We often hear this question on commercial energy audits: “Why would I pay $20 for a LED light bulb when I can get an old one for $5?”
It’s a fair question. After all, if your commercial building needs 1,000 bulbs, that means you’re spending $20K when you could be spending $5K (and using the other $15K on something else).
But the real question you should be asking is, “Does that old bulb only cost $5?”
Why a $5 light bulb costs more than $5
A building energy audit would probably reveal that one of your old light bulbs will last for one year before it burns out.
When it does need to be replaced, you’ll need to pay for someone to get up on a ladder and fix it. That’s at least $10 of labor (or taking someone away from their regular job to do it).
That old bulb also may use an equivalent of $100 of electricity per year. That’s double what you can expect from the LED bulb ($50 per year).
The LED bulb also could last 10 years without needing to be replaced. That’s 10 fewer trips up the ladder, saving you money and time.
So, what’s the cost savings by end of year one?
The $20 bulb (plus $50 of electricity used) has a net cost of $70.
The old $5 bulb, on the other hand (with $100 of electricity used) cost you $105 — and then it needed to be replaced for an additional $10.
Think about long-term costs, not just the initial purchase
Back to the original decision: should you buy an old bulb for $5 or an LED bulb that costs $20?
In this situation, the LED bulb cost $15 more upfront — but ended up costing $45 less than the old bulb after one year.
In a building with 1,000 bulbs, that means $45K in savings. That’s a lot.
Energy efficiency analysis isn’t always this straightforward.
It may be worth your time and money to bring in a third-party consultant to calculate these savings for you — so that you can make the right decision the first time.
A Bay Efficiency certified energy auditor will use software tools, like LightBids, to find savings for your specific building. The tool factors in your unique lighting needs and actual electric costs to quickly calculate how much a LED bulb can save you.
The next time someone asks you, “Why would I pay $20 for a LED bulb?” we hope you ask back, “Why wouldn’t you?”