Wednesday, April 01, 2009

GeoBulb (LED) vs CFL (Compact Fluorescent)

I’m always on the lookout for products that reduce my carbon footprint while saving me money, and I don’t mind paying a premium price for a product if I can expect to benefit in the long run. At first glance the C.Crane GeoBulb seems to be such a product, so I’ve decided to take a closer look.

My first task was to get as much information about the GeoBulb as possible. I would have liked to try it out before writing a review, but since it sells for a whopping $119.95, I decided to rely on whatever data I could find instead. Fortunately, the C.Crane website not only lists specifications, it also provides a chart comparing the GeoBulb to incandescent bulbs and CFL’s. Since I’m not interested in incandescent bulbs, I’ll limit this discussion to CFL’s and the GeoBulb bulb only. My comparison assumes that the GeoBulb provides about the same amount of light as a 13-watt CFL bulb. Here is my line-by-line evaluation:

Life Span:

C.Crane claims that CFL’s last up to 2,500 hours, and the GeoBulb lasts up to 30,000 hours. Interesting data from C.Crane, since Sylvania claims that the average rated life of their CFL’s is 10,000 hours. This skews the results significantly.

Bulb Cost:

C.Crane claims that the cost of a CFL bulb is $5.00. Absurd! I’ve found 13-watt CFL’s from $1.65 to $2.49. I can buy more than 50 CFL’s for the same price as one GeoBulb!

Cost of Electricity:

It's easy to calculate the cost of electricity. My calculations are based on 13-watts for the CFL, and 7.5-watts for the GeoBulb. C.Crane lists the cost of electricity for 30,000 hours of operation at $44.73 for CFL’s, and $25.81 for the GeoBulb. Those calculations are based on electricity at 11.47 cents per kwh. Although my electric rates are somewhat lower than that, I won’t argue with C.Crane’s cost of electricity data.

Total Cost:

C.Crane claims that the total cost (bulb + electricity) for CFL’s is $104.76, while the total cost for the GeoBulb is $145.76. My calculations are based on longer CFL life and lower CFL cost:

Total Cost for CFL’s (3 bulbs plus electricity): $49.68
Total Cost for GeoBulb (1 bulb plus electricity): $145.76

Hazardous Material:

C.Crane correctly states that CFL bulbs contain mercury, a hazardous material, while stating that the GeoBulb has no hazardous materials. While it is true that CFL’s contain mercury, it is a very small amount, and it’s sealed within the bulb. Recycled CFL bulbs are not harmful to people or the environment.

Cost to Run:

C.Crane claims that the cost to run a CFL for 12 hours a day for one year is $6.53, while the cost to run the GeoBulb for the same amount of time is $3.77. C.Crane offers no additional explanation of how it arrived at the $6.53 for the GeoBulb, and I find that data hard to believe. Roughly calculated, at 30,000 hour lifespan, the cost would be about $17.00 per year for the bulb, and another 50 cents for electricity. On the other hand, one CFL should last about 2 years under similar conditions, and would use about $1.00 worth of electricity. Here are my figures:

CFL cost to run: $1.82
GeoBulb cost to run: $17.50

Other Considerations:

The GeoBulb and the CFL share some common benefits as well as limitations. Both will cut electricity use when compared to ordinary incandescent bulbs. However, heat build-up can shorten the lifespan of both, and neither type should be used outdoors. The GeoBulb, as well as most CFL's, can't be used with a dimmer switch.


It didn’t take long for me to decide not to buy the GeoBulb. Information from the C.Crane website, a few web searches, and some simple calculations provided enough information. I need not look into other issues, such as the quality of light from the GeoBulb, or whether the claim of 30,000 hours is accurate. CFL’s just make more sense at the present time. I find it disturbing that the C.Crane Corporation chooses to post incorrect, or outdated at best, information on their website. The public will not embrace energy-efficient products if they can’t trust the claims of those who sell them.

Here is a link to the C.Crane website:



Mike Blyth said...

Great article! Helped me as a beginner to get an overview of LED vs CFL, and to evaluate the claims. Thanks!

Aaron Dalton said...

Just reviewed the GeoBulb II today at -

Price has come down somewhat, but the bulb still costs a bundle ($90-100).

On the other hand, you can get less expensive LED bulbs from Pharox and EarthLED as discussed in my full review.

- Aaron Dalton, Editor,

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Electrician Online Course said...

LED light bulbs could very well be the next best thing in lighting. The technology is making inroads in every market, with an LED bulb for any application. It reminds me of how compact fluorescent technology slowly dominated incandescent technology. There is a similar roadblock, as well; LEDs have outlandish high prices. LEDs have a long list of advantages over incandescent and CFL lighting. A common complaint about compact fluorescents is the ramp-up time to full brightness. Instant-on CFLs provide light instantly, but still require time to reach full brightness. LED light bulbs provide full illumination from the moment they’re turned on.