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How Do Led Light Bulb Parts Compare in Savings and Construction to Incandescent (Regular) Light Bulbs?

Updated on October 1, 2020
john000 profile image

John is always on the lookout for ways to upgrade his home and to save money. Energy efficiency is always a part of his strategy to save.

Given the need to conserve energy in our energy hungry world, newer technologies tend to penetrate the market as energy costs rise. Today, the LED (light-emitting diode) has made its presence known, especially with the advent of clusters to power larger lights. With the price of oil rising, and the emphasis on less carbon emitting technologies, we can expect new technologies for providing illumination, and tweaks and revisions to older technologies.

This article will address the following questions:

1. How do LEDs work?

2. How is an LED constructed?

3. Why do LEDs use so much less energy?

4. What are average power savings?

The LED is a relatively small source, perhaps less than 1 square millimeter. It can emit light of different colors, but for home use soft white light is the focus today. I do not profess to be a physicist, but will describe the action of electrons in an LED in a way that can help to illustrate the difference in function against that of the incandescent light bulb.

In an atom (element), electrons can be put into an "excited" state (moving differently from their usual positions). When this happens by, for instance, the application of heat, the electron(s) jump and leave behind a "hole." Jumping to a different level in the atom, these electrons can resonate until some action brings the atoms back to their holes (the hole is just a name for the position the electron used to be in). As electrons return to their pre-excited lower energy state holes, energy is given off in the form of light! This process of changing electron energy levels is what is harnessed by the LED. The color (or wavelength) of the light depends upon the atomic structure of material being used in the LED, and its temperature.

So of what value is this last paragraph? Put very simply, light is emitted from a semiconductor in an LED just by the movement or flow of electrons. From, the material the electrons flow through, or semiconductor, is a substance, usually a solid chemical element or compound, that can conduct electricity under some conditions but not others, making it a good medium for the control of electrical current. Its conductance varies depending on the current and voltage applied to a control electrode. This is what sets the LED apart from our old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs.

In an incandescent light bulb, there is a filament which is intentionally designed out of tungsten to increase the resistance to electron flow. This resistance causes the filament to glow hot giving off 95% heat and 5% light. An LED generates most of its light by "allowing" electrons to flow through a semiconductor which does not create a lot of heat. The result of allowing the electrons to flow, light emission, produces only 3% of the heat of an incandescent bulb.

Imagine an LED as having a strip of material inside its bulb. One half of the strip is made of one semiconductor, while the other side is made of another kind of semiconductor. Electrons flow from one side to the other (in one direction only) and this movement causes electrons to change their energy levels. As electrons drop from one level of energy to a lower level of energy, the difference in energy winds up being given off as light.

The following picture is for assisting in understanding the CONCEPT.

Concept Image of LED
Concept Image of LED | Source
Actual Parts of an LED
Actual Parts of an LED

Because of the physical properties of the LED it saves energy, and hence, lowers the cost of electricity. For instance, at holiday time the traditional C7 Christmas tree bulb uses 6 watts of electricity. An LED uses 0.08 watts. Running a 50 light strand at the national average cost for electricity for 5 hours per day for a month would cost $4.50. I usually use 3 or more strands outside - $13.50 for a holiday season. A comparable calculation for LED strands would be less than 60 cents per strand per month. My 3 strands would run $1.80. Here we are talking about 13% of the cost to run C7 strands! You can see why widespread use of LEDs could someday save this country hugely!

LEDs typically use less than 10% of an equivalent incandescent bulb (10% of the power used in an incandescent bulb to produce the same light). Put another way, an LED producing the equivalent of 40 watts of incandescent light uses less than 4 watts! That is a pretty easy formula to remember if you are trying to get a handle on savings. A 75 watt incandescent bulb (most common used) would only require less than 7.5 watts in an LED.

The average amount of electricity used by a 1200 square foot home (I chose this as an average U.S. home) according to is 30.6 kWh per day. Of that total, 6-10% is the average wattage used for lighting (usage can be as high as 25%). So on the high side we are talking about 3.06 kWh per day for light. If you were to go to your electric utility home page (or thereabouts) you will find the price you pay per kWh for electricity. Multiply 3.06 kWh x cost per kWh and that will be approximately the incandescent cost rate to light your house per day.

