New LED lighting technology embraced by consumers, Total Cost of Ownership saves money over incandescent, fluorescent bulbs

The launch of our new LED lights from EcoLEDs ( is already proven to be a huge success. Thank you to all the customers who have purchased our new LED light bulbs from BetterLifeGoods ( In the first 24 hours, the sales of these lights greatly exceeded our expectations.

The primary question that has emerged from conversations with potential customers concerns the perception that LED lights are very expensive. This article attempts to answer that question, as well as providing additional details on where these new LED lights can be successfully used around the home or office.

First, the price issue: LED lights are, indeed, far more expensive up front than incandescent lights or fluorescent lights. Our high-end 10-watt LED light bulb, for example, currently costs just under $100. It replaces an incandescent 100-watt light bulb that typically costs around $1. So at first, the 10-watt LED light seems to be $99 more expensive.

However, lights do not actually work unless they also consume electricity, and thus the real question about the cost of light bulbs must take into account the Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. What is the TCO for producing 50,000 hours of light with a 100-watt incandescent bulb?

As it turns out, a 100-watt light bulb actually uses 101.5 watts of electricity. Over 50,000 hours (which would require replacing it 50 times with a new bulb), it will use 5,075 kilowatt-hours of electricity, costing approximately $500 (based on ten cents per kilowatt-hour). So a 100-watt light bulb actually costs you $500 to operate over 50,000 hours. On top of that, it produces a whopping 10,150 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions which directly promote global warming and climate change. Mercury is also released into the atmosphere from all the energy usage, thanks to the fact that much of the electricity consumed in the world comes from coal-fired power plants that emit toxic mercury into the air.

So the Total Cost of Ownership for a 100-watt light bulb is well over $500 for producing 50,000 hours of light.

In contrast, what is the Total Cost of Ownership for our 10-watt EcoLEDs light bulb? The LED light itself costs about $100 up front. It uses 10.8 watts of electricity, which adds up to 540 kilowatt-hours over 50,000 hours. That's about $54 in electricity, vs. the $500 needed to power the 100-watt bulb mentioned above. Plus, our 10-watt LED light reduces CO2 emissions by 9,000 pounds, producing only about 1,080 pounds of CO2 instead of the 10,150 pounds produced from a 100-watt incandescent bulb.

The Total Cost of Ownership for a 10-watt LED light bulb is $100 for the light, and $54 in electricity for producing 50,000 hours of light.

Thus, the LED light is $154 vs. $550 or so (electricity + the cost of replacement bulbs) for incandescent lights.

Which brings us to the question: How much would you rather pay for 50,000 hours of light? $154 or $550? It makes obvious financial sense to pay only $154, especially when you're also protecting the environment at the same time.

Why LED lights cost more up front

Overall, LED lights are far less expensive to own and operate than incandescent lights. Still, many consumers are frustrated at the up-front cost. It's tough to fit a $100 light bulb into a tight budget. I share that concern, and I wish these lights were a lot less expensive to manufacture, but the fact is that quality LED components cost more. The copper, aluminum alloys and lenses that go into our LED lights are quality components, not cheap disposable parts like you normally find in an incandescent light. Building a quality LED light costs a lot more money than building a cheap light that you toss into landfill after a thousand hours of wasting electricity before burning out.

LED component prices are falling each year, however, and the future will no doubt bring more affordable LED lights to the marketplace. We anticipate that retail prices will fall 10 percent per year for quality LED lights, and we will of course work to bring down the prices of our own LED lights as quickly as we can. A less expensive light means increased affordability by a greater number of consumers, and that means a greater impact on saving energy and halting global warming. If we could sell these lights for one dollar and not go broke doing so, you can bet we'd be selling them for that dollar!

LED lights will never be as cheap as incandescent light bulbs. However, they will always pay you back in significant savings over time. And as electricity costs continue to rise, LED lighting makes even more economic sense.

As a consumer, you see, you're really buying hours of light, not just the bulbs that produce the light. The cost of the bulb is the smallest part of the equation. You'll find a similar situation with inkjet printers and inkjet cartridges. The printer might only cost $49 up front, but you might spend several hundred dollars in ink cartridges in a single year in order to operate the printer. Thus, the Total Cost of Ownership of the inkjet printer must take into the account the cost of the ink.

Uses for LED lights

Many consumers are wondering where they can use LED lights around their homes or businesses. Can they replace lights in room lamps? Ceiling fans? Desk lamps? Recessed lights?

To answer this question, remember that LED lights are really spotlights. They shine light in a specific direction with a certain beam angle. A wide beam angle shines light wider from side to side, while a narrow beam angle shines light in a narrow cone with extreme brightness. Thus, LED lights do NOT shine light in all directions like a typical incandescent light. This makes them the wrong choice for room lamps with lampshades or any light socket requiring "ambient" light in all directions.

What LED lights are great at is shining light straight down onto a surface or straight up to bounce off a ceiling (like a Torchiere light setup). Our high-end LED lights are fantastic in desk lamps, as they offer extreme brightness and outstanding light clarity that's useful for any work or study situation. They're also perfect for recessed lighting and down lights. I'm actually writing this article with the help of a 10-watt LED light in a small desk lamp that's aimed at my wall. It bounces white light across the entire room, illuminating my keyboard and computer. (It also stays cool enough to touch, since it doesn't waste much electricity as excess heat.)

