I recently moved into a new home in Washington State. Once I had unpacked all my boxes (most anyway, some remain unpacked to this day), I performed a little ritual that I always do following a move: replace all the incandescent and CFL lighting in the house with LED lighting. I had no trouble finding someone willing to take my still usable but very energy inefficient bulbs, I merely had to grit my teeth a little and pay the money to replace them all. The last time I did this was following a move in 2013; at that time it cost me anywhere from $5/bulb to $15/bulb depending on the brand and vendor. This time I was pleasantly surprised to find I spent as little as $2-3/bulb (you can find them on-line for less than $2/60W equivalent LED bulb). So, the question to you dear Reader, is what is the impact of my little ritual on my pocketbook, or in a manner more germane to this post’s title, what’s the impact to the planet?
Let’s first look at the economics. In general, consider that according to Energy Star the average home has 40 lighting sockets and spends as much as 20% of their electric bill on lighting. Another way of looking at it is that the consumer will save $190 over the lifetime of each bulb in energy costs alone. This works out to $1.46/bulb according to USA Lighting (possibly more; see Table 1 below). However, there are other savings as well in terms of bulb replacement cycles and the costs associated. These savings based on bulb life times can be calculated based LED lifetimes being anywhere from 2.5 to 25X the older bulb’s life. Consider the bulb lives shown below from Energy.gov.
|Comparisons between Traditional Incandescents, Halogen Incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs|
|60W Traditional Incandescent||43W||15W CFL||12W LED|
|Energy-Saving Incandescent||60W Traditional||43W Halogen||60W Traditional||43W Halogen|
|Energy $ Saved (%)||–||~25%||~75%||~65%||~75%-80%||~72%|
|Annual Energy Cost*||$4.80||$3.50||$1.20||$1.00|
|Bulb Life||1000 hours||1000 to 3000 hours||10,000 hours||25,000 hours|
*Based on 2 hrs/day of usage, an electricity rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, shown in U.S. dollars.
Yet one more way of looking at this issue is to consider a typical homeowner replacing 30 incandescent or CFL bulbs with 30 $3 LED bulbs in order to save $1.50/bulb/year, it would seem to take about two years to reach break-even ($90 in bulb purchases vs. $45/year in savings). Let’s be pessimistic and say it takes twice as long to achieve break-even. It would seem then that if one is driven solely by economic pressures, this is a reasonably smart move for the average home owner. If one further thinks of the environmental costs of each type of bulb, then the logic of making these changes is an unequivocal: yes!
Those environmental costs are nicely summarized by USA Lighting below.
|Contains the Mercury||No||No||Yes – Mercury is very toxic to your health and the environment|
|RoHS Compliant*||Yes||Yes||No – contains 1mg-5mg of Mercury and is a major risk to the environment|
|Carbon Dioxide Emissions (30 bulbs per year) Lower energy consumption decreases: CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide, and high-level nuclear waste.||451 pounds/year||4500 pounds/year||1051 pounds/year|
*RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. RoHS, also known as Directive 2002/95/EC, originated in the European Union and restricts the use of specific hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products.
Therefore, the bottom line for buying LED lighting for your home is clearly pretty positive on a per home basis: break even in 2-4 years on the investment costs, and immediate savings in terms of CO2 into the atmosphere of 500 to 4000 pounds per 30 bulb-home. However, the real savings comes when one considers our country as a whole. According to the Energy Information Agency, the U.S. use of home lighting constitutes 7% of our total energy use. Even more to the point of impact on the planet is to be found after considering that world consumption of electricity due to lighting is 19% according to the World Economic Forum. Now to be sure, some of the current electrical consumption is surely already due to LED lighting, but if we could even get one-half of the estimated 40% savings in electrical use that would come from conversion to LED lighting, the impact on the world’s pocketbook and CO2 burden would be incontrovertibly substantial.
So, the next time someone asks you what are you doing to save the planet, you can confidently tell them, that you converted to LED lighting and you are as a result making a real and measureable impact on the amount of mercury and CO2 in the air. Pretty easy thing to do for $90, don’t you think?