LED lighting saves money?

Only if you add in a “maintenance cost” fudge factor.

The Wall Street Journal reports,

… LED bulbs cost as much as 20 times more than their conventional counterparts. Energy savings are an important part of the economics. Lighting can account for a third of a big store’s energy costs, and LED bulbs can cut lighting bills by three-quarters…

A 2009 case study by the U.S. Department of Energy on a Wal-Mart parking lot in Leavenworth, Kan., however, shows energy savings alone may not justify the cost.

The DOE compared LED lamps to a typical parking-lot lights and found the cost of the LED lamps plus energy bills over 10 years were higher than for the older bulbs.

That balance will change as the cost of LED bulbs comes down—they’ve already fallen 30% since 2009—but for now it’s lower maintenance expenses that are allowing companies to recoup the upfront costs in less than three years, a key threshold for bean counters.

“Instead of replacing a bulb seven times a year, now you’re talking about not touching a bulb for four or five years,” said Eric Dominguez, Caesars Entertainment’s director of energy services. Workers then can be shifted onto other tasks, Mr. Dominguez says.

But labor costs can be hugely variable while the purported 10-year margin of savings (assuming not too much fudging) is slight.

If this is the best the LED industry can do, its products aren’t ready for prime time either.

Read the Wall Street Journal report.

10 thoughts on “LED lighting saves money?”

  1. I try to hit the stores the day after Christmas as well – but around here, they basically have nothing left. I will have to watch the electric bill. I did not switch to LEDs for the cost saving, just the breaker saving. 😉

  2. Just checked out 100bulbs.com. Great selection! But a bit pricey. I did a price comparison at Wally world, Target, Lowes and Kmart before Thanksgiving. Kmart was the most expensive, but Wally world, Target and Lowes were each lower on different types. I miscalculated on some runs, so had to run out the day after thanksgiving and Target and Kmart were running half price sales (so next year, I shop the day after Thanksgiving).

    Anyway, the regular price for a string of 200 minis runs from $23 at wally world to $39 at Kmart. Lowes and Target were in the middle. But the day after Thanksgiving, Wally world was only $20, but Kmart and Target were $17.

    I was tripping 2 breakers in years past. This year, a week later, not a single trip. My bill runs about the same as yours (regular winter and christmas), so it will be interesting to see what it comes in at this year.

    But next year, I will definitely price at 100bulbs.com as well. Thanks for the tip on that one.

  3. I have nothing but praise for LED lighting for Christmas. I would go to Home Depot after Christmas and buy 50 bulb strings for $2.50. I put up more than 10 thousand lights every year for the last 20 years. Before LEDs, my biggest electric bill was in December, not hot August in Atlanta.

    My guess is 10 thousand LEDs require about 1 kw for power. The old fashioned bulbs required 7 kw. This is a stupid luxury that is not green. WWF should call for abolishing Christmas.

  4. We’re converting our Christmas lights to LED this year. We do expect to see some cost savings in future years, plus, we’ll no longer max out our circuits or have lights break in the wind (LED are plastic, not glass). Now, we can technically run all of the LED lights off of one outlet. All of our LED C9s, C7s, and icicles add up to about 105 watts, 43 strings. We still have our 3D animals and flood lights in incandescent, plus the trees and garlands inside, they are just now coming out with LED versions but there’s not much selection yet. LED flood lights are very expensive and only come in white.

    We’ve been planning this for years, it’s exciting to finally get it done. The biggest difficulty has been trying to find the right lights at the right price. We got the red C9s at Home Depot for $6.97 a string, the icicles at Target for $9.99 a string, and the C7s (red, green, and white) at 1000bulbs.com for between $7.75 and $11.90 a string. C7s aren’t sold in stores for some reason and anything but white and multicolor of any of them are hard to find. I figure we spent around $400. Our January Excel bill is around $500 (a normal winter month is around $180), this should lower it quite a bit.

    We’ve used CFLs inside in most of our lights for almost 12 years now and we’re quite happy with them. Even the CFLs in heavily used rooms (kitchen, bathrooms) lasted at least 8 years. The only ones that are a bit iffy are the porch lights, they take a while to warm up when it’s cold outside.

    However, we do still use incandescents in some older lamps and I certainly don’t want the government telling me what kind of lightbulb to buy.

  5. But labor costs can be hugely variable while the purported 10-year margin of savings (assuming not too much fudging) is slight….

    wouldnt labor costs be the same for each type of lighting?? was coal at one tine much more expensive than cutting trees down to burn????

  6. I don’t have any experience with LED lighting other then flashlights.
    The batteries last longer and they are brighter CLOSE UP (although the light is “bluer”)
    On the other hand a krypton bulb flashlight will project a beam farther with a more natural light. I’ve never had to replace a krypton bulb, but I’ve had a couple of LED flashlights fail, presumably due to circuit board failure.

  7. I’ve had bad luck with CFLs located in circuits near large motors (like garage door openers and washing machines.) I suspect the voltage/power drop when the motor starts/runs leads to premature CFL failure.
    To get an idea how long they last, I write the date on their base when I install/replace one.

  8. I used to be out on the bleeding edge. Now I wait for version 2.5 or later before getting in. LED’s are getting better and better, but for general use I’m not a buyer at this time. I do have a few CFL’s. I bought them for the color temperature not the putative savings. In addition, they won’t fit most of my sockets like in the ceiling dome lights. They do fit in the new garage door opener so I have one CFL and one incandescent so I can compare.

  9. Oh, and I try to stay away from blow up decorations. Just lights and a few deer. Neighbors like the “natural” look. I find the “natural” label kind of amusing.

  10. LED Christmas lighting is about 3x the cost of conventional. As most only run it about 6 weeks of the year, I doubt there will be enough energy savings to pay the difference. But there is one thing about them that sold me.

    I am at a stage where spending $200 or $500 on Christmas lights is not a major decision. However, spending $5k for a distribution panel upgrade is! I maxed out my panel several years ago. 2 years ago I decided to start going with LEDs. And found I can get a LOT more lights up now! Woo HOO! So I pay more to put up more. But I am not looking for a net savings out of it, just more lights (got about 15k now that I put up).

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