My Project To Switch From Incandescent Light Bulbs To Energy Efficient Ones – 2 Years Later…

About 2 years back, I wrote a detailed post on the benefits of replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs. This was due to a of a personal project of mine – to replace all light bulbs in my house with energy efficient ones.

Now obviously, I didn’t want to do this all at the same time, but in a phased manner. So here’s what I did. I bought a few CFLs every month or LEDs if they were on sale, and slowly started replacing all the bulbs in my house.

And before I get to how it all turned out, here’s a quick recap:

Why are incandescents bad?

  • Incandescent bulbs are extremely inefficient
  • The technology behind incandescents haven’t changed much since Edison invented them
  • They aren’t very reliable

CFLs vs Incandescents

  • They are much more energy efficient than incandescents
  • CFSs were to the solution to the incandescent light bulb ban
  • They do contain mercury and require special handling and disposal
  • They are much more expensive than incandescents

LEDs vs CFLs

  • LEDs are more efficient than CFLs
  • They are as safe as incandescents and does not contain toxic gases
  • Their lifetime is much, much higher than CFLs or incandescents
  • They are very expensive
  • This is the future of light bulbs

My project to phase out incandescentsOf course, at that time, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the government’s attempt to phase out incandescents. Some people believed it was unwarranted interference into their lives.

Politics aside, this was an important step towards bringing down the cost of energy efficient light bulbs.

It’s been two years since I started this conversion project and I’m pretty much done. I’m sure you are curious to know how it all turned out! Were CFLs and LEDs worth the cost? Did they last? Was it all worth it?

The moment of truth!

  • Our electricity bills went down considerably, no doubt about that
  • The initial costs were quite high – we had lots of dimmable bulbs and dimmable CFLS and LEDs are even more expensive!
  • CFLs were a huge disappointment! Many of the CFLs did not even last a year, especially if it was in a high usage area
  • I do not know if the dimmable aspect made it unreliable or the fact it was in a high usage area
  • There was one normal CFL that was almost never turned off. That is still working
  • Dimmable CFLs did not dim that well
  • Disposing CFLs were a pain – you can’t throw them in the trash and you have to be super careful not to break it or you risk exposure to mercury vapors, a heavy metal

Change of plans
Looking at the number of CFL failures, midway, I decided to stop buying CFLs and instead buy LEDs.

  • Not a single LED has failed so far
  • Boy, are they expensive! So I had to wait till the ones I wanted went on sale and buy in bulk
  • The power consumption is very low
  • I hope they last the 22 years that they advertise!

The inconvenient truth
So, I’ll admit, I was wrong about CFLs. I don’t think I’ll buy another. LEDs are the way to go – be on the lookout for a sale and grab them. They are totally worth it!

After two years, my wallet is lighter (that’s not good!), but my electric bill is much lower and my house is 100% incandescent-free and mostly on LEDs. There are a few CFLs though. I’ll keep them as long as they work.

Let’s hear it!
What are your thoughts on the incandescent light bulb ban? Do you have CFLs, if so, are you satisfied with their performance? Have you considered LEDs? Sound off in the comments section!

Disclaimer: This is not a scientific experiment, but purely based on my perception. For all you know I might be having an erratic voltage issue! Treat the above results with some amount of skepticism!

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts” – Bertrand Russell

38 thoughts on “My Project To Switch From Incandescent Light Bulbs To Energy Efficient Ones – 2 Years Later…

  1. Thanks for the info! We have not gone around the house to systematically change bulbs, but our incandescents have been going out so as it’s time to replace we’ve been replacing mostly with LEDs. We really haven’t noticed much difference on our electricity bill- but we also moved a year ago and we’ve been getting used to what it costs to run the new home.

    • Take it slow and buy LEDs only when they go on sale. For us, our problems were compounded by the fact most of the switches were dimmer switches – which meant buying more expensive bulbs and most of the bulbs were those dome shaped bulbs (PAR30), not the usual incandescents.

      All this added to the cost. Taking out all the 75 watts and replacing them with 9 or 10 watts LEDs for the same amount of luminance made a significant change to our bills.

      • I have found the same about CFL reliability!

        Will start switching over to LED when the next one inevitably breaks. Cheers for the tips!
        Could you put a rough percentage on how much your bill went down by?

  2. Did you make any other changes to your electrical use? What about “time of day usage” (If you have a “smart meter”)?

    • I don’t have a smart meter – the only plug I pulled was from my XBox. I only plug it in when I want to use it. Other than that, did not change the lifestyle in any manner.

      I did seal drafts for the winter, I’m sure that too played a part in bringing down the current usage.

      I don’t have a smart meter, but I do have my eyes on Nest thermostat. Just waiting for it to come down in price.

  3. Mr Robert K Schad says:

    True CFL’s don’t last as advertised. I’m also switching to LED and I was lucky enough to find a sale on LED bulbs at Lowes that were subsidized by Southern California Edison. The price; $8.99 for 2 bulbs! A steel!

