Excerpt from my book Green Lighting
LEDs offer a number of promising environmental benefits, and they are often viewed as the future of green lighting. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), LEDs eventually could reduce by 50 percent the amount of energy we use for lighting globally and reduce by 10 percent the total amount of electricity we use.
LEDs could reduce projected 2025 global carbon emissions by 300 megatons per year while creating new jobs.
To break this down, on average, generating a single kilowatthour of electricity produces 1.34 pounds (610 grams) of CO2 emissions. If the average light bulb is on for 10 hours a day, a single 40-watt incandescent bulb will generate 196 pounds (89 kilograms) of CO2 a year. However, a 13-watt LED equivalentwill only produce 63 pounds (29 kilograms) of CO2 over the same time.
A building’s carbon footprint from lighting therefore can be slashed by 68 percent
by swapping out all incandescents for LEDs. It’s also true that the long life of LEDs should mean that fewer resources will be needed to produce and maintain lighting equipment. And the fact that LEDs lack mercury is a clear advantage. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that governments and private companies around the world have invested millions of dollars in research on LEDs.
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. It’s certainly true that LEDs cost more than conventional lighting right now—at least when we’re talking about upfront prices. However, it’s essential to look at the total cost of ownership, including energy and maintenance costs, and in that case, it’s not the price of the bulb that is the biggest piece of the pie. In their lifetimes, LEDs save a chunk of change over incandescent and halogen lighting, and they are starting to get close to competing with fluorescents.
This is not to say that LEDs are for everyone and every application right now. David Bergman, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)Accredited Professional (AP) architect and designer of the green lighting line Fire & Water, said that he doesn’t think LEDs make that much sense for typical home owners just yet although he has recently started to design a few fixtures for them.
Bergman’s cautious-yet-optimistic approach to the technology is common in the industry. “Right now, CFLs are a better buy when you’re talking about general lighting for the home,” Michael Smith, vice president of the Energy Solutions Group for lighting controls maker Lutron, said in a phone interview.