LED Lights, not just for traffic signals any more.

For the last two years have been trying to find a good LED solution for lighting my house.  I’ve purchased more than 20 different LED lights that ranged in price from $15-$75 each.  Until recently, every single one of them failed within six weeks.  Price did not determine quality at all.  The best lasted 5 1/2 weeks before it started making stripes like a street light.  Anyone driving around city streets nowadays knows that LED lighting has replaced most of the stoplights to save energy.  It’s pretty simple to see pieces of the LEDs that fail just driving around looking at the new style LED street lights.

The lights in my house did exactly the same thing, strings of the LEDs within the bulb array would begin to fail.  At first you don’t notice it because it’s in the ceiling, but eventually it becomes clear that half of them are out when the room is darker than normal.  Even with these failures I have never stopped trying.  Inside the house   dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs are in use except the kitchen, which is halogen.

One thing to keep in perspective, all of the original can lights used less electricity than the Air Conditioner.  We have replaced our washer, dryer, dishwasher and refrigerator with more energy efficient models as well.  Cutting out 6090W of Maximum use only equates to about $1.00 per hour at todays rates.  Since our home has a full lighting control, we really only use about 500W during a normal evening down from about 1300, and 800W if we are entertaining down from about 2500W.  There is real savings here and swapping out for LED is an even smaller incremental gain.

Like all things, lights have an exponential decline in return on investment.  A 100W incandescent bulb can be found for under $3.00.  A 15W CFL is going to run about $8.00.  It takes two years to get the difference back.  Currently the Phillps 5W LED flood light is $69.00 at The Home Depot.  To get that money back at 10W savings over the CFL is nearly impossible.

We have three LED light sections in our test area.  These are non-dimmable at a back entry.  These are from Lights of America and purchased at Costco.  At only $14.00 each they are the least expensive LED lights we have purchased and so far the longest lasting.  If these make it another month, we may try them on dimming circuits.  Since 80% of our home is dimmable, the LED lights may not like it.

We chose the back entry since these lights are automatically on from sunset until midnight or we go to bed, whichever comes first.  We switched from three 13W compact fluorescent to the three 5 watt LED bulbs.  There is plenty of light for that area and reducing consumption from 39W to 15W is over a 50% savings.  It is so small a usage change, I am not sure we will ever recover the $14 spent on the bulbs.  If we had halogen or incandescent, these new LED lights are clearly a winner.  If you have compact fluorescent, I wouldn’t replace them until they die, then upgrade to LED.

Most recently Phillips came out with a line of MR-16 low voltage spot lights.  I replaced a 20W Halogen flood with a 4W LED.  Since the LED cost $20.00 it is going to be a while to get it back.

Here is what we know so far.  The little LED is working fine on a dimming circuit.  Read the boxes carefully since there are some that say not for dimming and others that don’t.  The price is the same.  When you dim the hallway to say 20%, the LED appears to remain almost full bright.  The halogens get very dark.  The magnetic transformer has a little buzz to it, and the electricians tell me it is because we aren’t using enough of a load.  Stay tuned, if this bulb lasts a month, I will get four more and see how they hold up.

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