Are LEDs really worth it?

LEDs certainly are the future but are they the present? There is little doubt that in 20 years, perhaps 5, this will be a quaint discussion as the world will have completely convereted to LED but are LEDs current;y a better choice than compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs?!?!

With the rapidly dropping costs for LEDs (currently about $3.40-7.00 bucks for a A19), it’s pretty easy to see the amazing returns these bulbs provide versus standard incandescent bulbs. There are many ROI spreadsheets out there so I won’t replicate here but if you want to geek out, check out this one at Tony White Designs. At $0.2329 per kWh, as long as the bulb is used more than 3 hours a day the bulb cost is recovered in the first year. What is even crazier is that the inital cost of an incandescent bulb is actually going up (!), whereas they used to be less than a buck they are now closer to $1.90 as they are being phased out of use. Right off the bat, incandescent bulbs are dead. Let’s move on.

The ROI comparison between compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and LEDs is much closer. Much like the LEDs, the CFL technology is becoming more mature and both  the costs are going down and the expected useful life is increasing (going from 8,500 hours to 10,000 hours on these bulbs which cost $2.12/each). This compares to the best selling LED A19 on Amazon with a cost of $3.40 and a useful life of 25,000 hours. Now we can get a meat and potato comparison of the three bulbs (I kept incandescent in there for shits and giggles):

A19 25000

Note: The kWh reported above is what my bill is right now

The LED bulb does beats out all the other bulbs for total return over the LED’s useful life of 25,000 hours. But that is a lot of hours! Based upon the industry standard for useage, this is over 23 years!! Buy if you buy it, will you use the bulb that long?

Probably not. In 2013, the National Association of Home Builders did a study finding that most homeowners stay in their house for 13 years. That equates to 14,130 hours at average usage. Now you could replace all the LED bulbs in your house back to CFl before you moved out and take the LEDs with you but that seems unlikely with all the other stuff you have to do moving plus you would need to factor in the cost of the new CFLs. This is what happens when we cut 10,000 hours off our ROI analysis:

A19 House Life *LED Bulb life was capped at the expected usage for 13 years.
** Bulbs needs was rounded up to cover the number of bulbs you would actually have to buy while living in the home

I was actually surprised, I expected CFLs to beat out LED over the shorter time horizon but thanks to the cost of LEDs falling in price so dramatically over the past few years there was not much additional upfront cost to overcome.  

Two final considerations, the first is the newness of the LED technology and the associated issues with reliability of any new technology. Secondly is environmental concerns.

Here I can only interject my own experience. My first one was great, I had some hard to reach overhead lights in my old house in 2008 and decided to install LED so I didn’t need to replace them often. Back then, the bulbs were purchased for about $15/each. They lasted the entire time I was at that house (6 years) with no issues. If I did the ROI analysis , CFLs would be sure to beat them but I consider never having to change the bulbs once to be a win. So when we moved into a new home in 2014 with all CFL bulbs, I immediately replaced CFLs as they failed with LED replacements. The first ones to go were in a high bathroom light fixture which was a pain to change. The perfect situation for some long lasting LEDs. Just over a year in, the two LED bulbs in that fixture died! Sadness ensued.

The second consideration stems from how the two technologies actually work. CFLs work by driving an electric current through a glass tube containing argon and mercury vapor. This process creates ultraviolet light that translates into visible light. The process has two weaknesses, it takes a few moments for them to warm up and reach full brightness and it also contains mercury. Mercury for those unscientific is bad, real bad. It causes brain damage, of which I already have too much, and is also listed as a heavy metal which harms the environment. And as a final demerit, CFL bulbs can’t be dimmed!

LED however work in a much cleaner way bringing together currents with a positive and negative charge to create energy released in the form of light. No brain destroying heavy metals here. The light is also instantaneous and can be dimmed.

Conclusion

When I started this, I thought the perceived cost benefits of LED bulbs would be mitigated when the time frame was shortened. It was quite satisfying to see that thanks to the costs of LED bulbs dropping, payback period has shortened quite a bit. With the added benefits of helping the environment by not using products containing mercury, I’ll happily continue to replace all my current CFL bulbs with LEDs as they fail.

Side note

The A19 is most standard bulb out there but I also ran this analysis for speciality bulb that our builder seemed to really like using for our recessed lights, the BR40. Here the lifetime cost difference was greatly reduced due to the much higher upfront costs associated with LED but it still came out ahead:

BR40

Is the CrossFit Open a community building event or a games selection event?

 

Being a slightly above average CrossFitter for three years now, the CrossFit Open and I have a complicated relationship. It is has both been a source of motivation and frustration. The first year, it motivated me to do my first double thanks to the increased pressure of a competition and someone right there judging me. The second year, 2015, however the open was an extremely frustrating experience.

Due to complaints that some athletes who do well in the open fail to perform at those same levels at the regionals (because the open stresses low-skill high cardio movements whereas the regionals test high strength for shorter durations), CrossFit decided in 2015 to create two separate divisions, a scaled division for the everyday CrossFitter and a Rx division for the competitors hoping to make it to regionals.

