A couple of weeks ago I wrote about these $35 third-generation 5-watt LED lightbulbs and the even more expensive $50 6-watt dimmable variety. Well, six of each arrived today, and I’ve rarely been so happy. A kitchen that had four 100-watt floods in the ceiling now has four 6-watt dimmables, which even Charles – who is truly sensitive to shades of light – finds satisfactory. That is a 94% energy saving. The saving is less dramatic where I’m replacing 23-watt CFLs. And of course the saving is trivial with lights that rarely get used.

Yes, they’re expensive; and, no, I can’t be certain they’ll last as long as advertised (my dimmable CFLs sure didn’t – though the nondimmable ones have done fine). But they do come with a 3-year warranty. And these are the kinds of risks I’m willing to take to be part of the green wave we all hope to see wash over the planet.

If electricity runs you 15 cents a kilowatt hour – and I expect over time it will run even more – then going from 100 watts to 6 for (say) 6 hours a day saves you 94/1000ths of a kilowatt x 6 hours a day x 365 days a year x 15 cents per kwh = $30 and change per year. Not a bad return on a $50 investment. If they really last the claimed 35,000 hours, you would go more than 15 years in the example above before having to swap them out, having saved $463 in the meantime. More if the price of electricity rises further. A bit more still if you factor in the several incandescents you would have otherwise had to buy, and the value of your time in buying and replacing them.

Better still in a warm climate, where you have little need of heat but pay lots for air conditioning, in part to counteract heat from your lights. My LED bulbs run so cool, you can comfortably unscrew them even while the light is on.

Yes, it could pay to wait for the price to come down. (But really? Will the price of a $50 bulb come down by more than the $30 a year it’s saving you?) And, yes, the light from the cheaper, non-dimmable 5-watt bulb is pretty weak – I prefer the 6-watt. The former feels to my untrained eye like a 40-watt incandescent, while the latter (which can, of course, be used in a non-dimmable lamp) feels more to me like a 60-watt bulb.

But this holiday season, why not give everyone a lightbulb or two?


One of the attendees at the Clinton Global Initiative last month, the irrepressible Mark Bent, founded the company that makes ‘bogo lights.’ These are solar-powered LED flashlights that can be handy to have around the house, currently on sale at $25.99, but that have a special significance for the millions of families around the world with no electricity. For them, nothing much is possible once the sun sets. One of Mark’s current projects is Imagine: for $10, you can give a family several hours of light each night for a child to study by.


Another Clinton Global Initiative participant, Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank, showed a video of Africans blinded by cataracts undergoing a 6-minute $33 operation that restores their sight. Imagine the impact on that blind person – and his or her family. Standard Charter committed to match the first $10 million in donations toward this end. Check out the website; and if you are a U.S. donor moved by the thought of restoring someone’s sight for $33 (or, in a sense, two people’s sight for $33, becase of the match) . . . and who wants the U.S. tax deduction . . . click here.


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