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Solarize South Dakota Promotes Solar Power, Energy Savings via LED Bulbs

Dakota Rural Action has a new energy initiative, Solarize South Dakota, to promote sustainability and self-sufficiency. This new program, launched yesterday, wants South Dakotans to start by doing their own home energy assessments, figuring out just how much energy all their light bulbs and appliances are using. That data will help South Dakotans figure out just how much they could save by investing in solar panels. Solarize South Dakota also offers to connect interested homeowners with solar-power consultants.

Even if you’re not up for making energy, Solarize South Dakota encourages you to save energy by replacing your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. What?! Didn’t we just switch to compact fluorescents? Ah, technology:

LED02A typical LED uses a fraction of the wattage required to power a bright incandescent bulb, and this makes LEDs dramatically more cost-effective over the long run. A 12W LED that puts out 800 lumens of light (lumens are units of brightness for a light source — more on that in just a bit) will add about a buck and a half per year to your power bill if used for 3 hours a day at an energy rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Under those same parameters, a 60W incandescent bulb that puts out 880 lumens will cost about  $7.50 per year. Multiply that by the total number of bulbs in your home, and you’re potentially looking at some pretty significant long-term savings.

LEDs are also rated to last for tens of thousands of hours, which can translate to decades of use. Compare that with the year or so you typically get out of an incandescent, and you can begin to see why so many people find these bulbs appealing. At a price of about $15, that 12W LED would pay for itself in 2.5 years, then keep on saving you money for years to come [Ry Crist, “Light Bulb Buying Guide,”, 2014.10.02].

I just looked around my new upstairs: 21 light bulbs. I see a Sylvania LED bulb at Menards for $11. Buy 21 of those… $231, versus $37 for 21 Sylvania incandescents. Price difference: $194. CNET tells me I can save $6 per bulb on my electric bill per year. Multiply… that’s $126 a year. The LEDs would thus pay for themselves on energy savings alone within the first two years.

Incandescents are rated for 2,000 hours versus 25,000 for the LEDs. So if the incandescents would last two years, the LEDs would last 25 years. Now I’ll grant that a few bulbs will be lost to operator oopsies rather than aging out, so let’s assume that only 10 of those 21 LEDs survive their full rated lifespan. Over 25 years, I buy 11 replacement LEDs, making my total purchase price $352 and my total electricity price $788. That’s $1,140 to light my upstairs until 2040.

Over the same period, I would buy 252 incandescent light bulbs for $378 and pay $3,938 to light them. Total upstairs incandescent bill: $4,316. 25-year savings for going LED upstairs: $3,176. Add my main floor and basement, and I just might pay for my daughter’s law school books (President Chelsea Clinton has to have someone to appoint Chief Justice).

Whether you just want better light bulbs or want to run your whole farm on nuclear fusion, get in touch with DRA’s Solarize South Dakota!

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Madly Related: Supporters slightly outnumbered opponents, 28–24, at last night’s public comment session on the Keystone XL pipeline, hosted by the Public Utililities Commission in Pierre. Perhaps all the smoke from those Canadian prairie fires dimming our sun is part of TransCanada’s smokescreen to make us think we need to pipe their dirty oil instead of making our own power from clean sunshine.


  1. Rorschach 2015-07-07

    I hope LED bulbs last as long as long as they are supposed to. I have noticed a significant percentage of premature failures with CFL bulbs.

    I don’t expect that any LED bulbs will last 25 years, if that is what they are promising. Still I’m phasing them in as my CFLs prematurely fail – one by one.

  2. Paul Seamans 2015-07-07

    Cory, supporters of TransCanada at the PUC hearing included around ten members of Harding County’s “We love TransCanada” fan club, representatives of Mike Rounds and Gov. Daugaard, and at least two Chamber of Commerce officials. Harding Co. made much of all the donations that TransCanada has made in the county, a better word for this is “bribes”. Has TransCanada seen fit to make donations to counties not along the KXL route? Are the counties along the Keystone 1 route still receiving donations (not counting those like Yankton County that are making television commercials for TransCanada)?
    The people that spoke against TransCanada were private individuals from across the state who traveled to Pierre, on their own dime, to show their concern for the environment.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-07

    The relevant comparison is between LED and CFLs and other florescent lighting rather than with incandescents. Quality of light is also worth comparing. Some lights make reading harder, some make it a lot easier.

    Worth remembering, is that no matter what the cost of going completely solar, wind, etc., the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the US more.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Good point about the big difference between the groups, Paul! TransCanada buys its supporters; the folks standing up to the pipeline are their own people.

