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LED vs. Incandescent Lighting: A Cost Comparison

This is one of the most common tips you’ll see for reducing your electric bill: switch from incandescent lightbulbs to LED lightbulbs. Numerous publications promote this energy-saving tip, including online articles from the Department of Energy.

You might wonder how something as simple as switching your lightbulbs could have a noticeable impact on your energy bill. To show you how this works, we’ve provided a breakdown of some key differences between incandescent lighting and LED lighting.

Cost to Operate

LED bulbs cost less to operate (leave on) than incandescent bulbs. To illustrate this, let’s compare two bulbs of similar brightness: a 60W incandescent and a 12W LED.

Here’s a breakdown of the math:

  • The 60W incandescent bulb consumes 60 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every 1,000 hours.

  • The 12W LED bulb consumes 12 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every 1,000 hours.

  • As of 2019, the residential electricity rates in Virginia average approximately $0.11 per kWh.

  • At this rate, it would cost $6.60 to operate the incandescent bulb for 1,000 hours.

  • It would cost $1.32 to operate the LED bulb for the same amount of time.

Lifespan

LED bulbs last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. The Department of Energy reports that a 60W incandescent bulb will last for approximately 1,000 hours. You can expect a similarly-bright 12W LED bulb to last around 25,000 hours.

Long-Term Value

LED bulbs have a higher upfront cost than incandescent bulbs. Initially, this may lead people to believe that it’s more cost-effective to buy incandescent lighting than LED lighting. However, as mentioned above, LED bulbs last longer than incandescent bulbs and cost less to operate--so which lighting option offers the best long-term value?

Let’s break it down by first assessing the 10-year cost of an incandescent bulb:

  • An average 60W bulb will cost around $2.70 to purchase.

  • Let’s say that in one year, you used this bulb for 1,000 hours at a rate of $0.11 per kWh.

  • In 10 years, operating this bulb would cost you $66.

  • However, incandescent bulbs have an approximate lifespan of 1,000 hours. If you used an incandescent bulb for 1,000 hours a year, that probably means that you would have to replace the bulb every year.

  • Taking the cost of the original bulb and its replacements into account, incandescent bulbs would cost you $93 over 10 years.

Now let’s break down the 10-year cost of a similarly-bright LED bulb:

  • An average 12W bulb will cost around $6.25 to purchase.

  • Let’s say that in one year, you used this bulb for 1,000 hours at a rate of $0.11 per kWh.

  • In 10 years, operating this bulb would cost you $13.20.

  • You’d still be using the original bulb you bought, and it would probably have about 10,000 to 15,000 hours of usage left.

  • Taking the cost of the original bulb into account, the LED bulb would cost you $19.45 over 10 years.

When we step back and look at a 10-year timeline, we can see that despite the lower upfront cost of an incandescent bulb, an LED bulb will offer the best long-term value.

At Hutton Power & Light, our Chesapeake electricians have the training to install all types of lighting systems in your home or business. Contact us online or call us at (757) 600-6605.

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