How to Save Money Using Outdoor LED Lighting

natural lighting

October 12, 2017

LED, short for “light-emitting diode,” is one of the most energy-efficient lighting options available today. Their efficiency makes LEDs appealing for homeowners – and the technology continues to develop. LED lights are not an overhyped fad at risk of disappearing anytime soon, so homeowners can feel confident they will be able to maintain and replace a new LED system in the future.

How are LED Lights Different From Other Lights?

According to the Department of Energy, LED lights have several unique features that make them very different from incandescent lights and other, newer options such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). First of all, each light-emitting diode is minuscule (the size of a single grain of ground pepper). Diodes of different hues are combined in one light to create a white color. Altering the mixture of colors can give an LED light a different tint.

Secondly, it is easy to control the direction of the light with LED systems. This lowers the need for reflectors or shades, which can cause a fire hazard or become overly hot when used with regular incandescent bulbs. With installations like recessed lighting, LEDs are an ideal option. When incandescent bulbs are used in such lighting systems, a portion of the light is lost because it must be reflected in a certain direction, thereby increasing the amount of energy used to light the space.

LEDs are also noticeably cooler than incandescent lights and CFLs. This coolness makes them safer to handle and is also a sign of energy efficiency. Conversely, incandescent bulbs release 90 percent of their energy as heat, and CFLs release 80 percent.

What Does This Mean for the Overall Cost?

Does this energy efficiency lead to savings on power bills? Lighting specialist LED Waves offers a savings calculator that can show potential LED adopters how much they could save. The catch for many people is that the initial cost of installing an LED fixture is high. Confronted with the option of buying a $1 incandescent bulb or buying a new $50 fixture, most people would opt for replacing the bulb. The savings become clear by taking the bulb and LED fixture comparison a step further. On average, the power cost for a standard incandescent light is $40 per year. For a comparable LED, the annual cost is approximately $4. This means that your light will pay for itself in less than two years if you calculate the cost using the $50 average price for each new fixture.

Additionally, the lifespan of an LED bulb is roughly 50,000 hours. Incandescent lights, by comparison, live for about 1,200 hours. The shorter lifespan adds to the cost of continuing with incandescent bulbs in the long term. Especially for outdoor lighting, the longer life of LEDs means that you will rarely, if ever, have to climb a ladder or remove landscaping features to change a bulb.

Fixture Quality is Important for Landscape Lighting

Efficiency, low maintenance, long-term cost-effectiveness, and lack of heat make LEDs ideal for outdoor lighting. So what should homeowners look for when planning the switch to this type of lighting for their porches, yards, walkways and entertainment areas? First of all, they should not settle for the cheapest fixture options. The LED bulbs may last for a long time, but outdoor fixtures need to be well made so that they can stand up to the elements. Cheaper plastic units may look initially appealing, but without a lengthy warranty, they may not be worth the investment because they are more prone to cracking and decay.

The length of the warranty may also hint at its hardiness. Brass, aluminum, and stainless steel fixtures are often more expensive than plastic, but they are better equipped to handle the outdoor placement better.

LEDs Compared With Compact Fluorescent Lights

CFL bulbs are a logical step up from incandescent bulbs in terms of efficiency. Because fluorescent lights usually fit in standard incandescent fixtures, they do not require as much of an upfront investment. While they do offer savings on your energy bill, CFLs contain one major drawback: mercury. If a fluorescent bulb breaks, it can be difficult to clean up because of the gases; this is not a problem with LEDs. In addition, CFLs seldom turn on instantly. These bulbs do not flicker as much as old-fashioned fluorescent tubes, but they do take a second or longer to reach their full lighted state. LEDs illuminate immediately, just like incandescents.

A final consideration is the expected look of the light. This is where LED options can prove disappointing. Incandescent bulbs usually have a warm look. Homeowners may expect the same attractive glow from other types of lights as well. However, LEDs can seem harsher and can emit blue-hued rays that people new to this type of lighting might not expect. Luckily, one of the developments in LED technology involves mixing the individual diodes in different ways so that they can mimic incandescents and provide a variety of different looks.

Using Color Temperature to Get the Right Look

The buyer should be aware of the different options when purchasing new LED lights. Home improvement stores may have a display that shows these different options. At the very least, each bulb’s box should have a description of the color and style of light that the bulb emits. Color temperature can help predict what a bulb will look like when turned on.

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). A warm look similar to an incandescent bulb will be between 0 and 2900K. Brighter, whiter lights will fall in the range of 3000K to 4900K. At a temperature of 5000K or more, lights are considered “cool white.” These bulbs have a blue-tinged hue that people sometimes associate with LEDs.

Other Reasons LED is Ideal for Landscaping Lighting

LEDs have other advantages for outdoor use. Insects are attracted to UV lights, which is why they tend to congregate around porch lamps. Most LED lights do not emit UV rays and, therefore, do not have the same allure to insects as incandescent lights.

LEDs are flexible in terms of design. The lights can be directional, meaning they can focus on a specific object instead of lighting up an entire area. This is often useful in landscaping because it can create dramatic effects.

Also, since LEDs are less breakable than other types of bulbs, they are safer for an outdoor setting where children or pets may be present.

How to Pay for an LED Upgrade

The initial cost of switching to LED might seem like a barrier to their use, especially when you are installing outdoor fixtures that require enough quality to withstand the elements. Since they can offer significant energy-saving benefits over their lifespan, outdoor LED fixtures may qualify for property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing. PACE programs are designed to help homeowners afford the upfront costs associated with energy efficiency improvements.

Basically, the PACE program provides the financing for the installation of the outdoor LED fixtures, and then the homeowner may employ future savings on their power bill to help pay for the project over time.

Do energy-efficient upgrades appeal to you? Find out if PACE financing is available in your area – contact Ygrene: (855) 901-3999;