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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Why do comparisons of bulbs always negate the fact that CFLs have dire colour reproduction? The phosphors used to turn the florescent light source into something broader band only produce a small number of narrow bands of colour. Because the colour of objects is very narrow band by nature, a room lit by a CFL will look very unnatural – many objects will appear darker, or even appear as a completely different colour than they actually are because they can’t reflect the very specific wavelengths of the CFL. This is completely missed by simple lumens calculations and is precisely the reason why they make rooms look dreadful. In comparison, an incandescent produces even intensity across the visible spectrum just as sunlight does. I’m all for energy saving but CFLs are not and never will be an adequate alternative.
ckmapawatt's picture
That's not true. I'm perfectly happy with the alternative that my CFLs offer, so I would say they are a more than adequate alternative.
How can you say that this comparrison is accurate if the "Lumens" on each bulb is not set to be equal? The LED light is going to be half as bright as the incandescent. So if you double the LED 'bulbs' the cost doubles and the incandescent wins over the LED. I know this is a "consumer out-of-pocket" excercise, but would be interesting is "apples-to-apples" (same amount of light, lumens) total cost expendatures. This means, all the way through production to the end of the life cycle costs, along with costs involved to the enviroment (toxic waste, ...).
We have a small office in the city and the electricity bill is insane. Tell you what, we have tried to turn off the all the electric juice sucking machines, but not really see much of the difference in the bills. But, one day our plaza electrician told me that they are changing all the LED light tubes outside the plaza. Those LED lights look the same as the old light tube but after that we don’t think we see the electrician for months until people complaint about other problems. We tried using the LED light tubes and we are so damn glad we did. We already have the electric bill saving to pay off the LED lights that we got. Awesome product!!!
We are manufacturer of LED lights in China. Yes, we agree the Reactive Current. A bulb from us marked as 6W, acctually will cost around 9W power. There is a saying of "consume power" & "output power". Here, 6W is output power while 9W is consume power. This is normal, as all we know that "conservation of energy". Some current were changed to the heat. Most time, when some factory want to upgrade its power, then he marks his "consume power" as power. Because there is a wrong acknowlege on the LED market that more power, more light. And with this wrong idea, some consumers will like to buy a more powerful LED light. Actually, it is wrong. For a LED, more Lumen output, more light. In our factory, we mark the "output power" as power. We think this is what the consumer need to know. But from here, I get to know maybe some one like to know the consumer power for a LED. So, pls ask your vender is the power marked shows a "consume power" or "output power". Then you will know the truth before buying. Last, this is Redy from
....also, I belive last months, maybe two months ago "Consumer Reports," did a fairly interesting comparison on these types of bulbs including common name brands you can purchase at local stores. Worth taking a look at.
NerdKing, I got that issue of Consumer Reports. It was a good one. They had a whole section on energy conservation and a section on <a href="" rel="nofollow">heating your home with wood pellets</a>.
A great analysis. Please, however, make this change: try *not* rounding up on the number of bulbs. This gives us an average, which is what we're really looking for; otherwise we create rounding error, which is small for the N=10 case, but large for the N=1 or N=2. The results I get are quite different for total cost: Incandescent: $90.52 CFL: $22.57 LED: $20.44
I was just going over some research in camparisons of LED and CFL bulbs. One major flaw is that the way in which these bulbs are measured is not typically done by say a "footcandle" or "Lux" so the results of lumen rating is based on an average of all sides of the light. This is fine if you are using these bulbs for say a lamp, but in the case of say using them in recessed lighting LEDs can actually produce a higher efficiancy (depending on bulb choice of course) without the loss of light through the "sides" of the bulbs as it would not be seen. LEDs, while maybe not quite the right choice for everyone yet, are a great choice in the right situations and with the technology advancing rapidly will be a cost effective, "green", choice for everyone....soon. I definately suggetst looking up research done that states how the data was collected if looking into this field, and as a consumer, the best way is to of course see side by side comparisons to make your own judgement on color and brightness vs. cost efficiancy for yourself.
We just installed our first CFL. It was to replace the 60W kitchen light over the sink which just burned out. We installed a 20W CFL - the box said it was equivalent to 75 W incandescent, but it seems more like 40W. Not happy with these at all.


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