Published on February 2nd, 2017 | by Scott Cooney


LED Lighting Retrofits In Hawaiian Homes: Faster Paybacks Than Solar Power

February 2nd, 2017 by  

Visitors know the Hawaiian islands for many things: ample sunshine, beautiful beaches, and friendly people. Residents know these things as well, but also are all too aware of high electricity prices, an aging electrical grid dependent on foreign oil, choke traffic, and other problems associated with the “cost of paradise.”

The challenges are not atypical of modern living in desirable locations — a combination of cheap imports and high costs of land/rent have created an economy heavily reliant on imported goods, from manufacturing to food to fuel and more.

Getting to local self-reliance in Hawaii and elsewhere will require an all-hands-on-deck approach. Solar in Hawaii is a good choice, but with regard to good financial investments, there are few things better than LED lighting. In this article, part of a series sponsored by Pono Home (a local home efficiency and maintenance company), and Hawaii Energy (the ratepayer-funded conservation program), we’ll look at LED lighting retrofits for Hawaii homes. The benefits of such a retrofit include the obvious (lower energy bills) and the not-so-obvious (less heat created inside your home, lower fire hazards, lower risk of burns, less maintenance over time), as well as the community benefits (reducing Hawaii’s dependence on foreign oil).

Get to know your LEDs

Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology allows for the creation of illumination (light) with lower inputs of energy than conventional lighting (such as incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs). Compared to incandescent bulbs, LEDs use 80–90% less electricity to produce the same amount of light.

Over the last few years, LED technology has managed to achieve an equivalent “feel” with its light, matching and often exceeding the options (e.g., dimmability), brightness and color rendering index of more conventional bulbs.

Importantly, the price of LEDs, just like the price of solar panels, has dropped precipitously in recent years, making LEDs accessible on a mass-market scale.

There are a lot of different types, shapes, color spectrums, brightnesses, and other options available in LED bulbs nowadays. Here’s a visual representation of the most common shapes of bulbs you might encounter in a home.

Return on Investment

As mentioned above, there are few financial investments you can make that are better than an LED bulb, especially in places like Hawaii where energy prices are high.

Take a simple 60 watt replacement bulb, for instance. Replacing an incandescent bulb that uses 60 watts with an equivalent LED that uses 9 yields a 51 watt savings. To make sense of what that will save you, you can multiply 51 watts by 3 hours (the average amount of time lights are on per day in a residential setting) by 365 days and you can calculate the number of watt-hours you’ll save (then divide by 1000 to get kilowatt-hours). kWh is the measure of electrical consumption typically used by utilities and what you’ll see on an electric bill:

Multiply the result by your utility’s cost per kWh, and you’ll get a rough calculation of how much money you can save in a year. If you’re interested in seeing more on the methodology for calculating payback periods or return on investment on efficiency upgrades, check out this post.

In Hawaii, you can bet that your payback period is less than a year for most lighting applications, far faster for the ones you use most often.

So, how do you go LED in your home? For the DIY-er, there are LEDs of most shapes, colors, and sizes at most retail outlets. If you’d like more education and the ability to do a self-audit of your home to identify exactly what you need before going to the store, check out this DIY LED home audit tool. It is also a service provided by our company, Pono Home, so contact us if you’re interested in getting a retrofit!

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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