What that took away from the Open was the feeling that every CrossFitter had a chance to compete against the top people to see where they stacked up. A lot of what I’ll call participation sports;  running, triathlons, weightlifting, jiujitsu (and the variations), cycling, rowing – sports where a majority of the revenue is derived from people actually participating in it, have some aspect of competitions or “opens” where even the beginner has a chance to compete against the pros.  

This is contrast to sports like baseball, football, basketball where a major of the revenue in comes from viewership (primarily through television dollars). In these sports the trend is not have a chance to compete against the top athletes and in most, it’s hard to even interact with them.

As of right now, a majority of the revenue generated seems to be generated from participation fees either by members joining affiliates (CrossFit is privately held so information is difficult to find but here is a good article on the speculated numbers) – funneled back to CrossFit HQ via affiliate fees or by paying to participate in CrossFit-like event.This would put in in the participation sports camp although it could be trying to build its future model after golf which seems to be squarely in the middle.

Why does it matter?

Participation sports growth is driven by the participants, they need to believe in the dream and sell it to other people (think about the endless stream of marathon stickers you see on the back of cars). If the CrossFit open becomes strictly a selection process for the regionals and therefore the games, it will begin the lose the appeal of the everyday CrossFitter and soon they will detach from the dream. When that happens, they will be a lot more likely to move to other dreams and take the growth with it.

So back to golf. For golf, the middle area seemed to work well for quite some time – namely during the rise of the Tiger Woods phenomenon. Tigers mass appeal (at least then) sparked growth for the sport for many years but with Tiger on the decline the story is less rosy. According this article by Forbes and many others, the sport is in a state of decline. And CrossFit does not have any decade long starts that it can hang its hat on. Rich Fronning is phasing out and the people behind him have not generated much star appeal. For CrossFit to hope for the golf model to pan out seems overly optimistic when it hasn’t even worked out for golf itself.

Random aside:

If you’re looking to relate this all back to business and money as well, you can read this piece on Inc.com called What Failing at the CrossFit Games Can Teach You About Success.

 

Organizing a Half Marathon

13.1A friend of mine decided to start a charitable trust and one of the trust’s first events is to organize a half marathon, the longest endurance race to date in the town I live in. God bless him for deciding to do this and raise money for charity (the primary benefactor is the Tug McGraw Foundation).

Although a fit and active guy, he did not have much experience in the endurance world so he reached out to me since I’ve done more than my share of races, 5Ks, marathons, ironmen, ect. Then he took it one step further and suckered me into helping him under the guise of providing the “racer perspective”. I told him upfront that I have no idea what actually goes on behind the scenes of actually running a race but he convinced me to him anyway. My specific task is to help run the Finish Fest area – the part of the race it happens immediately after the runners finished the race.

This race is shaping up to be pretty big deal but I am utterly amazed by the lack of experience everyone on the board has running races and what they are able to accomplish anyway. So I have begun talking to people and scouring the internet. What I have learned so far is:

  • There are several companies online that sell race management software. The most well know is Active.com which has a nice article called How to Organize Your First Race which at first seems to provide a nice overview of the process but when you dig into it, the goal is really to sell their own proprietary race management software. A competitor of Active is Race Entry which also has a similar overview article called How to Organize a 5K. You’ll have to gauge if going the software path is the right path for you.
  • So assuming you’re not going the paid software route, what I have decided to do is start a checklist. The goal is to outline every single task you think might need to be accomplished to make my task go off without a hitch. My portion is only the Finisher Fest but if you need a good checklist to use as an example for an entire race, check this out.
  • People and connections are the most important part. You had better be on the phone talking to people, emailing, making as many new friends in this area as you can. If this is hard for you, you’re really going to struggle. It’s not my favorite thing to do but I’m enjoying this reason to work on my skills.

The race planning is still in its infancy but I am getting a bit of good luck in that the sponsorship committee has a lot of talented people from the town to gather up sponsors and vendors so they are filling in most of my vendor requirements for the finisher fest without much work from me. My main responsibility is securing the tents, allowing for their arrangement, and ensuring there is enough post race food and water. Wow, that does seem like a lot more now that I just typed it!

We’ll see if I F this up and updates will be posted either way.

The Wealthy Accountant

Once again big thanks to Mr. Money Mustache (the best best early retirement blog out there if your interested) for introducing me to The Wealthy Accountant.

See a secret desire of mine is to both actually retire early and to have a CPA practice on the side (if having both can be done simultaneously). The Wealth Accountant seems to have achieved both and has some great information for tax geeks and early retirees. If you’re interested in getting your tax geek on, go check it out.

Intro

Thanks to the inspiration over at Financial Samurai (Why You Need To Start Your Own Website Today), I finally decided to take the plunge into creating my own site dedicated to the two things that are most important to me (besides Family & God): Fitness & Money.

I also thought the later two were may more interesting to ready about than my family issues and not quite as polarizing as my religious views.