Not such a bright idea
What grown man would get excited to see a light bulb selling for less than R100? Me, if the lamp in question uses ultra-efficient light emitting diodes. LEDs are the future of lighting, with low power consumption and incredibly long lifetimes, but their high prices have kept consumers away. So when I noticed a R94 rand Eurolux LED at my local Builders Express, I took a closer look and took notes. The last LED globe I had seen that was meant to replace a halogen downlight had a R372 price tag on it. Was this too good to be true?
Yes, of course it was. The packaging of the Eurolux LED is inexcusably devoid of technical information, except to say that it delivers 50 lumens, a rather useless piece of information for the average consumer. It turns out that 50 lumens is an equally useless amount of light, unless you are just looking for a decorative accent to highlight your teacup collection. A 50W halogen, the most common size of downlight, delivers about 10 times that much light.
Eurolux, a company from the Philippines—despite its name—has very good prices and is prominently displayed in many South African stores, but I do not trust their quality. I have seen too many Eurolux compact fluorescents fail while major-brand CFLs continue burning brightly. I buy almost all of my lighting supplies from Osram and Philips, and I believe the premium I pay for those brand names is compensated by their durability. (Eurolux, like Philips, does carry a three-year guarantee on their LED products; Osram LEDs are covered by a five-year guarantee.)
LEDs are falling in price, but for now, expect to pay R300 and up for a good-quality bulb. That may seem like a ridiculous price for a globe, but depending upon where it is used, LEDs can be a financially sound investment. According to Philips, Makro Woodmead and Strubens Valley and Pick N Pay Faerie Glen currently sell a 7 watt Phillips Master LED GU10 bulb for R299. My calculations suggest that over the course of 4 years, in a room where the lights are on 5 hours a day, this LED bulb is no more expensive than buying and using the equivalent 35W halogens at R40 each. After those 4 years, the LED pays a return on your investment. (The calculations ignore the cost of capital. You wouldn’t charge the environment interest, would you?)
If the bulb is in a location where it burns less frequently, it takes longer to pay for itself, and vice versa. At 3 hours a day, expect a 7 year payback; at 6 hours, the initial outlay is recouped in just 3 years. LEDs are improving rapidly, so the temptation is strong to wait. My advice is to buy a few now for a room where the lights burn longest, and gradually add more rooms as better and more affordable LEDs become available. Sometimes you have to spend a little to save a lot.