Tiny footprints: LED lighting

by / Friday, 21 November 2014 / Published in Blog, Carbon Footprint Reduction

Incandescent lighting was revolutionary when it was developed in the 19th century. But, compared to LEDs and CFLs, incandescents are inefficient and short lived.

“But,” you say, “LED bulbs are still too expensive. Should I switch to LED lighting? How much will I save from LED lighting? And just how good are LED lights?”

Nobel-prize-winning good

With the news that Japanese and American scientists Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura have won the Nobel Prize in Physics, it seems like LED lighting is about to have its moment. The above team invented blue-light-emitting LEDs. We won’t blame you for scratching your head about this: how many of us use blue lights in our homes? What kind of everyday application do these have?

Here’s a hint: we already knew how to create green and red LEDs. So, combining these existing colors with blue LEDs, we had a new, very efficient way, to make white light. That’s not all though; blue LEDs can also be covered with a thin phosphorous layer that emits a weak yellow light and makes the LED appear white.

Either way, blue LEDs mean that white LED lighting is not just possible, but (almost certainly) the best choice for lighting your home or business.

How efficient?

If well-implemented across the world, LED lighting could offer huge energy savings. Frances Saunders of Britain’s Institute of Physics claims that it could reduce the percentage of global energy spent on lighting from 20% to 4%.

Of course that number, which relies on a perfect, across-the-board adoption of LED technology, is unlikely. But global energy politics aside, LED lighting can definitely increase the energy efficiency of your home significantly.

Switching to LEDs helps you save in two ways. Lighting costs account for 20-30% of electricity bills, and LEDs produce a comparable amount of light at 1/6 of the energy use of conventional incandescent bulbs; this could mean shrinking a $100 electricity bill to a svelte $75. For comparison, CFLs offer about ¼ of the energy use of incandescent bulbs.

LEDs also outlast incandescent light bulbs by a factor of 40, meaning that you’ll be buying and changing less bulbs. This means less light bulbs produced and less light bulbs in landfills. CFLs also offer significant improvement in lifespan over incandescent bulbs, but contain hazardous levels of mercury that make them difficult to recycle. In our homes, we don’t typically consider costs associated with changing light bulbs, but this may be an important factor for large retail, commercial or industrial spaces where bulbs number in the thousands and are often located in extremely inaccessible areas.


LEDs CFLs Incandescents
On/off cycling
no effect
shortens lifespan
some effect
Turns on instantly
slight delay
Heat emitted
3 btus/hr
30 btus/hr
85 btus/hr
Hazardous materials
5 mg mercury/bulb
Replacement frequency
(over 50k hours)

Table adapted from EarthEasy.

Making the switch

It seems like LED bulbs are obviously the way to go. So why isn’t everyone making the switch?

Initial cost can be prohibitive; LED technology is still very new. New consumer-sized LED bulbs can cost $50 each, while CFLs go for $3-20. Dirty old incandescents can be bought for less than a buck, for now. As I write this, sales of incandescents are coming under severe restrictions.

Of course, with their 40x life span and high-energy efficiency, LEDs will pay off in just a few years, but many people are unwilling to shoulder the cost.

Maybe your sustainability consultant can help

Switching to LEDs is good for your bottom line and good for the environment. Sustainability consultants understand this, and some might be willing to cut you a deal. Perhaps LED lights will pay off in your facility within 2 years; a sustainability consultant might be willing to shoulder the up-front cost, but take some of that later savings money. In such cases, you won’t see savings for 3 years, perhaps, instead of 2 — but you don’t have to pay up front. Awesome!

To learn more about LED lighting and speaking with some of the best in the business, we encourage you to reach out to Vancouver based PVL Projects.