It used to be that you could pick up a new lightbulb for just a few cents, and it’d last you a little while before it popped. Now though, lightbulbs tend to be a little more expensive, and that’s thanks to the new LED technology.
LED lightbulbs are supposedly more energy efficient and longer lasting – but are they really worth that extra cost? Would it have been better to stick with the older tech in this case?
Let’s take a look.
How much electricity do LED lights use?
Different lightbulbs will use different amounts of electricity, but a typical LED lightbulb for the home will use somewhere between 5 and 10 watts. LED light strips are measured in watts per foot, and for a common strip will use around 4 watts for every foot of lights.
Often when you’re buying LEDs you won’t see them advertised with their actual wattage, but instead, they’ll be advertised with an equivalent wattage. That’s because, even though brightness is measured in lumens, we’re used to buying older lightbulbs of different wattages if we want a brighter light.
So an old incandescent bulb may have been 60 watts, or 80 watts, or 100 watts and we’d know which one was brighter based on that.
Now that we have halogen, CFL and LEDs, we’re instead told the equivalent wattage as if it was an incandescent. So a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb will actually only use 6 watts, typically.
Do LED lights use a lot of electricity?
Compared to other light types, LEDs use the least amount of electricity. They’re extremely efficient and will use as little as 10% of the power used by some older incandescent bulbs. They have a lot of other benefits too, including less waste and less heat generated, plus they’re longest lasting.
Here’s a breakdown of the four main types of light you could have in your home, comparing a 700-lumen bulb:
|Incandescent||60 watts||750-1,500 hours|
|Halogen||40 watts||2,000 hours|
|Compact Fluorescent (CFL)||15 watts||8,000-10,000 hours|
|LED||6 watts||Up to 50,000 hours|
You can see from this table just how much less electricity an LED bulb uses.
It’s now illegal for stores to sell incandescent lights, but it’s still worth including them in the comparison because you may still be running incandescent bulbs in your home (although not for long, based on their lifespan).
Plus it’s only in the last few years that they’ve started to fade out of common use (no pun intended) and so it’s good to be able to see how much better LEDs are compared to the bulbs that we used so recently.
Do LED lights waste electricity?
LED lights are one of the most efficient types of lightbulb, which is why they use so many fewer watts to generate the same level of lumens. They operate at 70-80% efficiency, meaning 70-80% of the power consumed is converted into light.
As a contrast, incandescent bulbs were around 10% efficient while halogen bulbs are around 20% efficient. Most of the energy used by these bulbs is converted into heat because they are heating an element that will ultimately produce light.
That’s why old bulbs tend to be a lot hotter to touch when they’ve been left on. LED bulbs will still give off some heat, and it’s not recommended that you touch the bulbs at the base. But the actual glass case will usually not even be warm. The heat is instead dispersed through the base.
How much do LED lights cost to run per day?
On average, an LED lightbulb that uses 6 watt-hours per hour on its own will cost less than 0.14 cents to run per day. To be clear, that’s not 13 cents – that’s less than 14% of a cent. You could use a single LED lightbulb for 8 days before it would have cost you 1 cent in electricity.
That’s based on an average electricity cost of $0.14 per kilowatt-hour, and an average daily usage of 1.6 hours per lightbulb.
That may not seem like many hours per day, but consider how many bulbs you have in your home and how often you move from room to room. If you are efficient in switching off lightbulbs when you leave a room, they won’t be used for many hours at all.
How much do LED lights add to the electric bill?
The average American household has 40 lightbulbs (including any lamps and spotlights). Using LED bulbs for an average of 1.6 hours per day, and assuming 6 watt-hours per hour for each bulb, that’s a total daily cost of 5.38 cents, or $1.61 per month.
Sounds cheap right? And it is – LED technology is extremely energy efficient and can save you a huge sum compared to older bulb types. Even if you weren’t disciplined with your lightbulb use, and you left them on for twice as long as the US average, that’s still less than the price of a cup of coffee each month to power all of the lights in your home.
Are LED lights cheaper to run than energy-saving bulbs?
