According to the Energy Information Administration of the Federal Government, residential lighting accounts for 10% of all residential electrical use. Luckily for consumers, whether they own or rent their homes, lighting is one of the easiest places to save money (aside from adjusting their thermostats).
Because of the amount of energy used, lighting has received a significant amount of attention in the last couple of decades or so. As far back as the 1970s, work was focused on developing and deploying better, cheaper, and longer lived lighting options for all applications, inside and out.
By the mid-1980s, the push to replace residential incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) alternatives was picking up steam. Personally, I found early CFL aesthetics terrible. They did reduce energy use but they looked ridiculous, their color output would have been better used on the set of a zombie movie, and the cost was astronomical. Over the years most of these issues were overcome and today, a CFL is the mainstay light source for many.
The continued pressure for even more savings has brought us the LED and manufacturers learned well from their CFL experience. Early on you could get a replacement for an incandescent bulb that looked a lot like it and offered appealing light colors. Price remained an issue though, just like the early CFL products.
As LED prices drop, I recommend that everyone head right for a LED solution when the goal is to reduce the cost of lighting your home. They are still more expensive but have the following in their favor:
• They significantly reduce energy use, sometimes as much as 70% or better.
• They have a remarkable life span – up to 10 years depending upon use.
• They like cold weather so don’t they don’t take forever to give off light when temperatures are low.
• They do not suffer from the disposal restrictions that CFLs have due to their mercury content.
• They are great inside or out and especially useful in applications where replacement is a chore, say 2nd story outside floodlights or high hall chandeliers.
Here is a personal example I‘ll share. My basement has eight recessed light fixtures. When we moved in, they were outfitted with 90- watt incandescent lamps. I could imagine the meter spinning off the house like a Frisbee under the power demand each time I turned them on so off I went to a local big box store for LED replacements. At $12.95 each, I could buy a 12 watt LED alternative in a warm white color, the light type I prefer.
Based on my cost per kWh of $.13 and factoring in replacement costs of the shorter lived incandescent lamps, I calculated that I would pay for the LED lamps in the first year (see my summary tables at the end). After that, it was free and clear until they needed replacement. Today, I can turn on 8 LED recessed can lights and use less electricity than my 100- watt task light.
LEDs are definitely the way to go when you want savings, long life, and excellent color rendition. Definitely a great return on your investment! Just one favor to ask, though. Use the LEDs just as if they were energy hogs. Turn them off when you are not in the room. This helps maintain the reduction in energy use and that benefits us all.
Tables with details of my LED replacement calculations. The lamp costs are for a dimmable, recessed can, spot type.