The Energy of a Light Bulb

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“In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. — saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.”  –Energy.gov

Those are some amazing statistics. Think of it…all that energy saved simply by changing a small thing like a light bulb? We use light bulbs all the time! We count on them to illuminate our homes, workplaces, cars, roads, Christmas trees, street signs, cell phones, electronic gadgets, flashlights, and more. Being so common, it’s easy to take them for granted and innocently underestimate the global impact of this ubiquitous commodity.

Producing light bulbs is a complicated technological feat. Consider that creating the materials involved in such a small item involve mining metals, creating glass, building factories for production and enlisting all kinds of transportation to deliver parts and materials from around the world. The energy used to actually light the bulb involves burning fossil fuels (until we come up with something better) in giant facilities, which produce emissions that go back out into the atmosphere. Then we must dispose of the used bulbs, which adds up to tons of wasted material –some of which is toxic and seeps from landfills into our rivers, streams and oceans, where it enters the food chain and potentially lands back on our kitchen table!

That being said,  it matters what we choose at the individual level… because it will add up at the global level.

So what is the average person to do? Educate yourself with information that allows you to make a simple, wise choice.

For example, when buying a new bulb or switching out an old one…choose an LED bulb.

These are the newest generation light bulbs, and are different in many ways from the older incandescent bulbs (the glass ones with the little filament inside) or more recent CFL’s (Compact Florescent bulbs…the curly white ones.) See the chart below for comparisons. LED is the way to go. Here is why:

  1. You can save MONEY! What, you say? But they cost more! Yes, they cost a little more at first, but wait….they last SO much longer! Each LED bulb is rated to last over 100,ooo hours. That means if you left it on all day, 24 hours a day, it would last for 24 YEARS! Most of us don’t do that, so that means that the bulbs will last so long that you won’t be replacing them often. You save money by not paying for new bulbs or the cost of having someone install them. The older incandescent bulbs only last about a year before they need replacement.Another way you save money is that LED bulbs are very efficient, requiring considerably less energy to operate. That means you save on your monthly electric bill.
  2. LED lights are far better for the environment. Why? Because when electrical energy is produced and consumed, carbon dioxide is released into the environment. Less energy needed equals less CO2 produced and released into the atmosphere.. Fluorescent lights release small amounts of mercury into the environment while in use and CFLs have mercury in the bulb itself. This is certainly a problem if the bulb breaks in your home…and if it breaks in a landfill, the mercury seeps into the soil and leaches into the global water supply. LED lighting, however, does NOT contain mercury.
  3. LED’s provide better light. All light is not created equal! Some lights are considered “warmer,” some “cooler” and some more like natural light. Different types of light affect color perception, our moods and even our ability to concentrate or relax. LED lights are available in several shades of light.
  4. LED’s improve safety and decrease liability. Well-lit areas reduce the risks of both injury and crime, and because LED light bulbs last so much longer, there is less risk of bulbs burning out, leaving an area in the dark.