What type of light bulb saves money in the long run? Find out.

Manufacturers now make LED bulbs that resemble traditional light bulbs. Provided.

Confused about which type of light bulb to buy? The Consumer Federation of America recommends purchasing LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs rather than traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs, and says you’ll save money in the long run.

A household using at least 20 light bulbs can save $1,000 or more over  a decade by using LED bulbs, CFA officials said in a Monday conference call.

“We are in the midst of a light bulb revolution that offers considerable savings to consumers, mainly through lower electricity costs,” said CFA executive director Stephen Brobeck.

CFA recently surveyed the price of every 60-watt equivalent, non-dimmable, soft white socket light bulb sold in packages of two or more bulbs in the Alexandria, Va. area by Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, Target, Giant Supermarket, Safety, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Family Dollar.

CFA then computed ten-year costs using requiring disclosures on the packages about annual electricity costs and estimated life of one light bulb as well as the price of the bulb.

Ten-year costs per light bulb ranged from $11.74 to $82.90 with LEDs offering significant savings because of their low energy usage and long life. The average 10-year cost of the LEDs was $13.70, while the average 10-year cost of the incandescents and halogens was $69.49.

“By using LED light bulbs, consumers not only save money, they also curb electricity use, potentially reducing the need for expensive new power plants,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, CFA’s director of energy programs.

LED bulbs typically use about $1 of electricity annually, while Incandescent and halogen bulbs typically consume about $5 of electricity annually. LED bulbs last about 10 years, as compared to the less than one year to two years that the other bulbs last.

Before 2012, consumers had a choice between the 125-year-old incandescent bulb or the compact fluorescent bulb, distinguished by its spiral shape. In 2012 because new federal energy efficiency standards went into effect, a new class of incandescent bulbs known as halogen entered the market.

By the last quarter of 2016, about two-fifths of socket light bulbs shipped by manufacturers were halogen.

But in the last two years shipments of LED bulbs rose rapidly, and they are now the dominant bulb displayed by large retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot, though not necessarily by supermarkets, drugstores and discount outlets.

LED prices have fallen considerably, and now 60-watt replacements are available for under $5 at most stores.

Here’s CFA’s advice about how to shop for lightbulbs:

Consumers should purchase LED bulbs but not buy the first LED package they see at a local retailer.  (The CFA consumer survey found that only two percent of respondents said they buy most light bulbs online.)

 

  • First, decide what type of bulb you want in terms of “wattage” (now lumens), type of light color or appearance such as warm yellow or daylight (measured in kelvin), and dimmability.  Purchase a bulb or two of the type you think you prefer and try it out at home.
  • Second, look first to the house brand light bulbs of retailers –  Utilitech for Lowe’s, Ecosmart for Home Depot, Great Value for Walmart, Up&Up for Target – because they tend to be cheaper, and because stores are likely to resolve problems with their own brand of light bulbs more quickly.  Look for those with the ENERGY STAR logo since they meet minimum light output, color quality, and warranty requirements set by the federal government.  Keep in mind that, because LEDs last so long, a $1-$2 dollar difference in the price of a LED bulb represents only a few cents annually in costs during the life of the bulb while savings from lower electricity costs represents dollars.
  • Third, if your bulb does not work properly or burns out quickly, take it back to the retailer and ask for a new bulb. In the recent past, to reduce the price of LEDs, manufacturers have sometimes reduced bulb quality, as evidenced by some complaints made to the websites of major retailers.  Returning the defective light bulb will serve two purposes: 1) The store will almost always provide you a new bulb, and 2) it will also encourage the retailer to complain to the manufacturer of the bulb.