How Long Before an LED Desk Lamp Pays for Itself

2016-06-21 17:10:58  
Standard 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs began their slow fade into obsolescence for both manufacture and sale. In their stead, consumers are turning to LED bulbs, a relatively recent entry into the realm of indoor lighting. LED bulb prices dipped into $10 territory this year, and we found some that are even cheaper.
Related: Best cheap energy-efficient light bulbs
That's still a lot of dough for a light source. But LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. And they are light years ahead of the CFL bulbs that constituted the first wave of replacement lighting. LEDs light up instantly, stay cool, work in low temperatures, and don't contain mercury, which requires responsible disposal. We researched five brands to see how long it would take for the cost of an LED bulb to break even with that of an old-school incandescent. Based on manufacturers' data for yearly operating costs, plus the upfront cost of the bulb, the cheap LEDs on our list break even with an incandescent within 18 months.
Let's start by assuming that a kilowatt hour costs 11 cents and the bulb (incandescent or LED) will stay on three hours a day for a full year. The estimated yearly energy cost of a traditional light bulb is $7.23 compared with average $1.25 for an LED bulb. (Your actual cost might be greater or lower, depending on local electric rates). Traditional bulbs go for about $1 apiece and have an average lifespan of about 1.5 years and then suddenly give out; an average LED bulb costs $10 and nearly all boast an expected working life of 25,000 hours, or 22.8 years, after which they begin to dim. During the first year, the average cost (price of the bulb plus energy costs) of an incandescent bulb is $8.23 and the five-year cost (figuring three bulbs) comes to $39.15. The first- and five-year costs for an LED bulb are $11.25 and $16.25, respectively (remember, no replacements necessary). The five-year total for using an LED bulb is less than half that of an incandescent bulb.