Consumers still in dark about LED lights; what you need to know

What type of light bulb lasts the longest and uses the least electricity?

About half of Americans — 49 percent — polled recently didn’t know the correct answer is the LED, or light-emitting diode bulb, the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Federation of America said Monday.

“The lighting revolution is still in process. Both consumers and retailers have not fully embraced LEDs,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA executive director.


CFA estimates that a household using at least 20 light bulbs could save $1,000 or more in a decade by using LEDs in place of incandescent or halogen bulbs.

The survey conducted for CFA by ORCI International of a representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans by cell phone and landline also found that 52 percent of respondents did not plan to replace burned-out bulbs with LEDs.

Part of the problem is that consumers do not have enough information when purchasing light bulbs. Although retailers have enhanced LED displays and signage over the past two years, there’s room for improvement, and they play a critical role, Brobeck said.

LED bulbs typically use about $1 of electricity annually, while incandescent and halogen bulbs typically consume about $5 of electricity a year. In addition, using LEDs also has the potential to reduce the need for new power plants paid for largely by consumers, CFA said.

Before 2012, consumers had a choice between the 125-year-old incandescent bulb, or the compact fluorescent bulb, distinguished by its spiral shape. In 2012, a new class of incandescent bulbs known as halogen entered the market when new federal energy efficiency standards went into effect.

Meanwhile, LED bulbs have been coming down in price. An LED bulb produced for Home Depot by Durham, N.C.-based Cree Inc., looks similar to the familiar incandescent bulb and has been a top seller. As recently as 2013 the average price for an LED bulb was $25. Now, some brands are about $2.50 per bulb when purchased in a four-pack.

The latest data from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association shows that over the last three years, the LED bulb’s market share has increased from under 5 percent to 28 percent. Halogens have held nearly 50 percent of the market for the last two years.

CFA also surveyed retailer displays and signage about LED socket bulbs in September and October at 16 major retailers in five states including supermarkets, drugstores, discounters and four large general retailers — Walmart, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot.

No Florida stores were included in the survey, but CFA found the displays at retailers it surveyed to be similar within each chain.

CFA judged the retailers on their displays, and Home Depot received the highest grade, an A minus. It primarily displayed LEDs, gave them prominence and provided good information about cost savings.

Lowe’s and Walmart received B pluses and Target received a B. Discounters grades were Dollar General, C plus, Family Dollar C and Dollar Tree, D plus.

When shopping for light bulbs, CFA advises, decide what type of bulb you want in terms of wattage (now lumens); type of light color or appearance, such as warm yellow or daylight (measured in kelvin); and dimmability.

Look first to the store’s house brand of bulbs because they tend to be cheaper, and because stores are likely to resolve problems with their own brand of light bulbs more quickly.

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