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.

[iframe_loader src="" height="400" width="800"]

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!

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


SteveH, What brand of CFLs are they? I use the n:vision, and the 12 Watt CFLs I use to replace my 60 watt incandescent actually put out more light than the incandescent. You may just have a bad brand of bulb.
Or he judged after 1 second.
Hi Chris, See also this link:
Dear Sir or Madame, Very good that this is on the www for comparison. Did you also take in account that most of the LED lamps use a lot of blind current? Most LED suppliers don't mention that in there specs. With kind regards, Potter
Potter, What do you mean when you say "blind current"? Do you mean in-rush current?
In a commercial setting you need to account for the labor to replace the CFL bulbs. Also LED lumens are focused lumens where as CFL/incans are 360 degrees so in this sense the lighting is more efficient because you can put it just where you want it.
Potter is right.Blind current is Reactive Current.I measured performance of a 5WLED lamp supposed to replace 40W Incandescent bulb.It actually consumed 44milliAmps at 220Volts equivalent to 9.6W.This indicates high harmonics and poor pf uncorrectable by external means.The Lumen output also didnot compare well with distribution of A type Bulb or the latest draft of DOE standards.More tests will be done.Variation of supply voltage between 150V to 270V common in our country also showed 10% change in Power and Light output.It is not known whther this will effect the life of LED.
Thanks for the comparisom. The thing missing for me was a break-even comparisom, that showed after what time a CFL or LED is better than Incandescant I've created a new spreadsheet (based on the one above) and its at Which shows (at 4 hours/day usage) LED's beat Incandescent after 4 years, but CFL's are better than all of them from year 1, it takes 30 years for LED's to beat CFL's but then need replacing after year 35. Obviously this depends on assumptions about inflation in electricity prices, so I've added a second tab, where I assume electricity inflates at 7% more than general inflation. This isn't unreasonable, for example NSW in Australia just authorised 60% over next 4 years.
Thanks for the comment and graph shown on your website. I think LEDs still have a way to go before they become a clear winner over CFLs, but in either case, they are both better than incandescents!
I recently visited some LED manufacturers in China and they are deff. advancing the LED technology. I thought the most spectacular application was a 10,000 lumen LED street light which consumed about 8 times less power then the sodium filament. Also very promising are LED floods, spots, tubes and shop lights. Also read the new report out from OSRAM that takes into consideration cradle-to-grave energy use for CFL, Incandescent and LED.


Post new comment

Subscribe to Comments for "Best lighting cost comparison: Incandescent, CFL, LED"