2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Light and power

Warning: The suggestions in this post might be so overwhelmingly practical you can’t imagine giving them to anyone on your list. Fair enough. However, if you really want to help someone save a little money over the course of the next decade, these gifts may make it to the top of your shopping list.

In July, my husband started visiting LED light bulbs at the hardware store. No purchase is ever made quickly with him. He does research, visits the product, does a little more research, visits the product, does a little more research. I admire his patience and informed decision-making process, but sometimes he needs me to tell him he’s grounded and can’t go and visit the item again unless he’s going to buy it. By August, I had to put an end to the weekly light bulb visitations.

One evening in September, after 20 minutes of staring at his computer screen, he grabbed his keys and told me he was heading out to buy new light bulbs.

He returned with one light bulb. One. He put it in the lamp next to his desk and was very glad to not have to wait for full light the way you have to with CFCs. And, the LED light isn’t yellow like CFC light (although the yellow bulb casing might lead you to believe otherwise) or flickery like a fluorescent, it’s the same as incandescent light. He smiled.

The next week he purchased three. The week after that, he picked up eight.

I’ll admit, I thought his behavior was weird. Rather, I thought his behavior was weird until I looked at our electric bills for September and October in comparison to all of our previous electric bills since we moved.

Changing some of the light bulbs in the house made a noticeable difference in our electric bill. We ended up changing all of the bulbs in our house — and although there was the upfront purchase price of the bulbs, we won’t have to change them for more than a decade (the box says 22.8 years if you run your lights 3 hours an evening, but we run ours 5 to 6 hours in the winter so my guess is 12 to 14 years) and our electric bill savings will completely cover the purchase price of all the bulbs (23 total) in less than three years. Compared to all other light bulbs, this is a huge improvement. Incandescents might be less expensive for the bulb, but because they regularly have to be replaced and ratchet up your electric bill, incandescents end up costing significantly more money over the years. (We saved the old bulbs we removed and will put them back when we take the LEDs with us when we move, since our current home is a rental.)

Because of their higher-than-incandescents price (the Philips Dimmable LED Bulbs are $22 a piece on Amazon), they make terrific gifts because people are hesitant to buy them for themselves (it can be hard to visualize the long-term benefits when looking at the sticker price). You can give someone one or more, and they will start saving money the minute the bulbs are installed. Plus, they’re something you know the person will use and benefit from every single day.

Along these super-practical lines, I also recommend the following items in addition to the Philips Dimmable LED Bulbs (image 1):

  • A Motion Sensing Light Socket that turns on the light when you come into a space and turns it off when you leave the space. These are perfect for closets, pantries, and basements with low traffic and where the light is accidentally left on sometimes. In addition to working with LED lights, they also work with compact fluorescents and incandescents. No more wasting money and electricity by accidentally leaving on a light. ($19, image 2)
  • Eneloop 1500 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries with a very slow discharge rate. In short, these rechargeable batteries don’t easily deplete when they’re not being used. Plus, they’re environmentally friendly, hold a decent charge for up to 3 years (incredible for rechargeables), and these particular ones are sparkly! ($24 for 8 batteries, image 3)
  • A La Crosse Power Battery Charger, which works with NiCad and NiMH rechargeables. Why this particular model is nice is because it can charge, discharge, refresh, and test batteries. Being able to discharge and refresh extends the lives of your rechargeable batteries. It also has specific displays for each battery you’re charging. Again, this battery charger may be a bit more expensive than other rechargers, but since it extends the lives of your batteries, you end up saving money over the long-term. ($45, image 4)

What other high utility, daily use gifts like LED light bulbs and rechargeable batteries are you considering giving this year? Share your super-practical suggestions in the comments.

View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

29 Comments for “2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Light and power”

  1. posted by Amanda on

    This is a really great idea! I’ve been struggling to come up with a good gift idea for my uber-practical step-father, and the LED lightbulbs would be perfect.

  2. posted by Carol on

    I love this idea!

  3. posted by Jenna on

    I’m curious as to how much a motion detecting light will actually save since surely it is continually using electricity powering the motion sensor in contrast to a light that you just switch on an off. It seems to be a false economy like the standby on most TV sets. Anyone know the answer?

  4. posted by Eileen @ Space Matters on

    These are actually fabulous ideas! Especially for the men in your life!

  5. posted by chacha1 on

    I’m gonna get me an LED bulb for the lamp on our computer desk. It has been bugging me for years.

    I agree … men like practical gifts. Especially gadgety practical gifts.

    Erin, your description of your husband’s shopping habit made me laugh. Thanks for that!

  6. posted by Shalin on

    Love this post – totally can related to “frequent product *visits*” and giving things that have a “cost barrier” to others as gifts ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. posted by Ann on

    Those are the prettiest batteries I’ve ever seen!

  8. posted by Liz on

    My dad visits things. Last fall he frequently visited a very expensive steak at the local fancy foods store. He finally bought it and cooked it the week before Christmas. He says it’s calling his name again this year.

  9. posted by Ily on

    I think I’m going to ask someone to get me those batteries as a gift ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. posted by Madaco on

    Incandescent globes are no longer available to buy in Australia, whether we want them or not!

  11. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    How do LEDs compare against CF bulbs in terms of running costs? In Australia, our bulbs have to meet minimum efficiency standards which means that almost no incandescent bulbs can be sold here.