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were the type of bulb used as ‘energy-saving’. LEDs are cheaper to run than these – a 700 lumen LED uses 6 watt-hours per hour compared to around 15 watt-hours per hour for a CFL.
While a CFL will save you around 75% of your electricity bill compared to older incandescent lights, LEDs are still a lot cheaper to run over time. They’re also longer lasting and they don’t have the major drawback of CFLs, which is that they take a long time to light up and reach maximum brightness.
The one drawback is where you have specific fixtures designed for tube CFLs. While it is definitely more energy efficient to swap in an LED, you’ll also need to make changes to the fixture – either replacing the ballast, or swapping out the entire fixture. Normally an LED bulb will work in any other fixture, but with CFLs, it’s just a little more complicated.
Do LED lights really save money?
LED lights can be expensive to buy upfront, but they will save you money in the long term. With massively reduced energy costs and a longer lifespan, you’ll make your money back on the cost of upgrading – although it makes the most sense to wait until your current bulbs burn out.
|Bulb Type||Watts used per bulb||Lifespan||Number of bulbs needed to last 20 years (40 bulbs per home)||Cost to run the bulb for 20 years (1.6 hrs/day)|
The difference between LED and Incandescent bulbs is huge – over the course of 20 years you’re going to spend less than $10 lighting your home if you use LEDs, while if you were still using incandescent bulbs you’d be using almost $100.
And yes – LED bulbs are more expensive to buy – but they’re getting cheaper. In fact you can now get multipacks of LED bulbs for around $1 per bulb. And if you only need one bulb to last you 20 years, you’re going to save the money you paid within a year.
Should I use LED lights in my house?
You should use LED lightbulbs in your home – the average home can replace the lights in their home for less than $50 and if you’re moving from halogen to LED you’ll save that money on your electricity bill within one year.
Even if you have energy-saving CFL bulbs in your home, you’ll save around $15 a year, so within 3-4 years you’ll have made back the money it cost you to replace your bulbs, and they’ll last a lot longer as well.
If you’ve only just replaced the bulbs in your home with older tech, you should replace them sooner, since otherwise, you’re going to be using more power-hungry lighting for longer. If your lights are likely to burn out soon, you may prefer to wait until they’re gone before you switch them for new tech.
Is it better to turn off LED lights or leave them on?
You should turn off LED lights when you aren’t using them. Unlike older bulbs, their lifespan is barely shortened by switching them on and off, so the impact is minimal. Leaving them on will not use a lot of electricity, but there’s no problem with switching them off.
That’s an improvement on older bulbs, since incandescents and halogens used a filament that was put under stress every time the bulb was switched on. Switching the light off and on regularly would cause the bulb to burn out quicker.
And while that wasn’t the case with CFL bulbs, they take a long time to properly light up, and so switching them off and on regularly meant you were having to keep waiting for the bulb to get back up to maximum brightness.
Leaving an LED bulb on for 15 minutes while you’re out of the room is barely going to cost you anything, but it’s a good habit for all electricals to switch them off when not in use.
LED lights have so many benefits over older types of bulbs that it just makes complete sense to upgrade as soon as you can.
As well as using so much less electricity in order to achieve the same brightness, they last a lot longer too, which isn’t just beneficial to your bank account, but it’s also better for the planet too.
They aren’t perfect – and if you have a dimmer switch at home then you’ll need to buy special dimmable LEDs – but generally, LEDs are the future of lighting at home.
Suggested read: Do Dimmed Lights Use Less Electricity?
LED Lights FAQs
LED strip lights use varying amounts of electricity depending on the LED density – how many LEDs there are per meter or foot. A standard LED strip light has 30 LEDs per meter, and will use around 15 watts per meter. The total cost will depend on the length of the strip.
How much electricity Christmas lights use depends on whether they are for indoor or outdoor use – outdoor lights are brighter. An average string of Christmas lights will use between 2 and 4 watts of power.
Grow lights are brighter than standard lights. An at-home LED grow light will use around 30 watts of power. If used for 18 hours a day, that’s a cost of 7.6 cents per day, or a cost of around $27.59 yearly. Commercial lights use a lot more power.