Switching to LED bulbs. Does it make sense to wait for the old lights to burn out?

We just bought a new (to us) house and it has a lot of light bulbs in it. I would very conservatively estimate that it has between 60 - 75 bulbs. They’re a mixture of incandescent and CFL’s (the spiral looking ones which I think look funny). In our old house, I gradually made the switch to LED’s. Does it make sense to do a mass change out of all of the bulbs or should I wait for them to burnout first and replace them as needed? I know that incandescents don’t last a particularly long time and are horribly inefficient. CFL’s last quite a bit longer and are more efficient than incandescents but look stupid (IMHO).

What would you recommend? I can afford it (I guess) but it’ll probably cost between $200-$300 to do them all.

Also, does anyone have experience with LED tubes that are used to replace traditional 4 foot fluorescent bulbs?

LED bulbs, in any form factor, are great. Mom has tube fixtures in her kitchen, and the fluorescents were always causing problems. She replaced them with LED tubes, and now they work reliably, produce better light, and use less electricity. 5 stars, would recommend.

I tried piecemealing the job at our house when we moved in and the light was very uneven. Some rooms would be very white or very bright and other rooms would be very orange or very dim. It found it annoying, so I just replaced everything with one kind of LED light.

I think it’s more economically efficient to just wait out the lights, but aesthetically annoying.

Do you know if she got the “plug and play” or the retrofit type?

I don’t think it’s economically compelling to replace good CFL’s with LED’s because the efficiency is similar.

If the LED’s look to you a lot better, or it’s a question of uniformity of tone where you want all LED or none, or the convenience of just getting the whole project out of the way at once, then you might do them at at once.

Back when we had any incandescents I thought it worth it to get rid of them for CFL’s, and didn’t wait for them to burn out, except a few low use ones. In our still partial transition to LED’s I’m doing it as the CFL’s burn out. Although that again sorts itself out by use. CFL’s can last for many years where you don’t use them alot, though the examples on the boxes of how much money you’d save over X years using them alot wer unrealistic because IME they only lasted a year or two in significant use. But we’re ‘empty nest’ a whole floor of the house kid’s unused rooms except for occasional visitors, some other lights around that are hardly used, CFL’s in those uses have been lasting for years and I don’t see a reason to throw them out if they work. In multiple bulb fixture I might go to all LED when one CFL burns out, maybe holding the CFL to replace another lone CFL, not only because of aesthetics but CFL’s heat might shorten life of nearby LED more than another LED would.

LEDs use between 75-90% less electricity than incandescents (which are heating elements that incidentally throw off a bit of visible light) so there is a nontrivial power savings, especially if your house is infested with teenagers who can’t seem to grasp light switches have an “off” setting. They also don’t get hot, which means you can do crazy stuff like adequately light closets without fear of fire. And they last longer.

But ahead of that, LEDs use between 75-90% less electricity. Sometimes doing “better” means something besides monetary expenses are to be considered. I think it’s worth it to swap ASAP, maybe keep the oldies around as curiosities, emergency backups, something else.

It really depends on the use of the individual bulbs. The 60 watt bulb in a seldom used guest room closet may be on for an hour a year, and at average US electricity prices of $0.12/kW-hr, only costs about a penny a year. Replacing it now with an $2.50 LED bulb is going to take hundreds of years to recoup the investment, assuming the LED materials/electronics didn’t fail from age.

Whereas the 60 watt bulb that is on for 10 hours a day costs $26.28 every year in electricity. Replacing that immediately with an 8.5 watt LED would save you $20 by the end of the year (after factoring in the purchase price of the bulb).

Just do it all at once. That’s what we did when we moved. The power savings is immediate and you can often get a price break on the LEDs when you buy in bulk.

Yes YamatoTwinkle provides the right approach. Estimate how much usage each bulb gets per day and calculate how much the cost of electricity is for each bulb per year. Replace those bulbs where the electricity saved will pay for the bulb in a few years. [and note you can save these bulbs to replace the low usage bulbs if they ever wear out or get broken.]

It’s a chunk of change. Maybe do one room at a time, if you want to spread it out.

My preference is to swap out the incandescents immediately, which will gain you the greatest cost savings immediately, then do the CFL’s as they burn out.

When I bought my house in 2008, before LEDs really took off, what I did was to replace the incandescent bulbs in the most frequently used lights with CFLs and kept the incandescents in the lights I rarely use. I also kept the incandescent bulbs I removed to use later in places where CFLs can’t go or just in case one of those low use bulbs happens to burn out.

Now I’ve used up all the incandescent bulbs I kept and and LEDs have become viable, I’m gradually replacing the CFLs with LEDs when they burn out. If one of the rarely used incandescents burns out I’ll probably move a CFL to that fixture to replace it and replace the CFL with an LED.

So what I would do in your situation would be to replace any incandescent bulbs in lights you use frequently with LEDs. Don’t bother replacing ones that rarely get used. Wait and replace the CFLs when they burn out, unless you just really don’t like the CFLs – their energy use is pretty close to LEDs.

