GreenTown Los Altos

Thinking of Cutting Costs? LEDs Light The Way To Savings.


Jun 2013


One Family Sheds Light on Switching To LED Bulbs

By Charley Pow

Inspired by people reducing their electricity usage, we wanted to do more. Years ago we replaced our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL), but we still have many halogen ceiling lights. We like the light from halogen bulbs, but compact fluorescent light (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs generate less heat and use less electricity so we decided to make the change. Here’s our experience.

First Trade Off: Not All Bulbs Are Alike

Which bulb to use? We want an R20 bulb (a reflector bulb that’s 2.4” across) that behaves like the halogen bulbs we have, except that the replacement is more energy efficient.

We asked GTLA members and read online reviews. Three GTLA members responded, each recommending a different LED bulb. We also read online reviews, summarized below:

  • TCP LED  bulbs:           Mixed reviews, the bulb is shorter than a halogen bulb.
  • Satco LED bulbs:          No online reviews.
  • EcoSmart LED bulbs:  From Home Depot, these had some good reviews with photos showing good light coverage. Some reviewers report radio frequency interference (RFI) that can interfere with remote controls for a garage door opener.

These LED bulbs cost about $20 each. In time you recoup the bulb purchase price because an LED bulb uses 1/6 the electricity of a halogen bulb. Based on reviews, R20 CFLs take too long to brighten so we didn’t try any.

And The Winner Was….

First we purchased the 3000K EcoSmart LED bulb from Home Depot. We wanted a warmer, 2700K (Kelvin, the rating scaled used for visible bulb lighting warmth) bulb, but EcoSmart doesn’t have an R20 bulb in this color. Trying the LED bulb, we saw it had a whiter light than a halogen bulb.

The EcoSmart LED bulb disperses the light as evenly as the halogen bulb. RFI isn’t an issue — the remote control for our garage door worked fine in the garage, about 30’ from these bulbs. The LED bulb takes about a second longer to get bright than the halogen bulb which we found acceptable.

After living with the EcoSmart bulbs, we decided that the 3000K light didn’t fit with the room’s warmer lighting, a mixture of fluorescent, CFL, and halogen bulbs. We moved them to a bathroom where the whiter light doesn’t feel so stark, and they’re okay there.

Then we tried FEIT 2700K LED bulbs from Costco for $12 each.  The color looks like a halogen bulb, it casts a wider beam of light than a halogen bulb, producing more glare around the room, a minor issue. No RFI interference with our garage opener. We kept the FEIT bulbs in the kitchen.

We use these lights an hour a day, so based on the cost of electricity, we’ll save $2.50 a year per bulb. The reduced energy cost will pay for the purchase price in 6 years.   A higher daily usage would take less time, and more expensive bulbs would take more time.

Our estimate was calculated simply: 42 watts/hr x 1 hr/day x 365 days/year x $.16/kw-hr / 1000 watt/kw = $2.45/year.

Other Factor To Consider:

Cost of electricity of part of the savings equation when it comes to LED bulbs. Consider the dollars paid upfront versus absolute dollars over time.

At face value, LEDs are more expensive than any other bulb on the market. But are they really? Consider this.

If a Halogen bulb cost $14.95, and an LED cost $32. In absolute dollars it’s more expensive. But if the halogen lasts 1.5 to 2 years and the LED lasts 10 years or more, the overall expense makes it 1/5th or less the cost, depending on usage and the bulb you choose.

Add in the savings on energy and there’s no reason not to “switch”, no pun intended, to LEDs.




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