How Long Will LED Bulbs Last? 5 Years And Counting

How Long Will LED Bulbs LastLED light bulbs are amazing.  They use about 15% of the power of incandescent bulbs to put out the same light, they are instantly on when turned on instead of having a long warm up period like CFL bulbs, and they last for 25 – 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs.  I’ve written about LED bulbs many times on this blog and have been asked several times,  How long will LED bulbs last?  Are the claims true?

5 years ago on a fluke I decided to walk through the light bulb aisle at Wal-Mart to see if they had any LED bulbs.  Not only did they have LED bulbs for sale there they also had them at extreme discounts. Instead of the going rate at the time of around $25 to $30 per bulb, Walmart had bulbs for around $1 a piece. I felt like an excited kid on Christmas morning when I rang up a dozen of these bulbs and paid with a $10 bill.  It reminded me greatly of my early adventures to Funcoland where I could often walk out with dozens of original Nintendo games for $20.  Over the next 4 months I switched out every fixture in my house to LED bulbs, and along the way upgraded a few fixtures to better lights.

The Walmart in my area has had steeply discounted prices for most of the last 5 years on LED bulbs through a partnership with our local utility to encourage energy efficiency.  All of the light bulbs I have are Great Value brand.

The Light Bulbs I Have:

40W : 40W equivalent LED bulbs use roughly 6 watts of power.  I love these because these are the most efficient lighting solution you can find.  I have these installed in the kids bedrooms, our bathrooms, and our utility room. These are great for smaller spaces. Amazon has a 16 pack for $28, making them $1.75 a piece.

60W: 60W equivalent bulbs use roughly 8.5 watts of power. These are the workhorse of my LED bulbs.  I have these installed in our living room, family room, and hallways. You can buy a 24 pack of 60W Sylvania LED bulbs on Amazon for only $29.90,  that’s only $1.25 a piece!

100W: 100W LED equivalent bulbs use around 14 watts of power.  I only have 2 of these bulbs installed in my Garage.  I switched from the 60W bulbs when the 100W bulbs went on a really good sale and I picked them up for $2 a piece.  The 100W bulbs perform much better in this 600 square foot garage where I only have 2 fixtures.  A 6 pack of Phillips 100W LED bulbs runs $30 on Amazon, only $5 a piece.

65W Flood: I have these installed in my kitchen in 3 locations and on our exterior spot lights that are motion controlled.   These things are extremely bright and I would honestly compare them to 100 watt bulbs.  These put out an impressive amount of light.  Amazon has a 6 pack for $30, making them $5 a piece like the 100W bulbs.

25W Candelabra: These bulbs use 3 watts of power. These are perfect for chandeliers with several bulbs.  Our dining room chandelier has 5 bulbs, so this provides a ton of energy savings over conventional bulbs and these bulbs provide enough light.

40W Candelabra: Bedroom: These bulbs use 5 watts of power.  Originally I also had the 25W bulbs in my bedroom, however with only 3 bulbs in our fixture our room was too dark.  There is a massive difference in light put out by the 45 watt bulbs.  Amazon has a 6 pack for $16, making them $2.60 each.

I know, that was a lot of links to Amazon, but it goes to show that you don’t need to have a retailer giving a special subsidized price break for LED bulbs to be affordable.  Literally anyone can buy LED bulbs WAY cheaper than they were 5 years ago, and the standard A19 60W equivalent bulbs are barely over $1 a piece!

How Long Will LED Bulbs Last?

Most LED bulbs are rated for somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 hours.  I’ve had a few bulbs on for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 5 years.  That’s 43,800 hours and nothing has died yet.  I wouldn’t be surprised for many of these bulbs to still be running past 100,000 hours.  The numbers given for how long these bulbs will last are not fully accurate because there hasn’t been enough time to actually test them.

LED bulbs don’t “go out like a light”, instead they slowly fade, much like performance in Lithium Ion batteries or solar panels.  The rated hour claims are for when the light bulbs will fall bellow 70% of their rated lumens, so a 100W bulb should still have 70W worth of lumens after 50,000 hours.

So LED bulbs SHOULD last roughly 25- 50 times as long as incandescent bulbs. like I said, I have yet to change a single bulb.

Cost of LED Light Bulbs:

I spent around $50 to completely switch my house to LED bulbs.

Benefits: In 5 years I haven’t had to replace a light bulb.  Not one.  There has not been any appreciable decrease in performance either.  All of my lights, regardless of frequency of use have performed greatly.  I have left my 100W equiavelnt LED bulbs on in my garage 24 hours a day for most days.

Electricity savings:  I have so far saved roughly $20 per month, EVERY MONTH since switching my light bulbs to LEDs.  This means so far the $50 I spent on LED bulbs has saved me over $1,200.

Environmental impact:  My power comes from a nuclear power plant, so I can’t claim to be offsetting carbon directly, however since Nuclear plants are base load plants that power is going to a different home that otherwise would have been powered by fossil fuels. I recently read that EACH light bulb switched to LED will save roughly half a ton of carbon in it’s lifetime.  For having roughly 60 light bulbs that means I’m saving around 30 tons of carbon!

Switch To LED’s Today:

The break even point for LED bulbs is much sooner than it used to be, in fact in many instances the break even point is instant as price parity has been reached with some of the lower priced LED bulbs.  I have saved around $20 per month thanks to switching to LED bulbs, so within 3 months switching to LEDs should fully pay for the investment in the bulbs.

Environmental Impact:  According to Energystar.gov, if every house replaced their top 5 bulbs with LEDs it would save enough energy to light 33 million homes and save consumers over $5 Billion a year. Since American homes average 45 light bulbs, if we all changed over like I did it would collectively save us $45 BILLION EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

If we all replaced 5 bulbs it would also be the equivalent of eliminating the emissions from 6 million cars.  Once again, if we all replaced all of our bulbs, it would save the equivalent emissions of 54 million cars.

This is kind-of a big deal….Think about the changes that happen when businesses switch their light bulbs over?

I worked in the buildings and grounds department at my local nuclear power plant for 3 winters.  When I left last winter the plant was embarking on a major upgrade to replace traditional lighting with LED bulbs throughout.  I spent MANY nights replacing tube fluorescent bulbs in office spaces, which always looked rather dreary.  The bulb color didn’t always match and you invariably had burnt out bulbs or flickering bulbs that went weeks without being replaced.

Now the utility is saving a ton of money on power and manpower by not having to pay to have these bulbs replaced. Many of these lights are on 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Switching from 4′ long T8 fluorescent bulbs to T8 LED bulbs cuts the energy use in half and greatly reduces the time between change outs.

 

I’m still interesting in finding out truly how long will LED bulbs last and will write a follow up when I have to replace my first light bulb. Have you switched over to LED bulbs? If not what are you waiting for?

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John uses the free tool Personal Capital to track his net worth and posts quarterly updates on his finances. Check out the Action Economics archives section for all past posts.

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