A little over five years ago, I replaced all of the lightbulbs in our house with CFLs. At the time, CFL prices had finally come down to the point of affordability and the technology improved to the point where we could find (with some searching) bulbs with decent light quality and minimal warmup time.
With this past Sunday being Earth Day, the next generation of lighting products — LED lightbulbs — has been in the news. From a technical perspective, these bulbs look great. Instant on, no warmup, good light quality, extremely long life, and low energy requirements. The main problem is the price — as much as $60 per bulb.
So… The question is whether or not it makes sense to switch to LED lightbulbs. I’ve given this a lot of thought and decided that the time isn’t quite right, at least for us. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that the large upfront investment gets paid back (and then some) in terms of energy savings and bulb replacement costs.
But, in our case, we’re already realizing the energy savings due to our prior switchover to CFLs. As it turns out, the energy requirements of CFLs and LEDs are roughly equivalent, as they both use ca. 25% of the energy of an equivalent incandescent bulb. We still have a lot of life left in our CFLs, as well as a number of replacements sitting on the shelf in our laundry room.
At the same time, I’m expecting LED bulb quality to continue improving and prices to drop considerably in the next few years. Thus, I’ll likely begin the transition over time as our CFLs wear out. As our supply dwindles, I’ll consolidate the remaining CFLs into individual fixtures/rooms and start replacing them with LED bulbs.
Honestly, in this case, the extremely long life of LEDs works against them as I don’t want to invest a ton in bulbs that are likely to be left in the dust by newer models as the technology matures.
That being said, if you’re looking for LED bulbs, I highly recommend checking out this detailed review by Marco Arment. You might also want to check out this bulb (that’s a link) from the Lighting Science Group. It’s been getting rave reviews.
So, dear readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Are you making the switch to LED bulbs? Or are you sticking with your current incandescent or CFL bulbs?
Note: There’s been some discussion of the mercury content of CFL bulbs in the comments, so I thought I’d add this link to instructions (from the EPA) on how to clean up a broken CFL. I’ve also written elsewhere about how to properly dispose of CFL bulbs – don’t just throw them in the trash!