LED Bulb Eats Car, Illuminates Kids

Illuminated LED Light Bulb

I am powering my new electric car with LED bulbs.

More specifically, I installed LED bulbs throughout my house. The resulting energy savings is in excess of the energy that it takes to charge my new electric car. In my mind I like to think of it as one inefficient CO2 emitting gas engine that has been retired from the road, permanently. And it puts money in my pocket.

Never one to miss an opportunity to teach the kids about finance, I discussed the idea at dinner with the family before taking action. I wanted to teach my kids that economics and ecology are two sides of the same coin. I was surprised that my kids expressed skepticism and some concerns. I took it as a green light to share my analysis with them and to later update them on the actual impact afterwards.

Let’s not neglect to mention that as a result of all this environmentalism, I have a sweet new ride. My BMW i3 is no Tesla. But the i3, as was the case with all the electrics that I test drove, has surprisingly snappy acceleration. It is so pronounced a difference that I now prefer electric to gas.

Of course, the i3 sips energy. At 10,000 miles per year, it costs me just $6 a week to charge. Inspired by the energy efficiency of the car, I transitioned my house from conventional to LED lights. LED bulbs (finally) replicate the warm tones and overall lumens of conventional bulbs but at a reasonable price. The bulbs cost me $750. I save roughly $85 a month in electricity. In nine months, they will have paid for themselves.

There was a fair bit of bulb trial and error and processing of returns, as there is a wide variation in the quality of the light that different bulbs put off. But I am also not going to have to change a light bulb for another decade or more as these bulbs last a LONG time. So, it was well worth the effort.

And what impact will all of this have? The average US household produced about 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in 2005. The US has (had) pledged to reduce its carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 26-28% by 2025.

These two simple changes, which required no sacrifice on our part, reduced our household’s carbon emissions by 3.2 metric tons per year. That is 16% right there. And I can see the way to 28%. Well before 2025, there will be an electric car with enough range and cargo space to replace our current internal combustion car. And each year as I run the numbers on installing solar for my northward facing home, the economics get closer and closer to being compelling.

For now, my electricity bill, even with the new car’s charging, is 13% lower than last year.

Sometimes, the environmental problems of the world seem insurmountable. My actions are one small, insignificant contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions. What is exciting is that the economic incentives to which I responded are at play, globally. One bulb, one car (and eventually one panel) at a time, we can get the job done. It doesn’t require any financial pain. And it is irrespective of who occupies the White House.