Monday, November 10, 2014

Lightbulb Bureaucracy

LED lightbulbs are expensive at first, but save money eventually.

Well, that's the spiel, and I actually believe it, somewhat.  But I believe it with a bit of careful skepticism.  And so, here, I'm going to talk about how I administrate my lightbulbs (if that phrase makes sense).

I've been buying LED lightbulbs from our nearby hardware store.  Because I want at least 1000 lumens (the equivalent of 75-to-100 watt lightbulbs from the old days), the bulbs are pricey -- about $25 per bulb, on average.  (Yoicks!)   The theory is that LED light bulbs are supposed to last a VERY long time, and thereby save me gobs of money.  But the practice is that I already had one bulb burn out after about 7 months.  And fixing a $25 bulb every year or so could be expensive, even if the associated energy costs are low.

An LED lightbulb is supposed to last a long time.  It has some kind of a long-term warranty, which is useful if you actually keep track of details of acquisition and installation.  Keeping track can be tricky.

So here's what I do.

1.  I've started saving my lightbulb receipts in an envelope that I store together with my lightbulbs, not with the rest of my receipts.  Honestly, I think this is pretty clever.
I now keep an envelope like this . . . 
. . . in this box in my linen closet, which is where I store my light bulbs.

2.  I write the date on the lightbulb itself, using a sharpie, when I install it.
This is the most recent light bulb I've installed -- October 2014.
If it does burn out, at least I'll know for sure when I first screwed it in.
That's how I know that the lightbulb that burned out in my son's bedroom just last month was first installed eight months earlier (February 2014).

So when J-son came to tell me that the light in his bedroom had burned out, here's what we did.  I unscrewed it, and saw (because of the sharpie markings) that I'd installed it in February. I found the receipt from January, and my husband took the receipt and bulb back to the hardware store.

And just like that, we got a new lightbulb -- not exactly the same, but pretty much equivalent-- for free.  phew!

Moral of the story:   I'm going to start thinking harder about keeping my receipts where I'd start looking if I actually need them, not in a giant envelope with all my many other receipts.

Storing my receipts by use, instead of by date, might make more sense.   


  1. Replies
    1. Har! I'm super pleased with myself over this, actually. Isn't it funny how tiny things can make us so happy? -MM

  2. Impressive! And yes, the tiny things can make us very happy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Brilliant! I will employ this method straight away. I, too, have been frustrated by the seemingly less than promised life of these bulbs so finally, a way to measure!

  4. Nifty! And I wonder why yours are shorting out. Is it always the same light fixture?

    1. Well , "always the same" is an interesting question since I've had only one LED bulb burn out (she says, in a math geek musing kind of way . . . ).

      Although I had several disappointing CFL bulbs in the past, I've only had one LED bulb die on me. It's a bulb in the bedroom the boys share (and wrestle in), so I'm not *entirely* sure it's fair to blame the bulb. But adjacent teenage boy hyperactivity didn't stop me from taking the bulb back to the hardware store, and I was glad that the store agreed to replace it. -MM

  5. I've been marking my CFL bulbs since many years ago. That's how I know they don't last more than a year or so on average. But I could buy very inexpensive CFLs (2€ each) and worked out the numbers (energy saving against cost of the bulb) and found convenient to use them instead of the incandescent or even halogen ones. (As a bonus, I don't throw away any one of them because I'm an electronics geek and hope to take advantage some day of the inner circuits. Already I have used some).

    For the LED bulbs, I bought some cheap (3~5€ each) and low power (~2w) ones as experiment a couple of years ago. I used them only in the mirrored closet of the restroom. Some of them have failed so far, but not many. I bet that the failure is usually in the inner circuit, not in the Light Emitting Diodes properly. I have ripped some of the broken ones and taken the LEDs for other hobbist, educational and domestic uses. Only in one case I found that all the LEDs in the bulb were burned. When this happens is because of a circuitry failure (again!) that leads to an overvoltage on the LEDs.

    Some months ago I found some reasonably priced LED bulbs for about 7€ each and with higher power (11w) that yields the equivalent of 60w of the incandescent ones' light. So far, so good. The technology has improved and I hope these will last longer that the beginners. If not, maybe I'll be able to fix some of them if I find the inner broken component.

    I'm replacing the died CFL with the LEDs. I love these bulbs cause they yield full light since the very first moment you turn them on. And the light (warm) is very similar to the old ones.

    Like for the CFL, I didn't get rid of those burned 'starting' LED bulbs. As I said, I've recovered some LEDs to make lightspots, for instance. And other components (capacitors, resistors, etc.) are also available inside.

    Broken CFL and LED bulbs are considered electronic trash.

    Here in Europe we have some places (Clean Spots or Green Spots) where you can carry and deliver your electronic (and other types) trash in order to avoid it in the landfills, since it contains a lot of heavy metals and other toxic substances. I'm afraid those places are not so available in the U.S. That's what I learned from my stay in Portland, Oregon. People used to send the CFL bulbs to the rubbish bag and that is not ok for the environment. I wish things have changed since then.

    And excuse me if I have stolen your post. It's notorious that I love this subject.

    1. Escorpiuser! Good to have you back! Yes, you bring up a lot of good points.

      We do have a place to bring our electronic and hazardous waste -- less than a kilometer from my home, in fact. But that doesn't mean that my neighbors are always willing to make the trip. Sigh. -MM

    2. Thanks for the welcoming!

      I went away when you decided to give it up in order to fulfill some other of your life personal projects.

      I haven't totally get back since I hardly find time to attend my own blogs (yes, I have some) due to job, family and computer affairs...

      I hope I'll be visiting your blog more often in the future as I always find it plenty of interesting things.