LED lights save money, light better, use less energy

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LED lightbulbs with an Efficiency Maine subsidy are available at many stores for $6 to $9 for a pack of four 60-watt bulbs. LED bulbs last longer, use less electricity,  provide more brightness and don’t contain mercury, says Andy Meyer of Efficiency Maine.

Want a bright idea to save money and conserve energy?

LED lightbulbs are the way to go, according to Efficiency Maine, whose subsidy program makes the bulbs available at discounted prices. 

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At participating retailers (including Wal-Mart and The Home Depot), a box of four sells for between $6 and $9. In 2016 the same box sold for about $20.

The LED bulbs last longer, use less electricity and don’t contain mercury as the squiggly CFL bulbs do. Plus, the LED lightbulbs provide brighter light.

“For years we heard bold promises of what LEDs would someday be able to do,” said Andy Meyer, residential program manager at Efficiency Maine. “Their time has come.”

Like June dandelions on chemical-free lawns, their numbers are growing.

LED bulbs were added to the Efficiency Maine program in 2013. Last year 2.9 million energy-efficient lightbulbs were sold through the program. Of those, 1.6 million were LEDs. This year, only LED bulbs are offered through the Efficiency Maine program.

In household use, each 60-watt LED can save about $5.82 a year because they use 83 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs. The LED bulbs also use less than CFL bulbs, which cost about $5.26 a year to use.

“Switching to LED can pay for itself in three months,” Meyer said. “If you wait three months to switch, you’re losing money.”

LED bulbs are lit by diodes, similar to computer chips. Because they use all of their energy for light, they use less energy and are more efficient.

Incandescent and halogen bulbs are filled with wires that get so hot they emit light. They use more energy because they have to heat up and stay hot to light.

Because LED bulbs use less energy, they don’t get very warm, so they are also safer. An LED light has a lifetime of up to 34 years (based on two hours of use per day), or 25,000 hours. 

Incandescent bulbs have an average lifetime of 1.4 years, or 1,000 hours. That means if a homeowner used the old-styled bulbs for 35 years, they’d have to change the bulbs 24 times. The LED bulb would have to be changed once.

“That’s 24 times you’re not stuck in the dark, 24 times you’re not precariously standing and reaching on a ladder to switch out bulbs,” Meyer said. “That’s 1/24 of the trash.”

LED bulbs are instant-on; they don’t need time to warm up to full strength. They are tolerate of the cold, and some are dim-able in compatible sockets.

Features to consider when picking out LED bulbs include size, wattage and color. A medium-sized bulb will fit in most standard sockets.

Lighting styles include cool/daylight, which is great for task work and very bright, “like an operating room,” Meyer said. The warm or soft LED bulb is closer to a standard light.

With new “filament” bulbs, you can see through the bulb and look directly at the wire. They also have frosted bulbs, which look very similar to incandescents.

Prices of LED bulbs change rapidly, and Efficiency Maine has a website with the stores that have the best prices. The list is updated weekly. For more information, visit Efficiency Maine’s “lighting solutions” page.

Coupled with the dropping prices of LEDs and the subsidy program, the bulbs are affordable. More than 377 stores across Maine are participating in the program. Look for bulbs with an Efficiency Maine logo on the package.

The program is funded by electricity ratepayers. Money to subsidize efficiency goes back to Efficiency Maine and is used in many ways, Meyer said. LED lights are a big part of that, he said. 

“Say a store is selling them for $5. They’ll charge the customer $2 and send a receipt to Efficiency Maine who will send the store $3,” Meyer said.

Investing money in the LED program is less expensive and more environmentally friendly than building a new power plant, Meyer said.

“It’s 80 percent less electricity, and 80 percent less emissions than a power plant,” he said.

Submitted photo. Andy Meyer of Efficiency Maine talks to a resident about energy savings.

An Efficiency Maine chart shows how much electricity different lightbulbs use. The new LED bulbs use the least.

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