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LEDs Beat Incandescents in Lifecycle Assessment Energy Use

OsramLampComparisonAn Osram study shows that LED lamps are more energy-efficient than light bulbs even when the energy used during the manufacturing process is factored into the equation, reports the New York Times. Some critics of LEDs had pointed to the amount of energy used to manufacture the lights.

The study also finds that LED lamps will save more energy and achieve even better lifecycle assessment (LCA) results in the future as they become more efficient.

Even green LEDs are becoming more efficient. 3M recently unveiled a green LED with a rated 181 lumens per watt efficiency at a drive current of 350 mA/mm2, which was achieved by bonding an Osram blue ThinGan LED with a proprietary color-converting material that absorbs the blue light and re-emits it as green, reports an EDN blog. LED expert Doug Leeper told EDN that this is six times more efficient than a green LED has ever achieved and because green is the major energy consumer used in backlights it could cut power consumption in half and make RGB LEDs more efficient than white LEDs.

The OSRAM report, “Life Cycle Assessment of Illuminants” (PDF), shows that over the entire life cycle of an incandescent bulb from manufacturing to disposal, the energy it uses is almost five times that used for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LED lamps.

Another key finding reveals that CFL and LED lamps use less than 670 kWh of energy during their entire life compared to about 3,302 kWh for incandescent lamps, which translates into an 80 percent energy savings.

The lifecycle assessment of LED lamps included all components and production processes of the lamps during five life cycle stages, which are raw material production, manufacturing & assembly, transport, use and end of life.

In addition to the energy used for each process, the assessment also looked at the emissions created in each stage, and calculated the effect of six different global warming indexes, reports the New York Times.

This included the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by each process, the acid rain potential, eutrophication (excessive algae), photochemical ozone creation, the release of harmful chemical compounds, and the resultant scarcity of gas, coal, and oil, reports the New York Times.

The methodology met the requirements set by industry standard ISO 14040/44, and was certified by three university professors in Denmark and Germany as adhering to the standard, according to the New York Times.

With the push for energy efficiency, LEDs are being used in a variety of products ranging from general illumination to electric signs, reports Underwriters Laboratories. As a result, the new technology is used in newer high-voltage and light-output applications, which raises several safety concerns including the risk of overheating, electric shock and fire, according to the product safety certification organization.

To address these concerns, UL recently released the first global safety standard for LED lighting products and their components, called ANSI/UL 8750, Safety Standard for Light Emitting Diode (LED) Equipment for Use in Lighting Products.

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3 thoughts on “LEDs Beat Incandescents in Lifecycle Assessment Energy Use

  1. This “study” is not “comprehensive” or complete because it omits to consider (1) the heat replacement effect, and (2) the effect on electricity generation and pollution. They deliberately do not tell the whole story.

    In any buildings that require heating, lower wattage lighting or any other “more efficient” electric appliances use less electricity, but also produce less heat. This heat then comes from the building heating system. Where electric heat is used, the building owner saves zero energy and money. Where less expensive heat is used, such as gas, the savings are the difference between the cost of electricity and the cost of gas. Therefore, the “advertised” energy cost savings are never achieved.

    Electric generating plants do not produce watt-hours. They make volt ampere-hours. Energy Star CFLs must have a 0.5 power factor. This means that utilities must produce and supply 50-volt ampere-hours for a 25-watt CFL. Unless the utility meters for these, which some do for commercial buildings, they only meter and charge for watt-hours. Thus, with CFLs, utilities must generate, pollute, and produce twice the carbon emissions than the wattage indicates. In the end, consumers pay for this in the form of higher electric rates.

    In summer months, less heat from lighting also means less cooling. However, much of that cooling (1) is not simultaneous with lighting, and (2) is achieved without using energy by using economy cycle, as required by building codes.

  2. Larry – While I agree that these items are not accounted for in the study, I don’t understand why you seem to be bashing CFL’s instead of LED’s? Isn’t the article discussing the benefits of LED’s? Sure, they don’t produce heat, but I would rather control where the heat is directed and control both heating and cooling through the system meant to maintain it: HVAC. Why complicate things? As far as the volt amp-hour argument…..really….remember we are talking LED’s? Power factors aside, which is more efficient during use and manufacturing?…..LED’s or incandescents? I really don’t understand why you would argue against LEDs….they are most definitely the future.

    You stick with Edison and I’ll stick to Tesla. Let’s move forward and not battle new technologies that improve both the environment and the pocketbook.


  3. Larry, I find the argument that heat loss from incandescent lighting should be factored into the equation to be short sighted. Yes, you should consider LEDs and CFLs to be neutral in terms of heat release. And during winter, you could argue that the incremental heating needed to bring a building up to comfortable temperature would be higher. The flip side is that incandescent lighting releases heat regardless of wether conditions, and during the summer months, additional AC would have to be used to offset the heat generated by the lightbulbs. Soyour argument is not valid unless you are willing to consider both sides of the equation.

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