A New Way to Choose Lightbulbs

Twenty years ago, a customer walking into a home store would have an easy time selecting a lightbulb. The only options were incandescent bulbs, and the key was to match the wattage of the burned out bulb and the new bulb. Customers looking to replace light bulbs today are confronted by a barrage of options. Not only are there wattage requirements, but there are at least three types of bulbs to choose from: incandescent, LED (light emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent). Choosing among these options can seem overwhelming.

A typical solution is to purchase the cheapest and most familiar option, the incandescent bulb. But is it the cheapest? At the outset, the incandescent bulb is still the cheapest to purchase (though not by much). However, replacing and running the incandescent bulb is far more costly than many customers imagine. LED bulbs, though they cost more at the initial purchase, can last up to 50,000 hours. CFL bulbs last around 8,000 hours in comparison. Incandescent bulbs typically last around 1,200 hours. A customer buying an incandescent bulb is more likely to return in the next year or two for another one. An LED purchaser might not visit the store again for years. As LED bulbs trend down toward $5 per bulb, it’s starting to make financial sense to buy them.

Familiarity is another reason that people reach for incandescent bulbs at the hardware store. These bulbs illuminate immediately and with a diffuse glow in all directions. In contrast, the long period that CFLs take to ‘warm up’ to their full brightness can be a turnoff. The strange spiral shape of CFLs can also lead people away from them. However, LED bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs. LEDs can provide the immediate illumination of the familiar incandescent bulbs too. Customers might notice a slightly different coloration to the light of LED bulbs, but “warm” colored LEDs now look much like incandescent lighting.

Although more expensive at the outset and somewhat unfamiliar, customers should start reaching for LED bulbs. The increased cost of the bulb is soon paid off (sometimes within a year) by the savings in electric bills. LEDs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. Additionally, LED bulbs do not need to be replaced for a long time. With an average amount of use, it could be as long as 23 years before an LED bulb needs to be replaced. While “warm” LED bulbs may appear more like incandescent bulbs, they are more cost-effective in the long term.

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