Let there be light. And let it be from LEDs.

Let there be light. And let it be from LEDs.

Here’s a staggering number to think about: 425 million. That’s the number of 60-watt incandescent light bulbs sold every year. And that’s only half the domestic market.

Here’s another big figure to consider: by installing new, more efficient, 12-watt LED bulbs, like some introduced last week at LightFair, Americans could save 80% more energy. Or, put another way, they could conserve 32.6 terawatts of electricity – enough to power the lights of almost 17 million homes, or more than 14% of the country’s houses, for a year.

One last number – 5.3 million metric tons. That’s the estimated reduction in carbon emissions each year if we converted to LED lighting. And when you think that the new LED lights have an average lifespan of 17 years, well, that really adds up. But I’ll spare you another big number.

There’s lots of good news right now about LED lighting. Obviously, it’s more energy-efficient than CFLs and incandescents, many of the color problems are being resolved, there’s no mercury to worry about, the light quality is what consumers are demanding, and costs are coming down.

For example, back in 2008, you’d have to shell out $90 for a 60-watt equivalent light bulb. That same LED can soon be purchased for $60. Lower wattage LEDs are even more affordable.

In the meantime, here’s a shout out to our client Cree. They’ve partnered with GE to introduce a revolutionary 40-watt replacement bulb that’s designed to last for 25,000 hours. It saves 77% more energy and produces the instant full brightness of a halogen or incandescent bulb. The new GE Energy Smart LED bulb will be available later this fall or early next year and is expected to cost between $40 and $50.

But what will consumers do when they go to Home Depot or Lowe’s to buy new light bulbs and see a hefty price?

Grimace. Wince. Recoil. You get the picture.

We hear the same thing everywhere we go talking to consumers about energy efficiency – upfront cost is the primary barrier. They simply don’t have the cash, or don’t prioritize energy efficiency as a worthy investment. And frankly, they’re used to paying a whole lot less for light bulbs. There’s going to be a huge education curve to climb with consumers and LEDs.

Here’s my hope: utilities will soon be able to start converting consumers to LEDs with free samples. Once prices of CFLs came down, utilities started giving away the more energy-efficient bulbs, helping drive adoption rates. How far away are we from a similar situation with LEDs? One venture capitalist says we’re pretty darn close. Once LEDs hit $20, the energy savings would pay for the bulb and utilities could start handing them out like candy.

After initial consumer skepticism with CFLs, some folks just aren’t going to believe in LEDs. Free bulbs would help dissolve some of that resistance. After all, sometimes you have to see it to believe it.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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