Have you ever wondered how much energy is used to just light up our world? Lights in our homes, offices, communal areas, street and vehicle lights consume a humongous amount of energy. Mainly because when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb the world population in grand majority was at the stage where running water was almost a luxury and first gasoline powered automobiles were few and far between.
Nowadays our planet Earth has a population over three times larger than in the times of Edison’s invention. We consume much more non-renewable resources than our predecessors from over 220 years ago. Technological progress awarded us with plenty of ways to reduce that excessive usage and society became way more aware about the impact of wasteful practices that were revered two centuries ago.
When we think about the light bulb, most of us still imagine a particular source of light that was used in our homes for decades. A tungsten filament enclosed in vacuum provided by thin glass surface around it. Estimating the amount of traditional light bulbs produced and discarded since the invention is… possible, but the numbers are so gross that it’s hardly possible to pinpoint the amount of zeros.
Those traditional light bulbs that accompany us for most of our lives, be it in your home, office, streets or vehicles that require artificial illumination are quite crude creations. An electrical current heats up a piece of tungsten wire enclosed in a vacuum created by a thin glass surface. When the wire heats up it produces incandescent light and heat, but the vacuum around prevents it from burning out or burning the surrounding materials for long hours until it finally reaches it’s life expectancy. That’s estimated at an average of about 1400 hours of keeping us not stubbing our toes on furniture.
The problem with traditional lighting is that it consumes huge amounts of energy, varying from about 0.1 to 10000 Watts, providing various amounts of luminescence. The amount of light produced compared to the amount of energy consumed by the light source is measured by lumens per Watt. Unfortunately most of the energy provided by the electrical circuit to a standard tungsten light bulb is converted to heat, not light. That can lead to energy efficiency of less than 2%. Not to mention that standard light bulbs are prone to failure, either because of tungsten filament burning out or mechanical damage to the glass enclosing it. Your standard kitchen bulb will have to be replaced at least every couple of months. Don’t you think it’s a tremendous waste of resources?
Our society has come to an apex of technological development meeting societal awareness of our people’s energy problems. We’ve created energy efficient appliances, our phones and laptops use more ecologically friendly energy cells, cars don’t have to run on gallons of gasoline anymore. And we have LED lights.
LED (light-emitting diode) is, simply put, a semiconductor structure that creates luminescence when under the influence of an electrical current. What differentiates LED lights from “old world” bulbs is their versatility due to small size and relatively, compared to Edison’s invention evolutions, tiny amount of energy required to sparkle and lead us through darkness.
In this day and age LEDs surround us almost everywhere. They come in many colours and shapes. From your typical indicator LEDs in house appliances and computers through adaptable street and road signs, backlight in our TVs to lighting football stadiums during competitions. Why? A standard LED lamp can produce the same amount of light using even 5 times less energy than an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb (eg. a 13 Watt LED lamp produces light that it’s tungsten wire counterpart needs 75 Watts to accomplish). 5 times lower energy bills? Now that sound appealing!
Take for example a small company that operates out of a small warehouse with no sunlight available. Assume they have to use 40 regular light bulbs to provide optimal lighting for the company to operate. Each one uses 60 Watts of energy. Providing that the estimated cost of energy in the area the warehouse is located is € 0.15 per kWh, with the lights being on for about 13 hours per day, and the company working 5 days a week, 11 months per year (making an average of 260 days per year) sums up to:
40 bulbs * 60W * 13h = 31200 Wh = 31.2 kWh per day;
31.2 kWh * 5 days = 156 kWh per week;
31.2 kWh * 260 = 8112 kWh = 8.112 mWh per year.
If we assume an average price of a kilowatt hour at € 0.15 our calculations become:
31.2 kWh * € 0.15 = € 4.68 * 260 = € 1216.8 per year.
Now if we replace all the light bulbs with LED lamps providing equivalent illumination (8W LED ≅ 60W incandescent bulb):
40 lamps * 8W * 13h = 4160 Wh = 4.16 kWh per day;
4.16 kWh * 5 days = 20.8 kWh per week;
4.16 kWh * 260 = 1081.6 kWh = 1.0816 mWh per year.
Assuming the same energy price as above:
4.16 kWh * € 0.15 = € 0.624 * 260 = € 162.24 per year.
Don’t stay in the dark and miss the vast difference in the annual expenditure on electricity. Even when we count in the fact that LED lamps can be a bit pricier to buy they can consume almost 8 times less energy, not to mention that an average lifespan of an LED is estimated at around 25000 hours, while their soon-to-be obsolete counterparts average at about 1200 hours. This means you’d have to replace 20 incandescent light bulbs until your LED lamp cannot brighten your life anymore.
Things aren’t that bright from every aspect of LED technology, at least for now, because even though LEDs are applicable in various ways, offer significant energetical economy and provide longer expectancy, they still cost more to produce and install than standard bulbs. But that’s successively changing for the better. If we can follow the monetary benefit of LEDs and use them instead of nearly obsolete and highly wasteful light sources our planet will be grateful in the end.
Choose LED. Save money and the environment.
Author: Adam Lasoń