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Is it time to change over to LED light bulbs?

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed incandescent light bulbs have been disappearing from store shelves.

The phasing out of traditional bulbs means we’re seeing more compact fluorescents (CFL) and, lately, more LED bulbs.

Today we’re looking at the LED offerings I could find locally.

I set out last week to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart to see what was available as an LED replacement for a 60-watt bulb.

Watt’s a lumen?

The first thing you’ll realize when shopping for light bulbs these days is that watts are out and lumens are in.

You’ll be much better off if you can remember that 40 watts equals 400 lumens, 60 watts equals 800 lumens and 75 watts equals 1,100 lumens. These figures are approximate and may vary depending on manufacturer.

Why don’t we keep the watt system we all know?

CFL and LED bulbs use much less wattage for the same amount of light.

An average 800-lumen LED bulb only uses 10 watts of power.

The same 800-lumen CFL uses 13 watts.

Color temperature

You’ll also notice that LED bulbs come in different color temperatures, which equate to how yellow or blue the light looks.

The scale runs from 2,700 degrees Kelvin (abbreviated as K), which will remind you of the warm, yellow light of incandescents, to 5,000 K, which is a bluer, more daylight or natural tone.

The 2,700 K bulbs are sometimes called warm or soft while the 5,000 K are usually called daylight or natural.

Just the facts

I was pleased to see a fact box on the back of each bulb. It looked like the nutrition labels you see on food packaging. It lists the lumens, estimated yearly energy cost, estimated life span, light temperature and energy used, in watts.

To dim or not to dim

Unlike most CFLs, dimming is a benefit of many LEDs. In fact, most LEDs I found could be dimmed, but a few could not. The ability to dim is noted on the packaging, but it’s not always on the front or in large type. If dimming is important, read closely before you buy.

The pricing

We’ve been spoiled for decades with cheap light bulbs that didn’t last all that long.

A year or two from an incandescent bulb is a long time, and frankly we didn’t gripe too much because they cost less than a dollar. Most traditional bulbs were rated at 1,200 hours.

At 11 cents per kilowatt hour, a 60-watt bulb used three hours per day costs $7.21 per year in electricity.

CFLs hit shelves in the mid-1980s and they were expensive, but promised a life of about 6,000 hours.

Now CFLs can be found for a dollar (in multipacks) and they are the best bang for the buck, although if you have them in lamps that are used frequently for short tasks (five minutes or less), they can have a life span as short as traditional bulbs.

The average 800-lumen CFL uses 13 watts and costs $1.56 per year to run.

LEDs have just become what some people would call affordable in the last 12 months.

The average 800-lumen LED has a life span of 22,000 hours and costs around $11 per bulb.

The LED costs around $1.32 per year in electricity.

So what did I find available around town?


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