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Will the LED Lightbulb Save Us All?

As My Fabulous Bride DebbieMiller® and I go about integrating her treasures and her parents’ debris into one household, we find that adequate illumination plays an essential role in making the task less burdensome. 

The problem is, or at least has been, that lightbulbs are a source of considerable heat and can even serve as an ignition source under certain conditions. In an earlier pad, our pup, the Late Great Bandit, knocked down a clamp-on work light containing a reflector bulb, which quickly melted through the Herculon of the sofa, and was smoking its way through strata of horse hair and foam rubber when I was alerted by the stench and turned it off. 

Part and parcel of the heat light bulbs throw off is that incandescent light bulbs are horribly wasteful of electricity. In fact, it is only by doing their job inefficiently that they do it at all. 

By forcing electricity through a tungsten coil in an inert gas, such a colossal amount of resistance builds up that the metal glows white hot, emitting a lot of light, but even more heat. Of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by a traditional 100 watt light bulb, only about 10 percent is visible light. The remaining 90 percent is invisible infrared radiation, exploited by any owner-operator of an Easy-Bake Oven® as heat

Incensed by the economic and metaphysical injustice of this ratio, I was an early adopter of LED light bulbs. I first employed them in sockets about the house that were left on 24 hours a day — a nightlight in the bathroom, a vintage illuminated globe in my bedroom, a wall lamp in the dog room, a couple of outdoor security lights. Even when LED bulbs were an expensive novelty, I could justify them in these spots as they would quickly pay for themselves in energy savings. 

I could not at that time justify deploying LED technology everywhere because the bulbs were still just too darned expensive. In 2010, when I started making the changeover, a 40 watt equivalent bulb cost just under $18. As I often did with technology, I set a price threshold and waited for it to be met. 

The day came in August of 2015, when I posted on Facebook: “If you’re thinking of making the switch to LED bulbs, now may be a good time. Home Depot has several options that bring 60 watt equivalent bulbs down to about $2.50 a pop. That’s the cheapest I’ve ever seen them. NOT ONLY THAT, but you can get a $10.00 Home Depot gift card if you fill out a survey at a TVA website.”  

The price per bulb still hovers in the $2.50 range. 

The incandescent bulbs in the house that had vexed me most were the six, 100-watt Reveal daylight-balanced ones above the bathroom vanity. These were brilliant and refreshing to wake up to and shower by in the morning, but they hogged 600 watts of juice and released the requisite 540 watts worth of heat into the small, enclosed space. These, then, were the first of the non-specialized bulbs to be replaced at a total investment of fifteen bucks. 

Apparently a number households were sensing a similar tipping point. In 2016, thinkprogress.org quoted Goldman Sachs, who reported, “The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history.”

It made sense. LED bulbs were more durable than traditional bulbs or compact fluorescents. They lasted longer, and they saved energy. Lots of energy. 

“The accelerated deployment of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is on track to save U.S. consumers and businesses $20 billion a year in electricity costs within a decade,” thinkprogress.org projected. In turn, this would stand to “lower U.S. CO2 emissions by some 100 million metric tons a year! (Their emphasis.) The growing global effort to speed up LED adoption could ultimately cut global energy costs and carbon pollution 5 times as much.” 

In the midst of all sorts of bad news on the world climate front, it’s not too much to hope that these benefits will come to pass. As for DebbieMiller® and me, as we pursue the endless, thankless task of sorting through Mr. Miller’s rubble, we are happy to adopt any technology that will help us to avoid becoming hot under the collar.

About the author

Brad Hall

Brad Hall

Brad Hall is a pastor and the author of "Lousy Roger and Other Tales: A collection of Lectionary-based Sermons," available on Amazon.com. In 2014, after 27 years of courtship, he married pop culture scholar Deborah Ann Miller. They share a place with two dogs, Scotty and Demitasse, and two cats, Quirkie and Brucie.

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