    • You make an excellent point which I missed to mention: many electricity suppliers provide rebates for LED/CFL purchases. Unfortunately, my state and my energy provider is not gung-ho on energy efficiency… (yeah state with lots of oil and coal, green energy is a bad word and yes alcohol is state controlled – you get the picture!)

  4. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be on the lookout for LED sales!

  5. We use CFLs because we rent, but we would go to LEDs as soon as we own since we are required to leave the lightbulbs in the apartment when we move.

  6. I went through the very process that you just described and was also disappointed in the performance of the CFL. Turning a CFL bulb on and off shortens it’s lifespan dramatically and they won’t work on a dimmer. The LEDs are much more expensive so I can’t see spending the money to replace all of my bulbs. I have CFLs in places where the light is left on like the outdoor light that stays on all night.

  7. My brother in law is a huge fan of LED lights. He has recommended them to me. We bought an outdoor LED motion light to light up our driveway. It was expensive but we are very happy with it.

  8. LEDs sound like a great alternative to CFLs! I do not like CFLs because of this -> “They do contain mercury and require special handling and disposal” so I haven’t made the switch. I wonder if LEDs will decrease in cost over time?

    • From what I can tell, LED sales are much more frequent now. I haven’t seen a dip in their regular prices though. But then as with everything, prices will come down eventually.

  9. This is great to know, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m currently renting, but if we move into a place where we have to pay for utilities (ours are included), I will keep this in mind. There was one apartment we saw where they were included – that would be nice!

  10. I’ve never conducted an experiment myself to see which is better but I just might have to give LED’s a try based on your “research.” Thanks for the info!

  11. I don’t pay that much attention to what type of lightbulbs we have. Energy savings wouldn’t be enough to justify the switch.

  12. Thanks for the information, I thought CFL is the most efficient one. I will consider that when I’ll buy for new set of bulbs for our small home.

  13. I don’t spend enough on lightbulbs to worry much about the type, but I wonder what the break-even point is. Obviously LED bulbs are expensive, but at what point does it make sense to buy them anyway?

    • Short term, you’ll probably lose money. Long term, it makes sense. The question of course is how long are you willing to wait! And the fact, the longer you wait, the cheaper LEDs will become.

      People who contemplate on installing solar panels probably have the same dilemma!

  14. I agree about the CFL. I don’t think we’ll buy another one. We only have one LED so far and I like it a lot. I’m just waiting for the price to come down a bit more.

    • Totally agree Joe! It is not a nice feeling to spend 10 times more on LEDs knowing your break-even horizon is really long! Yes, a price reduction will be a welcome change!

  15. Augh dimmable CFLs are a total waste of money. The regular CFLs have done okay for me, but still haven’t lasted as long as I thought. Maybe it’s the old wiring in my house, I dunno.

  16. Last year I did a project which required switching 8 strands of Christmas lights on and off quickly – LEDs were purchased for that. I must say, though, LEDs on the Halloween and Christmas light strands is a huge improvement – the wattages are so low you can light up a house from one outlet, heh.

  17. We bought CFLs and they are about 10 times more expensive. Power is not very reliable around here so many have burned after a few weeks. I don’t think it was worth the energy saving, and most of them had white lights which make you look like a cadaver and your place like a hospital. I’ll have a look at LED then, thanks for the idea.

  18. This sounds like something I need to do. I had heard that LEDs are the best bulbs around – we have little fairy light LEDs that have lasted for ages but are using standard energy efficient bulbs for most of our lighting needs. I think I need to make the switch although it would have to be a gradual process!

  19. Thanks for the clarification. I never really paid much attention to the differences between the two types. I’m going to focus on LED’s in the future, and bite the bullet at the cost.

  20. I have also been disappointed by CFLs. They didn’t last nearly as long as they were supposed to. I also just don’t like the light quality compared to good old-fashioned incandescents.

  21. Interesting! This was a good experiment and I was surprised to see it turned out differently than you expected.

  22. So, this is a pretty interesting article! I made the switch to all CFL’s in my home in October 2011, for every fixture. I did not and have not had any issues with quick burn out, except for one outside light. I eventually discovered that it was a light in my wiring that caused the light to burn out quickly. Once that was fixed and I replaced the bulb, I didn’t have any more issues.

    In fact, to date, I have yet to replace any of my CFL’s and I have a variety of dimmable, recess and regular CFL’s. I wonder if you could have had a bad batch of lights or if internal electrical problems exacerbated the quick burn out issue. Just a thought!

    Anyhow, I love making changes around the home that improve energy efficiency and put $$$ in my pocket. I would eventually like to move everything to LED’s provided the ROI is much greater than the savings I’ve seen with using the CFL’s.

  23. One other perk I’ve found of LEDs over CFLs is that LEDs don’t mind the cold (in fact they love it because it helps their heatsinks dissipate heat) but CFLs get notably dimmer when the temperature drops. I had been using CFLs in my porch light, but whenever winter would roll around (or even nighttime in the fall) the bulb would get *very* dim. I swapped it out with a Philips “100W equivalent” LED and while it was definitely not a cheap bulb (even compared to the other LED bulbs I’ve purchased) it is insanely bright, uses minimal power, and stays bright regardless of the temperature.

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