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January 3, 2015. Every year at this time I tell you about the state of the art and prices of LED light bulbs. How they help you save money and the planet.

They last for decades. They use a fraction of the electricity that conventional bulbs use. For years, they’ve been getting Better and Cheaper. But Slowly. Then, last year, they started turning up at Home Depot stores with breakthrough pricing: a 60-watt-equivalent LED bulb under $15.

This year, the Better Cheaper trend ramped up at the speed of light. With a feature that just might be the game-changer for you. For me, this is a real price-value breakthrough: remote control.

For the price of the bulb, you get a built-in, programmable dimmer. That you program and control with a free smartphone app.

Let me explain with an example. The floodlight near our outdoor dining table is very bright. Too bright for dinner. But it’s too dark out there to go without light, so we forego the romantic mood lighting. We don’t use it that often (the floodlight, that is), so it never seemed worth the cost and hassle of installing a dimmer on the circuit.

But now we have one. The installation: screwing in GE’s “Link Connected” LED Bulb. For the $25 price of the big, bright floodlight, we have dimmable outdoor lighting. That’ll outlive me because we really don’t use it that often.

How many Baby Boomers does it take to screw in a smart bulb?
The full truth: After screwing in the bulb, I installed an app on my phone that lets me control lights through a special WiFi “hub”. I connected the phone to the hub. Took less than 5 minutes. Then, using my phone, I “paired” the hub to the bulb. Took less than a minute. FYI, this “Wink” hub lets you control everything from your lights to your thermostat to your washing machine, garage door opener and security camera – from anywhere your smartphone works.

Now, do not roll your eyes and think, yeah, sounded too good to be true. It’s amazingly easy – and the hub is cheap or free. Because manufacturers like GE want you to be an early adopter and buy this stuff now. And you should. Just before Christmas, Home Depot and others were offering packages of four “connected” LED bulbs plus the Wink hub for the price of the bulbs. These deals come and go, so I’m not providing a clickable link to an online offer that may be gone by the time you click. But go here for everything there is to know about the GE Link Connected LED bulbs.

Or go to Amazon for the $14.97 dimmable 60-watt replacement bulb that uses just 12 watts of electricity and has an average lifetime of 25,000 hours (about 9 years if you use it 8 hours/day, 35 years if you use it 2 hours/day). And if you don’t care about dimming, just screw it into a socket, use your old light switch and be beyond happy with the long-term cost savings. If you like the dimming idea in particular and/or the remote control and programmability in general, Amazon sells the Wink hub for $49.95.

The Wink phone app lets you do more than control the brightness of your bulb. If scheduling on/off times is important to you, you can do that. If turning on your outdoor lights before you get home does it for you, do it. Extra features, no extra cost. This stuff really works. Easily. Affordably.

It’ll reduce your own energy bill. And the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that widespread adoption of LED lighting in the U.S. over the next 10 years can deliver savings of about $280 billion. And avoid the need for 133 new power plants. It can reduce lighting electricity demand by 62% by 2025 – and eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

This is the year for the smart lighting Smart Resolution.

Let’s Do The Math
My new and very smart GE Link Connected LED floodlight costs $25. It replaces a $14 conventional halogen floodlight. My new LED is Way Cheaper.

Here’s why: If I use it 3 hours/day, I’ll spend about $1.50 on its electricity in 2015. If I were still using the old bulb at the same rate, I’d spend about $11 in the New Year. So next New Year’s Eve, my new bulb will have cost me $1.50 more.

But I’m a reasonably patient guy who thinks in years. My old bulb would probably last about 1.4 years. My new bulb should last 22.8 years! Wow! In 22.8 years, I’d have to buy and replace 16 of the old ones. At $11 per bulb, that’s $176. $151 more than my one long-lasting, energy efficient LED bulb.

And if the cost of electricity is stable during the next 22.8 years, I’ll spend $36 to light up my smart new bulb. Compared with the cost keeping the old one burning, that’s a $215 savings on all those years of electric bills.

Total savings over the very long lifetime of just one GE Link Connected LED bulb: $366.

And my smartphone functions like a dimmer for my smart new bulb. The cost of a licensed electrician installing a dimmer switch in New York City: priceless.

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