To LED, Or Not to LED

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That is the question.  There’s been lots of talk about light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the last few years.  By now, most of us know that they’re more energy efficient, but they also cost more.  So…what’s the deal with these lights and how much energy and money can they really save?

How are LED lights different from traditional lights?

Incandescent bulbs pass light through a filament until it gets hot enough to glow.  Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs use a gas reaction to product ultraviolet light that becomes visible with the help of a fluorescent coating.  Both release light and heat in all directions, with CFLs releasing 80 percent and incandescent releasing 90 percent of their energy as heat.  LEDs, on the other hand, create light via the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material.  Light is emitted in a single direction, creating much more efficiency in the use of both light and heat.

What are the benefits of LEDs?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, rapid adoption of LED lighting in the U.S. by 2027 could deliver savings of roughly $265 billion, eliminate the need for 40 new power plants and reduce lighting electricity demand by 33 percent in 2027.

Since it’s the holiday season, let’s look at benefits and savings in terms of Christmas lights.  The Department of Energy estimates a nationwide savings of roughly $410 million in electricity costs if all households switched to LED holiday lights.  To give you a sense of how much extra cash LED lights will leave in your pocket, consider the following:

The cost of lighting one 6-foot tree for twelve hours per day for forty days costs roughly $25.31 with standard C-7 lights, $6.03 with mini incandescent lights, and only $0.56 with LED holiday lights!  There are a few other very tangible benefits of LED holiday lights:

• They last longer — with a projected life span of roughly 20,000 hours, or forty holiday seasons.

• They’re cooler than incandescent bulbs, reducing risk of injury or fire.

• They’re more durable — generally made from solid plastic rather than glass.

• Because they require less power, it is safer to connect multiple strings end-to-end without overloading the socket.

If you haven’t already made the switch to LEDs, consider doing so — at least as strings need replacing.  I plan to take advantage of end-of-season sales to stock up on these efficient lights, with the goal of using solely LEDs for next year’s holiday season.

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