LED Bulbs Revisited

by Ben N on December 1, 2015

About a year ago, I shot a video showing off my favorite and most affordable LED light bulb at the time – a TCP 60-watt equivalent – which was available for $6 each while on sale and purchased in 6-packs. (See video above.)

Today, I had to do some shopping, and I looked around to see what was available on the shelves at the big box stores. I had to stop at Home Depot, and I also needed a particular item from Wal-Mart. Let’s see some of what’s out there right now.

I was already rather liking the “G.E. Bright-Stik” – a 800 lumen (60-watt equivalent) LED bulb that can be purchased for $10 for a 3 pack. That’s only $3.33 each, and they are available in warm and cool color temperatures. What’s nice about them is that they are very compact. They fit in small lamps and other locations that never worked well for CFLs with their bulky bases. I even had one lamp where another brand of LED bulb wouldn’t fit, but this one did.

Next, I saw a special sale on the EcoSmart brand – 4 LED bulbs for $6.97, or about $1.75 each! Wow, talk about a deal! Not only were they priced well, but they were FULLY DIMMABLE as well!

Back in the lighting department, there were still plenty of the Philips two packs for just under $5. New to me was a display of Philips “Slim-Style” bulbs. These bulbs look like a two-dimensional version of a light-bulb. They are dimmable, and best of all, it’s a 3-pack, bringing the price-per-bulb to only $1.66 per bulb.

When I had to stop over at Wal-Mart, I took a look in the light-bulb aisle as well.┬áTheir “Great Value” house brand is only $4.64 – at regular price, not a sale or special buy, for a 2-pack. A single bulb is only $2.44.

I tried to find some traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs in the same aisle to get a fair comparison for price and energy usage, but couldn’t find any. The closest I could find was a four-pack of halogen bulbs. While still in the incandescent family, they are actually a little MORE efficient than a typical bulb. Instead of 60 watts, they only draw 43 for essentially the same amount of light. The four pack was $4.38, or roughly $1.10 per bulb. Note that the bulb has an expected lifetime of just UNDER ONE YEAR! You would literally have to replace the bulb every year! Not only does that add another $1.10, but also the hassle of getting at that one really odd bulb. (You know the one, at the top of the stairs, where you have to balance a ladder on a chair to reach it!)

On the other hand, the LED bulb saves an estimated average $6.21 per year on your electric bill. What!? That’s more savings per year than the bulb costs! That’s right, in a purely economic return on investment, the LED bulb pays for itself in less than five months. Add to that the fact that you WON’T be buying an incandescent bulb to replace every year for the next 10 to 20 years, and we are talking savings of over $120 – per bulb.

But wait! Maybe this particular bulb is very poor quality? I pulled one out of the box and compared it to one of the TCP bulbs I already had – other than some small printed text, they are identical! In fact, I examined the bottom of the “Great Value” box and did see “TCP” in small print. It looks like the bulbs are made by TCP, with just another name on them! My extensive testing has already shown that the TCP are great all-purpose bulbs.

So, if you are still using old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, WHY? (There are some legitimate reasons – keeping a chicken coop warm, etc…)

LED bulbs have long been at a price point that they made sense in the long term. But now, they are so affordable they have a <1 yr. ROI, and can be purchased for less than the cost of a Venti Americano.

If you think you know LED light bulbs, please look again. You will be glad you did.

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LED Light Bulb Autopsy
April 27, 2016 at 9:59 am

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