The Latest And Greatest Light Bulb Strategy

Since CFL light bulbs began attracting widespread popularity, one number that I’ve heard is that a good rule of thumb for the average lifespan of a CFL bulb would be approximately seven years.

I’m here to attest to the fact that this certainly seems to be true!

We moved into our home in 2007, and one of the first things I did was start replacing many lights around the house with CFL bulbs, from table lamps to as many overhead fixtures as we could, many of which I discovered had burned out bulbs anyway.

It’s now 2015, just over 7.5 years since we moved in, and over the last 6-9 months, I’ve noticed a huge spike in the burn out of CFL bulbs.  Every 2-3 weeks, it seems, a bulb has burned out.

CFL Bulbs as a Standard: Then And Now

mb-2015-01-cflIn 2007, CFL bulbs were still pretty expensive compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.  Fast forward to 2015, and the CFL bulbs have become much cheaper, and the incandescent bulbs are not even available anymore!

Back when we first started putting in CFL bulbs, they were $2-3 per bulb, a lot higher if you needed things like bulbs that went in recessed cans or three-way bulbs for table laps.  We purchased all of these types of bulbs.  I’ve since learned that we really don’t need 3-way bulbs in our lamps, as we used just one setting 99.9% of the time anyways, and that a regular CFL bulb with a bit higher wattage seemed to work just great in our recessed cans.  This has lowered the cost.

On top of that, the current price of a standard 60-watt replacement is now just $0.71.  Our energy company subsidizes the cost, and a 4-pack is available for just over $2.80 from the nearby Home Depot.

Two things that seems to have stabilized is light quality and brightness.  When we first started buying bulbs, the standard seemed to have a more bluish-white hue, rather than the soft white standard, which seemed harder to find.  Earlier adaptations of CFL bulbs also noted a pretty significant time to reach full brightness.  Both of these have since made tremendous strides in terms of what I’ve observed.

What About LED Bulbs?

Since 2007, the new player on the block has emerged with LED bulbs now traditionally available.  They boast an even longer span (3-times that of a CFL bulb, by advertised accounts), and also use even less energy (about one-fourth of a traditional incandescent bulb, and roughly one-half of a CFL bulb), but are still very pricey.  A standard 60-watt replacement bulb can cost around $8.

The cost analysis tells me that that an $8 bulb would compare to roughly three $0.70 bulbs over the same lifetime, with the CFL bulbs coming out $5.90 ahead.  The expected cost savings, well, it’s hard to determine that over a 20+ year time frame, but I’m guessing it would likely be a wash.

We have two LED bulbs in our house.  We have two table lamps that held the aforementioned three-way CFL bulbs, one of which burned out.  I wanted to replace both lamps with identical bulbs to give an even look, and at the time, our energy company was subsidizing LED bulbs which were suitable, so I picked up two of them for less than $5 apiece.

At that price, I was more than happy to try them out,and so far they seem to put out great light and last well.

CFL or LED: What Will It Be?

So, the question is, should we start using LED bulbs or continue using LED bulbs?  My current strategy is to continue using CFL bulbs, at least at the current prices.  My reasoning is that the prices will likely continue to decline on LED bulbs during the current life cycle of CFL bulbs, so when it’s seven years from now, and I’m on another round, at that point the LED technology will likely be the standard, and will be even cheaper than it is now.

This will also give me a chance to make sure that the LED bulbs do, in fact, last longer, at least past the seven year time frame.  If one or both of the bulbs in our lamp burns out in the next seven years, then it would stand to reason that the longevity may need to be more closely examined.  Since, at least so much of the current price value, is dependent on the bulbs lasting for years, decades even, rather than months, the quality has to be top-notch.

Readers, what type of bulbs are you using in your house?  CFL, LED, or are you still old-school, and working off a stockpile of incandescent bulbs?

