Should You Get LED Lights to Replace Your Incandescent Bulbs?

40 watt equivalent LED bulb

I was at Lowes this last weekend and as I moseyed down the aisle, I noticed that they had LED light bulbs on sale. 50% off to be exact. They are currently selling a 40-watt equivalent bulb for $9.99 – on sale until May 9th.

Let me step back and say that I have avoided the CFLs as they have emerged the last few years. I really don’t like flourescent light and all the CFLs I have tried just make the room feel a bit like a warehouse. Add to that the dangerous chemicals contained within them and I have just decided to avoid them.

A bulb that lasts

Getting back to the $10 LED bulb. At first glance that could seem like a ridiculous price to pay for a light bulb. But if you consider the fact that this light bulb is rated for 25,000 hours – which is 23 years if you use it an average of 3 hours a day – this may not be a bad price. Comparing it against the cheap incandescent bulbs, you can get more rated hours from buying 20 bulbs that will last 1500 hours each for $10, but who likes to change light bulbs that often? I would prefer to change them every other decade – how about you?

Energy Used

This is where the LED really shines. They estimate (based on 3 hrs/day) that it will cost $0.90 each YEAR to operate this LED bulb. At the same KWH rate, a 40 watt Incandescent would cost about $4.80/yr.

If you add this up over the 23 year lifespan of the LED bulb, it looks pretty compelling. The LED bulb would cost $20.70 to operate while the incandescent bulb would cost $110.40 over the same  23 year period.

Total cost

If we look at total cost…

40 Watt Equivalent LED Bulb 16 Incandescent Bulbs
Purchase Cost $9.99 approx $8.00
Cost to Operate (23 yrs) $20.70 $110.40
Total Lifetime Cost $30.69 approx $118.40

The light

In the picture below the LED light is on left and the 40 Watt Incandescent is on the right.

LED vs Incandescent 40 watt bulbs

While the picture doesn’t really portray this very well, the LED bulb actually brightened the room slightly more than the Incandescent.

Final thoughts

Running the numbers it looks like LED bulbs are finally starting to become a good purchase (just a couple years ago they were going for more than $100/bulb). But even if the cost savings wasn’t good enough, just not having to change the bulbs for 2 decades would be pretty nice.

If you shop for LED bulbs you will quickly realize that it is difficult to find a 40-watt equivalent LED bulb for $10, so if you are interested you might want to jump on this one from Lowes while it is still on sale.














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18 Comments
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  1. As an architect, I deal with these choices all the time. One interesting development of CFLs (and more recently LEDs) is color temperature. Manufacturers are starting to get really good at making these bulbs in almost any temperature you want, which can make a room feel “warmer” and less like a warehouse.

    LEDs are the next big thing and here to stay, it looks like. They draw a ridiculously low amount of power and last something like 50,000 hours. A few more years and I think they will be affordable for the standard home application.

  2. Do you notice a difference with the heat that’s emitted? Does the LED bulb get as hot as the Incandescent bulb?

    • @Tim,
      as some others mentioned, they do not get hot at all.

      @Donny
      you have a good point. They say it will last 23 years, but who really knows? That is a pretty big assumption that needs to be taken into account.

  3. You’ve convinced me to start switching to LED. I feel the same about flourescents. Like you, I just avoided them altogether. Thank you for doing the research!

  4. We just purchase 1 LED light bulb the other week, after reading a bit about them. So far results have been great. We used it in a living room in one of our can lights that typically has problems with overheating.

    The heat is definitely much less than an incandescent. I can touch it and its hot, but not burning. The light never goes out because it overheats anymore.

    It gives off a much better light than our incandescents. Its a bit whiter and brighter (we used a 40 watt equivilant bulb).

    Its hard to see it as an investment before, but with the sale we definitely will get more! Thanks for letting us know!

  5. Donny

    The LED bulbs should produce considerably less heat. In some commercial settings with a substantial amount of lighting this can cause a problem. All of a sudden after a LED bulb swap out, the heating system is not able to keep up. This problem was also seen when traffic lights were replaced with LED’s and snow and ice build up on them, causing them to not be visible.

    Another problem is if the bulbs do not last the rated hours. If one of the incandescents fails prematurely, you are out $2. If the LED fails prematurely, you are out $10.

    Having said all of this, I currently use almost exclusively CFL’s. I was concerned about the premature burnout, and began writing the install date on the bulb base so the lifespan could be tracked. As the years have gone by, they are much better at achieving their rated hours. LED’s are still in the early adaptation phase and I would not expect them to last their rated hours in home use. I have used LED’s in a few applications and have been happy so far. They will improve as the demand for them grows.