I don’t know where you live, but see if your power provider gives any incentives to switch. Here in the Seattle area Puget Sound Energy sponsored a program where they’d send someone over to do an energy audit and also swap out your light bulbs for free (I think there was a thirty bulb maximum but we were under anyway) to LED.

Aren’t you supposed to do something or another to dispose of CFLs? If that matters to you, then it might make sense to just get rid of them all at once. If you’re the sort to just chuck it in the kitchen trash and not care, then change them as they naturally expire.

Be smart. First buy a handful of LED’s and put it in a room you use and see of you like them. In the summer consider sticking them in rooms you cool. There is a big difference between ‘warm’ ‘Daylight’ and several other terms. I personally dislike the blue-whites and like the yellow-white lights. I would hate to unknowingly buy the wrong type.

Then once you decide on the color temperature, go buy 10-20 of them and replace the most used ones.

Save the CF’s for locations that fit that quality of light. I personally use them outdoors where I burn them all night, and in other places where the light quality doesn’t matter. I also like to have one in my bathroom fan light as it takes some time to come up to 100% brightness and that is desirable there (useful at night when I want a gradual brightening).

IC’s use up in places that see very little light usage, like closet lights, seldom used guest rooms, etc. Also in areas where heat would be beneficial, perhaps basements, crawlspaces. If you have electric resistance heating, use your IC’s there in the winter. It is just as efficient in that case and could cost you nothing (as you would have paid for that heat at the same rate.).

in terms of money and the environment it would be best to replace traditional bulbs with whatever is cheaper at time of purchase (LED or CFL). Leave the CFL’s alone until they die and do the same.

There should be a number on the package indicating expected life of bulb. Take that into consideration when comparing costs. Also, You may not like the LED you choose. Don’t go out and buy 75 of them. Try different color temperatures to see what is pleasing to you.

Finally, consider the fixture it’s going in. I have some nice LED’s in my ceiling fan pointing down at me. They are frosted on the top so when facing down they don’t blind me. It’s a very even light for the location and direction they’re facing.

They’re certainly inefficient, but don’t base your decision on assumptions about how long they will last. I have a few incandescent bulbs in my house that I haven’t changed since I moved in over 20 years ago. And there’s an incandescent bulb that’s been burning for 118 years.

The wife and I moved into a new house, bringing some lovely lamps and chandeliers with us from previous locations, and realized we pretty-much don’t need the lamps now because the previous homeowner installed recessed lighting in all the common areas and the bedrooms have ceiling fan/lights.

The oddity is that the bulbs in the recessed ceiling lights are all frosted incandescent bulbs. They’re burning out lately and I’m replacing them one-by-one as they go. I can’t find the same size/shape in a frosted incandescent bulb. Instead, what I’m finding in that size/shape are LED clear-faced bulbs. Fortunately, the technology to use the same screw thread mounts on LED bulbs started coming out just a couple years ago and a direct swap is easy without any rewiring. The light is a bit more pale, but since they now work on dimmers (also relatively recent for LED’s) we just don’t run them on their full setting now.

When we were hunting for houses and looking at this place, the 4-foot double-bulb fluorescent garage lights worked perfectly. When we actually moved in, 5 out of 6 of the fixtures were dark. I eventually replaced the ballasts with eBay specials, but several of them started dying within months. Since new ballasts are shockingly expensive, I decided to replace the fluorescent bulbs with LEDs and figured I’d just get the ByPass format so I’d never have to bother with ballasts again. What I didn’t realize was that ByPass LED tubes require a different kind of connector (tombstone). After buying those and replacing the connectors in the existing light fixtures, I ended up with a beautifully-lit garage and, if the advertising is to be believed, I won’t have to worry about messing with the light fixtures for another thirty years. By then there will be something better available – though I’ll be too old an decrepit to do the replacements by myself.

I’m proud to say swapping out all my bulbs, including the cost of tombstones, cost less than swapping out one ballast for a new one – and there are six fixtures I needed to convert. My only complaint is that, like kanicbird, I prefer the yellowish light (Bastard Amber) and modern lights are heading toward the whiter end of the spectrum. I find that the yellowish light seems to be easier on my eyes when I’m trying to read or concentrate on details.

I can see clearly now…
…–Johnny Nash
I can see clearly now

Before you replace anything with LED’s, remember to verify what the “temperature” is of the new bulb. LEDs range from about 2700K (very “warm” like an old fashioned incandescent) to around 5000K (very “cool” and more like bright sunlight.) Your current CFL bulbs are probably all over the place in terms of color temperature. You may even find that you want different temperatures in different rooms.

As for replacing all your CFLs at once, I keep hearing I should recycle them. I know Home Depot used to accept them for recycling, but the stores around here took out those bins years ago. I also heard Best Buy accepted them, but not the store near me. I have a batch of burned out CFLs sitting in my closet that I can’t get rid of, but feel guilty about throwing in the trash.

Check with your power company, they may be willing to sell you bulbs for short money. Failing that, there is coupons for LED bulbs in the current BJ’s circular.