I’ve written a bit about this before, but I truly find the evolution of the light bulb as a consumer household essential to be fascinating. For over 100 years since its initial invention, and despite being a necessity, the common household light bulb was virtually unchanged. No major product improvements other than price in a century of industrial innovation everywhere else. Incandescent bulbs were and still are inefficient, fragile, and plagued by a short life span.
Then, CFLs came along. Lifespan and efficiency were markedly improved and made them worth buying. Prices declined over the years, however, they still had their downsides, including fragility and concerns over mercury and disposal.
Then LEDs arrived. LEDs virtually wiped out the fragility, lifespan, and efficiency issues overnight. But the light quality wasn’t the greatest (leaving many clamoring for a dwindling supply of inefficient incandescents) and the prices were absolutely ridiculous.
Rather quickly, LEDs have had their own 4-stage evolution within 1 decade:
Phase 1 – First Mover, Money Loser: insane pricing limited the purchase of LEDs to those with a strong environmental conscience. They were a money losing proposition. And the light quality produced wasn’t as good as prior technologies. And that hum…
Phase 2 – The Wise Adopters, Long Payback: significant pricing and product improvements led to financially savvy buyers noticing that LED vs. CFL cost savings had reached a crossover point in their payback analysis. However, prices were still at the level where the typical mass consumer was not going to pull it off the shelf when comparing to cheaper alternatives. And the payback took a few years to reach.
Phase 3 – Foolish not to Upgrade: With further product improvements (producing a light quality on par with incandescents) and price improvements, I declared LEDs had reached “foolish not to upgrade” prices in April of 2015. The Home Depot began selling the eerily-similar-to-incandescent Philips A19 60W equivalent bulbs for $4.97 each, with promotional pricing bringing it down to $4.97 per 2-pack. With this promotional pricing, it had made sense to replace heavily used CFL/incandescent bulbs with LEDs immediately and lesser-used bulbs that stopped working at the time they burned out.
Phase 4 – Every Bulb as LED: Now, I believe we’ve reached the 4th and final stage of LED bulb adoption. Having used my Philips A19 60W bulbs for over 1.5 years now, I can attest that there is no noticeable difference in light quality between these bulbs and incandescents, there is no hum, not 1 bulb has died on me, they have a hardy plastic casing, and every day pricing has now declined to about $1.50 per bulb (you can now get a 16-pack on Amazon for $24).
Meanwhile, the price of vastly inferior CFLs has crept up to similar levels and incandescent bulbs aren’t far behind, so the payback is almost immediate. Simply replace old bulbs with LED to save money (and simultaneously reduce your impact on the environment).
At these prices, I cannot think of one solid argument for buying anything other than LED bulbs for the entire house. If consumers are wise, it should be nearly impossible to find CFLs and incandescents on store shelves, because nobody is buying them.
Until an even more efficient technology comes along and reaches an even better cost analysis, it’s LEDs for the financial and environmental win.
The only issue I have had with LED bulbs has been the price for ones that are not standard bulbs. I would like to replace some that have intermediate base and those are still higher in the cost level, maybe at your phase 2.
Then I am also unable to find higher “wattage” output on candelabra style bulbs.
Otherwise I am with you and have changed everything from can lights and standard bulbs over to LED.
Your lighting needs are fancier than mine. =)
I would also encourage those looking for the best longevity and efficiency to look for the Energy Star logo on the LEDs they buy! These bulbs have been rigorously tested for longevity and quality. There are many non-Energy Star bulbs on the market, and they are cheaper but will not last as long or provide the best quality of light.
-An Energy Consultant
Have you done a cost analysis on Energy Star vs. non, based on longevity? Would be interested in seeing the #’s if so.
You are giving terrible advice. LEDs are a scam – the scam of the century even, at least in the edison screw in type. (much) Larger ones may have more robust heat dissipation and power supply adequate for long life..
I only use high CRI LEDs (around 1400-1500 lumen), and not one of them has lasted over 3 months.
They are not designed to dissipate the heat they generate, especially not when your awful power company usually puts out 125V and won’t do anything about it.
Pretty much every website selling LEDs is plagued with negative reviews like my own experiences. My landlord won’t use him because the scammers making these LEDs said no warranty unless he drops 10k per property to regulate the power.
I would ultimately save considerable money just using 99 cent incandescents, but unfortunately they would run too hot and this apartment has no 100w rated sockets.
CFLs have generally lasted me as long or a little longer than LEDs, and are by far preferable despite UV leakage and potential mercury issues.
I think smart LED tech will upgrade the lighting technologies to a whole new level. It will definitely make all other lighting techs a thing of the past.