  6. I don’t like CFLs, either, although we have a few in our house. I’m skeptical about long-life bulbs, such as the LEDs, because, sure, it would last 23 years: unless your child or pet or you knock the lamp over, or there is a power surge, or a wiring glitch blows out the bulb prematurely. I’ve already had a couple CFLs in the bathrooms blow out in the same sockets that blew out when I had incandescents in them. Would you be willing to pay to have fixtures properly rewired? I don’t plan on it until we remodel the house some time down the road. So for now, I’m leaving those sockets empty. Plus an LED “bulb” is not one bulb. It is multiple bulbs in one housing. What about when one or two or more little bulbs go out? They do on stoplights.

    I’ve heard about a new type of halogen bulb that gives off 100 watts worth of light at 72 watts or so. I plan to replace my incandescents with those b/c I’ve read that they are equivalent in price to incandescents.

  7. From what I see of the pictured bulb it won’t really project any light downward. May silly but seems like if you have a table lamp slightly above where you are reading then this bulb will be darker. It may have made the room lighter, but did it make all areas the same brightness?

  8. LED’s are the way to go Bob. I replaced all the bulbs in my car with LED. They’re expensive to replace, why not go with LED for everything and save money and time in the process?

    We also use LED in construction. Seems like the industry is moving in that direction. Since it’s significantly more cost efficient, it just makes more sense.

  9. I’ve already started switching all my bulbs over to CFLs. Basically, as soon as an incandescent dies, it’s replaced with a CFL. They have been lasting WAY longer than the incandescent bulbs–I can already see that. I feel better knowing I’m saving money AND producing less waste. And there’s another upside–I can use a bulb that produces a lot more light because the CFLs are so much lower in wattage–and I like my house to be really bright.

    I’m not sure about LED bulbs–have to check into them. I DO buy LED lights for the Christmas tree and LOVE THEM due to their clarity and the fact that they don’t burn you.

  10. It’s a light bulb.

    I understand it’s important to save money when and where you can, but it’s a light bulb. They break. Kids break them, animials break them, they get broke in moves… heck, I even broke one a few weeks back come to think of it.

    This being said, I really do like the way these bulbs look and the kind of light they emit. I have 2 of them myself.

    This post gets me wondering about LED tv’s. I was at Sears the other day and was pretty sure I was looking through a window at an actual scene of actors in a live play right there at Sears… the picture was that good.

    Wonder what the energy savings on those would be compared to an LCD TV?

  11. It’s a light bulb.

    I understand it’s important to save money when and where you can, but it’s a light bulb. They break. Kids break them, animials break them, they get broke in moves… heck, I even broke one a few weeks back come to think of it.

    This being said, I really do like the way these bulbs look and the kind of light they emit. I have 2 of them myself.

    This post gets me wondering about LED tv’s. I was at Sears the other day and was pretty sure I was looking through a window at an actual scene of actors in a live play right there at Sears… the picture was that good.

    Wonder what the energy savings on those would be compared to an LCD TV?

  12. Michele

    I just read an article over at Healthy Home Economist stating that the contents of LED bulbs are toxic. I would probably still use them but would be very careful in handling and disposing of them.

    This is an excerpt of the article I read:

    A new study by the University of California Irvine has found LED bulbs to be loaded with lead, arsenic, and nickel. The high intensity red bulbs contained the most arsenic. Low intensity red lights had high amounts of lead, while white bulbs had lower amounts of lead but worrisome levels of nickel.

    Like CFLs, LED bulbs should be treated as hazardous waste because broken bulbs in landfills threaten soil and groundwater with contamination.

    Similarly, anyone who breaks an LED bulb in a home environment should don a mask and gloves and sweep up the pieces with a specially made broom.

  13. Our local energy company sponsored some “give-away” CFL bulbs and I bought some at Lowe’s when they were selling a 7-pack for $10 and included a $10 coupon on your next $50 visit (basically for free). I’ve been replacing the older bulbs with CFLs in most places. However, in some places, I’ve gone back to incandescent. The light is brighter and warmer.

    Regarding your math, it will take about 2.5 years to break even. Do you want to make a 2.5 year commitment to the existing light fixtures? It seems like a good deal when you look at 23 years, but I’m not sure it’s worth whole sale replacement. Add in the fact that these bulbs will come down in price and you could probably make out better by replacing bulbs slowly over the next few years as your old bulbs burn out.

  14. We tried switching a year ago but found one went out within a month and another had a ringing noise to it. Also disposing of them properly has not gone that great so we are waiting for them to improve. Perhaps it was the brand or batch we got, but we were not impressed at all.

  15. I just got several of the CFL bulbs free from a bulb excahange event hosted by San Diego Gas and Electric. Check around your gas and electric company most likely has free bulb exchange programs also. Hows that for Frugal ??

  16. yes,led lights get more and more popular acceptable by people,It’s environment-friendly,long lifespan,high efficient energy.But it just a small one, will get hot quickly,so you should choose the good light source,also when it’s opened,we should try to help to let the heat out,good MCPCB will be need ,also the raditor.At prensent,the price is quite differert based on different those.Any way,there is a say,you get what you paid for.

  17. Wow! I didnt realize that these were rated for such a long time,

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