LED Lights for energy saving: How much money can you save on your electric bill?

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Can you really save more money with LED lights? In this article, we break down the cost for the different types of commonly used light bulbs in Malaysia and compare which one will save you more money in the long run. 

Our lights are the first thing we switch on in the morning, and the last thing we turn off before we hit the bed. Without them, we won’t be able to do the things we need to do at home — cooking, working, playing and reading — with ease. And because we use them every day, it’s only a matter of time before the light bulbs go out. When they do, we’re often plagued with the same question: should we save money and replace the existing bulb or should we invest our money in the LED bulb?

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about how great and mighty the LED bulbs are. Not only do they consume less energy and save you money in the long run, but they are also environmentally friendly! But how much do they really save? And can you actually save money by switching your incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen or fluorescent tube to LED light bulbs?

To get a clearer idea, let’s dig deeper.

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What’s the difference between incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and LED light bulbs?

1. Incandescent lights

incandescent-lights

© gradts | 123rf

The incandescent light is your classic light bulb that produces light by producing heat through the wire filaments. When the filaments reach a certain temperature, they emit white light. The wire filament is surrounded by a glass bulb that is either filled with inert gas or vacuum. Though cheap in price, incandescent light is deemed inefficient because 90% of the electricity is lost during the heating process. Not to mention, they also have a shorter lifespan and are highly fragile. As a result, they are slowly being phased out, partly in response to Malaysian government directives.

2. Halogen lights

halogen-light-bulb

© usersam2007 | 123rf

The halogen light bulbs function the same way as incandescent light bulbs. The only difference is halogen lights use halogen gas to extend their lifespan and efficiency. While they are better in terms of efficiency and quality as compared to incandescent lights, they also burn much hotter.

3. Flourescent lights

fluorescent-light-tube

© coprid | 123rf

Probably one of the most common types of lighting in our society as it’s known for consuming less energy compared to the former two. Fluorescent lights produce UV light by passing an electric current through a combination of argon gas and mercury vapour. The UV hits the sides of the glass which is coated with phosphor, and this creates visible light. Common fluorescent tubes come in T8 (1 inch diameter) tubes and T5 (⅝ inch diameter) tubes, in 4 feet and 2 feet lengths, as well as circular tubes.

4. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)

Compact-fluorescent-lights-CFLs

© wuttichok | 123rf

The company fluorescent lights (CFLs) are created to counter the traditional incandescent light bulbs as they’re more energy-efficient — they use 70% lesser energy than incandescents. Unlike the fluorescent tubes, they utilise a spiral design so that they can be fitted into the incandescent light sockets. Most CFLs also have a ballast to regulates the current and provides sufficient voltage to emit light. The only downside to this type of lighting is, they rely on mercury, which is harmful to people and the environment. 

5. Light-emitting diode (LED) 

led-light-emitting-diode

© somchaisom | 123rf

LED stands for light-emitting diode and is made of semiconductors that produce light when electricity passes through it. Unlike their predecessors, LED lights do not rely on heat to produce light. Hence, they run cooler, have longer lifespans, are more durable and consume the least amount of energy. Another benefit of LED lights is that they don’t produce infrared radiation and contain heat sinks to help them remove unwanted heat. So go ahead and touch the LED bulbs, they don’t burn.

How to choose your lightbulb?

Whether you’re installing lights for your new house or wanted to get your light bulbs changed, you have to choose a type of light bulb for your home. So how do you choose the right one? There are three main questions you need to ask when it comes to choosing your bulbs:

  1. What brightness do you need? (measured in lumens)
  2. What colour temperature do you prefer? (measured in Kelvin)
  3. What type of socket do you use, e.g. E27, E14, etc

a. What is the best lightbulb for brightness?

Did you know that watts do not determine the brightness of your lights? When it comes to brightness, we measure it with lumen, and the higher the lumen number, the brighter your lights will be.

Watts, on the other hand, is the measurement of how much energy a light needs to use to produce light. The higher the watts number, the more energy the light bulbs will consume. You can’t rely on wattage as a measure of brightness because different bulbs consume different amounts of energy. For example, if you wanted a bulb with a brightness of 1,100 lumens, you could get a 13W LED, an 18W CFL bulb, a 75W incandescent bulb or a 53W halogen bulb.

Ideally, you should go for a light bulb that produces the brightest light yet consumes the least watts. Take a look at the chart below to see the different wattage of bulbs measured by brightness.

450 lumens

800 lumens

1100 lumens

1600 lumens

2600 lumens

5800 lumens

LED

6W 9-10W 13W 16-18W 24W 45W

CFL

8-9W 13-14W 18-19W 23W 40W 85W

Incandescent

40W 60W 75W 100W 150W 300W

Halogen

29W 43W 53W 72W 150W 300W

b. What colour temperature light bulb should I use? 

light_bulb_colour_temperature

Once you’ve chosen the brightness you want, then pick the colour of the light next. Believe it or not, the colour temperature of the light can make or break a room. For resting areas like the bedrooms, it’s best to go with a warmer tone to exude comfort and promote relaxation. White lights are more suitable for working areas like the kitchen and the home office. Learn more about choosing the right types of lighting for every room here.

Light colour, like brightness, has its own unit of measurement and it’s measured in Kelvin (K). It is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 2,700 to approximately 7,000K. Lights. Lights with lower Kelvin give out a “warm”, orangey glow, while lights with higher Kelvin emit bright, white light and are considered as “cool” lights.

c. What types of light sockets are there?

light_bulb_socket

The most important thing you need to know when it comes to replacing your light bulb is the type of base socket it uses. In Malaysia, the most common sockets here are the E27 socket (screw-in socket), E14 socket (socket with 14mm diameter) and the B22 bayonet bulb (socket with two short pins sticking out from either side).

