Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ready for $50 light bulbs?

So the government wants to get rid of incandescent light bulbs because they're too inefficient.  They want us to buy Compact Florescent or, now more likely LED bulbs. My friend Christian Nobis pointed out to me that the government just gave Phillips $10 million for creating a $50 LED 60 watt light bulb.  It was an affordability prize.

How in the world does a bulb that cost $50 more win affordability?  Power savings I guess.  There are 8760 hours in a year.  If we left the bulb on 24x7 8760 x 60 watts= 525.6 KWH. So a 60 watt bulb left on for an entire year would cost about $63 using .12 per KWH.  If the new bulbs really put out the same amount & quality of light (which I doubt- my wife noticed immediately when I replaced some of our bulbs with LED) at 1/6th the power it would only cost $10.50 in electricity, so on the surface the government probably says you could make up the $50 cost in about a year.

But if we assume the average bulb is only on 3 hours per day…. then it costs $7.85 per year to run versus $1.30 for the new LED bulb, meaning it would take more than 7.5 years to pay for itself assuming it doesn’t break.    Another friend, Rod Coleman pointed out to me that what the government (and almost everyone) also misses is that In cold climates (arguably in Reno for 6-8 months of the year), the incandescent bulb adds heat to the home while it is on, reducing the amount of gas or oil required (because the thermostat kicks off earlier).  In fact, you could say in cold climates that the incandescent bulb is  plenty efficient because it converts almost all the electricity to light and heat.  Admittedly heating with gas is less costly than electricity and heat is a side effect in many applications, but if people calculated the heat factor they would discover that in cold climates the savings (and greenhouse gas decrease) quoted by the government is significantly overstated.   

In Arizona, where you don’t need or want extra heat (you only want light) and the bulb is on 24x7 (in a closet or windowless room??) and IF it puts out the same Lumens the LED might actually pay for itself in a year.  The Chinese make 60 watt LED lights for $20 (I bought some at Costco and they’re on Amazon for $16) so now things get interesting because pay back might be only couple years.

So far the claims of Compact fluorescents lasting longer have been complete B.S.  My fluorescent bulbs seem to fail as much or more than the old incandescent did (crappy Chinese ballasts?). Plus I wasted my damn money on all these CFMs and now the LEDs are like almost 2 times more efficient.  Let’s hope the LEDs last longer than CFMs. 

My wife asked for lots of the old incandescent before they stop being sold this year but.  I guess the government has extended the deadline so you can still   buy them for a while.  California is phasing them out by 2018 and lots of other governments are too.

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