OsramAtBuildersExpress PhilipsAtMakro

Nearly free

When I first began buying LEDs for my house, I was paying R250 for a single LED bulb to replace a 35W halogen downlight. I justified the expense because the kitchen lights were on several hours a day, so I calculated that the expensive but efficient and durable lights would pay for themselves over the course of three years.

Fast forward two years, and Builders Warehouse and Makro are currently offering those same LEDs for R50 rand or less. These bulbs last several times as long as any halogen and use less than a seventh of the electricity. Now they are on sale for about twice the price charged for name-brand halogen bulbs. Who needs a calculator?

I did the maths anyway. At these prices, even in a room where the lights are on just two hours a day this purchase will pay for itself in less than a year. I bought some right away, and they are already lighting up my house in the last few fixtures that I had not already converted to LEDs. I’m not sure why the stores even bother to carry halogens anymore.

A few caveats: The Builders Wareshouse and Builders Express price of R48 for Osram LED downlights is good until March 4. I visited two stores; one was out of stock and expecting more in a few days, the other had fewer than 10 on the shelf. The price is supposedly good for both low-voltage MR-16 bulbs with the straight pins and mains-voltage GU-10 bulbs with the bayonet fittings. I bought 35-watt-eqivalent GU-10s for R48, but the only R48 MR-16s I saw were 20-watt-equivalent. I bought a couple of those for a glassware cabinet, but they wouldn’t brightly light a room. The Makro price is 2 bulbs for R100 for Philips 35-watt-equivalent, but only in GU-10.

If you currently use 50 watt halogens and cannot tolerate a slight reduction in brightness, you will have to pay more for now. The best price I’ve seen recently for the brightest halogen downlights is R99 from www.karebostore.co.za. Eskom stopped giving away free LEDs several months ago, but they could revive the Residential Mass Rollout programme in the future. You can wait and hope for freebies, but by the end of 2014, these R50 LEDs will have cut my electricity bill so much that that they, too, will be free.