LED – Time to Abandon the Old Bulbs?

Is it time to abandon the old incandescent (IC) bulbs?

in a word…Yes, probably.

LED lighting is based on Light Emitting Diodes – a solid state technology that is several times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and have dramatically longer expected lifespans.

LED’s can be used in regular household light fixtures, and replacing old-fashioned incandescent bulbs is as easy as unscrewing the old bulb and replacing with the new LED bulb.

LED’s have several key benefits over traditional incandescent bulbs and even over CFL’s



First is lifespan. LED’s typically last about 7 times longer than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and and far, far longer than incandescents as can be seen in the table below.



For example an LED that is kept on most of the day – say 8 hours will still last typically well over 15 years!  A look around most homes will see at least one non-functioning IC bulb. With LED’s, this is virtually a thing of the past.


Purchase Costs

While costs for LED’s continue downward, they remain more expensive than traditional solutions as shown below.



These costs are easily paid back over time however due to lower operating costs as shown in the below.



Due to their extraordinary efficiency, LED’s generate nearly no heat, additionally reducing air conditioning costs during hot months.  Even during winter months, most of the heat produced by conventional lighting is lost through the light fixture vents into the attic or is otherwise conducted through the ceiling. (and, last time I checked, most of us humans reside near our floors, not our ceilings!) The table below shows power consumption.



Next let’s take a look at power cost. Cost of electricity averaged about 11.53 cents per kilowatt-hour in the US in 2011. (Note however that 2011 costs ranged from less than 8 cents in Idaho to over 35 cents in Hawaii.)



Total Costs

The table below shows total costs and costs savings inclusive of replacement costs.




LED’s are available in a range of light color. The pleasant slightly yellowish light of an incandescent is referred to as a warm color, while the whiter/bluish color of older designed CFL’s is referred to as a cooler color.

For indoor use, most people would select the warmer colors and for outdoor use may prefer the cooler colors.



LED’s are available in all the common styles shown below (as well in tubular styles designed to replace tubular CFL’s commonly used in offices.


Below is an image showing a few typical actual examples.



Future Costs

Household LED lamps have only recently become widely available, and as a result production volumes are a small fraction of those of IC or CFL lamps. We certainly expect costs of LED’s top decrease over time as production volumes increase, economies-of-scale are realized and competition increases from new market entrants.


A Final Note

The automotive industry was one of the first sectors to take up LED lighting over a decade ago. Experience has shown that there is a definite learning-curve associated with achieving high-quality, high-reliability with LED’s. As a result we recommend purchasing LED’s from reliable, trusted manufacturers.