Monday, June 24, 2013

Say Goodbye to the Incandescent Lamp - and perhaps the CFL?

by Chris Liston

Say goodbye to the incandescent lamp - and perhaps the CFL? As the federal government continues to phase-out A-type incandescent light bulbs, a price war between Cree Lighting and Philips Lighting has pushed the life-cycle cost of A-type LEDs below the life-cycle cost of A-type CFLs. 

The A-type light bulb is the most common type of lamp uses in Massachusetts homes. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), the 100-watt incandescent was phased-out in 2012, the 75-watt incandescent will be phased out in 2013 and the 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent will be phased out in 2014. Since EISA was announced, LED manufacturers have been scrambling to develop cost-effective alternatives. 

In March 2013, Cree Lighting shattered LED price points with a 9.5-watt A-type LED at a cost just under $15 and Philips responded by lowering the price point of its own A-type LED. As of June 2013 Home Depot locations in Massachusetts are carrying the Cree 9.5-watt LED (60-watt equivalent) for $12.97 and the Philips 12.5-watt LED (60-watt equivalent) for $10.97. Analysts expect these prices to fall below the $10 mark sometime before the end of the year. 

How is a $13 LED less expensive than a $5 CFL? The answer is in the life-cycle cost. Over a 25,000 hour period a 9.5-watt LED will cost approximately $51 in lamp costs and energy costs. Over the same period a 13-watt CFL will cost approximately $61 in lamp costs and energy costs. When Philips and Cree dropped below the $15 price point, LEDs became a better financial investment than CFLs. 

Life-cycle cost analysis remains a difficult sell for budget conscious consumers. When CFLs hit the market in the mid-1990s they retailed for $20-$30 and claimed a $40 savings over the life of the lamp, but by 1999 incandescent lamps still outsold CFLs 25-to-1. In a similar trend, analysts expect LED sales to surpass CFL sales sometime between 2018 and 2020.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting comparison, but subsidies to Cree and others should be included for true cost of lighting to taxpayers...

    There are several other reasons such life cycle cost comparisons don't hold up as stated,
    including that most bulbs in average 40 bulb US households are rarely used, the referenced heat effect lowering heating costs were applicable, and much else.

    Freedom Light Bulb - Supposed Savings

    Re Life Cycle Sustainability (which seems a main theme of this blog),
    remember also the far greater complexity of Fluoro/LED lighting, in terms of mining for rare earth minerals, component manufacture, product assembly, recycling (when not dumped, leeching mercury etc) - and all the transport in between.
    Transport includes bunker oil powered shipping of CFLs and LEDs from China (sometimes rebranded in USA): It is far easier to sustainably locally make simple patent-expired incandescents by small and new startups, hence local sustainability on "classical" grounds.

    Besides, the 1000 hr incandescent lifespan standard arises from the Phoebus cartel (look it up) between GE, Philips and Osram/Sylvania who also sought the ban on unprofitasble patent-expired generic simple regular incandescents, again as referenced (USA and EU).
    Long lasting incandescents still at relative low cost (10 000 hr and 20 000 hr) can and are being made for industry, eg mining, but kept off consumer markets to maintain profits.

    Also, since incandescent lighting is mainly used off-peak evening-night, it uses spare generating capacity anyway, including that the same coal may be burned regardless of light choice as newer cycling coal plants are still slow and expensive to turn down at night (APTECH referenced).

    Moreover, saving money is not the only reason to choose lighting, and incandescent have their own sage advantages in different situations
    "Switch all your lights and save money!"
    is like saying "Eat only bananas, and save money!" ;-)


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