    As Doug notes, if we’d just put up more solar panels, we wouldn’t need oil from Canada, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else. Fewer pipelines, fewer wars… the cost of replacing farm land ruined by oil spills and young men and women ruined by bullets and IEDs is bigger than any light bulb or solar panel cost.

  5. Don Coyote 2015-07-07

    Oil only accounts for 1% of our electricity generation. So no, buying a LED or CFL lightbulb will not prevent a war in the Mideast.

    And installing a $10 LED in your closet will not save you $6 a year since they are used so little. I’ve been living in my house 15 years now and the incandescent bulbs in my closets have never been replaced. Also consider this. The money you save today with LED/CFL will more than likely be eaten up by the more costly intermittent renewable sources of wind and solar as the base load generation is utilized less efficiently.

    I use LEDs only in lights that are heavily used. Living room lamps, outdoor house lights, recessed lighting in my kitchen. Anything with a decorative bulbs, forget about it. Still thinking about the bathroom vanity bar with it’s 8 identical bulbs. White LEDS still have a weird light about them and I don’t think the wife will like them in the bathroom.

    I gave up on CFLs long ago. Poor longevity and they look horrible in groups if you have to replace 1 or 2 because the old ones output has dimmed with age. And they are a pain to dispose of.

  6. Craig 2015-07-07

    I have started buying a few LED bulbs here and there as my incandescents or CFLs burn up – but because of my bargain hunting with CFLs I still have quite a few of them stockpiled… so my full LED conversion will take some time.

    For me, the sweet spot is about $5 per bulb for a 60W equivalent. I’ve picked up a few on sales and during a recent trip to Ikea at that price, and they have done well. The color temperature is fantastic (same as incandescents), and the output (lumens) is equal to or greater than the bulbs they replace.

    One huge advantage of the LEDs is the lack of heat output, so where some light fixtures only allow a maximum of a 60W incandescent bulb, I can “upgrade” that to a 75W or 100W equivalent LED and get more light output from the same fixture. Granted this changes the energy savings equation, but in cases where it prevents me from replacing an entire fixture or where two bulbs can now do the work of three it makes sense.

    Regarding the savings calculators, we need to be realistic. Most of the formulas are based upon X number of hours per day, 365 days a year whereas many of the lights in our homes are used a fraction of that amount. So I’d argue the typical homeowner won’t realize the savings as advertised but on the flip side there is also no need to crawl up a ladder every year or so to swap a bulb since many of these LED bulbs will (in theory at least) last for decades at a common usage level. The time and nuisance of swapping light bulbs – especially those in hard to reach areas – is worth a few bucks.

    Probably worth noting that LEDs contain advanced circuitry and because of it they are somewhat at risk of damage from voltage spikes. It isn’t a bad idea to outfit the breaker panel with a whole house surge protector.

    Also, since many of these LED bulbs promise extreme lifespans and have warranties, it is a good idea to save the package insert and staple the original receipt to it. I’ve taken to using a fine point Sharpie and writing dates on the LEDs just to see how long I actually go before they fail… so far I’ve yet to lose any LED bulbs so they are already performing much better than the CFLs I’ve been using.

    As Don suggested, for decorative bulbs or specialty bulbs LEDs may not be the right choice yet – primarily due to cost and availability. However prices will continue to drop, and I’m hopeful in a few short years I’ll be able to say I am converted. The only other limiting factor is for circuits on dimmers. In my case, my electronic dimmers aren’t fully compatible with LED bulbs, so that means either replace the dimmer with a traditional switch and/or electronic dimmer compatible with LEDs, or simply stick with incandescents that can be dimmed with the existing dimmer.

    That said I’ll continue to switch over when I can for the same reason I don’t water my lawn in the middle of the day. Just because I can waste resources doesn’t mean I feel good about it – and as it turns out being good to the environment is actually better for my wallet.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Oh, Don, you silly contrarian. If we save more electricity on lighting, we have more room within existing generating capacity to charge electric vehicles. Put more electric vehicles on the road, and then we really start cutting into oil demand. Think big!

  8. Nathan 2015-07-07

    I refused to use CFLs, when I moved into a house that had them the first thing I did was remove them all and put normal 60 watt bulbs in place… I can’t explain why, but the light that they put off was awful to me, I seriously can not stand being in a room long term that has those stupid bulbs in place. I have since replaced all but only a few remaining lights in my house with LEDs and I could not be happier, most of them have been replaced with the high color index bulbs that cost a couple bucks more, but well worth it. Go LED.

