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B.C. man upgrades whole house to LED, anticipates big savings

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After replacing 124 incandescents, an estimated $11,000 in savings over 20 years

It started with one bulb. Just one simple light bulb, picked from a display at the front of a London Drugs store. A few months later, Paul DeMara's entire home had been converted to LED.

"I got tired of replacing bulbs," DeMara explains.

While the typical incandescent bulbs burns for about 1,000 hours and compact fluorescents (CFL) last about 8,000 hours, ENERGY STAR® LEDs will shine for at least 25,000 hours.

Over the phone, DeMara explains his fascination with anything with wires. He loves technology.

"I've watched the evolution of LED bulbs from showing up in flashlights to the point where it's completely viable to relight your entire home or business," says the North Delta resident, who has calculated that he'll save $11,000 in energy costs over 20 years with his switch to LEDs.

Key to that viability is that ENERGY STAR LED lighting reduces energy costs by using at least 75 per cent less energy than incandescent lighting, and they last 25 times as long.

Power Smart offers led to LED conversion

Last October, DeMara saw a BC Hydro display at a London Drugs store. He was able to push buttons to turn LED bulbs on and off to see the quality and colour of the light they produced.

The Power Smart Month savings meant, that in some cases, the bulbs were available at less than half price. "It was close to what a good quality CFL was going to cost anyway," says DeMara.

So he bought a couple and brought them home to try them out. "I started in the major areas," he says, "like the living room and the kitchen, where the lights are on more often."

He, his wife and his son all liked the way the LED bulbs lit their North Delta home. So DeMara decided to buy some more bulbs the next time he was at Home Depot.

"I got started and just kept going," he said. With the exception of a few specialty bulbs, the new LEDs were all purchased via Power Smart lighting specials.

In all, DeMara replaced 124 incandescent bulbs.

Racking up the savings

It cost DeMara about $3,000 to purchase all those LED bulbs. He tracked the process of conversion – making note of things like individual wattages and costs – and shared it with BC Hydro.

Power Smart engineer Cristian Suvagau verified DeMara's math and thinks he could recoup his investment within four years with overall cost and energy savings of 87 per cent.

The old, incandescent bulbs required more than 8,000 kWh of electricity every year. That costs about $600. The LEDs, on the other hand, will use only 1,000 kWh, which translates to about $75 a year.

In other words, it will now cost DeMara less than a dime to light his 2,000 square foot house on an average day.

He'll save $525 a year in electricity costs alone. Factoring in the cost of replacing incandescents, which are less expensive but only last about a year, the recovery on that $3,000 investment could happen within four years.

Tried and tested

Not all LEDs are created equal, though. Power Smart's Cristian Suvagau says to insist on bulbs that are ENERGY STAR rated.

For his part, DeMara is grateful that the bulbs he was purchasing were returnable. "Everybody knows what a 60 W incandescent bulb looks like," he says. Not so with LEDs. "Each bulb behaves differently," he adds.

So DeMara would bring new bulbs home and try them out to make sure they produced the light pattern he wanted. If a bulb didn't look right, he'd return it and get a different one to try out.

And his experience with dimmable LEDs has been good, too, although he did have to replace one dimmer switch that was not compatible with the new bulb.

Paul recommends paying attention to the qualities of the bulbs, which are printed on the packaging, to ensure that you're getting the lighting effect you expect.

The amount of light they generate is given in lumens, and the colour of the light is reported in degrees (sunlight is around 6,000 degrees Kelvin). A typical 60-watt incandescent bulb provides around 800 lumens at about 3,000 degrees Kelvin.

Paul figures he'll have to wait a full year to really see what the electricity savings will be. In the meantime, he and his family will be enjoying their new light bulbs.