The cost of lighting your home

Now that we’re all working from home, it’s natural for electricity bills to go sky high. While there are ways to lower your electricity bills, you can also lower them even more by changing the type of light bulbs used at home. Your lights contribute about 20% of your energy cost so the type of light bulbs you use really make a difference in the number you see on your electricity bill.

Replacing your old incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs is one surefire way to lower your electricity bill since they consume far lesser energy. But as you will see below, there are more factors at play than just energy consumption.

Do LED lights reduce electricity bills?

Do LED lights reduce electricity bills

© belchonock | 123rf

To calculate the actual savings of LEDs, we need to consider the hardware cost as well as the running cost.

1. How much do LEDs, CFLs and incandescent lights cost? 

Now, we take a look at the costings for each type of light bulb and compare which is cheaper. LEDs are known for having a long lifespan. Many LEDs have a rated life of up to 25,000 hours. That’s about 2.85 years! When compared to incandescent and CFLs, they have only a rated life of 1,200 hours (50 days) and 8,000 hours (333.3 days). In other words, in the time it takes for an LED to stop working, you would have replaced your incandescent bulb over 20 times, or your CFL bulbs over 3 times.

However, LEDs are still more expensive compared to CFLs. For example, a 12W LED bulb from Tesco Malaysia costs RM13 each, but an equivalent 18W CFL energy saver bulb costs RM12.50, and an equivalent 70W halogen bulb costs RM3.50.

But taking the lifespan into account, it would cost you RM70 to buy 20 incandescent bulbs, or RM37.50 to buy 3 CFL bulbs, to match the lifespan of 1 LED bulb at RM13.

LED

CFL

Incandescent

Average life span

25,000+ hours 8,000 hours 1,200 hours

Watts used

8-12W 13-15W 60W

Kili-watts used*

44 KWh/year 55 KWh/year 219 KWh/year

CO2 emissions*

45 pounds/year 56 pounds/year 225 pounds/year

* Per bulb, based on 10 hours a day, 365 days a year

2. How much do LED lights save per month?

Earlier on, we determined that if we wanted to light a room with a bulb of 1100 lumens, we would need either a 13W LED, an 18W CFL, or a 53W halogen bulb.

Next, let’s assume that we will leave the lights on for 4 hours a day. Based on this, we can calculate the running energy as [wattage] * [hours].

For example, if we have a 15W CFL bulb running for 5 hours a day for 30 days, we would get: [15 * 5 * 30]/1000 = 2.25kWh per month

Then, we can multiply the running energy amounts with the residential electricity tariff from TNB’s website. For simplicity, let’s assume a flat rate of 21.8 sen per kWh per month. That gives us [2.25kWh per month * 21.8sen] = RM4.905 per month.

3. Do LED bulbs really save you money?

If we repeat the same hardware and running costs calculation for different bulbs, this is what we get:

LED

CFL

Halogen

Hardware costs

Cost per bulb

RM13 RM12.50 RM3.50

Average lifespan (hours)

25,000 8,000 1,500

Cost to replace bulb after 25,000 hours

RM13 RM39.06 RM58.33

Energy costs

Watts

12 18 53

Energy usage for 1 month at 4 hours a day (kWh/month)

1.44 2.16 6.36

Monthly electricity cost per bulb (21.8 sen / kWh/ month)

RM0.314 RM0.479 RM1.386

Energy cost for 25,000 hours of use

RM10.90 RM16.63 RM48.13

Total costs

Hardware + Energy costs over 25,000 hours

RM23.90 RM59.69 RM106.46

From this calculation, it’s safe to conclude that LED lights save you more money in the long run as the running cost is over 25% lower than halogen and 50% lower than CFLs.

When should you switch to LED lights? 

Now comes the question of whether or not to switch all of your lights to LEDs at one go. Based on the calculation above, it’s evident the cost for LEDs are much lower, but that doesn’t mean you should replace all of your light bulbs right away. Wait for the existing bulbs to run their course before making the switch.

What about replacing long fluorescent tubes or circular fluorescent tubes with LEDs?

fluorescent-lights-to-led-light-bulbs

© rasstock | 123rf

So far, we have compared the costs for three types of lighting; incandescent (or halogen) vs CFL vs LED. What about fluorescent tubes? Can we replace them with LEDs too? Yes, you can. Fluorescent tubes, such as T8, T5 and circular tubes, can be replaced with LEDs.

You can find LED equivalent replacements for such tubes, but they are not commonly found at the supermarket. Instead, you may need to visit your nearest lighting shop to get one.

However, the replacement of such tubes is more complicated. Fluorescent tube light casings include two electronic components to work; a ballast, and a starter. If you want to keep your existing light casing, these components will need to be bypassed or replaced before you can swop the tube out for an LED equivalent.

Bypassing the ballast and replacing the starter in a T5 or T8 fluorescent light casing requires some rewiring. If you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, you can request the services of a local handyman or hire an electrician to help you. Hiring a professional also ensures your lights will last for a long time.

From our calculations, LED bulbs are 25% cheaper compared to halogen, and around 50% cheaper compared to CFL. This makes it a no-brainer to switch to LED lights as soon as your existing bulbs have stopped working.

As long as you have a common bulb socket, e.g. E27, E14, T8 or T5, you will be able to find an LED equivalent.

However, the savings are calculated based on the average lifespan. For popular light bulb brands, the lifespan is clearly stated on the box. However, if you go for lesser-known brands, the lifespan may be more unpredictable. Improper wiring may also affect the lifespan of the bulb. An LED light bulb that fails before the expected lifespan will cancel your cost savings, so it’s best to consult an expert.

This article was originally published as Will you actually save more with LED lights? by recommend.my written by Yen Joon Kang.

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