  9. Bill Dithmer 2015-07-07

    We are getting ready to start down the LED road. Through research we already know that some of the companies that make LEDS dont follow the strict manufacturing guidlines for a long lasting product. I suspect that the bad companies will be weeded out in a very short time and LEDs will make their mark.

    If you buy, just remember that part of the problem that some people have with whatever bulb they buy is that they are looking at the wrong color light spectrum for what they want to use it for. One of the other problems is that not all LEDs will work on a dimmer, those cost more.

    The future in lighting is much more then deciding what kind of bulb to buy. Its about getting as much light from natural sources, the sun, the moon, and even as little as starlight as technology will alow.

    Light collecting solor tubes should be looked at for any and every new build or remodel. That is all natural light perfect for doing everything. Even one 6 inch solor tube will light up an average sized room in any kind of sunlight, even under clouds. Unless you want suplimental light after the sun goes down there is no electricity needed for that light.

    We have 8 solor collecting tubes that are lighting 8,000 sf. They are big, about 5 ft square, but between the time the sun comes up, and when it goes down we dont need to turn on any electric lights, ever.

    There is nothing like collecting the light from a red full moon and bringing it into a building. I have always loved skinny dipping in the moonlight, now I dont have to fight the bugs or the temperature.

    Now back to LEDs. When regulations take shape in the bulb business, you’ll start to see a more consistent product. Until that time it will be buyer beware.

    I’ll know more a year from now. We will have about a hundred LEDs in different styles and sizes in the dome and Carson House. We have the monitoring equipment to analyze the electricity used by every circut we have. And we are especially interested in our geothermal power consumption and our lights. Even though we produce our own electricity, the more power we save at Carson House, the more we can sell back.

    The Blindman

  10. leslie 2015-07-07

    another important related point-much outdoor light is wasted, poorly directed and not sheilded downward to protect from light pollution washing the night sky, or annoying neighbors.

    consider where your outdoor lights are directed. cities and counties are slowly regulating such light pollution.

  11. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-07

    Usually, bulb package labels give some idea of the bulb color no matter what type. Some people may not like the high-temperature Kelvin rating bulbs, but we prefer the “daylight” types. They are much better for reading and other close work.

    Wind and solar electricity can be used to produce methanol, anhydrous ammonia, etc. This also “storing” the energy in compact chemical form much like gasoline. We really can get completely away from fossil fuels if we decide saving our earth is a real priority.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Dithmer, please, no skinny-dipping in front of the commenters. ;-)

    Solar light tubes! Great low-tech application of solar power! You don’t have any roof leakage problems around those tubes, do you, Bill?

    Natural lighting is really good for buildings (that’s part of LEED certification, isn’t it?). I’m dismayed that school architecture has turned toward the bunker instead of bright, open spaces. The apartment we just left here in Aberdeen was spacious but had too few windows—we had to use lights throughout the day. Our new house, built in 1913, has lots of windows, great natural light all day long.

    Along with natural lighting, properly designed windows can provide passive solar heating. Enormous amounts of energy rain down on us daily; we just have to have the good sense to use it.

  13. Paul Seamans 2015-07-07

    I am really enjoying, and learning from, this conversation. Keep it coming people.

  14. mike from iowa 2015-07-08

    Blindman-do you wax poetic while getting a Brazilian wax job to go skinny-dippin’ in any kind of light?

  15. Bill Dithmer 2015-07-08

    ” You don’t have any roof leakage problems around those tubes, do you, Bill?”

    Not that we can find, and there have been three different times that we got over three inches at a shot. They were mounted in a metal roof so that shouldnt be a problem.

    Cory when you look the same from every angle skinnydipping doesnt seem to matter.

    The Blindman

  16. Bill Dithmer 2015-07-08

    MFI, I dont do “Brazilians” and I dont “hey the grey.” I prefer to stay well clear of modern personal landscaping practices, not because I’m scarred, but because I’ve seen what can happen when some melting plastic hits and sticks to your skin.

    Here is a personal note about campfires and roasting marshmallows. The most severe localized burn I have ever seen happened when a kid was waving a burnning marshmallow on a wenny stick. It flew off and landed between a mans legs, stuck and just sizzled until the icewater cooled it down. He yelled all the way to the er.

    I dont need that kind of pain just so someone else can say I look good.

    Marshmallow safety might be a good topic for SDs legislature to take up. Maybe they should just be outlawed.

    The Blindman

  17. Nick Nemec 2015-07-08

    When they outlaw marshmallows only outlaws will have marshmallows.

  18. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-08

    People don’t burn people, marshmallows burn people.

  19. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-08

    Or, is that the other way around?

  20. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-08

    Dithmer, was that another kind of weenie roast between his legs?

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