Whats So Great About LEDs?|
Chances are, if you’ve shopped for any kind of light bulb recently you’ve noticed that there some new offerings among the usual selection of bulbs and lamps that line the shelves of your local hardware store. Where the available variety once consisted of simple incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes of various wattages, we are now seeing some unusual additions of a wholly different nature. Typically labeled as energy saving or extreme long life lamps, these bulbs are appearing in ever greater numbers and present a sometimes confusing array of shapes and sizes that can often bewilder the average person who may be unfamiliar with them. Although they may initially appear as strange or even foreign, these new lights are in reality the next generation of lighting that will soon completely phase out the original incandescent bulb.
So why are these lights slowly taking over the shelves at our favorite stores and why should we accept them into our homes? After all, the humble light bulb and the familiar fluorescent tubes we have been using in our homes and businesses our entire lives work just fine don’t they? So why the change?
To better understand what is going on and why these new lights are slowly replacing the simple incandescent bulb, it’s necessary to understand a few of the basics about lighting and what sets some of these new lamps apart from the rest.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, approximately 11% of the average homes electrical costs are due to lighting. Schools, stores, and businesses use about 60% of their electrical energy producing illumination. In the United States, over a third of our national energy consumption goes towards producing illumination in our cities, homes, and businesses. Estimates for the national cost of producing lighting energy alone are within 40 to 60 billion dollars annually. The costs for producing all this energy are predicted to continue rising at an alarming rate even as more and more countries adopt energy efficiency policies aimed at curbing energy consumption.
As well as the demands for energy, the emissions created by producing that energy also continue to rise, leading to worldwide concerns about the effects this has on our environment. Greenhouse gases and environmental pollutants are direct products of energy production and as the needs for energy grow so will the production of these pollutants. Changes in how we produce energy alone will not be enough to meet emissions control requirements in the future and it has been recognized that reducing the need for energy will be one of the most significant ways to reduce emissions.
To meet the goals dictated by the need for reducing energy consumption the most promising path has been one of finding ways to use the energy produced in more efficient manners. Everything from automobiles to kitchen appliances are being developed with energy efficiency as a priority and yet one of the simplest ways to reduce energy consumption across the board has until recently been largely overlooked. With up to a third of energy usage in the United States going towards producing illumination, recent developments in lighting technology have begun to take center stage. New developments in lighting technology have produced lamps that far surpass the traditional incandescent in both energy efficiency and light quality and are now being recognized as an effective way to drastically reduce the usage of energy and its cost.
Most notable among the advancements today are LEDs or “Light Emitting Diodes”. Through a process called electroluminescence, light emitting diodes have the potential to produce light far more efficiently than any other type of illumination source available today. Already current LEDs are surpassing incandescent light bulbs in both light quality and efficiency and the most advanced LEDs can rival or even surpass energy efficient fluorescent tubes. Incandescent bulbs, because of the way they produce light through electrical resistance, are very inefficient sources of light. Up to 90% of an incandescent bulbs energy is wasted as heat created by the electrical resistance of the filament, making them more effective as heaters than as sources of illumination!
An incandescent bulb produces approximately 15 lumens of light per watt while quality LEDs in contrast produce 60 or more lumens per watt. This equates to a lot more light being produced with a great deal less energy. While a 60 watt incandescent will produce 900 total lumens, an LED of only 15 watts can produce the same amount. That’s ¼ the amount of energy for the same amount of light. Lights like the Larson Electronics 30 Watt LED PAR 38 Spot / Flood Light can exceed the light output of a comparable 150 watt incandescent while drawing only a fraction the amount of energy. In industrial and commercial business, lamps like the Larson Electronics Par38 Spot/ Flood light are an ideal choice for companies looking for explosion proof lighting and industrial grade lamps that are extremely durable and long lived, yet will also help their businesses to bring down operating costs through energy conservation. For a business that spends $450,000 on lighting, switching all their lighting to LEDs could theoretically cut their lighting costs by 50%+, resulting in net savings of $250,000 or more!
Because of their high efficiency and long life, and the increasing demands of energy conservation, LEDs have become the leading contender for an energy efficient replacement of the standard incandescent bulb. The U.S. department of energy estimates that switching all of the traditional bulbs in a home with high efficiency lamps can reduce the lighting costs of a home up to 75%. If introduced on a national scale, the potential for energy savings are considerable. It’s been estimated that if every home in the U.S. switched only one incandescent bulb in their home to a high efficiency lamp, enough energy would be saved to power an entire large city. Imagine the savings if every home switched every bulb for an LED unit.
Although LEDs are extremely efficient and very durable since they contain no filament in their construction that can break or burn out, many people are still leery of using them in their homes. The biggest concerns with LED’s center on the initial cost of the bulbs and the color and quality of the light they create. While LEDs made five years ago may have had some legitimate problems, the LEDs of today have for all intents overcome them. Increases in light output and new bulb designs have resulted in LED’s that can produce light almost indistinguishable from the light produced by incandescents in both color and quality. While LEDs remain initially more expensive to purchase, their extremely long life span which averages 25,000 to 70,000 hours, and their high efficiency, allows the bulbs to pay for themselves within a year or two of being installed. It would take anywhere from 7 to 10 incandescent bulbs to equal the lifespan of an LED. That’s ten years of life from one LED bulb. Added together, the savings in replacement costs alone demonstrates their cost effectiveness while their energy efficiency represents even more savings from lowered energy bills. With no more effort than it takes to change a light bulb or fixture, both homeowners and businesses can make serious reductions in their energy consumption that will bring savings on their energy bills for years to come.