One Light Bulb: $47.00

I came home Thursday to find an Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulb in my mailbox. I had ordered it on ebay and paid $47.00 for it. It’s a five watt bulb that produces about a much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb that costs about 70 cents to $2 or a 17 Watt compact florescent light bulb (CFL) that costs $5 to $10. A few observations:

1. I thought I was getting five light bulbs. (My fault for not reading better.) Instead, I got one bulb with five LEDs. So, unlike CFLs–which almost always save money in the long run–I will almost certainly not make my money back with this bulb unless energy prices soar. On the other hand, since it’s in a lamp that I leave on almost all night every night, I will realize energy savings rather quickly.

2. Despite claims to the contrary, the light is actually a little less natural than the light from CFLs. I’m personally a big fan of CFLs and use them for almost everything. It’s blueish and looks a little like the light emitted from High Intensity Discharge car headlights. (Not surprising since they use similar technology.)

3. There’s no warm-up time, unlike CFLs, and even brighter incandescent bulbs.

4. In part because of the bulb design, the light all reflects upwards. It doesn’t look nearly as good in a stained glass lamp as the CFL I had it.

Compact Florescent light bulbs, I feel, have been a lot slower to catch on than they should have been. They’re good for the environment and produce real benefits for consumers. LED bulbs, despite the hype, don’t seem ready for prime time. If you want to save energy and money, for the moment, buy CFLs.