LED lights are also great for porch lights, garages, sheds or any application where you need to leave the light on all night. That's because LED lights will use only 1/10th the electricity of incandescent bulbs, saving you big dollars on electricity. Even our 3-watt LED light is sufficient for nighttime use where you just want to "leave the light on" around your property.

All of our LED lights produce no UV radiation or IR radiation, making them perfect for use in museums, hospitals, offices or areas where UV radiation might degrade the surroundings (such as illuminating valuable artwork or photographs). The fact that they run remarkably cool also means they greatly reduce the fire hazard normally associated with the use of lights.

LED lights will make incandescent and fluorescent lights obsolete

I will offer a prediction right here: LED lights will render both incandescent light bulbs AND compact fluorescent lights obsolete. Many countries are already banning incandescent lights, and four U.S. states are considering their ban. Compact fluorescent lights will eventually be abandoned as the public learns the truth about their mercury content. Only LED lights offer energy efficiency and environmental friendliness at the same time. That's why LED lighting technology represents the future for both residential and commercial lighting.

Philips says it will even stop manufacturing incandescent lights by 2016, but most consumers will have switched long before then. Within a few years, only the most financially-ignorant consumers will even consider using incandescent light bulbs. Burning a light that wastes 95% of the electricity it consumes is sort of like driving a car that gets a fuel economy of one mile per gallon. No consumer in their right mind would continue to throw away their cash (and destroy the environment) when a sensible, efficient alternative is readily available.

And LED lights will get even brighter, better and less expensive in the coming years. Through, I'm making an effort to bring these lights to eco-conscious consumers around the world. Within a few years, we hope to have lights exceeding 500 lumens of light output that will cost under $50 at retail. The trends are already in place, and U.S. LED component manufacturers are gearing up their factories for higher volumes.

LED components will follow price trends of PC components

The LED light industry today is much like the PC industry was in the 1980's. Remember what it cost you to buy a lousy 4.77mHz PC with a floppy disk drive and 64k of RAM in 1981? It was about four thousand dollars -- and it didn't even have color! I remember the first hard drives for Apple computers cost about five thousand dollars... and they only stored only 10 megabytes!

By comparison, you can now by a 4 gigabyte SD memory card for under a hundred bucks at retail! That's a massive reduction in cost as these electronics became cheaper to manufacture and widely accepted by consumers. LED components have been following a similar path. A single component that cost $10 today would have cost $1000 just a few years ago. And a few years from now, it might only cost 10 cents. Prices are falling by 50% a year on LED components, which means LED light bulbs will get increasingly affordable with each passing year.

Even right now, buying LED lights makes great economic sense. They pay you back in 1-2 years in electricity costs alone (depending on how much you pay for electricity), not to mention the benefits of protecting the environment from more CO2 and mercury emissions. That's an environmental cost that consumers rarely factor into their monthly electricity bill, but it's a very real cost associated with wasting electricity.

What is the value of preventing the release of 10,000 pounds of CO2 into the air? What is the value of preventing the release of a kilogram of mercury from a power plant? You see, nobody has really put a price figure on these things because polluting the environment continues to be seen by most American consumers and politicians as a revenue-neutral event when, in reality, it is a huge hidden cost against future economic productivity. Every gram of mercury and every pound of carbon dioxide released into the air places an unknown future cost on the national economy. With this in mind, consider the REAL cost of burning incandescent lights. It's not just what you waste in paying for electricity, it's also what future costs you indirectly impose upon the environment.

Do you get the big picture?

Understanding all this requires "big picture thinking," and sadly, the ability to see the big picture is sorely lacking among many consumers, businesses and lawmakers. Americans seem to be primarily focused on the short-term picture: How much can I save right now? Can I get this cheaper today at the expense of some future hidden burden that will have to be paid by someone else?

Canadians tend to be very well informed about the long-term implications of their present consumption decisions. In fact, many of the customers ordering our EcoLEDs lights are located in Canada. They understand the big picture and realize that paying more money right now for a technology that will save them hundreds of dollars in the long run (while saving the environment at the same time) makes instant sense.

Many Americans understand this, too, but due to our crumbling education system, even the ability to do the basic math calculations required to even understand the Total Cost of Ownership seems to be a rare skill. The vast majority of high school graduates in the United States cannot calculate a 15 percent restaurant tip in their heads. How on earth will they ever understand the Total Cost of Ownership concept for energy-efficient lighting?

I don't have an answer for that. Not everybody will get this. The big picture will only be grasped by some. The others will have to be dragged into the future, kicking and screaming about the government banning their incandescent light bulbs. But the smarter, better-informed consumers out there (like NewsTarget readers) get this right now, and they understand that LED lights make instant sense in terms of personal economics and planetary impact.

(Full disclosure: I am the founder of which manufactures and sells LED light bulbs, and I have a financial stake in the commercial success of EcoLEDs. A portion of every sale provides financial support to the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center, where I volunteer as the executive director.)


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