Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Season for LED Room Lighting

If you live in a northern country, this is the season for installing LED light bulbs for indoor room lighting. Why now? The waste heat from light bulbs isn’t really wasted during the heating season, when it provides heat to the building, but it turns into a big expense when the air conditioning is on. The heating season is essentially over in half of the United States, and is winding down in the northern states, so you get the fastest return on investment by installing an LED light bulb now.

The prices for LED light bulbs have come down from last year. Last week I bought a 10-watt LED light bulb for $14. This replaced a 60-watt light bulb in my office. I use this particular light about 7 hours a day, so I will save $12 in electricity between now and October. LED lighting has reached the financial tipping point, the point where it often pays for itself in electric savings within the first year.

Savings are higher if you are replacing an incandescent bulb in a room with air conditioning, or if a light is on all day. Savings are lower if you are replacing a high-efficiency fluorescent bulb in a room without air conditioning, or if the light is not used so often.

The cost of LEDs has already fallen enough that you can no longer make a financial case for fluorescent lighting. We already knew that you pay less in the end for LEDs. But look at first-year costs only, and this year’s LED light bulb is the best choice in most cases. That means now is the time to stop buying fluorescent light bulbs. Instead, as they fail (one by one, over the next 20 years), replace them with LED light bulbs.

LEDs will continue to improve, and they last for ages, so purchasing LED lights one or two each April may be a good strategy anyway. You get immediate savings with this year’s LEDs, then you can add the improved efficiency and style of the LEDs that come along later. And you can do all that without having to make a special adjustment in your household budget.