• October 20, 2014

Homeowner’s calculations show his LED lights will pay off big

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Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2014 4:30 am

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Would you jump at an opportunity to turn $975 into more than $8,000?

Dave Lippert did. And he thinks you should, too.

A year and a half ago, Lippert replaced most of the light bulbs in his home with energy-saving LED bulbs, and he’s tracked his energy savings ever since. By his calculations, he will have saved enough on his electric bill by April 2015 to recoup the $975 he paid for the bulbs. And over their lifetime, he figures, those bulbs will save $8,186 in electricity costs in today’s dollars.

Lippert embarked on his study to amass the hard evidence he needed to convince friends and family members that efficient lighting saves real money.

His intense interest isn’t surprising. He’s a retiree from the electric utility industry and a details person by nature. Since the day he and his wife, Leslie, moved into their home in 1973, he has tracked all their natural gas and electrical use and costs.

Lippert is also enthusiastic about making upgrades to the house to save energy, some of which were recommended by a 2008 home energy audit conducted through Dominion East Ohio’s Home Performance With Energy Star Program.

Lower wattage

Around 2010 or 2011, Lippert’s interest in energy savings led him to start thinking about replacing his incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs with LED versions, but big box stores didn’t sell LED bulbs that met all his needs. He found Viribright Lighting Inc. on the Internet, liked what he saw in its catalog and, with the help of some of its staff, purchased enough bulbs for almost all the lamps and light fixtures in his 2,400-square-foot house. The only exceptions were lights for which he couldn’t get LED replacements or that don’t use LED bulbs, such as a few fixtures that use clear candelabra bulbs or fluorescent tubes.

In all, he replaced lighting that used 3,656 watts of electricity with 638 watts’ worth of LED bulbs, all of them dimmable. And he did something else: He purposely avoided adding or subtracting any electrical device in the house for a year to add some measure of control to his study.

“There’s nothing we did different, because I was trying to isolate it (the difference in energy use) to the light bulbs,” he said.

Savings roll in

Then he started watching the energy savings roll in.

In one year, the Lipperts reduced their electricity use nearly 19 percent, from 12,590 killowatt-hours to 10,217. Because Lippert locked into a lower electric rate during that time, their spending on electricity dropped more than 25 percent, from $1,599.03 to $1,190.75. That’s an annual saving of $408.26 and an annual rate of return on his investment of 41.87 percent, he calculated.

Lippert figured the lights in his house are typically on an average of 3.4 hours a day, so those LED bulbs should last a little more than 20 years if they live up to their claim to keep burning for 25,000 hours. So based on his costs during the one-year study, he calculated he would save $8,186 in electricity over the life of the bulbs.

Actually, the saving may be even greater. When he figures in the results from the months since his one-year study ended, his energy savings increase even more, to about $445 on an annualized basis.

Replace one by one

Lippert doesn’t recommend everyone follow his lead and change all their lighting at once. For most people, he said, it makes more sense to replace bulbs one by one, as the less efficient bulbs burn out.

But Lippert is 75 and didn’t want to wait. “I wanted to be able to show results,” he said. “I couldn’t show results one bulb at a time.”

Nor does he think it’s wise to dispose of working light bulbs. He donated the bulbs he removed to St. Joseph Church in Massillon, Ohio, for its use.

Lippert was careful to consider the color of the lighting he chose for various areas of his house. In the kitchen, for example, he used cool white light in the ceiling can lights to match the existing under-cabinet lighting, but he put a daylight bulb in a fixture over the kitchen table. Its bluer, brighter light makes it easier for aging eyes to read the newspaper, he explained.

The laundry room and some of the lamps in the living room and sun room have warmer lights that are similar to incandescent light. The warmer light doesn’t change the appearance of the walls’ paint colors the way bluer light would, and it produces a more pleasing hue when it shines through the colored glass in one Tiffany-style shade, he said.

Lippert enjoys sharing his findings, and he summarized them in a report he distributed to family members and friends. He hopes it will encourage them to try the new technology, particularly the individuals who are reluctant to give up their old-style light bulbs.

Lippert, on the other hand, embraces change.

“To me, this is enjoyable,” he said. “I’m learning something new. I’m looking to the future.”

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