REALITY CHECK: Earth Day 2012 and the Philips L Prize LEDs

It’s Earth Day 2012 and I decided a little reality check was in order for politicians, business, and tree huggers. A reality check to coincide with other recent glorious news about the Philips L Prize LED bulbs.

LED lighting is an environmentally sound solution offering HUGE savings on energy bills, but it’s expensive to get in the game and some are struggling, trying to figure out how to convince YOU to jump onboard with the awesome.

The L Prize bulbs were priced at $60 a pop, but starting today there are rebates from the manufacturer and some utilities which can drop the price down to $25. Each bulb will allegedly last 30,000hrs and can save you $165 compared to a 60w incandescent, over its lifetime.

Huge theoretical savings, still too much damn money to get in the game, yet the green crew doesn’t get why more people aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid, so I’ll break it down …

When you say 3-year limited warranty I hear time, hassle, and more money. If (when?) those 2 bulbs in my bathroom die during the warranty period, what then? Do I have to call support, get put on hold, and complete a warranty request? Do I have find a suitable box to ship the dead bulbs back, go to the post office, spend $5-$10 of my money to mail the bulbs back, then wait and wait for my replacements?


When you say 3-year limited warranty I am reminded of how things have a bad habit of breaking just after the warranty expires. Wait. Let me guess. I can buy an extended warranty for a few extra years?

All those fancy and impressive numbers about how I can save big money over the life of a product are awesome, but I live in the real world and know that to realize those savings the product must last somewhere near to its alleged life.

The two bulbs in the light fixture inside my front door get about 10 mins of use per day. If I replace those two $0.65 bulbs with the $25 LEDs rated for 30,000hrs of life, at that 10mins of use per day, the “over its lifetime” savings could take 483 years to be realized.

Over the course of 1 year, at $0.10/kWh these two 60W bulbs running for 10 minutes per day will use 7300kWh, costing $0.73 in hydro. Two 10W L Prize bulbs would use 1216kWh, costing $0.12. Spend $50 for two 10W L Prize bulbs to save $0.61 cents per year? That’s one long road to the $165 per bulb savings and purely on the hydro basis, it would take 82 years of saving $0.61 per year just to cover the initial $50 bulb cost.

I don’t have that kind of patience or time. I’ll be dead.

I just did a quick count and throughout my house there are 50 bulbs. I can go to my local Home Depot and buy 50 incandescents for $30 + tax – OR – I can replace those 50 incandescents with 50 L Prize LEDs at the discounted cost of $25 each – assuming my utility offers the rebates – for $1,250+ tax.

Uh hu.

If I go by the alleged savings of $165 per bulb – over its lifetime – that “investment” of $1,250+ tax would theoretically save me $8,250.

Do I believe LED bulbs in my front hallway will last 483 years? Even at 4hrs of use per day, do I believe that the $25 LED will last 20.5 years or even close to that?

No. No I do not.

This isn’t about bashing Earth Day 2012, the green police and tree huggers. Reducing energy usage and pollution is a good thing and I am all for it.

This isn’t a jab at Philips and their L Prize LEDs. They’re very cool and I would most certainly be delighted to replace every bulb in my house with one, but not at $1,250+ tax and I do not trust or believe for a single second that the bulbs will actually last close to their rated life so I can realize that glorious savings from my “investment.”

Look, when you hype how much I can save with a bulb over its 30,000hrs of life, I am reminded of the 10+ hard drives that have died on me over the last 2 years which were purchased in the last 4. With an average rated MTBF of 1 million hours, at 8hrs of use per day you might think they’d theoretically last 342 years.

Well … they came up a little short.