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The Washington Post published a front-page article today on what they seem to think is the latest federal boondogle: .  They lament that a new LED light bulb from Philips, that won the federal contest to design a bulb that produces light exactly the same as a traditional 60W bulb, will soon go on sale for $50.  How could the government be so foolish?  Look, our pretty graphic says the costs, even when you factor in the fact that you have to buy 30 incandescent bulbs to match the lifetime of one LED and the cost of electricity, it's still cheaper to buy the old bulbs.  

Wait.  Did you click on the link?  It doesn't say anything about the operating costs and how many bulbs you have to buy?  Huh.  It did in the print edition.

But, now they've "corrected" the web edition by cutting off the key bit where they made a laughable math error.  They divided the cost of electricity by 10.  See
here for the bit they cut off.  See there, at the bottom? The part under "cost" where they say it'll cost you $48 to use regular old bulbs vs $53 for this newfangled LED.  But they're math is way, way off.

Here's where they go wrong: First, they compare the costs of buying bulbs, $30 for 30 1000-hr regular bulbs vs. $50 for one 30,000-hr bulb -- so far, so good.  Then they add on the electricity cost 1,800 kWh used for the old bulb vs 300 kWh used by the LED over 10 years; right.  Now, multiply by the cost per kWh for electricity and . . . wait a minute . . . $18?? 1 cent per kWh??  Anyone pay that?  Um, no.  The average retail price of electricity is $.10 per kWh, and the vast majority of the country pays 12 cents or more.  

The result is you pay $180 for electricity with the old bulbs vs. $30 with the LED bulb.  The electricity savings alone pays for the bulb 3 times over!  Even paying the cheapest electricity rates in the country, a consumer will save about $100.  But if you live in NY, PA, CA, or AL it's about $200.  In HI it's over $500!  That's not "affordable?"  

Fact is, consumers are going to have to get used to the idea that instead of replacing a bulb every 4-6 months, they're buying one for 10 years.  If someone told you that it's a good deal to buy a car that gets 10mpg because it's $1000 cheaper than the one that gets 20 mpg, wouldn't you laugh in their face?  Yet, this is apparently the way math works in WaPo world.

Nevermind that the entire premise of the article falls apart as soon as you do the math correctly, the WaPo seems to think they've corrected the article now that they've taken their glaring math error off the website.  Either they're dumber than your average 5th-grader, or they think you are.

Originally posted to DCMike on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 11:53 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Anti - Pulitzer Award Winner (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orinoco, Kevskos

    Once again, this rag has earned the ANTI-PULITZER award for the least-trusted and most inaccurate coverage of science and technology issues.

    Congrats to WAPO!

    "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

    by oregonj on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 12:14:03 PM PST

  •  When the life meets promises, I'll be impressed (0+ / 0-)

    My experience with CFL and task-light LEDs is that they are very unreliable in meeting their lifetimes. The CFLs that are allegedly capable of working with dimmers have been particularly wasteful of my money.

    I keep buying them because enough last that this is still a good deal, but real flourescents are still more reliable for long-life lighting.

    The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

    by freelunch on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 12:49:37 PM PST

    •  If the box says guaranteed (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tamar, rja, freelunch, LaughingPlanet

      5 years or 10 years or whatever, I write the date I bought the bulb on the box and save all the boxes. First bulb that burns out too early I grab the earliest dated box and take it back to the store. I bought my original bulbs and haven't had to buy another since. Saved a lot of money on my electricity bills and would never go back to the old bulbs.

      "We have cast our lot with something bigger than ourselves" - President Obama, July 30, 2010

      by Overseas on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 12:54:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sigh ... (4+ / 0-)

      There can be great variation among CFLs -- in terms of quality and longevity.  However, they do seem to be (across large scale use (many users)) living up to the predicted lifetimes.

      Note, I've played around with CFLs to see how they did. I bought a batch from Walmart -- in that batch, five of nine died within the first week.  (Although, in another Wal-Mart test run, 17 of 18 survived past initial death.) One purchase from Ikea, the bathroom lights:  five of six died in first day. Both of those are pretty 'low end' CFL purchases. I've had other purchases where every single light lasted months.  

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 12:54:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Very Tested (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This is probably the single most tested bulb ever produced.  In order to win the prize, the bulbs had to undergo thousands of hours of DOE testing.  That's why it took so long to award the prize.  I'd be very confident that if it's certified for 30,000 hours, that's what you're likely to see.

      The vast bulk of the bad experiences people have had with CFLs and the like in the past has been with cheap, uncertified bulbs.

    •  CFLs are horrible... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... if you switch them on and off a lot. I had a set of six bulbs in my bathroom, and set them up as 3 CFLs and 3 incandescents. I had six of each (CFL and incandescent), and rotated them in as the originals burnt out.

      Every single CFL burnt out in the time that it took two of the incandescents to burn out. They do not like being turned on and off. In other rooms where they stay on for long periods, they seem to work fine.

      I've been buying LED bulbs (20W, 12V halogen equivalents), for about two years now, slowly replacing the halogens as they burn out. I've yet to have an LED bulb burn out. The color has improved substantially in the newer bulbs, as has brightness (I can now get 30W equivalents that claim to use less than 10W).

      The only bad thing about them is they seem to interfere with television -- if any of them are on I can't watch channel 9.

