Lighting Alternatives

There’s a high probability that Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) represent the future in lighting.

Earlier articles, Lighting Aint Simple, and The CFL Debacle, explained lighting basics.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have been forced on the American public with the outlawing of incandescent bulbs.

As explained earlier, the economics for CFLs are only favorable if the CFL is used for more than 3 hours each day. A typical CFL, rated to replace a 100W incandescent bulb, is rated to use 25 watts, with light output of 1750 Lumens and a life of 8,000 hours.

CFLs use about 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

 A 100 watt CFL costs about $1.40 more than an incandescent A19 bulb, the type used in table or floor lamps. The cost differential for overhead R40 or R30 lamps, used in ceilings, is about $4.30.

If a CFL is used for three hours each day, it will recover the added cost in about two months. In this case, it would make sense to replace the A19 incandescent bulb with a CFL if there is no other alternative.

But, if the CFL is used for much shorter periods of time, such as in a closet where it might be used 5 or 10 minutes each day, it would take around five years to recover the extra cost. This is most likely a bad investment.

The story is worse for overhead R40 and R30 flood lamps. A CFL used in this application for 3 hours per day would take 6 months to recover the increased cost. If used for 10 minutes a day, it would require 9 years to recover the increased cost.

It’s important to know that a CFL cannot be used for dimming, unless specifically designed for such use. Using an ordinary CFL in a dimming circuit can cause a fire.

LEDs designed to replace an A19 Edison base incandescent bulb, cost around $20 each. To be suitable for replacing a 100 W incandescent bulb, the LED lamp should have a rating of around 1700 lumens, and a color temperature of around 2900 K.

Obviously, a $20 lamp is uneconomic, even if it uses 90% less electricity than a 100 W incandescent bulb. At $20 each, it would require nearly 2 years to recover the added cost of the LED lamp.

The cost of LED lamps is decreasing rapidly, and could reach a cost where LED lamps are an economic replacement for a 100 watt incandescent bulb in ten years or so.

LED lamps are economic where the labor cost to replace a lamp exceeds the premium for incandescent or other lamps, such as sodium vapor street lamps.

A recent Wall Street Journal article described the use of LED lamps in commercial and street lighting applications where the high cost of labor to change out a lamp, justified the more expensive LED lamps.

There is another alternative to CFLs for home use.

Halogen lamps for replacing 100 W incandescent bulbs are available. They can be superior to CFLs in life and color rendering. Halogen lamps rated 1490 Lumens, with a color temperature of 2900 K, are available.

When replacing a 100 W incandescent bulb that is used for 3 hours each day, the Halogen lamp will pay for itself in 3 1/2 months. While the payback period is slightly longer than for a CFL, the improved light may be worth the cost.

LEDs have a bright future in lighting and will undoubtedly capture the lion’s share of the lighting market in ten years or so.

In the meantime, we are encumbered by a politically motivated Congress to having to pay more for lighting.

In addition this, legislation has cost American jobs, with the bulk of CFLs made in China.

By outlawing incandescent bulbs, Congress has taken away our ability to use the lowest cost alternative.

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