Monday, December 22, 2014

Get The "LED" Out!

No. That’s not a typo. Everyone knows that LEAD is bad for the environment, which is why we got it out of gasoline. Did you know, however, that an LED (lightbulb) is good for both the environment and your pocket book? You want to get LEDs out of the store and into your light fixtures.

LED stands for “light emitting diode”. LED technology has evolved to be a viable alternative to regular incandescent light bulbs. They can save you money and can save the planet, so they are “green” in multiple senses of the term. We’ve been told for a few years now that our light bulbs are killing the planet due to their inefficient energy use. We have been urged to switch to the “compact fluorescent light” bulb. Known as “CFL’s”, these curly shaped tubes of glass use less energy.

However, CFLs are are pretty dull until they have spent a few minutes warming up when first switched on. They also contain mercury, making many wonder how they could be better for the environment. If you break one in your house, your property becomes an EPA superfund clean up site – a slight exaggeration, but certainly a broken CFL requires careful clean up. When CFLs burn out, you can’t just throw them in the trash but should take them to special reclamation facilities – and you know everyone is doing that!

LED’s do not suffer any of these problems. The come on instantly. They contain no toxic materials. They typically don’t break when dropped. In addition, they now produce a soft white light comparable to regular bulbs and the light diffuses in all directions instead of being focused in a beam like original LEDs. They use less energy than a CFL and only 16% of the energy of regular light bulbs. Almost all the energy gets turned into light instead of heat, so your house stays cooler and requires less AC in summer. Heck, they probably make you look younger and skinnier too!

So here is the math on the green (money) front. Assume a bulb is on for three hours a day, which is the national average for lights in frequently used rooms like kitchens, dining rooms, family rooms, living rooms and bedrooms. You install the traditional 60-watt bulb on January 1st and it will cost you $7.63 in electrical use for the year. The bulb will burn out on December 31st. Add the 50 cent cost of the bulb, and it has cost you $8.13 for it’s 12-month life.

The comparable LED bulb will only use $1.08 in electricity over the one-year period. With a purchase cost of $7.00, it has cost you $8.08 for the year (we’ve seen 60-watt LED bulbs for as little as $4 at Home Depot recently, but we’ll not use that lower number in our analysis) No big deal, right? You’ve only saved 5 cents. The important difference is that the LED bulb has a remaining useful life of 21.8 years! For some of us, those bulbs will still be working when our kids are settling our estate! So in year number two, you will NOT have to buy a new LED bulb and it will only cost you about a buck in electricity to run it. You’d incur over $8 in cost in the second year to replace the regular bulb and pay its electrical usage cost.

If you’re keeping score, that’s a savings of about $7 per year per bulb for the LED once you get to the second year. Since the average home has around 40 bulbs, you are saving approximately $280 a year by using the LED bulbs over the regular bulbs.

The equation is a bit different if you are comparing 100-watt bulbs or the 65-watt can lights common in many homes. The payback period of these is about 18 months instead of 12 months. Still, they quickly get to the point of saving you money.

If you are more motivated by being “green” in the environmental sense, here are the numbers. Producing the electricity to power a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb for a year will cause about 300 pounds of C02 to be emitted. The comparable LED bulb will result in less than 50 pounds of carbon dioxide being released to the environment. So whether you are focused on fiscal responsibility OR you’re concerned about climate change, the LED light bulb can bring you joy and satisfaction.

Courtesy of Mike Cooke, Colorado Home Realty (c)