  •  Maybe they hired (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    Verizon customer service reps to do their math for them.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 12:57:10 PM PST

  •  also doesn't take into account the effect on price (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of volume. Over time, if the bulb gets the attention it needs, the price will come down and it will be an even better bargain.
    I've looked at LED bulbs in particular for a hanging light I have. The problem is that the ones of the same wattage that's in my hanging lamp are so heavy I'm worried they will damage the lamp.  This is a dimmable light and I can't find a dimmable fluorescent with enough illumination for this light, so we have an incandescent in it.
    But I'd say about 90% of our bulbs are now fluorescent.
    Any idea of whether LEDs are better than fluorescent bulbs in terms of pollution from waste or in the manufacturing process?

    We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

    by Tamar on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 01:10:10 PM PST

    •  Just like LEDs used on car tail lights (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Growing by leaps and bounds every year. Once it catches on , it's going to take off in a straight line.

    •  AFAIK it's hard to compare. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The manufacturing process for a silicon die is pretty dirty, but OTOH you can get hundreds or thousands of LED chips out of a single die, so ... I'm really not sure how it'd work out.  I think the edge would go to the LEDs, though, because the volumes involved would dilute the per-chip environmental impact.

      •  LEDs aren't silicon. (0+ / 0-)

        Silicon doesn't have the right bandgap structure for LEDs.

        LEDs are made from a variety of materials, like InGaAlAs (indium gallium aluminum arsenide), InGaN (indium gallium nitride) and GaN (gallium nitride) and others.

        I'm not so hot on the arsenic, but there's not much of it, and it beats the heck out of the liquid mercury in CFLs.

        (On the other hand, the LEDs need silicon chips with them to provide properly regulated power. So there is silicon in the "bulb". The silicon itself should have negligible environmental impact. The chemicals to create the silicon chip on the other hand, are fiendishly nasty.)

        •  Aah, huh, you're right. (0+ / 0-)

          Sorry about that.  I thought the LEDs weree grown on a silicon substrate doped with those materials, but apparently I'm wrong.  Effectively, though, it's the same thing -- nasty chemicals and processes, but each LED is only a tiny portion of the same batch ... so I'm still not sure about the comparative environmental impact per lumen or watt or whatever would be the best way to compare different lighting technologies. :)

          •  np (0+ / 0-)

            Just thought it worth mentioning.

            Used to work under a GaAs fab, and the usual chemicals included phosgene and arsine (WWI poison gasses) along with a whole lot of other nasty, corrosive, carcinogenic,  toxic chemicals. Then they started handling tungsten hexafluoride and introduced new hazmat procedures for the building.

            Oddly enough, they weren't allowed to make printed circuit boards in that building for pollution control reasons (water table issues (?)), and had to do that several miles away.  Go figure.

            Then the gate array manufacturer across the way had a tank of hydrazine (explosive, corrosive, toxic, carcinogenic, ...) blow up, severely injuring an engineer. They had two identical tanks, and the manufacturer told them to destroy the other. So the local fire department and police hauled it out into the middle of the field between our buildings and blew it up. I'd never seen so many emergency vehicles in one place.

    •  Actually ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      while the article is abysmal on multiple levels, and not just the graphic (below), there is credit/discussion given to the volume issue and the planned reduction in price(s).

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 04:46:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  yeah- but that's like a long term ROI (0+ / 0-)

    Long term investments? Are you some kind of socialist or something?

  •  This should come as no surprise ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    ... when you consider that, just yesterday, The Washington Boast ran this story about how employers can more effectively crush the morale and spirit of their employees.

    The funny thing is that the article is based on a book describing the keys good office managers use to promote a happier and more productive workplace. Only the Boast editors would look at that and decide to turn the information inside-out and upside-down to print a snarky insult to the indians who labor for the chiefs.

    I know it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but the Boast is the closest thing America has to a liberal fascist rag of a newspaper. Ever since Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee broke the pressmen's strike in 1975, it's been a paper with one agenda: to protect and serve all forms of conservative authority.

    The editorial board's endorsement of school officials strip-searching 13-year-old Savannah Redding several years ago, on the dubious grounds that she might have been concealing contraband, was yet another case in point. When that lawsuit later went to the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision came back 8-1 against the school officials. Out of all the justices, only Clarence Thomas voted in favor of the school principal who humiliated that young girl. Oh, the editors wrote all kinds of pretty words about how the Fourth Amendment must be protected and students' rights to privacy respected. But then they backtracked, as is typical for them, and wrapped up their little opinion piece by saying that school district officials mustn't have their hands tied when it comes to enforcing rules, however idiotic they may be. So the Boast editorial board members made it very clear that they are even farther to the right than our conservative Supreme Court.

    As a former newspaper reporter myself, I say screw the Boast. Seriously. It's the most blatantly dishonest newspaper in the country.

  •  Are u smarter than a 5th grader WAPO? NOT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 05:20:51 PM PST

  •  Not having to buy expensive bulbs (0+ / 0-)

    Not having to buy Expensive bulbs:

    The South Carolina repeal of Federal Light Bulb ban bill will soon go to Gov. Nikki Haley for signing
    Legal in Texas. June 2011 signed into law by Gov Perry

    US light bulb regulations, the Burgess Dec 2011 amendment,
    and 10 state repeal ban bill updates

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