Saturday, November 9, 2013

LED Prices Declining Again

Prices for LED light bulbs held nearly steady for a year as manufacturers focused on boosting volume, but now prices are moving down again. Locally I am seeing clearance prices as low as $8 (update: as low as $5 for 40-watt equivalent bulbs) and regular prices mostly between $11 and $19.

The $10 price point is significant because it represents the crossover point, from a consumer point of view, between incandescent and LED. At that price, an LED light bulb costs about the same as an incandescent bulb over the first year of operation. After the year is over, the LED costs are much lower, as the incandescent bulb burns out and has to be replaced, but the LED carries on. An LED bulb may last for 50 years — they haven’t existed for that long, so we don’t really know. Fluorescent bulb prices have also fallen, so that they have a slightly lower one-year cost, but they too are more expensive than LED over the life of the light bulb, and they have the disadvantages that go with a more fragile device and a lower quality of light.

It isn’t the season, in the north, to make the switch to LED — the waste heat of incandescent bulbs isn’t wasted during the heating season. If LED light bulb prices fall below $10 by spring, though, that may be the moment when the market shifts and LED becomes the dominant technology for room lighting.