Conservation Corner – December 2014

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Pauline Lee

Early in December, the Nobel Committee will award three scientists the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research in the 1990’s that has made possible the creation of modern white-light light emitting diode (LED) lamps. With 20 percent of the world’s electricity used for lighting, it’s been calculated that optimal use of LED lighting could reduce this to 4 percent. In addition to lighting buildings, LEDs are being used in cars, flashlights, computer and TV screens and smart phones. General Electric Co., a major player in the lighting industry, predicts that LEDs will occupy 70 percent of the market by 2020, compared with 18 percent in 2012.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named three types of energy-saving light bulbs for replacing traditional incandescent bulbs which are no longer manufactured since 90 percent of their energy consumption is given off as heat: halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs. The halogen incandescent bulb is the least efficient of the three types. CFLs can give up to 75 percent energy savings as compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, while LED bulbs can save an additional 5 percent energy. This means that the efficiency of an eight-watt LED is equivalent to that of a 60-watt incandescent. Moreover, LED lamps last 10 times longer than fluorescent bulbs and 100 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Compared with fluorescent bulbs, LED lights eliminate the annoying light flickering, do not contain hazardous mercury which requires special disposal of fluorescent bulbs (free recycling at selected Home Depots and Lowe’s) and offer dimmability and varied colors.

While CFLs costs have come down to as little as $1.74 per bulb when purchased in a four-pack, the prices of LED lights have also steadily declined since their initial introduction. Our electric company SRP’s discounted LED lamps are available at Costco, Home Depot, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart Supercenter. You should take this opportunity to replace your frequently used bulbs that are incandescent or fluorescent. Upgrading 15 of these bulbs in your home could save you about $50/year in energy costs. In order not to toss still usable CFL or incandescent bulbs, maybe you can put them at places that are less often used.

One family in Sun Lakes has used LEDs to replace all their landscape lighting, all recessed fixtures, the exterior garage fixtures, table lamps, picture lights, bath fixtures and any other lamps in the house as they die or get near the end of their life. Their home has experienced a 25 percent drop in electricity bills since 2012 due to the efficient bulbs which use less electricity and reduce air conditioning load by emitting less heat. So keep your eyes out for LED sales to start converting your entire home to LEDs, a win-win scenario for both your budget and the environment.