Background

Ok, back in November 2012 I stumbled into my local 'big-box' home improvement store with an extra $1,000 USD to burn and without any research or pre-planning I purchased 35 LED bulbs to replace my incandescent and CFL bulbs. I was way tired of continually replacing a couple CFLs time and time again and the 25,000-50,000 hours of lifetime sparked my interest and put a $1K hole in my wallet. At a burn time average of 3-hours per day that is 22-45 years of life. Ok, I am in.

With my 35 LED SSL (Solid State Lighting) bulbs and $885 UDS later, I exit the big blue home improvement store and headed the 2 miles back to my Plano, Texas home to begin changing out light bulbs. And, to later find out a few dimmers will need to be replaced as well.

You see a dimmable LED does not mean it will work on your existing incandescent light bulb and may be the cause of my premature CFL bulb failure. CFL and LED lights require a different dimmer - so, be forewarned. The conversion to SSL (solid state lighting) requires a lithe more than than screwing in a few bulbs. It also lead me to the LeGrand Adorn light switches (subject a future blog).

Outside of the dimmer issues. I had two additional issues: 1.) LED light flicker on 4 recessed can lights in the living room; and 2.)  RF Interference: Garage Door Opener.

Mostly, I purchased the Sylvania Ultra LED and a few Phillips LED bulbs. Like I said earlier. I did not pre-plan or do any online research - it's only a light bulb right?

Yes, but why do you think you are paying $25 (now six months later $15) for a LED lamp/bulb vs a $1.50 for an incandescent? Because, I have learned (post purchase), there is a whole lot going on inside the new LED A-19, 8-watt (40-watt replacement) bulb - 6, 8 10 LEDs, power driver, heat dissipation, RF shielding, etc...

Results

Post installation of my 35 LEDs I am VERY happy with my home's lighting. Combined with my other Home Energy Projects (Nest Thermostat, new windows, R30 attic Insulation, etc..) my home energy bill for my 2,000 sq ft Northeast Texas home was less than $95.00 for the month of February 2012.

I have not changed out ONE light bulb in the past 6-months. A first for me living in this home the past 3 years.

Quality of lighting: Much improved over CFL and VERY, very satisfied with my LED efforts~!

Now it is time for me to tackle the 20 or so 50w Halogen bulbs in the home - and, trust me, I have been doing a little reading before I jump into spending another $400 to replace those.

Recommendation:

With A-19 60w-replacement LED Lamps (bulbs) approaching the $10-15 USD price range - go ahead and start saving energy. With the 3-hour/day burn rate you will be looking at a less than 12-month pay back. (just do your research - the cheapest bulb my not be your best investment - Various LED A-19 bulbs)

Good Luck~!

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Comment by Dale Stephens on April 2, 2013 at 7:54am

Dennis - I sure will~! I have a pair of A19s above the fireplace in the living room that are left on 24/7/365. These bulbs have been burning now for 23 weeks (3864 hours). It is my small test to see what the 'real' life of these bulbs might be. I will make another post to my LED blog at 12 months and provide additional feedback/information.

Comment by Dennis Heidner on April 1, 2013 at 9:34pm

Dale,  over the next two or three years,  could you keep track of any failures and when...  AND visit the store about every six months and estimate what it would cost to replace the light bulbs again.   This would make for some real interesting blogs on both the reliability and the price curves.

Comment by Dennis Heidner on March 30, 2013 at 9:28pm

New building designs and signs (building signs) are easy targets.  I think we will see a fixture that is sold at a lower cost without the ballast in a couple of years.  One of the current problems is that once you convert a fixture from a fluorescent to a LED - it is a BAD idea to stick a fluorescent back into the fixture.  If new fixtures without ballasts and something other than a G13 socket were available -- that would solve the accidental re-insertion of the fluorescents.  Ballast are about $20 of the a new light fixture cost.  LED's don't need them thus some of the future difference between LED's and fluorescent bulbs will be made up with the removal of the electronic ballast.  The added premium that you must pay if LEDs are used is about $50 each.  (=$70-$20).  Which is indeed to pricy in most cases.  But this is going to be like the flat screen TV's.  Within five years the prices were down to about 1/5 for the "small" 40inch TV.   Early backlight LED TV were also more expensive and now the prices have dropped enough that the fluorescent lit TVs are nearly all off the market.

Price drop of 40W A19 bulbs were from $60 each four or five years ago - to about an average (if you shop) for $7 this last week.  Last fall I picked up about ten twin-packs of 40W A19 bulbs at local hardware (not a bigbox) for about $6 a pair.  To be fair that included an automatic subsidy by the utility.  But still that was $3 for a 40W A19.  (and they weren't recalled).  Better 60W L series bulbs by Philips are also dropping.

So back to Dales initial block.  Six months ago the cost to relamp was about $835.  Now I think you could do the same for perhaps $350.   And two years from now I would expect the price to be down around $150.  Five years from now it would be pretty automatic -- incandescents will by $10 a bulb (special order) and CFL's may be seeing their prices increase also...  

We will be in for a big change.

The large acoustic tile sized flat panel LED's are now starting to be available for room lighting.  Quite pricey and I don't think we will see much use in a single family residential building.  But I could see them used in common areas of multi-family facilities.  They would eliminate the troffers....  

Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 30, 2013 at 7:02pm

$60 per lamp, $120 total for a 2 lamp fixture. Plus the T8 ballast that must be removed out of the $40 or so T8 fixture. For $160 could designers not come up with an LED optimized fixture that would make better use of LED technology? I'm assuming new construction, which IMHO is where LED will hit on the commercial side first. LED designers would have to put there money where there lamp life expectancy mouth is though. Short lived fixtures would get a bad rap quickly.

Comment by Dennis Heidner on March 30, 2013 at 6:46pm

Bob,  I disagree with you on the optimization.  Fluorescent T8s are indeed much higher output -- but remember that is 360 degrees around the tube for its length.  T8 LEDs on the other hand can be (and are) built so the light is downward. Thus when you measure the light at working height under both -- they can be much closer than the specs state.

I am still in the experimenting stage - so I might be able to report back six months from now...  but from what I've seen so far is that I think I can down size in the amount of T8s required  for that very reason.

Plus what I've seen so far is the heat generated is FAR less for the LED T8 equivalent... so if you have a building in a cooling dominated environment - they might provide an edge there also.   Is it a big enough advantage to offset the higher price?  NO not yet... I think that is still a couple of years down the road.   

But then my house is a science/engineering project so in this case I am investing so I can measure and actually watch the performance in real life conditions.

Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 30, 2013 at 6:06pm

Part of the problem is LED is trying to beat T8 in a fixture that has been optimized for T8 lamps. For LED to pull ahead, designers need to focus on fixtures that can be optimized for LED technology. The same problem exists for A19 incandescent lamp retrofits, LED designers need to focus on fixtures that are LED optimized from the start. It's a big reason that T8's outperform CFL's, the fixtures are designed for the lamp from the start.

Comment by Dennis Heidner on March 30, 2013 at 5:16pm

Bob, I think T8 LED's will be much more common place even in commercial applications in probably under five years.  I've been following them now for about four years.  Early on T8 LED's were VERY uncommon and above $100 for a 4 foot tube.  Yet they were selling slowly - because of the desired to avoid mecury and the longer life in some situations.  Philips (and others) have been offering T8s for a couple of years and the prices are starting to come down.  The newer LED "light devices" that are the bases of the newer generations of A19 bulbs should be moving into T8s in a year or so... when that happens we will see even higher light output and additional price drops.   My guess is we are about three years away from manufacturers wanting to switch to LED and away from fluorescent based devices.

Remember while we might view the amount of mercury in each tube as small - as a manufacturer it adds up.  That means there are health problems with their staff, rules and regulations, plus all the hazmat rules to follow along the product chain.  And the need to accept the used products back for recycling.  That adds cost.  In a few years the T8 manufacturers will have the price of the LED lowering enough that the pressure to pull the plugs on the fluorescent devices will be extreme.  We will then see programs offered to re-lamp the existing commercial fixtures for LED's.

Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 30, 2013 at 12:35pm

Just took a look @ the T8 LED replacement links, and yes LED has a LONG way to go to be competitive. 1500 lumen (half that of a T8 tube I kinked to), CRI of 75 (11 CRI less than the T8), Price $60 per tube (15 times that of the T8)  yields a complete fail for T8 LED replacement lamps at this time. T12 to T8 will yield a MUCH quicker payback time than moving to T8 LED. There's a reason T8 is "king of the castle" in commercial applications, IMHO it will be at least a decade before LED is cost effective in high lumen output lighting.

Comment by Dennis Heidner on March 30, 2013 at 9:32am

T8 LEDs are still many times the cost of the straight tube.  But no ballast,  instant on,  good color, perhaps a little lower power.  Longer life.

http://store.earthled.com/collections/led-t8-tube-replacements-repl...

I am switching T12's to T8 LEDs, in on step - so I will see savings eventually,  going from T8 to T8 LEDs at this time probably gives you a 40+ year payback (I haven't calculated it)....which of course is beyond the useful life of the LED.

FWIW,  T8 fluorescent bulbs do have a droop... mostly in the first few months of use and they they stablize.  Because they have the ballast external - it can be larger and is better able to meet the needs of the bulb.  But ballasts use power.

Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 30, 2013 at 7:29am

The mercury contained in CFL is just a few drops. About 1/100th of that what used to be contained in the old thermostats, yet you don't hear the environmentalists saying one peep about those.

I do think that CFL is a "transition lamp" from incandescent to LED. CFL's have their issues for sure, but it's LED's main competition right now. LED needs to drop in price enough that consumers are willing to pay extra to get away from CFL issues. I also think the day is coming when screw based lamps will be obsolete, LED's will be designed as part of "lifetime fixtures". Much easier to sell an LED fixture for $20 more than it's incandescent competition, vs selling a $20 lamp next to a 50 cent one.

LED has a LONG way to go on competing with T8. T8 doesn't suffer most of the issues that CFL does, CRI is good and brightness is instant. I use T8 fixtures in my kitchens, bathrooms, laundry and garage. Some T8 fixtures are suitable for mounting as a wall fixture over the bathroom mirror. IMHO they are the best value for high lumen for low cost, and the lamps seem to last forever. $8 gets you 5,600 lumen @ 86CRI for 64 watts.How much are T8 LED lights going for these days? What is the Lumen and CRI of those?

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