$20 LED lightbulb at Home Depot a welcome start, but call me when it hits $10 — even better, $5

My Clean Break column for this Monday acknowledges Home Depot for selling the first sub-$20 LED lightbulb for a standard household light socket. It was only months ago — weeks, even — that the $40 pricepoint was being tossed around. These lower prices can’t come any faster. I respect the compact fluorescent bulb, I really do, but it just doesn’t cut it for me. Mercury. Premature blowouts. The light quality has gotten much better, and the price has come a long, long way — $1.50 a bulb in most places compared to $11 or $12 a decade ago. But LEDs are just so much more superior.

As we wait for the perfect and affordable household light bulb, it’s nice to see niche LED markets thriving, such as that for municipal streetlights. Companies such as Halifax-based LED Roadway Lighting are making great headway with products that can lower energy consumption by at least 50 per cent and up to 80 per cent and offer better quality and reduced maintenance.

4 thoughts on “$20 LED lightbulb at Home Depot a welcome start, but call me when it hits $10 — even better, $5”

  1. Hi Tyler:
    I enjoy your articles on energy and related topics. I am glad to hear that LED Light Emitting Diodes are on the verge of becoming practicable. I agree that the compact fluorescent often does not last nearly as long as advertised. Ten thousand hours is more than a year, running 24 hours per day. If the CF were used six hours per day, it should last for more than 4 years, which they don’t.

    Also the Compact Fluorescent is heavier than the incandescent and therefor those lampholders which are spring loaded to balance the incandescent at various heights wont handle the CF. You have to increase the spring tension to make them handle the weight of the CF. Also CF’s are taller than the incandescent and will not go under the shades of many lampholders.

    The chief disadvantage of the CF though as you suggested is that they wont work in dimmers and apparently the LED will. Hooray!

    I remember when LED first came on the market back in the 50’s or early 60’s. I was in radar design at that time and we used these slabs of LED material in front panels to light the identification for controls such as ON – OFF, VOL., BRILLIANCE etc which could be read in a darkened enviroment . The whole slab would light up when voltage was applied across it, so the slab had to be painted black and the titles for the functions were then engraved through the paint. If the panel were accidentally scratched the light would leak out and the scratch had to be painted over!

    Prior to this “big technological advance” we had to install a small incandescent bulb close to each control to illuminate the title on the panel Those little bulbs used to burn out regularly and were a nuisance to replace. So the LED slab was pretty useful. We never thought in those days of it developing to the extent it has. I think that LED’s have been used in car tail lights and street traffic lights in recent years have they not?

    Kepp up the good work,

    Terry Hanes

  2. It is great that LED’s are improving both in quality and price. The main driver is almost always efficiency for using LED’s. As an energy engineer / auditor, I see lots of ‘low hanging fruit’ out there. There are many existing lights that are on when the area is not in use. There are also many areas that are over lit. By addressing those items with low/no cost changes, energy savings can be realized now. In areas that are over lit, applying proper lighting levels will save change out costs regardless of when the lights are upgraded to LED’s.

    Allan Bullis

  3. I read with interest your column of 30 August in The Star.

    With respect to your bad experience with Compact Fluorescent lamps, as described: I assume that the “Recessed Lighting Fixtures” to which you referred were designed only for incandescent lamps. Compact fluorescent lamps, with contained electronic ballasts, are to be used within a much narrower temperature range than incandescent lamps. It may well be that the CFL you had installed was operating at a temperature above its design limit, and therefore failed prematurely. Manufacturers of CFLs frequently add text on the lamp packaging warning against use in enclosed fixtures, recessed cans, and similar cooling-air-flow-restricted applications.

    I have had good results using CFLs in older fixtures designed only for incandescent lamps using the following protocol: First, I find out from the CFL manufacturer or importer the maximum allowable ambient operating temperature for the lamp I am considering. I then test a lamp in the intended fixture, having attached (with an elastic band around the ballast) the lead, near the end, of a thermocouple, so that I can measure the air temperature near the ballast. I monitor the temperature, while the lamp is operating and the fixture is in its normal configuration (for example, with covers on if that is how the fixture is used), until the temperature stabilizes OR it exceeds the maximum allowable ambient for the lamp. IF the CFL operates cool enough, THEN it can be used satisfactorily in that fixture.

    I agree with the commenter (above) that most CFLs cannot be used with dimmers. There are some (older) CFLs that claim to be dimmable, but, in general, their performance is poor. More recently, I have used Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs), stated to be dimmable, with good results.

    Regarding Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps, when the chips are clustered (to give higher light output in a smaller package), there is a potential problem with overheating of the chips, causing premature failure. This is why only lower-wattage lamps are currently available (excluding the street-lighting and equivalent applications, in which the LED chips are spaced sufficiently in the purpose-built fixtures to avoid that problem). Were you to put an equivalent-light-output LED lamp into your living room “pot” fixture, you might find the same problem as you described with the CFL.

    Should you decide to write another column on this topic, I will be most interested in reading it.

  4. I just moved into a new home and actually bit the bullet and bought 10 of the Philips LED bulbs (for $20) over the weekend… with about 8 more to buy to replace all of the others in the house. I know they are still a little pricy, but the feeling of reducing our lighting expenses by 60 – 80% in one full swoop feels really good! The cost will be repaid in 2 – 3 years probably and when moving into a new house and budgeting for new things, it only made sense. I really like the type of light they emit too!

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