Buying Light Bulbs at Wholesale Prices

light bulb As a homeowner, one thing I find myself doing way too often is replacing light bulbs. Our home seems to use some of the most expensive types of fixtures ranging from halogen spotlights to incandescent floodlights of various shapes and sizes. I have gone everywhere searching for low-cost replacements including our local Ace Hardware, Home Depot and specialty lighting stores. I have tried buying online at Amazon.com and eBay. None of these places offer low prices, in my opinion.

For example, the local price for a 65BR30 flood, incandescent bulb ranges anywhere between $2.50 and $5.00 after tax. Amazon.com lists resellers offering these same bulbs for between $2.00 and $3.00. However, shipping & handling charges erode any savings vs. buying locally. Furthermore, if bulbs arrive damaged, I would be S.O.L. The same is true for any “deals” one might stumble upon on eBay.

Homebuilders and general contractors must buy large lots of light bulbs for their jobs. There had to be a wholesaler with a Web site willing to sell to an individual using a credit card. A few Internet searches later (using Live search, naturally) and I found such a site.

HESCO is the “premier electrical product and service supplier in the [New England] region.” In business since 1940, HESCO’s Web site is clearly a quick-and-dirty facade for a mainly brick-and-mortar business. One telltale sign is the non-obvious link to its Web Store on the main page (upper right corner).

I clicked that link and was whisked off to their online store. Again, this site won’t win any Web design awards. Navigating my way around was challenging (hint: click the “Just Browsing” button on the left, then choose “Item Locator” from the drop-down). However, I was looking for a deal/steal on light bulbs and was willing to sacrifice a little user experience.

I entered a model number (e.g., “65BR30”) into the description field then clicked the submit button. The site returned a list with 4 matches. I knew I wanted the bulbs with the FL55 & 120V specs (look at the box at one of your local establishments if you are unsure) but was surprised there were no prices listed. So I entered a quantity of 1 for the package of 12 — remember these are wholesalers which typically don’t sell individual bulbs, then I added the item to my basket. Still no prices.

I clicked the basket icon in the upper left because I surely wasn’t about to blindly order something without knowing what it was going to cost. A new displayed a button to get price and availability. I clicked that button and, a few moments later, I finally had a price. The bulbs cost $1.90 each ($22.80 per case) including shipping & handling. I increased my order to 2 cases (24 bulbs) and completed the order.

I placed the order on August 5 and received a confirmation e-mail shortly thereafter. I was highly skeptical at first, wondering if the bulbs would ever arrive once someone in billing realized I was just a frugal homeowner looking to save a little money and not some home construction giant that would generate them millions in future revenue. Also, HESCO ships via UPS Ground so I was also worried the bulbs would be damaged if they arrived at all.

I am pleased to report all 24 bulbs arrived with no apparent damage on August 29. Shipping took much longer than I expected (perhaps wholesalers do everything slowly) but I am happy I have years worth of replacement bulbs at a price I would never find at a local retailer. Moreover, I know where to go to find inexpensive bulbs in the future and now you do too.