LED lights are perceived as being much more expensive than conventional lighting. While it is indeed costlier to buy an LED bulb, there are other components that collectively make up the overall ‘cost of ownership’. A basic 10 Watt non dimmable LED bulb to replace the old standby 60 watt incandescent and yield 800 lumens can be purchased today below $10. In contrast, that old time conventional incandescent bulb only cost a dollar or so. But is this LED light bulb really $9 more expensive?
Not if you consider what it costs to produce 18,000 hours of light with one. 18,000 hours is 12-1/3 years of 4 hour a day residential usage. A 60 watt light bulb actually consumes about 61 watts of electricity. This means that to light up your home for 18,000 hours, your incandescent bulb would consume 1100 kilowatt hours of energy, which would cost you around $132 at typical US electricity rates. Note in some states, for example most of New England, the rate is closer to 20 cents per kilowatt hour. You can get your local cost per kilowatt hour from your electric bill. This is not to mention that the bulb would need to be replaced 18 times! This brings your total cost of ownership to $150 for incandescent. In addition to this expense, each incandescent light bulb will throw out thousands of pounds of harmful carbon dioxide, which impacts the environment adversely and may contribute to global warming.
Now let’s look at what happens when you use a 10 watt LED bulb for 18,000 hours. This bulb uses 9.5 watts of electrical energy, which equates to a consumption of 170 kWh. This will cost you approximately $20 for electricity using a National average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. Taken along with a $10 price tag for the bulb (which will not need to be replaced), your total cost of ownership is only $30 per bulb.
Naturally your home needs more than one 60 watt bulb. But we’ll assume you use 20 to light all your rooms. Your total cost of ownership would go from $3,000 to only $600. Not all bulbs have the same cost and life expectancy. A matching 40 watt LED bulb costs less as it uses fewer LEDs in the bulb. Dimmable and special purpose LED bulbs do cost more, but the savings can be calculated on every option and is you can see the savings first.
Broken down this way, it becomes obvious that moving over from regular bulbs to LED lights is a cost effective and environment friendly option. The only deterrent for a few buyers is the upfront cost of LED bulbs. What makes them so expensive?
Quality components for LED lights cost more to manufacture. Because of environmental concerns, LED light makers must focus on using higher quality alloys made of copper and aluminum for their bulbs, and this increases the manufacturing expense. LED bulbs are also more durable and last 10 to 50 times longer than regular light bulbs, which is a direct reflection of the higher quality material used in their manufacture as well as superior technology that goes into making them.
As adoption has been growing and more people have started using LED lighting, component prices have fallen. In the future, it will certainly cost less to make these bulbs. They are now more affordable than they were in the past. As they continue to become more affordable, a greater part of the population will start using these efficient alternatives and the incandescent dinosaurs of our lighting past will become history once and for all.
The higher efficiency of LED lighting translates into greater energy savings and a safer environment. Climate change and global warming can be slowed down, and eventually even halted as adoption of green alternatives increases to meet our growing energy needs. More economical manufacturing processes can help achieve this reality sooner.
LED lights may never become as cheap as conventional lighting. But in comparison to what they cost, LED bulbs will always provide greater savings per dollar invested in them. With the growing cost of electricity, an efficient lighting solution like LED bulbs will become a preferred choice of the majority of homeowners.
From your viewpoint as a consumer, what you are really buying is not just a bulb but a certain number of hours of lighting. The cost of the bulb is only one part of the overall equation. Being more energy efficient, LED light bulbs will quickly pay you back the premium you paid for them by reducing your electricity bills. And just as you would never consider the economics of a home printer solution without factoring in the overall expense of ink cartridges, you cannot correctly evaluate the economy of converting to LED bulbs without computing the cost of electricity you will pay for over the life time of the bulb.
This is where energy efficient solutions like LED lighting trump conventional alternatives that are also toxic to the environment.