No Krazy Coupon Lady likes paying more than she should for anything. So it’s important to realize that the real cost associated with the dozens of lightbulbs in your home is more than just what you pay for them at the store. It can be tempting to go for the cheapest bulb you can get, but I am reminded of the saying, "I'm too broke to be cheap." In the case of lightbulbs, a little cost analysis shows that the higher upfront price of LEDs will save you big in the long run.

What are LEDs?

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are the most energy efficient bulb on the market because they work differently than a standard bulb. Without getting into all the science behind how they work, it is important to know that they are rated to last far longer than a typical bulb, shine cool to the touch, and use much less energy to deliver the same brightness of light.

What to look for when buying an LED bulb

Watts measure energy used while lumens measure light output, so you'll want to look for a bulb that uses a low wattage but has high lumens to get the most savings. So, how many lumens do you need? If you are replacing your old 60-watt bulbs you will want an LED light that produces around 800 lumens or more.

Where to go and what to get

LED bulbs come in at a wide range of price points with mixed reviews, so you’ll want to do your research. Even though the cost of LEDs has come down, they can still run you as much as $30 per bulb (although more economically-friendly options are hitting the market). One of the best values for the money is made by Cree, which is carried at The Home Depot. They carry a 9.5 watt 800-lumen bulb for under $13. The bulb is very well reviewed, is dimmable, rated for indoor/outdoor use, and has a 10-year limited warranty.

How much will an LED bulb save me?

According to the US Department of Energy, Americans saved 270 million last year by switching to LED lighting, and the potential for more savings is huge.

Here is a breakdown comparing a standard 60-watt GE bulb with a 9.5-watt bulb from Cree:

General Purpose GE 60-Watt Bulb                    Cree 9.5-Watt Bulb
$3.97 for 6 or $0.66 cents each                            $12.97 each
60 Watts                                                                9.5 Watts
780 Lumens                                                          800 Lumens
2,000 hours                                                           25,000 hours

If you use your bulb for 3 hours a day for 5 years at a rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour, the GE bulb would cost you $36.15 in energy, and you would be almost done with your third bulb. The Cree would cost $5.70 and would still have over 19,000 hours—or 17 years—before it needs to be changed! When you add in the cost of the bulb, the Cree LED still wins in this 5-year test, coming in at 18.67 compared to 38.13.

When you consider that the above example is per bulb, you can see how switching your whole house to LEDs can equal big savings!

Integrated LED lighting at IKEA

IKEA has a whole line of stylish lamps and chandeliers that use LED technology and plans to only sell LED lighting by 2016. Affordable and trendy, these fixtures can give you a high-end look in your home with in-drawer, under-cabinet, and other custom-lighting options while keeping your energy bills down. I own the ONSJÖ LED chandelier. It only set me back $60 and I get tons of compliments on it. Their full collection of LED lighting can be seen here, and many products can be shipped if you do not live near a store.

This is a guest post by April from Grand Blanc, MI
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