Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


LED Light Bulbs; Pros and Pros + Conspicuous Conservation

Everyone knows what LED light bulbs are by now, right?  The three main benefits of LED light bulbs are  longer life, less energy usage, and Conspicuous Conservation.  OK, that last one was a joke.

Kind of.

LED light bulbs have been around for many years, but they've been too expensive for me to justify buying.  While I know they make a lot more economical sense than a Prius, I've been holding off for the prices to drop down a little further.  I finally decided to buy a few last week.

I use the recessed lights in my kitchen more than any of the other lights in my house, so those are the ones that made the most sense to replace.  I have 65 watt flood lights, and I probably have them on for about four hours every day - more during the winter, less during the summer.  To figure out my annual cost to operate each bulb, I'll assume I pay $0.08 / kWh.  The equation is 4 hours * 365 days * .065 kW * $0.08 = annual cost.  This makes my annual cost to operate each bulb $7.59.

EcoSmart LED FloodlightTwo or three weeks ago, Home Depot had a special buy on the 65-watt equivalent LED lights, bringing the price of a 9.5 watt LED floodlight down to $24.97.  My annual cost to operate one of these bulbs would be $1.11, making my annual savings $6.48 per bulb, bringing the 'payback' period to a little less than four years.  To really sweeten the deal though, these bulbs are designed to be installed without a trim kit.  If you have decent trim kits on your recessed lights, this will mean nothing to you... but I have super-ugly yellow (ok - 'ivory') trim kits on the recessed lights in my kitchen, and I've actually contemplated spray-painting them white or buying new ones, but now I don't have to.


The photo below shows the four new LED light bulbs on the left, and two older incandescent bulbs with ugly yellow trim kits on the right.  Those will be replaced very soon.

LED Flood Lights

A common complaint that people have with LEDs is that the color looks blue-ish or cold, but not so with these bulbs.  These looks just like the other bulbs in my kitchen - in fact, I think they look even better.  I wouldn't even know these were LED bulbs if I hadn't been the one to put them in.  The light output is 575 lumens, which is average for a 65-watt incandescent bulb.

Lit LED Flood Lights

Dimming LEDs

Another complaint that people have with LEDs is that they don't dim properly, or they won't dim low enough; not so with these bulbs.  To properly dim an LED bulb, the bulb itself needs to be dimmable and an LED dimmer switch needs to be used.  After installing an LED dimmer switch, I was able to get these LED bulbs to dim about as low as my incandescent bulbs.  I had to wait until night-time to take a photo of this, but I think you'll agree - the light output at the lowest level is quite similar to the incandescent bulbs.  The one interesting thing is that at the full dim level, these lights seem to change color - they look a little green-ish.

Dimmed LED Lights

If you try using a standard incandescent dimmer switch with LED bulbs, it probably won't work properly.  The video below, taken by Milind, shows a good example of what happens when the wrong dimmer is used.  This video shows CFL light bulbs, but CFL and LED dimmer switches are the same thing.

Another good bulb

If you're not interested in replacing the existing trim kits on your recessed lights, you can buy standard LED bulbs without a trim kit.  Costco sells a 65-watt equivalent for about $15, and it looks almost identical to a standard incandescent bulb.  I picked up one of these for a recessed light in my bathroom, and it seems to give off the same color as the old incandescent bulb, but it's actually quite a bit brighter.  While the packaging called this a 65-watt equivalent, it actually puts out 750 lumens of light and consumes 13 watts.  Given the comparison to the bulbs from Home Depot, this seems more light an 85-watt equivalent.  Either way, I like it.  I'm happy.

LED bulbs are cooler... and they generate less heat.

Besides all of the energy saving features, LED light bulbs are great for recessed lights when you have an attic space above, because they generate far less heat, which means less heat gets transferred to your attic space during the winter, which can help to prevent ice dams.  You can read more about that here - Recessed Lights are Evil.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 16 commentsReuben Saltzman • October 24 2012 03:06AM


...and getting rid of the new LED bulbs have to be disposed of according to SILLY EPA rules because they are DANGEROUS.  Fortunately, the OLD bulbs are still available and I have a stash of them in my basement.

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 6 years ago

I love the old bulbs and I went out and bought up ALL that  I could find so that I don't have to use the LED bulbs for a long time because the only mercury I want in my home is in one fever thermometer. If one of those LED bulbs breaks you have a dangerous mess to clean up. The disposal is another big issue. 

For environmentalists to be cheering on these bulbs is an oxymoron. They are horrible for the environment. And they are not healthy for humans. In fact, new studies are pointing to these LED causing cancer. Of course, some extreme tree huggers would welcome more people dying to save the earth. 

The laws of unintended consequences of people passing laws forcing others to purchase products and taking away free choice. 


Posted by Katerina Gasset, Get It Done For Me Virtual Services (Get It Done For Me Virtual Services ) over 6 years ago

I have seen these same bulbs in someones kitchen. They bought them from Home Depot. I agree the light was very good. I'm a little confused by the other two comments, since when did LEDs contain mercury. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Wallace - I think you're confusing LED light bulbs with CFLs.  LED light bulbs do not contain mercury, or any other hazardous substances.  

Nestor & Katerina - see my comment to Wallace above.  You have nothing to worry about with LED light bulbs.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Hi Rueben,

Great breakdown of the difference in the bulbs and the dimmers.

Thanks for sharing the info. I suggested the post.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

James - I'm pretty sure it's confusion with CFLs.  LED manufacturers ought to make it clear to the public that  LED bulbs do not contain mercury.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Clint - thanks!

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

I'm not sure it's all to do with confusion. That video reminds me of a landing strip strobes. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Reuben, That is funny I almost bought those bulbs just the other day. I was looking long an hard at them.

Like you said people are confusing the CFL (Compact fluorescent) with the LED's (Light Emitting Diode).

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

They don't contain mercury, but they do contain radon, right?

Hey, there's all kinds of urban stuff out there.  Why not add to it!

And your break even is in only four years!  Wow!

My candles are very long lasting.  And my break even is way quicker than four years.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Reuben-I've been slowly added a few LED around the house. I have two outside plugged into a sensor-love it. 

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 over 6 years ago

Rueben, I am aware of the advantages of LEDs and I'm so tired of CFLs burning out quickly that I may make the change.  Go Giants.

Posted by Lloyd Binen, Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411 (Certified Realty Services) over 6 years ago

There is other added benifit to LED. Their long life. In certain places where bulbs are difficult to replace LED bubls can save in labor costs. Another is the reduced heat output. A incandecent buld puts out as much as 90% heat. The retrfit trim kits you installed provide a good amount of airsealing. A can light can leak 7-12 CFM. 

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 6 years ago

James - I had the same thought :)

Donald - do it.  You'll be happy with 'em.  

Jay - yes, but as long as the bulbs remain intact the radon won't leak out (ha ha).  Somehow I don't believe your candle claim ;)

Adrian - I think that's going to be the next place I add them.

Lloyd - Yes, LED outlast CFLs by a long shot.

Rob - good point about the longer life of LEDs and labor costs.  If I were to add some type of gasket above those lights I'm sure I'd really help to air seal seal.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

You can always caulk the trim to drywall but they do a pretty good job when they are just installed flush. That built in lens does good. It a easy retrofit for home owners. Plus you can not put insualtion over it as long as it stays an LED.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 6 years ago

Writer # 2 is mixing up LEDs with compact fluorescent.  They are the ones with the mercury, etc.

Reuben, as always, a well written and illuminating article.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 6 years ago