Let There Be Light – LEDs, That Is

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Editing

One way to go greener, both at home and at work, is to replace your incandescent light bulbs. Both CFLs (compact fluorescents) ¬†and LEDs (light emitting diodes) use about 75% less electricity than incandescents. According to a new Department of Energy report, LEDs edge out CFLs in the environmental impact arena. Neither is totally “green”. While CFLs contain mercury that needs to be disposed of properly, LEDs currently use aluminum, which is energy-intensive in its manufacture.

One big advantage of LEDs is that they brighten instantly, instead of starting out dim and brightening over a few minutes. According to Consumer Reports, CFLs last 7 – 11 years with normal use (about 3 hours a day) and LEDs are designed to last 23 to 46 years. The current high price of LEDs is expected to drop within a couple of years.

Along with the new bulbs, there are new “intelligent lighting controls.” Since roughly 25% of the energy consumed in commercial buildings relates to lighting, global sales for intelligent lighting controls are expected to be quite robust between now and 2020. These systems reduce energy use, and new technologies offer an array of options, from room-level sensing to building-wide fully networked systems. As we retrofit old buildings and design new ones, re-thinking the lighting will be standard procedure.

What does this mean for people in Tampa Bay? It means consumers can swap out their bulbs and cut their electric bills immediately. And for local job seekers, there’s a lighting company called Lumastream that plans to bring its operations – currently in Canada and Taiwan – to St. Petersburg. CEO Eric Higgs foresees 1,000 jobs over the next 5 years, if all goes well. Saving money AND offering new jobs? Who knew that lighting could be so exciting?

For more information about LEDs, pick up the October issue of Consumer Reports’ “Shop Smart” magazine. It has a great article explaining the basics of LEDs and which ones to buy from where.