000

    We got led bulbs for our running light fixture. 2 months later one started to flicker and a month later another one started to flicker as well. I held on to both of them to check to see if it was the fixture or bulb so I put them on a different set of running lights in the basement after 7 minutes they started to flicker. They to me are a waste of money if you only get 2-3 months out of them. They are not cheap running at 25-30 for 6.
    If you don’t mind buying bulbs every 2 months then they maybe for you. If you want a long lasting energy efficient bulb get the spiral ones, if you want a super cheap bulb and don’t care about saving energy get the regular ones. I can tell you leds are really nice for brightness but comes at a cost. Are you really saving on that energy bill by having them?? Most likily not if your putting leds into your entire house because you will have to replace them every two to three months and for us that’s 400.00 between our 2 floors not including gst on top of that.