Return on investment could take years for LED light bulbs

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Homeowners in search of ways to save on power bills this summer may want to reconsider before shelling out a lot of money for all-new LED light bulbs.

"They've become more affordable over time just because of mass production and even though LEDs are the most efficient, they're still the most expensive," says Jim Goolsby, an Energy Specialist at Alabama Power.

In the last decade, a quick trip to the store to pick up light bulbs somehow became a complicated endeavor. Gone are the days of spending a buck or two to replace the burnt out incandescent bulb in your table lamp.

Also out of fashion are the spiral-shaped CFL, or compact fluorescent light bulbs, that were considered a remarkable improvement in energy efficiency just a couple years ago. Companies like General Electric are no longer manufacturing CFLs as the market moves increasingly towards LED bulbs.

While the cost of LED bulbs has come down considerably in recent years, with prices dropping 85 percent between 2008-2013, making over the lighting in your home is likely to cost hundreds of dollars.

Pastor Derrick Jordan and his wife LaTanya were shocked to count 80 lightbulbs on the first floor of their Trussville home.

"Some of those are five-year light bulbs, so hopefully we won't be replacing too many at a time," said Pastor Jordan, who is not only the leader of Hope Everlasting Ministry but also the father of two young ladies who help keep his power bill steady.

"We're on the Alabama Power budget billing so that works really well but you still can't escape running air conditioning and everything else," said Pastor Jordan.

In fact, focusing your dollars on changing your HVAC filters or weather-stripping the doors to your home may provide a lot more bang for your buck than upgrading all of your lights to LED.

"Most of the energy consumed in Alabama is your heating and air conditioning and water heating," explained Goolsby. "The two of those together is going to make up 70 percent of the average customer's bill."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates lighting accounts for 9 percent of a home's energy consumption. Alabama Power believes lighting accounts for even less of its average customer's bill at 6 percent.

"You'll see significant savings from LED lighting but you're only impacting a small portion of your monthly energy bill," says Goolsby.

For example, if your average energy bill is $150 a month, about $9 of that can be attributed to lighting costs. Upgrading all of your light bulbs to LED could reduce the energy needed to light your home by 75 percent but would only lower your power bill by about $6.75 a month.

To some homeowners though, the return on investment could include having to replace bulbs less frequently and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're doing everything you can to be environmentally friendly.

"They say things change at the speed of light but light bulbs really changed right in front of us," mused Pastor Jordan.

Click here for more ways to save on your energy bill.

Click here for more information on recent changes in the lighting industry standards.

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