P-16 The Lightbulbs
Reduce energy with the right lights
Most residential energy consumers spend about 10 – 20% of their home electric budget on lighting. Significant changes in lighting technologies have made it possible to cut your lighting energy use by more than two-thirds, while simultaneously improving your overall comfort and light quality.
The tungsten filament incandescent lamp, which most people think of as a “standard light bulb,” was introduced on a large scale in the early 1900s. People have become so used to these lights that most North Americans think of lighting in terms of the power consumption of a tungsten filament lamp, e.g., “I want the brightness and color of a 60 Watt bulb.” In fact, people are so used to looking for a “60 Watt” tungsten bulb that the consumer packaging of a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb will usually say something along the lines of “this 9 Watt LED is equivalent to a 60 Watt incandescent.”
In the mid-1990s, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) were introduced on a large scale. CFLs were the first major innovation in residential lighting since the frosted-interior tungsten light was invented in 1925. CFLs use about a quarter of the energy of a tungsten filament light. They were purchased by people who wanted energy savings, but they weren’t ideal. They have more blue in their light than most people like; they contain mercury, which is a health hazard if it gets out of the bulb; and they use glass bulbs that are easily broken.
Most tungsten filament lamps, and all CFLs, are obsolete. They have both been replaced by LED lights. LEDs are a solid-state electronic technology. Their costs fall quickly with mass production. They have gone from “expensive laboratory experiments” to “affordable and easy to find” within fifteen years. Their costs are still falling.
A LED light uses about a fifth as much energy as a conventional tungsten filament light, and about three-quarters as much energy as a CFL. LED lamps also produce less waste heat than either tungsten filament or CFL lights. If you use LEDs, your lighting doesn’t heat your house during warm weather. Lost “free” heat from lights during cold weather is more than made up for by energy savings on the lighting itself.
LED lights are durable, both because their components are durable, and because they are usually contained in plastic, rather than glass. An average LED light lasts about 6 times as long as a CFL, and 20 times as long as a tungsten light. Therefore, you don’t need to replace LED bulbs as often as either of the other types, which saves money, and can be very helpful when lights are in hard-to-reach locations, like ceiling canisters. In commercial and industrial applications, e.g., in factories with high ceilings, using LEDs sometimes reduces light bulb maintenance costs so much that the maintenance cost savings of LEDs even exceeds their energy cost savings.
LEDs can offer a much greater degree of control over both the color and the brightness of the light than can either tungsten or CFL lights. However, LED lights can improve both the quality of your light, and the degree of control you have over the color and brightness of lights. They don’t flicker like CFLs, they can be dimmed, and they offer greater variations in brightness, color temperature (hue), and decorative elements than tungsten.
Copyright 2022 [or 2023], La Conner Weekly News. Reprinted with permission