MULTIPLY THAT by 13% (0.13) and you will find the cost of electricity to power LEDs giving off the same amount of light per day. Subtract the two products and you will have the savings if you could replace all incandescents with LEDs. By the way, as an aside, the average home has about 45 light bulbs in approximately 30 fixtures.

But things aren't that simple. LED lamps are rather expensive. Even though LEDs will have a life 5 times greater than CFLs and 41 times greater than an incandescent bulb, there is a Sticker Shock when buying them!

An LED bulb producing a 60 watt equivalent of light is $39.95. The CFL runs $3.95. The incandescent bulb runs $1.25

But wait! This translates to $95.95 for 50,000 hours on an LED, $159.75 for CFLs for 50,000 hours, and $652.50 for incandescent light bulbs over the same period of time (remember, you would have to replace bulbs sooner).

In general, an LED is 10 times the price of a CFL and 32 times the price of an incandescent.

This discussion shows why LEDs are the wave of the future. The savings on electricity are phenomenal. Cities are taking the lead in large use of LEDs; some cities are changing to LED street lights because it can save up to 80% on energy use. By way of another concluding remark, battery life can be extended 10-15 times if powering LEDs.

Work is underway to lower the unit price of LEDs and headway is being made at Purdue University where new and enhanced materials may lower the initial cost of LED lights. The future looks bright for the LED light.

How to Build an LED Light

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 John R Wilsdon


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    • Innovation LEDs profile image

      Charlotte Bailey 

      3 years ago from Sandwich

      Excellent article and a lot of fresh content I have not read elsewhere. The pricing of LED bulbs lowering in recent years is definitely narrowing the gap between households using LEDs and those still using CFLs. Even with the knowledge that in the long run switching to LED will save a household around 90% less electricity than traditional lighting, affordability is always going to be a key factor in influencing people’s decisions when it comes to replacing their bulbs.

      Charlotte Bailey

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      7 years ago from North Texas

      This is very informative and useful in explaining how much a person can save just by switching to those funny bulbs some people like to complain about. I have the CFLs. LED is just beyond my budget. I still save a lot over incandescent and maybe when the CFLs wear out I'll be in a better position to get the LEDs.

      I wonder why some people gripe about paying taxes as if that were the end of the world, and then have another fit about buying bulbs that will save them a bundle? They might even save enough by using the LED bulbs to pay their taxes.

      Voted up and going to share this with my followers in case some of them are thrifty.

    • john000 profile imageAUTHOR

      John R Wilsdon 

      7 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I have seen "clusters" of LED lights in cans. The other day I was in a coffee shop with cans in the ceiling - the owner said he saved a lot on lighting. There are many different shapes to LED bulbs and clusters - yes, you can buy ceiling fan LED bulbs. Amazon has 60 watt equivalents for $12.85. I didn't shop around so you might get a better price somewhere else.

    • profile image

      B.M. WISE 

      7 years ago


    • john000 profile imageAUTHOR

      John R Wilsdon 

      8 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      You are absolutely right. Old CFLs should be taken to a recycle station that accepts them.

    • Rob Led profile image

      Rob Led 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, British Columbia

      With prices dropping on LED lights $5- 40 watt replacement and a $10- 60 watt equivalent. Fluorescent lights contain mercury and must be carefully recycled.

    • profile image


      9 years ago GANGHUI Lighting Technology (Fujian) Co., Ltd. orientates energy-saving and environment protection as core enterprise when we established. We concentrate on veloping

      the new industry and provide high-quality energy-saving products and good service for mankind sustainable development.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Kitchen is a big source of using LED lights. For more information on modern LED lighting, anyone may go to

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      limelight power - Thanks for the comment. I think this will be something so common in the future that we won't think twice about it. For now, we will have to endure the price.

    • lime light power profile image

      lime light power 

      9 years ago from NY NY

      Very nicely well written and well informed hub. Great job. I did a test on LED bulbs at my home the other day and had a great experience with them, although the price might be a little steep still, light quality is awesome.

      Voting you up.


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