  12. posted by Anne on

    I tried an LED bulb and it was AWFUL! Have they improved recently? The light was a harsh, unnatural, cold white and it was noticeably dimmer than a normal bulb. The beam was also concentrated on one spot almost like those lights in a theater that illuminate only the performer and leave the rest of the stage in darkness. Obviously, the higher energy bills are a big downside, but we have stockpiled incandescents as you just can’t reproduce that warm, bright light with anything else.

  13. posted by PJ Doland on


    A decent LED can put out about twice as many lumens per watt as a CFL.

  14. posted by PJ Doland on


    The technology has improved considerably over the last few years. Check out the Philips bulbs mentioned in the article. They come in brightnesses that are equivalent to 60W and 75W incandescents.

  15. posted by LisaD on

    Yeah, that was my questions – if your husband spent all this time researching bulbs, what did he find? Is the Philips one the best, or are there other good ones? I know since it’s a new technology, sometimes you can have the same experience as Anne did regarding quality, so I was curious.

    Also it is worth noting that CFLs vary in quality too. If you get the .99 CFLs instead of the 2.99 ones, like most things you’ll get what you paid for. The EcoSmart is one good one – not sure about others.

  16. posted by PJ Doland on

    The Philips bulbs we mentioned are actually the highest rated bulbs tested by Consumer Reports (in **any** class). They calculate the ROI for a typical owner at 3.5 years.

  17. posted by Katrina on

    I found a Traveller universal power supply unit at Aldi (the Australian equivalent of ASDA). It’s a useful little device which has 2 USB connections and can be used in power or car adaptor to power/recharge various.

    The one unit has a connectors for 5 brands of mobile (cell) phones, 2 handheld game consoles, mini usb, a micro usb and a metre of power cable. And it was only about $10.

    So I bought a handful of them for various impossible-to-buy-for male relatives and friends as gifts (and one for myself).

  18. posted by Katrina on

    Sorry, I had a bit of a disaster with one sentence there…

    Itโ€™s a useful little device which has 2 USB connections and can be used in a power point or a car to recharge or power various devices. A wonderful way to reduce lots of power cords, and only have one power cord kit when travelling.

  19. posted by susanintexas on

    In September we had a city-subsidized home energy audit. We were shocked by the results — our house is leaking money (50% of the output from the central air was escaping from leaky ducts in the attic.) We’ve started on the improvements they recommended (including new light bulbs.)

    One cool gadget is a kill-A-watt electric usage monitor. It has been interesting to see what various plugged in things are costing us and has been an incentive to conserve. I suggested to my brother, an uber-nerd, that he might like one for Christmas. He has two — one for home, one for work. Should have guessed.

  20. posted by D on

    For all the hype about how long the mini fluorescent should last….in my house they have been burning out faster than the incandescent. I’m reluctant to bother with the LEDs and find out their longevity claims are equally flawed.

  21. posted by gypsy packer on

    Management here has been contemplating a gradual switch to LED’s. Ironically, their very design presents a problem–the area’s disgustingly large population of meth addicts use their few undamaged neurons to create meth pipes from conventional light bulbs, and no, Erin, I am not making this up. The spiral bulbs solved a big theft problem for public and/or hospitality facilities. LED design has neglected this real but minority problem.
    On the Eneloop batteries–can these be recharged with a solar charger? I use rechargeables for camping.

  22. posted by Jodi on

    I am with D, I am reluctant to invest in supposedly longer lasting bulbs when so many people are finding the life expectancy to be flawed.

    @ Susanintexas: My library had the kill-a-watts that could be checked out using a library card. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. posted by Sarah on

    Showing for $35 for me. Too bad, I would definitely have got some at $22.

  24. posted by pkilmain on

    LOL Jodi beat me to it, our libary also has the kill-a-watts for checkout.

    We have converted to CFL’s in our non-florescent lights. I have spotted and (“visited” several times) a LED light I want for my bedside. May ask for it for Christmas, if not for my birthday which is only 2 weeks later.

    On other type gifts, I found a little thing that plugs into the car converter and has 2 USB ports for charging. Very handy for people like me who use their iPods mainly in the car. It was under $20 US.

  25. posted by Angela on

    In the same vein, but may not save money, for those people in your life who are a little down, full spectrum bulbs are also an idea. This is especially great if you spend a lot of time indoors or don’t get out of work until after it gets dark. Get your vitamin D in the comfort of your own home.

    Also good for college students’ dorms, especially those who move to go to college in a wintery place after having lived in a summery place their entire lives.

  26. posted by Dede on

    How much heat does an LED bulb put out, compared to an incandescent? Our family room is the busiest room in the house and the lighting can warm it up a bit too much in summer. If these bulbs could help reduce that heat, we could run the a/c less and save even more money.

  27. posted by susanintexas on

    Thanks for telling about the library checkout of the kill-a-watt. I’m going to suggest to our electric company that they partner with the library to do that here — wonderful idea!

  28. posted by Jim on

    How well do the LED bulbs survive children? I’m all for going green, saving power, saving money on power, etc, but I find that my kids destroy a light bulb (and sometimes the lamp) all too often. That will change, but I’d love to just put in more $2 bulbs for now, knowing we’ve still got years until the youngest is safe.

  29. posted by Jen on

    Thank you for the suggestion of the Philips LED light bulbs. I purchased some as gifts for my dad, and he loves them. Their light looks just like old-fashioned incandescent lights and they use even less electricity than CFL bulbs. Good stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

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