GRN Reports

Energy use is changing fast out there, and nowhere is it more evident than in the lighting sector.

If you’re still converting your old incandescent bulbs over to CFLs, you can stop now, and move directly ahead into LEDs. They’re dimmable, pleasant, energy-efficient, long-lasting and finally, affordable. (See below for info on the one we tested.)

Philips-Ceiling-lamps-lighting-kitchenLEDs (for light emitting diodes) will brighten a room without a flicker of hesitation, and the quality of these lights, that is, the “warmth” or “coolness” of the rays they emanate has been perfected. No more do you have to wince and wait for CFLs to fade in; LEDs have solved that problem, and more, they’re brighter on average with more lumens per wattage of use.

You probably heard that LEDs even grabbed some of the spotlight when the Nobel Prizes were announced earlier this month.

Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan and Nagoya University, Japan: Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara, California, won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics for developing this energy-efficient technology.

Here’s what the Royal Swedish Academy had to say about their accomplishment:

When Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.

They succeeded where everyone else had failed.”

LEDs are around six times more efficient than comparable incandescent bulbs — which even the Edison family heirs have said needed an overhaul — in how much electricity they use. They also are more efficient than CFLs, and don’t contain the mercury that’s inside those mini-fluorescents. This is huge in terms of saving energy and reducing waste. Imagine households and businesses everywhere cutting back so significantly on the electricity they need for lighting.

So the advancement of LEDs, which were initially only available and suitable for specific commercial situations, has been a marvelous breakthrough.

But you want to know, how long do they last and and how much do they cost?

They answers are, they last a long time, and they cost more than incandescents and CFLs, but maybe not as much as you think.

First, let’s look at their durability. A 10-watt LED bulb that you would use to replace your standard 60-watt incandescent should last for 50,000 hours of use, that’s about 20 years, give or take, if you burn the bulbs three hours a day. A comparable 60-watt incandescent would last for 1,200 hours, or about one year.

There’s just no contest here.

Now cost. Yes, LEDs still cost more upfront, for the bulb, though they quickly pay for themselves in saved electricity costs any way you calculate it.

We tested this LED light, which is perfect for those “can lights” in the ceiling that you may have in your kitchen or other common areas. It’s a Philips BR30 10.5 watt (equivalent to 65 watts) indoor flood light bulb that’s dimmable and costs around $20.

We bought six of these to light our kitchen in “soft white” (which is 2700 Kelvin), and were pleasantly surprised at how just right the light was, neither too bright white (technically lights aren’t white but you know what we mean) nor yellowish.

Food and people looked good under these lights, and most importantly there was enough light for kitchen tasks and keeping safe with knives. That’s thanks to the 730 lumens these bulbs put out.

They were dimmable as well and we got rid of the eerie hum put out by the old CFLs.

No it wasn’t fun shelling out $120 for light bulbs in one transaction. But we talked ourselves through it. It’s a mental hurdle you have to jump when rationally considering this new technology. When buying LEDs you have to remember that 20 year life. Basically, you can have a kid and send him off to college before you’ll need to change that bulb. Unless you’re wasteful and leave the lights on all the time.

Philips estimates that on average each of these bulbs will save the homeowner $152 in electricity costs over the life of the bulb. Let’s multiply that by 6 for a grand savings of $912.