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Get the Lights of Freedom while you still can

Quick shots of the bulbs on the shelf today.
Quick shots of the bulbs on the shelf today.
Cadstone Studio

The death of the incandescent light bulb is here. As they disappear, gather as many as you can. It is now against Federal Law to manufacture or sell incandescent light bulbs of 60 or even 40 watts. In case you had not noticed, 100 and 75 watt bulbs have been gone for two years now. Check out my article on the subject from two years ago.

Say hello to the new price of a "60 watt" light bulb.
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If you miss this last hoarding opportunity, your choices will be limited. Do you want over-priced poisonous compact fluorescents (CFLs) or not so illuminating, ridiculously-priced light emitting diodes (LEDs)?

During recent trips to Home Depot and Nuts and Bolts, it was good to see that there still are some “real” light bulbs available. Don’t be tricked into believing that the halogen, CFL or LED hiding inside a glass bulb is the same thing. The price will tell the difference.

Incandescent bulbs are energy inefficient! Why would you want those things? Because they work great, cost much less, are not an environmental hazard, and produce other benefits.

Incandescent light is called “warm” because it has the glow of a fire or candle and gives off heat.

When you change a light bulb, is part of the process cleaning out the dead bugs in the globe or cover? The incandescent light is a great bug zapper. They fly to it and the heat kills them. Sure it makes a mess and has to be cleaned up, but which is better, moths and mosquitos dying in your light fixtures or buzzing and biting you?

Cities have gleefully replaced incandescent traffic signal bulbs with LEDs. They tooted their horns about how wonderful they were. Sure the bulbs cost a lot more, but they use less electricity and will last longer. Soon a new problem was discovered. It is called winter. Ice and snow quickly covers a traffic light that does not benefit from the heat of an incandescent lamp. Sure people may die when someone runs a buried red light, but we saved (in theory) greenhouse gases!

Ever have a new puppy and put a light close for warm comfort? Ever put a light under the hood of your car overnight to warm the engine for that morning start? Ever dim the lights to save power or set a mood? Ever work under a car in a cold garage and warm your hand over the work light? Do you like getting out of the shower with warm lights radiating? Try doing any of that with an LED array.

Granted, sometimes the heat is undesirable and can be a fire hazard. Also note that during the heating months, 100% of the “wasted” energy is actually heating your home and replacing the furnace during late spring and early fall.

If you still think the end of the incandescent bulb is a good thing, consider the economics. First count up the number of bulbs in your home. I counted 70 in mine. Now let’s look at the prices.

A 4 pack of Philips 60 watt soft whites sells for $1.47 (See the slide show.) That is less than 37¢ each. A 4 pack of GE Reveal halogen replacements sells for $10.97 or about $2.74 each. That is 746% of the cost for 28% greater efficiency. Such a bargain! But these do produce heat too, so there is that. The incandescent has a stated life expectancy of 1000 hours. How often do you replace your incandescent bulbs? I figure about every three years. The stated life expectancy of the halogen is 0.9 years.

In my 70 bulb house, that would be $200 a year for halogen light bulbs. Would I save that much on the electric bill? If you take out access charges, taxes and everything that is not lighting – heating, cooling, washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, electronics, cooking, etc. – how much savings is 28% in dollars? I will spare you the math. My estimate is about $5 per month. These will not pay for themselves.

Next there are super-efficient LEDs that mimic incandescent. These Cree 9.5 watters can be had for a mere $12.97 each! That is 3,529% of the cost of an incandescent bulb for 84% better efficiency. Granted these boast a 25,000 hour life expectancy, but so has every previous generation of LEDs that failed to meet their duration promises. If all the claims are true, the breakeven point for my house would be 5 years.

Most reviews of the Cree LEDs were positive. It is worth noting that they have hot spots and dead spots, buzz when dimmed, will not fit in many standard fixtures, flicker and have a gummy coating. How many dead bugs and dirt balls that will be stuck in it after 25,000 hours has not been determined.

3M makes an LED 60 watt replacement that Walmart offers for $24.88. It draws 13 watts and claims a 25 year life. Including sales tax, I could replace all the bulbs in my house for just $1,880.00. The reviews for these bulbs were better, but my calculations for a breakeven payback period is over 10 years – assuming every bulb works perfectly for that long.

The best part of researching this article is reading the reviews written by online purchasers. They all disparage their dreaded CFLs and rave about how much better the new bulbs are.

I mocked those who claimed that CFLs were the GREAT GREEN ANSWER, spending $7 to replace each 35¢ bulb. Now I chuckle as people toss them aside in a rush to spend even more on the next new thing. At least I would chuckle if we had alternatives. Federal law is constantly putting an end to those.

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