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August 31, 2014
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We’ll have to wait


A good friend sent this to me after reading my series of articles on CFLs. The filmmaker did the math, it’s quite thorough in explaining, among other things, why CFLs do NOT live up to the claims.

Disillusioned by my findings concerning the drawbacks of CFLs (documented in my last two columns), I began researching LEDs, or light emitting diodes, which are increasingly being used for residential lighting.

LEDs are in all ways superior to CFLs. The lifespan for an LED is 50,000 hours, or 11 years of continuous operation, compared to 8,000 hours for a CFL. LEDs use six to eight watts per lumen while CFLs use 13 to 15. LEDs do not contain toxic mercury, nor are they sensitive to low temperatures or humidity as are CFLs. They turn on immediately, can handle jarring and emit less heat, only 3.4 BTUs per hour compared to CFLs, which emit 30 BTUs per hour. LEDs rarely have failure modes, but CFLs sometimes emit smoke or catch on fire. (For further information, check out the comparison chart at this URL: http://eartheasy.com/live_led_bulbs_comparison.html.)

In addition, “If all of the world’s light bulbs were replaced with energy-efficient LEDs for a period of 10 years, researchers at the U.S. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claim, oil consumption would be cut by 962 million barrels, removing the need for 280 power stations, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 10 billion tons, and ultimately result in financial savings of $1.83 trillion.”

At this time, however, LEDs have two major drawbacks. One is that a single bulb costs on average about $40, but prices are predicted to decline with increased demand and manufacturing scale. Even at that steep price, the cost of LEDs is recouped in energy cost savings; one website contends that a seven-watt LED home light bulb (which replaces a 60-watt incandescent) would cost $2 a year to run if left on for eight hours a day.

Another drawback is that present LED technology uses aluminum to absorb and dissipate the heat generated by the bulb. Mining, refining and processing aluminum is energy intensive and creates toxic by-products that must be disposed of in hazardous waste landfills, according to a September, 2012 report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the United Kingdom’s N14 Energy Limited, an environmental consulting company specializing in energy efficiency and lighting.

The study, however, confirms that LEDs are the most environmentally friendly lighting source with even less environmental impact expected within the next five years as LED technology improves. The report states that, “soon, research and development is expected to further improve LED efficiencies, which in turn will reduce the amount of heat they produce.... The research team found that this, and other improvements in manufacturing processes and electronics, will lead LED bulbs to be even more environmentally friendly than CFLs within five years. The team expects the LED bulb of 2017 will have 50% less environmental impacts than today’s LED lamps and 70% less impacts that those found in today’s CFLs, which are not expected to change significantly in the near future.”

Let’s hope that in five years, we’ll be replacing our light bulbs yet again. Let’s hope the environment can wait that long.