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Slash bills with LEDs

Shedding Light on Energy Use: How Much Electricity Do Light Bulbs Actually Consume — And What's It Costing Us?

Kimberly Hutchings
/
December 21, 2023

"Turn off the lights when you leave the room!" It's energy saving 101 and a tip that we've all heard countless times before— but how much electricity do lightbulbs actually use on the day-to-day, and what does that mean for our energy bills?

It's a good question and one we wanted to get to the bottom of in this blog post.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common types of household bulbs used today and what you can do to ensure you're not left in the dark when maximizing your energy savings.

Let's get into it.

Common Types of Lightbulbs and Their Energy Use

Answering the question of consumption starts with determining what type of bulbs you're using to light your home.

Most often, household lightbulbs fall under one of three categories: incandescent, fluorescent, or LED — and spoiler alert, one of them reigns supreme when it comes to energy savings.

Incandescent

Incandescents are a common choice, largely because they're cheap up front. They produce a lovely, warm light that closely reflects the natural sunlight shining through our windows, and most are easily dimmable without additional equipment or complex setups.

The downside, though, is they're the least energy-efficient. It's a factor that has played a significant role in their decline in popularity over recent years. And it's not just consumers making the choice to change. In fact, just this August, the Biden administration put legislation in place that effectively bans the sale of any incandescent unable to meet new federal efficiency standards.

But, even with the move away from the most inefficient incandescents, the question remains: what does this mean for our consumption and energy spending?

Well, to give you more context, the standard household incandescent is a 60-watt bulb, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average electricity price in the U.S., as of October 2023, is roughly $0.17 per kWh.

At these rates, the average 60-watt incandescent bulb will cost you approximately $1.55 each month or $18.62 every year when used for five hours each day. Considering that the average U.S. household contains 40 lightbulbs, that's $744.80 annually (assuming you're using all your bulbs the same amount)!

Compact Fluorescent

So, what's the more efficient alternative? For a long time, the answer was compact fluorescent bulbs, also called CFLs.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs can last up to ten times longer than traditional incandescents (which is a cost-saving in itself), they're more energy-efficient, and they throw off less heat, which makes them a safer option from a fire-risk perspective, too.

On the other hand, they produce some pretty unnatural-looking light, which can distort our perception of color, and unlike incandescents, which produce light instantly, fluorescents require a small amount of warm-up time to reach their full luminosity.

The average household fluorescent lightbulb operates at around 13-15 watts. When used for five hours each day, this means each bulb will cost $0.34-$0.39 monthly on the average U.S. electrical rate, or $4.03-$4.65 every year. For a household of 40 lightbulbs, that's an annual bill of $161.20-$186.00 — a savings of over $550.00 compared to incandescent alternatives!

LED

But what if we could do even better? The great news is, nowadays, we can. Enter LEDs.

Remember earlier when we mentioned that one type of lightbulb reigns supreme when it comes to energy savings? Well, you guessed it, it's an LED.

LEDs, also known as light-emitting diodes, are the superheroes of the home lighting space. While compact fluorescents can last ten times longer than incandescents, LEDs have a nearly 50 times greater lifespan than their incandescent predecessors, with many lasting more than 25,000 hours!

They're highly energy-efficient, throw very little heat, and are available in a wide range of color temperatures, making choosing your ambient lighting easy. They also offer the opportunity to create directional light, which can help to light your space more efficiently, and they're mercury-free (unlike fluorescents), which leads to a reduced environmental impact overall.

With the benefits come a few downsides, though, and compared to incandescent and fluorescent options, LEDs are typically the most expensive choice (although their longevity and energy efficiency make up for the upfront costs in the long term).

They're also known for emitting blue light, which can disrupt our body's production of melatonin, the chemical that helps internally signal that it's time to sleep at night — although dimming the lights in the evening can help!

The typical LED consumes about 8-10 watts, equating to approximately $0.21-$0.26 monthly (or $2.48-$3.10 a year) when used five hours per day on a standard U.S. electrical rate. For a typical household of 40 lightbulbs, that's a cost of $99.20-$124 annually — roughly $62.00 less than fluorescent bulb households and $645.00 less than homes lit with incandescent fixtures.

Shop Smart — OhmConnect’s Light Bulb Picks For 2023

So, with LEDs the clear winner of the energy and cost-saving competition, the question now becomes, which LEDs are best? Luckily, we have an answer for that too!

Check out two of our top LED picks for 2023 below.

BEST LED FOR EFFICIENCY: Feit Electric A19 LED Light Bulb

Wattage: 8.8 Watts

Why we love it:

  • They have a lifespan of up to 25,000 hours or 22.8 years.
  • They're dimmable.
  • They're 100 percent mercury-free.
  • They emit zero ultraviolet light, so they're safe to use in rooms with artwork and photos you don't want to fade.
  • They have a 90+ color rating index (CRI), allowing colors to appear more realistically to the eye.

BEST ENERGY-FRIENDLY SMART LED: Philips Hue Smart A19 LED Bulb

Wattage: 10 Watts

Why we love it:

  • These bulbs also have a lifespan of up to 25,000 hours or 22.8 years.
  • They're compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Homekit virtual assistants, so you can control your home lighting through voice commands.
  • Using the Hue app, you can connect bulbs to your home's Wi-Fi network, enabling you to create schedules and automations, adjust color and settings to set the mood with ease and control your lights wherever you are, whether at home or on the go.
  • They're dimmable through the Hue app or via a light switch.
  • They can pair with motion sensors for automatic lighting, triggered only when needed.

Find more of our smart lighting picks for 2023 by clicking here!

Calculations are made using the Energy Use Calculator linked here.

Editor’s note: If you make a purchase through our affiliate partner links, we may receive a commission. This does not impact the recommendations we make.

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