LED Bulbs Are Saving Me Money

By Vernon Trollinger, August 13, 2012, Energy Efficiency, Green, Save Money

Last fall, I decided to change out the five 35 watt halogen bulbs that lit our dining table with five 5 watt LED bulbs. The halogen bulbs each cost around $5.00 per bulb. The LED bulbs at the time cost $30 each.

So, what was I thinking? Really, why swap out $20 worth of perfectly good, bright halogen bulbs for five high tech LED bulbs costing six times more?

Actually, I knew I could save money off my Texas electricity rate and do it for 8 years (or more).

First, a little bit about my house. It’s a modest single floor ranch house. The dining room shares space with our living room. The five lights over the dining room table are actually five individual “can” spot fixtures (about 2 inches in diameter) connected to a dimmer switch. While these cans shine lots of light with 35 watt halogen spots (about 300 lumens each ), they were fairly short-lived (only 2,000 hours or less). They also got really hot and fire code requires that the cans do not to come in contact with any insulation and can not be covered on top. In my attic, each of these can fixtures has a 12″ space built around them with no insulation. So, while the lighting effect was stylish and functional, these 35 watt halogen bulbs didn’t save money. In fact, these 2 inch fixtures wasted energy by letting heated air to pass into the attic during the winter and cool air during the summer. And with five of them, that added up to a virtual 10 inch hole going up into the attic.

Usage was also making it hard to save money. As I said, the dining room shares space with the living room and these lights are on almost 10 hours a day. So, that’s 175 watts times ten hours = 1.75 kWH per day just for using these five lights. Over a 30 day month, that’s 52 kWh, or about $4 depending on the rate. Over a year, that added to about $56. Ok, not a huge amount but when coupled with that virtual 10 inch hole in my celing (because of the halogen bulbs’ heat) that added $3 to $5 in heating/cooling costs a month or $50 a year. Plus, every halogen bulb burned out at least once a year (with 10 hour days, that 2,000 hour life span dwindles to only 200 days). I found myself spending up to an additional $25/year on replacements. All told, these halogen bulbs were costing me about $120 a year. It became obvious that using halogen bulbs was costing me more money than they were worth.

In order to save money, I needed five dimmable GU10 base 120 volt spotlight bulbs that threw about 300 lumens for less than 35 watts, that did not get so hot that it effected heating and cooling costs, and also had a longer life. Yes, the hunt was on.

What about a CFL? Good idea, they’re less expensive than LEDs. But even though they’re not as hot as halogen bulbs, they still put out enough heat to rate a fire risk. At any rate, these spot bulbs use a GU10 base and a CFL with this kind of base wasn’t available at the time and they couldn’t fit into the 2 inch lighting cans.

Eventually, I found exactly what I wanted. A dimmable 120 volt LED spotlight with a GU10 base that threw 260 lumens, used only 5 watts, does not get hot at all, and has an average life of 30,000 hours. The downside was that all five together cost $150. The upside is that all five spots together use 25 watts. That’s 250 watt hours/day, 7.5 kWh/month (around ¢60/month), 90 kWh/year or $8 per year. I can also seal and insulate the cans as long as only LED bulbs are used in them. So, there’s another $50 dollars saved. In addition, I found I could save money by not having to replace one or more bulbs at least once every year like I had been doing. It’s very possible these LED bulbs could last 8 years or more given the current usage.

How’s it balance out? Assuming the same usage, one year of using halogen bulbs costs about $120 (includes replacement costs). The first year of using LED bulbs cost $158 (includes the purchase of the bulbs). Over the 8 year life of the LED bulbs, the costs compare this way: halogen $960; LED $214.

Since LED bulb prices are dropping, I’m guessing that 8 years from now spending $30 on a bulb will be a thing of the past.

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