It’s hard to pass up the cheap, easy installation of fluorescent shop lighting. With fixtures running less than an Andrew Jackson, there’s no excuse for suffering the darkness of a single bare bulb — even if that’s all the cheapskate builders installed in the house. Still, fluorescent lighting has drawbacks. Bulbs are pretty fragile, and they’re a pain in the ass to dispose of properly. And they’re not the cheapest in terms of operating cost, either.
So what about LED? Is it a viable option?
A quick Google search shows that you can easily find LED variants of pretty much all the standard fluorescent tubes. Most manufacturers also claim benefits such as no-flicker, instant turn-on, no buzzing ballasts, and up to a 60% savings in power consumption. The lights seem to look pretty decent, too. Most of them feature a two-row (or staggered, like the five side of a die) array of high-output LEDs, most commonly diffused by a sheath to make them look more like standard tubes in action.
The scary part, as you might’ve guessed, is price.
While you’ll pay about $3-$5 for any of the standard 48″ fluorescent tubes, you’re going to spend upward of $40 — and maybe more like $80 — for the LED version. And it’s not as though the old ones are unreliable. I installed six fixtures (twelve tubes) in my three-car garage when I moved into the house, and the original bulbs are still going eight years later. Add to this the fact that I regularly leave them on for family (or just forget to turn them off) and I’d make a pretty good case study for damn-reliable tubes. The more difficult question is whether or not I’ve shelled out $650 (the difference in price for my 12 tubes) in extra electricity over the years. That’s tough to determine, which doesn’t bode well for these lights.
I’ve embraced the LED for closet lights and other utility applications around the house. It’s nice to install the thing and forget about it, and the few-buck price difference isn’t enough to deter me. But $650? I could do something with that. What do you think?
LED Fluorescent Tubes [Google]