Best lighting cost comparison: Incandescent, CFL, LED

LED, Incandescent, CFL

LED, Incandescent, CFL

Between Incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs, there are many different lighting options available for the homeowner.  The problem is that there are so many options, the energy-saving technology keeps improving, and costs keep adjusting.  I've done a cost comparison between incandescents and CFLs that showed how much better an investment CFLs were.  Since then, a few models of LEDs are available for the home and I have now included them in a cost comparison.

Until someone proves me wrong, I'm convinced the spreadsheet below is one of the best lighting cost comparisons on the web.  I've put in some reference data for each bulb so you can verify the data.  For the incandescent, I included a GE long-life 60-watt bulb.  I'm using the n:vision CFL's I use in my house which are still working flawlessly and out of probably 15 bulbs I haven't had 1 failure in 1.5 years.  Finally, for the LED I'm comparing the newly released Pharox60, 6 watt dimmable LED by Lemnis Lighting and Digital Light. Update - 2/10/11 - I've updated the sheet with more recent data.  Home Depot changed the n:vision brand name to EcoSmart.  I'm using EcoSmart bulbs for both CFL and LED because I can easily get them at Home Depot and I've been happy with the quality so far.  The EcoSmart A19 LED I'm testing out is about 30% cheaper than the Pharox60 LED and has a higher light output.

The cells in yellow are meant to be edited by you based on your situation.  The cells in green are current prices for the lights I'm comparing in the sheets.  If you find better prices or want to compare different lights, adjust these prices accordingly.

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The first thing to notice is the Lumens (light output) of each bulb. The CFL uses less energy than the incandescent, but puts out more light! And while the LED uses less energy than the other bulbs, it puts out 2.5 times less light than the CFLs!  According to my sheets, it would take almost 30 Years before a current investment in an LED bulb would turn out to be the better investment over a CFL.  Now, that's based on an electricity price of $.010/kWh, and if you pay more than that, LEDs look a little more attractive.

Since LEDs have such a high initial cost, it is very hard to re-coup that cost over the life of the bulb.  The other issue is how much less light they put out compared to the incandescent or CFL.  What I will say is that if you are reluctant to adopt CFLs in your house due to concerns over mercury (even though it is a very minuscule), then the LEDs could be a great alternative to incandescents.  Since incandescents use so much electricity (most of the energy that goes into them turns into heat), the payback of an LED at .10 cents per kWh is around 5 years when compared to the incandescent.

The important thing to take away from the sheet is how bad a monetary investment incandescents are and how much energy they use compared to CFL and LED technologies.  It's time to get away from 100 year old energy-wasting technology and start saving your home money and helping to waste less energy!

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Some points not mentioned; The available prescriptive rebate from utilities - they could result in a $25 incentive / rebate for LEDs. The factor of lumen depreciation in either lamps is a variable that affects the ROI rationale.How the're used affects performance over time. What about Lumeniares using AC/leds ex( Molex - Borealis- etc) They show multiple levels of approach and design superiority - lamps like this should be tested - the LED lamps designs are several years old by now, the componentry of the LEDs has been getting better over the last 3 or 4 seasons so will these comparisions be valid in 1 year?Were the tests for illumenance and ray tracing done- Meh kind of a light weight - light comparison
that's just silly, manufacturing costs are incorporated into purchase prices...companies don't sell products at a loss - not for long anyway.
older cfl's take MUCH longer to 'warm up' (I have 2 older NOS bulbs that take about 5 minutes to get up to full light) whereas the new 'instant on' bulbs take just a few seconds (still a lot longer than incandecents, but much better than in years past.
An interesting change since this was first published. The CFL you linked to at Home Depot is now $10.97 each while the LED you linked to is now $29.95 Changing the total cost to: CFL $42.38 and LED $38.71
can LED light withstand properly with lights fluctuating conditions in industry.
Has anyone found a CFL that doesn't start up low brightness and gradually reach full brightness when warmed up? Besides the usually-too bright/cold color, this is the biggest drawback with CFLs. (I tried replacing 3 65W recessed incand floods in my bathroom with some new "warm" n:vision 23 Watt Soft White CFLs.... They are about the same 'warm' color as incands, but when the switch first turns them on, they start way too dim-- it immediately makes you look up (and notice the spiral cfl tubes behind the flood lenses. Also, does anyone have a list of CFL that have a CCT of 2600-2700 AND CRI of 90+?
Great job. Probably time to update this though. The prices on LED lights have come down significantly. Home Depot is offering LED lights for under $20.
What is a very little amount of mercury when you multiply it times the millions of these bulbs that you know as well as i will be thrown away in land fills. Then lets think about the leach aid from the rain that washes off those landfills, Yep right in the water supply, nothing like mercury to help with birth defects in pregnet women..not to mention that it never leaves youre body, so what effect will that have on you.. I like the lights as much as anybody, but this seems like a bad idea??
ckmapawatt's picture
What do you think coal power plants spew into the atmosphere? Part of their pollution is mercury.
All of the manufacturing processes for ALL of the bulbs spews toxins into the atmosphere. Why is it that you think no power is required to make a CFL bulb? This comparison is retarded. The manufacturing costs of CFL bulbs is WAY higher than that of an incandescent. If you want to do a comparison, compare them from the beginning of the manufacturing process, include import costs for CFL's since they are not manufactured in the US, factor in mining costs and power consumption during this process for the phosphorous and mercury and then factor in the disposal costs of the toxic waste from bulb disposal and the waste from the manufacturing process...then you MIGHT get a close comparison.


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