I received a comment on yesterday’s post about the CREE CR6. Rather than leave the comment and the response buried in a comment section, I’ll pull this out into a front-page continuation of yesterday’s post.
David B. wrote:
Mike, not to be a spoil-sport, but I don’t think a $50 light bulb is worth getting excited about. First, LED’s don’t use dramatically less energy than a CFL (the $200 savings is compared to an incandescent). Second, if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother. Finally, the 35,000 hour life expectancy is a bit misleading. That works out to more than 20 years at 4 hrs a day (someone energy conscious enough to spend $50 for a bulb is probably obsessive about turning off lights that are not being used presently).
While LED’s offer some aesthetic and performance advantages over CFL’s, the price probably needs to drop below $10 before they make any sense.
The right LED lighting makes a lot of sense right now! And I’m going to get excited anyway! On a New Year’s morning, here’s a thumbnail version of the reason why.
I like the non-energy performance and appearance of the CR6 and LR6 better than the incandescent they replace. And some people like “better” over “cheaper”. When “better” is cheaper than “cheaper” that’s even better! (Whew—try saying that fast five times.) And over the life cycle, these certainly are less expensive.
I disagree with your statement that “if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother”. That is a common fallacy in the energy-efficiency world, and it ignores the real reasons that most of our customers pursue energy-efficiency, namely for comfort, health & safety, durability of the home, and even aesthetics! Energy-efficiency is often a nice way to pay for these benefits for many people. And examples of this abound. Windows is one—and we see payback on windows stretching to 40 years-plus in some cases. [By the way, this doesn’t mean we don’t educate people about the low-hanging fruit of air-sealing, insulation, duct-sealing, etc. We install more of those services than windows.] What’s the payback on a granite countertop? A sofa? An Xbox? A trip to the Grand Canyon? What’s the payback on making your daughter’s bedroom more comfortable all summer or winter?
As I’m sure you’re aware, many people don’t like and won’t use CFLs. And even though I used them in recessed light applications, the quality was inferior than incandescents in characteristics including light quality, color rendition, and dimmability. And that means that the stuck with incandescents. I’ve noted this in the California market, for example. In these cooling climates—and high electricity rate markets—in particular this is a shame. Not only are people forgoing the savings on the lighting side, but the inefficient lighting is dumping heat into the space that they there pay to remove with air-conditioning. A double whammy. Having a product that people are willing to use is a game changer.
In new construction applications, or retrofit applications where trims are being installed (or replaced) anyway, the cost is the CR6/LR6 is actually overstated by about $10—because it includes an integrated trim already. Plus, installation is quicker than with a two-step trim-lamp-process. Not much, but minutes add up.
In some high-bay applications with 9-, 10-, or higher ceilings, a 35,000 hour life (or a 50,000 hour life in the case of the LR6) is a huge deal. Some people have to pay a professional to change their lamps—and avoiding this covers the cost of the LEDs even without the energy savings! This is certainly true in commercial situations as well. You may be handy and not afraid of heights or ladders (and have the appropriate ladder), but for some people this is a very important factor.
I’ll note that it took me three tries to find these at the Home Depot in NY—because they’d already sold out at the first two and they were waiting on the next shipment. So some people are recognizing the value already.
These already make sense. We don’t need the price to change a penny for that to be true. I do agree that they won’t have broad market appeal at that price point yet. I’ll expect the prices to drop steadily in the coming years. They have already dropped over the last 18 months. But people can feel good about starting savings today.
Happy New Year!