By Laura Davis
Three years ago my husband and I decided to put an addition onto our home to accommodate our growing family. We added a spacious living room and master bedroom, essentially increasing the size of our home by 1,000 square feet. Since my husband is an electrician, I made sure I got all the lighting upgrades I wanted. We added plenty of recessed lights, sconces for mood lighting and a bathroom exhaust fan with a heater. I expected, with all the additional lights, that our electric bill would increase significantly but it didn’t. And here’s why:
LED BULBS: LED bulbs and fixtures are the most popular items in the lighting business right now. Saving money and energy is what the American homeowner is after and you can’t blame them. With the cost of everything going up, it’s nice to be able to save a bit. The average American home uses 40 light bulbs with the average rate for electricity at 13 cents per kilowatt hour. If all 40 light bulbs were 75 watt incandescent (old style) and were left on for 5 hours a day, your total monthly bill for those lights would be $58.50. If you converted all 40 bulbs to equivalent LED bulbs at 11 watts or less, your monthly bill would be $8.58 for those same lights. That’s almost a $50 savings per month! That’s a savings of $600 per year!
Not only are you looking to save money and help the planet, but so is the federal government. In 2007, a law was passed stating that light bulbs must be three times more efficient by the year 2020. Congress didn’t outright ban incandescent bulbs, but it might as well have since it cannot come close to meeting the new standard. In less than a year, retailers must exhaust their supply of incandescent bulbs and sell only bulbs that meet the new standard of LED. Now seems like as good a time as ever to upgrade your bulbs, but there are still a few more things to know.
COST: The cost of LED bulbs has certainly come down since they came on the market. The average cost of a standard LED bulb is $5 apiece. Compared to an incandescent bulb at $1 apiece, the initial purchase is much greater. Once you calculate in the energy cost savings though, you will find that the monthly savings usage for a single bulb is $1.25. So most people will be able to recoup the cost of the new LED bulb in just over three months.
TIME: LED bulbs can also save you time with fewer trips to the store and up the ladder. An average LED bulb lasts about 25,000 hours. That’s more than 13 years, if you keep your lights on five hours a day, as in the example above. By comparison, incandescent bulbs last just 1,200 hours, and compact fluorescents, 8,000 hours.
QUALITY: Not all LED bulbs are created equal. You want to ensure your bulbs meets the Energy Star standards for brightness, color quality and efficiency. As with any product, just because someone sells it, doesn’t mean it’s the best quality.
COLOR: LED bulbs come in a range of color temperatures. They range from a 2,700K which is considered “warm white” similar to an incandescent bulb to a
5,000K which is considered “cool light” – the brightest available. The most popular LED bulb right now is a 3,000K to 3,500K which is considered “daylight”. Some people prefer a softer warm white light effect while others prefer a very bright white. Read the product information on the package carefully to make sure you get the color temperature that you want.
SHAPE: LED bulbs are now available in any shape, for any purpose. In addition to regular shaped bulbs, you will also find chandelier-shaped bulbs, round bulbs, cone bulbs and spotlight-style bulbs. They also make a filament-style that resembles the old-fashioned Edison bulbs. This is great for fixtures that you can see the filament through the bulb.
DIMMING: While most LED bulbs are now dimmable, not all of them are. Look for verbiage on the product stating that they are dimmable. The LED bulbs also vary in how they operate with the dimming switches. With the LED bulbs operating at a low wattage, many types of dimmers do not function in the same way that they do with high wattage incandescent bulbs. It is suggested that you test your current dimmer with the LED bulbs to see if it works properly. If you have any issues with the dimming range, then it is suggested you replace the dimming switch with an LED compatible one.