8,259 reasons why hoarding light bulbs is insane

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Green Renovations

You've probably heard the hysterical rhetoric that goes something along the lines of, "The government is banning the incandescent light bulb! They are taking away our freedom and limiting our choice!" If you don't listen to AM radio, you may have missed all the calls to start stocking up and hoarding these mythical banned bulbs.

The sober and less sensational reality is that lighting manufacturers worked with the government to establish new performance and efficiency standards for light bulbs that help consumers. The phase out was signed into law by George W. Bush during his second term. The new standards are sparking exciting production of next generation lighting and moving us away from technology that is so old and outdated that it hasn't changed since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

If you stock up on old bulbs that fail to meet the new standard, you are not being smart - you are being a chump. Choosing to spend $450 to hoard outdated bulbs will cost you $8,259 over the life of a single LED bulb (I explain this at the end of the post - feel free to tweet me to share your thoughts on this basic math @mattgrocoff).

Contrary to the cries of a small group of muckrakers, the phase out of these obsolete light bulbs has, in fact, created a far greater choice for consumers and greatly reduced the cost of energy spent on lighting. Yes, new generation bulbs are more expensive up front, but they last for nearly a quarter of a century as opposed to less than one year for many of the cheap incandescents. The new LED bulbs have dropped in price, come in a full range of colors, are fully dimmable, and some can be controlled from your cell phone. These ain't your granddaddy's light bulbs.

In the 6th Annual SYLVANIA Socket Survey, it was found that only 4 in 10 consumers are aware of the January 2014 phase out of inefficient 40 and 60 watt light bulbs that don't meet the new standards. Yet almost two-thirds of Americans already plan to switch to energy-efficient lighting.

Jes Munk Hansen, President and CEO, OSRAM SYLVANIA said Sylvania is "committed to bringing innovative products to market, providing consumers with choices, and leading the industry in a time of transition from analog to digital."

According to the Sylvania survey, "30% of consumers say they plan to buy a lot of less efficient traditional incandescent light bulbs where still available and will continue using them." Yes, you heard it right. Nearly a third of consumers plan to hoard light bulbs. This is the equivalent of people hoarding kerosene and whale oil after Edison brought us the electric light. Hey, why not fill your basement with fax machines, 8-Track cassettes, and land-line telephones since email, iTunes, and cell phones are clearly some sort of political plot?

The vast majority of Americans are excited about the new lighting technologies and understand the folly of clinging to the obsolete. Why buy a $10 LED bulb when old bulbs are only $0.75? Here's the simple math: hoarding enough inefficient bulbs to last the lifetime of a single LED bulb will cost you $8,259.

$450 will buy you 600 of the obsolete light bulbs. The average U.S. home has about 45 light bulbs. So, you will burn through all of those inefficient bulbs in about 13 years. For the same price, you can replace every bulb in your home with high-performance LED bulbs and you won't need to change a single bulb until the year 2039. By then, maybe those mint condition cases of incandescent bulbs will fetch a nice price on the Antiques Roadshow.


TOTAL HOUSEHOLD COST (bulb purchases + energy) = $8,259

Price per bulb: $0.75

Hours until bulb burns out = 1,000

# of replacement bulbs over 23 years = 23

Total # of bulbs for whole house (Avg U.S. home has 45 bulbs) to last 23 years = 1,035

Purchase price for 23 years worth of incandescent bulbs = $776

Watts 60

Cost of energy per bulb per year (assuming $0.11/kWh) = $7.23

Cost of energy for 45 bulbs per year = $325.35

Total cost of energy (assuming energy cost never rises, which it of course it will rise): $7,483


TOTAL HOUSEHOLD COST (bulb purchase + energy) = $1,230

Price per bulb = $10

Hours until bulb burns out = 25,000

# of replacement bulbs over 25 years = 1

Total # of bulbs for whole house (Avg U.S. home has 45 bulbs) to last 23 yrs = 45

Price for of enough LED bulbs to last 23 years = $450

Watts 9.5

Cost of energy per bulb per year (assuming $0.11/kWh) = $1.14

Cost of energy for 45 bulbs per year = $51.30

Total cost of energy (assuming energy cost never rises, which it of course it will rise): $1179


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  1. 4 Responses  to “8,259 reasons why hoarding light bulbs is insane”

  2. David Johnson
    Jul 11, 2014
    I calculated my electric costs for a year of using only incandescents, then put CFLs in most sockets and calculated the costs for a second year. Result: a savings of over $180. P.S.: There were and are no such things as "8-Track Cassettes".
  3. Barry
    Jun 26, 2014
    Hi Matt, I was searching for this very info. Thank you! I've been replacing old lightbulbs with LEDs for a while now. I also gave several to my parents. I'm skeptical about the 25 year life, mainly because I can't believe the makers of LEDs would do that to themselves. Many years ago, I heard someone say "they've proven they can make a lightbulb last forever, but that doesn't do GE any good". If these things will last for 25 years, the "money people" at these companies will demand that they figure out how to make them fail before that. Just being cynically honest.
  4. dana winchenbach
    Mar 13, 2014
    what new bulbs work in cold weather,(like in a cold barn)
  5. Mar 12, 2014
    Hi Matt, Although I agree with the math, great explanation by the way, my only problem with the current design of these bulbs is lumen rating. When I install an equally rated LED bulb it does not light up the area in question as well. Buying a higher rated bulb seems a waste of money due to their expense. I'm still in the learning curve on these bulbs. If I used a 60 watt incandescent I assumed that a 60 watt RATED LED would be a the correct replacement. However they are noticeably less bright. Any thoughts??
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