Light Bulb Market Update: LED Efficiency Has Doubled, And Prices Have Fallen


Several years ago, I was hard pressed to find an LED light bulb offering reasonable efficiency without an exorbitant price. We’re talking about $10-$20 for a dim bulb (40-Watt equivalent/450 lumens and less in some cases) achieving 45 lumens per Watt (lm/W).

An efficiency of 45 lumens per Watt (usually up to 55) was common among CFL bulbs, which cost only $3 at the time. Incandescent bulbs were already a no-brainer at the time. As in, avoiding them was a no-brainer due to their enormous energy cost and poor efficiency of 10-15 lumens per Watt. Incandescent bulbs were using 5 times more energy than fluorescent bulbs, and burning out after only 6 months (of daily usage).

The SMD LEDs (these are just the little LED chips that light up LED light bulbs) and LED modules I was tinkering with at the time were way ahead of them at 95-105 lumens per Watt, though. However the LED light bulb market hadn’t quite caught up to that yet.

Fluorescent bulbs could last more than a year easily. Fast forward to today, and LED light bulbs have steadily but sharply improved, so 100+ lumens per Watt is very common (available in pretty much every store). CFLs have not caught up to that. LEDs of that high efficiency can also be found for under $5.

How do you know if an LED bulb is efficient?

The quickest way is to make a mental note of the wattage of the average ‘decent’ LED bulb of your desired brightness. The lumen/Watt rating is equal to Lumens / Watts.

For example: If you want a 60-Watt equivalent, that is a 600-700 lumen bulb. If an LED’s packaging says it is 600 lumens, it’s power consumption should not exceed 6 Watts (so this is a 100 lumen/Watt benchmark). If it does, you can easily find a much more efficient bulb in most stores.