LEDs vs CFLs: No Compromise Necessary|
With the current trends in energy efficiency and conservation presenting a persistent and important presence on the world stage, it is only natural that energy efficient forms of lighting technology continue to receive increasing scrutiny. With over 60 billion dollars per year spent in the U.S. alone on energy for lighting, it is clear that there is great opportunity for increased efficiency and savings. Two parts of the efficiency and conservation equation are the costs of producing electrical energy and the byproducts resulting from it. One of the reasons producing electrical power is becoming more expensive every year is that the production of this energy involves the burning of fossil fuels of which there is a limited supply. This burning of fossil fuels in turn produces wastes that have significant detrimental effects on the environment. Controlling the production of these wastes introduces additional costs to the process of creating electrical energy, which when coupled with limited resources and increasing demand results in rising overall costs for electrical power.
Because of these concerns, new efficiency standards and incentives for the development of advanced technologies have been implemented intended to spur the growth and adoption of energy efficient forms of lighting. Perhaps one of the most well known technologies to currently be adopted is the CFL or Compact Fluorescent Light. Basically a scaled down version of the traditional fluorescent bulb, CFLs have for the past five years been heavily promoted as one of the lighting solutions of the future. Acceptance of the CFL by industry and the public however has been tepid, in large part because the CFL is proving to be limited in the functions it can perform, and concerns for the toxic materials contained within their construction.
CFLs although much more efficient than the traditional incandescent bulb, suffer from several significant drawbacks that have hampered their introduction into widespread use. Although compact and readily interchangeable with the common incandescent light bulb, CFLs are poor replacements for applications that require powerful or specialized directional illumination. They may work well in the common table lamp, but are a poor choice for installation in an industrial setting. Even the brightest CFLs do not provide enough illumination for operations involving close work such as those found in manufacturing warehouses or assembly line productions. They are severely limited in applications such as agriculture and marine use because they do not have the versatility or power to be included in mobile uses such as on equipment or in harsh marine environments. CFLs also have poor directional abilities and even when coupled with reflectors and specialized housings fail to concentrate enough of their energy towards the desired areas.
Of further concern with CFLs is the inclusion of toxic materials into their construction. In CFLs, an average of four milligrams of mercury is used to facilitate their energy efficient production of light. This mercury is much less than what would commonly be found in an old thermometer, however, it still represents an addition of toxic materials that must be addressed in order to be safely controlled. Because CFLs contain mercury which is recognized as a highly toxic and dangerous material by the federal government, special consideration must be given to the handling and disposal of CFLs. CFLs cannot be simply discarded in the trash when their useful life ends. They must be disposed of as a hazardous material with the careful collection and recycling of their materials necessary to reduce the risk of mercury escaping into the surrounding environment. CFLs are fragile, and once the glass tubing breaks, mercury escapes and cannot be recovered. Because of these concerns, other energy efficient forms of lighting have begun to overtake the CFL as the illumination technology of choice in the lighting industry.
Quickly overshadowing CFLs, LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes, have fast gained ground with both industry and the public and are now poised to become the defacto lighting of choice once the incandescent bulb is phased out of production. LEDs are becoming the preferred lighting technology because they are more efficient than both CFLs and traditional incandescent bulbs, have a far longer lifespan than either, can be used in almost any application that once used incandescent bulbs, and finally, have no toxic materials that can be released into the environment upon their destruction.
In almost any application LEDs can outperform all but the most advanced forms of traditional lighting. While they cannot as yet rival the sheer power of HID lamps, they can still meet most federal and state lighting requirements while producing excellent improvements in energy efficiency and cost reduction. LED lights like Larson Electronicss LED Light Emitter - 60 LEDs - 10800 Lumen - 180 Watts - Extreme Environment light bar can serve in a wide variety of applications with ease. Internal ballast assemblies and rugged construction make these lights ideal for marine applications where severe conditions would quickly degrade the performance of CFLs. In industrial applications these light bars can be used to illuminate large areas such as warehouses with high quality light as well as provide an effective lighting solution for mobile applications such as on heavy equipment.
LEDs require only a quarter the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs to provide an equivalent amount of light which makes them highly efficient. These lights also have a much longer lifespan than either CFLs or incandescent bulbs, lasting on average 25-50,000 hours, with some applications seeing even 100,000 hours of useful life. This extreme lifespan greatly adds to the cost effectiveness of LEDs as replacement and maintenance costs are then significantly reduced. In some cases LEDs will outlast the useful life of equipment they are mounted onto. In almost all industrial applications, these benefits are very valuable and not only allow upgrading to LEDs to pay for itself in a short period of time, but eventually result in a net savings over the life of the lamps.
CFLs while efficient simply do not carry enough benefit, capabilities, or versatility to make them an attractive lighting alternative for commercial industries. They may be a viable alternative for applications in the home or office, but their versatility ends there. On top of their limitations, they introduce toxic materials that can have detrimental effects on the environment which somewhat mitigates their overall environmental benefits. LEDs are powerful, versatile, highly efficient, and can be applied to almost any application that requires effective lighting. They introduce no toxic material into the environment and do not require special handling or care when they reach the end of their useful service life. Because of these qualities, LEDs will continue to be at the forefront of lighting technology and well into the future providing great benefits, without adding further concerns or compromise.