Are LED bulbs really cost effective?

What does this have to do with climate?

There is a very interesting aspect of LED household lighting that many people do not consider and whether it affects you depends on the climate you live in.

Standard incandescent bulbs produce light & heat.

LED bulbs produce mostly light and very little heat.

The difference in heat produced can affect the cost effectiveness of LED bulbs in colder climates.

LED bulbs vs Incandescent in cold Climates

By way of example, if you live in a relatively cold climate where you must heat your home most of the time the heat from incandescent bulbs actually contributes to keeping your home warm.

In other words, the heat added to your home by incandescent bulbs is heat that your furnace does not have to produce. So running incandescent bulbs directly offsets the amount of energy your furnace has to produce. Incandescent bulbs are 100% efficient at turning electricity into light and heat.

Now over a 10 year period, your incandescent bulbs will cost those of you living in cold climates about $2 for five 1500 hour bulbs. A CREE LED bulb will be about $10 over the same 10 years (their gaurentee period).

This cost difference can be quite large if your home has many light bulbs. Say your home has 25 bulbs: this would be $50 vs $250.

There is another confounding factor in heating your home vs light bulbs: Does your heating system cost less to operate than an electrical heating system?

If you have electrical heat, all the aforementioned information is exactly accurate. However, if your home is heated with some other form of energy, which is cheaper than electricity, the value of the heat produced by incandescent bulbs may be reduced.

LED bulbs vs Incandescent in warm Climates

For people living in warm climates, where you use air conditioning much of the time, the LED bulb provides advantages.

When you run your air conditioner the air conditioner has to work to pump the heat produced by the incandescent bulb out of the house. This extra work costs money. The LED bulb produces less heat and thus less work for the air conditioner. You save money powering the LED bulb and you save money because of the low heat output of the LED bulb.

What about temperate Climates?

Here it really depends on your air condition vs heating. If you do little of either than LED bulbs will win out because they use far less energy providing light and you are not taking advantage of the heat from incandescent bulbs to keep your home warm.


In the end it may not matter. Some governments are banning incandescent bulbs regardless of the increased costs this may impose on some people (those in colder climates).

This banning of incandescent bulbs is an excellent example, by the way, of why governments are bad at regulation. Governments tend to create one size fits all regulations, which really do not fit all. And they remove from the citizen the freedom to individually make the most cost effective choice.