LED Lighting Payback – It’s Time To Switch!

The Gadgeteer
It’s a man’s job to be curious. Exploring and prodding the world to determine what is best, what is safe and what should be feared. In pre-history this man would be in charge of the stick used to poke maybe-dead things. Today, it’s Todd’s job to seek out the latest gadgets, gear and technology that could make all of our lives easier/cooler. 

I’ve been watching and waiting, biding my time, and it’s finally here. I’m so excited! Who wouldn’t be? It’s time to switch to LED lights! If you’re not quite sure about making the switch yourself, then read on.

I’m a lighting freak. I was in wholesale lighting sales back in 1995 and through that I learned quite a bit about lights. I care about lumen output and color temperature more than most people. I learned about light pollution and proper use of task and accent lighting. I sold every size and variety of light bulb and light fixture available.

Back in the 90’s industrial customers were switching from incandescent to Metal Halide and residential customers were switching from incandescent to Compact Fluorescent. Sadly, though, the only LED lights that were on the market then were LED rope lights and fiber optics.

I need to admit that I can’t stand fluorescent lights for home use. They usually buzz or hum, their color is too blue, and the Compact Fluorescent bulbs overheat and never last as long as they say they will. They have their uses, but as a replacement for the “good old light bulb” around your house they suck. Never mind that they get dim or won’t even start when they are outside in the dead of winter.

Back to the present: I was at Costco this past weekend and I ran across EXACTLY what I have been waiting for: an A19 size LED light that uses 10 Watts of power while putting out 800 lumens at a color temperature of 3000K for a price under $10. I almost fainted. Then as I regained my senses I grabbed two whole flats of the bulbs (24 in total), surprising the two women who had been standing there reading the package trying to figure out if they should buy any.

A bit of explanation: “Lumens” are a measure of how much light the bulbs will actually produce. If you are shopping for LED lights to replace regular 60 Watt bulbs, make sure that you buy ones that put out around 750 lumens. Much less than that and they may seem dim. Your wife will not appreciate this as she’s trying to put on her makeup.

“Watts” are a measure of how much electricity the bulb will consume while you have it turned on. Around 10 Watts is average for these replacement LED lights, which means that you will be using one-sixth as much electricity (17%) after you switch to LED.

3000K is a measurement of the color temperature of the light that is produced. The standard incandescent bulbs are about 2700K color temperature so 3000K is very close. It is just slightly more blue (or less yellow, if you prefer). Don’t fall for any marketing terms like “warm white”, “cool white” or “daylight” – every manufacturer’s “warm white” is slightly different. If they don’t list the exact color temperature, then you’re taking your chances.

Finally, the cost of the LED lights needed to be under $10 for me to justify to myself that I should switch. In reality, even a price of double that would be worth it – it may have been just me being stubborn. Regardless, I found a nice online calculator that will help you determine how long it will take for the LED lights to pay for themselves:


When I put all of the numbers in for my situation I ended up with an 18 month payback period. Try the calculator for yourself and see your own payback period. If you aren’t sure what you’re paying for electricity you can look it up or just use $0.10 per kWh. For most people it should be less than 3 years, which to me says “BUY NOW!”

Happy shopping! Hopefully I’ve earned you at least one additional trip to Home Depot or Costco. And don’t go spending your electricity savings all in one place.

About the author:
Todd Trann has been programming computers since 1983, and is a self-proclaimed geek and Dumb White Husband. If your Volvo engine won’t start he suggests checking the diodes just before the fuel pump relay. You can find him on Twitter at@toddtrann.

In an effort to make the world less dumb, we are now giving away free books. Check out this page and read, or be stupid. 
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  • reply Kelly Polark ,

    My husband JUST bought a bunch of LED lights for our home on Sunday and installed some. The only problem now is that I need to clean the bathroom more because more shows up in the brighter light! ;)

    • reply Todd Trann ,

      Excellent! And what power tool did your husband purchase whole he was out getting these new lights?

      • reply Jim Foronda ,

        I like my kelvinses in the 5000s. Actually, I want a little sun in a box to give me daylight in my house.

        • reply Todd Trann ,

          My wife says that when it comes to picking out paint I’m darn near color blind, so if you prefer a whiter light all the power to you! OK not all the power. Just 17% of the power. ;)

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