Homeowners looking for savings on utility bills can save more by buying LED bulbs that now come with special discounts from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
The statewide energy efficiency program has been pushing the spiral-bulb compact fluorescent bulbs for years, offering instant rebates.
But LED technology has improved and the price has come down, so starting this week Focus will provide discounts of up to $2 to $4 a bulb on LEDs.
According to Focus and the national Energy Star program, the bulbs can last 10 years and use up to 90% less energy and last 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs.
"This is where the technology is going. Focus on Energy wants to be a part of promoting this and helping to encourage people to purchase and to install this technology," said Tamara Sondgeroth, operations manager at Focus on Energy. "We really believe that this is a great opportunity for people to save energy."
Focus on Energy is funded by a surcharge on utility ratepayers' bills, is overseen by the state Public Service Commission and Wisconsin utilities.
When LED technology was still rolling out, bulb prices could be in the neighborhood of $50, a price Sondgeroth said she once paid to help evaluate the technology in her home.
But Focus wouldn't provide rebates when the prices were that high, she said. The reason: a rebate of $2 or even $5 wouldn't be enough to convince people to buy a bulb with a retail price of $30 or $50, she said.
But the prices have come down to the point where bulbs can be found for $10.
That's a price "where we can help influence the decisions. We're not looking to help out the early adopters who are going to buy these because of the 'cool' factor," Sondgeroth said. "We're really heare to help push a good technology for people are ready to step into that next opportunity, and the savings are pretty significant."
Thanks to improvements in technology, LED bulbs cast more light in more directions, and now come with a variety of dimmable and varied-brightness alternatives. And the fact that they're so long-lasting make them the ideal bulb to put in hard-to-reach spots like cathedral ceilings, she said.
Kate Wesselink, program manager with Focus on Energy's residential lighting program, said she was in a store conducting a lighting demonstration recently when a consumer came in looking to replace an incandescent bulb.
She helped the consumer look at the "lighting facts" labels — the light-bulb equivalent of nutrition labels consumers are used to comparing on cereal or granola bar boxes.
For a typical 60-watt incandescent bulb, the annual energy cost is more than $7 a year, whereas a comparable compact fluorescent bulb would cost $1.57 a year for electricity use, and an LED bulb would cost $1.02.
"They quickly put down the incandescent bulb, because it's just so much more expensive," she said.
The discounts started Wednesday at big-box retailers around the state but will soon be offered at smaller retailers such as hardware stores, said Wesselink. A list of participating retailers can be found at the Focus on Energy website.