11 thoughts on “The Latest And Greatest Light Bulb Strategy”

  1. We use CFL for most of our house. I still think I have a few incandescent bulbs holdouts. 🙂 Just coming out of the Holidays we have made the switch to LED lights for all of our Christmas lights. I don’t think I’ve ever kept track of the life span of the blubs, but generally not replacing CFLs as often.

  2. Haha…I’m still old-school working off a stash. But we will be out soon so it looks like I’ll be catching up with modern technology. Thanks for sharing your experience. Gives me hope the transition will be a smooth one. 🙂

  3. I’m in the can’t-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks camp. I tried CFLs. Really did. Gave them about a year in hopes that I would get used to them. But I just HATE them and no amount of trying to accommodate myself to their ugly, uggghhhleeee light helps.

    So I got an LED for a lamp in the living room. Don’t like that much, either. The light is bluish or greyish and makes everything look a funny color.

    I’d rather live by kerosene lantern light than by those things!

    Now I buy incandescents whenever I happen to be at a store that sells them. Am accruing a nice stash. Since I don’t leave the lights burning all the time, a typical incandescent light will last me a couple of years. So I’m hoping not to have to switch over to the New Ugly Normal very soon.

  4. Great roundup as usual, really enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing your article about this The Latest and Greatest Light Bulb Strategy. Looking forward for your best article this year.

  5. I switched out to CFL’s some time ago and have not had the longevity that you have experienced. I have had GE CFL’s fail in under a year. And when I return them to my grocery store to get a new one, I hear a lot of grief…even with the receipt. On the other hand when I return CFL’s that have failed to Home Depot….no problem. Our utility subsidizes our bulbs as well and recently you could get a four-pack of 60 watt CFL’s for 97 cents at HD. I recently did purchase two LED’s that were on sale at Lowes for $3.50 each and so far so good. If you can believe the packaging these bulbs use about $1.40 in electricity …PER YEAR. Still I don’t think the cost of the LED’s justify the purchase.

    • Our table lamps are probably on just about the most of any lights in the house. They currently have the two test LED bulbs, but I’m honestly leary about putting them in other lamps, simply because lamps can (and do) get knocked over from time to time, and the impact often doesn’t shatter the bulb but will ruin it, and I’d hate for that to happen on a bulb that’s so expensive.

  6. I changed out my light bulbs to CFLs about 5 years ago. It lowered my utility bill and they are still going on strong. The few problems I had were replaced under warranty. When they wear out, I will probably replace them with LEDs if they make economic sense.

  7. Our home is 100% LED and we love it. We had to adjust sizes (wattage) in certain areas of the house, but we are very pleased with the ability to go completely LED in our new house that we built in 2014. We live in Japan where electricity is very expensive, so this change helps us maximize our savings. We have many choices in LEDs here, including a choice of either a warm color or a cool color, much like the CFLs do. Ikea has really good prices on LEDs — even sell candlelabra-size bulbs for chandeliers, which when installed, I really don’t mind.

    We are especially happy with putting LED in our outdoor fixtures, which are on dawn to dusk sensors. Because they have a long life expectancy, putting LEDs in hard to reach places such as stair ways and outdoors makes sense for us. Also, I am very pleased with new offerings, such as light bar strips that simple adhere with double sided tape under countertops and cabinets. These come in various lengths. The cords on LED light strips are thinner and lighter, too, or you can have battery operated light strips in hard to reach places. The light strips also have no switches –again making them lighter and easier to stick up with double faced tape (both screws and tape are supplied). These strip lights are only about a quarter inch thick! Mine have motion detector sensors at one end –just wave my hand and the light is out. The “warm” color light strip I put up under a cabinet in my kitchen is about 36 inches long and uses only 5 watts, so, beyond the purchase price of about $40, which I would have probably paid for a bulky conventional fluorescent light of the same size, I think the LEDs win hands down in terms of cost savings, installation ease, design factors and convenience. I don’t miss incandescent lights one bit!

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