Going Green to Save Gr$$n…

Going Green to Save Gr$$n – LED Lighting

Marvin P. Pastel, II, Esq.

Introduction to Green

Six years ago when I first heard about legislation requiring the phase out of incandescent light bulbs and their replacement with new $40 light bulbs, I thought to myself; “this is crazy, who would pay $40 for a light bulb?” Thus began my journey into the world of “Green.”

Lighting our buildings and homes consumes 12% of our nation’s electrical power. Consumers spend $21.5 billion annually to light their homes. Merely modernizing home light bulbs would save $18.5 billion in power costs per year. Put another way, changing to modern light bulbs would eliminate the need for all the oil produced in Alaska or that planned to be transported over the Keystone Pipeline. In that perspective, this new legislation makes sense to our pocketbook, to US energy usage and US security.

The New Green LED and CFL Light Bulbs

The old incandescent light bulb is just that; old and no longer innovative. It hasn’t changed since its invention in 1879 by Thomas Edison. An incandescent bulb generates light by heating a tungsten filament until it reaches 4,172 degrees Fahrenheit and glows white-hot. Ninety percent of the electricity is required to heat the filament, and only 10 percent goes toward producing the light. Additionally, the filament doesn’t last very long under the intense heat; usually 750 to 2,000 hours.

LED stands for light-emitting diode, first patented in 1966. LED bulbs emit light from a semiconductor as electrons move around within the semiconductor. This process produces light without heat, thereby saving the energy it takes to heat the tungsten filament in an incandescent bulb. Early LEDs appeared as dim red indicator lights on scientific equipment. They had the advantage of using very little space and energy to emit light. As the price dropped over a thousand fold, LEDs began to be used in non-scientific equipment such as calculators, phones, clocks, etc.

It wasn’t until after the turn of the millennium that LEDs became bright enough to replace the standard 60 watt household light bulb. While the LED bulb used 85% less energy, it retailed for $100 in 2001. Now, however, it costs under $9. By eliminating the extreme heat and having no moving parts, LEDs last a very long time, from 25,000 hours to 50,000 hours; and. some scientists believe they can last over 100,000 hours. Compared to 750 to 2,000 hours for a standard incandescent bulb, the savings in not purchasing replacement incandescent bulbs only pays for the initial investment.

One added dimension of LEDs is that they come in a variety of color temperatures; measured in degrees Kelvin. “Soft white” bulbs have a temperature of about 2700 K, “daylight” bulbs measure around 3400 K, and “sunlight,” real noontime sunlight, range from 5000 K to 6500 K. In contrast, an incandescent bulb generally comes only in soft white, about 2700 K.

CFL stands for compact florescent light. CFLs contain argon and mercury vapor housed within a spiral-shaped tube. An electric current is passed through the vaporous mixture, exciting the gas molecules that produce ultraviolet light causing the fluorescent coating painted on the inside of the tube to absorb this energy and emit visible light. Older CFLs, took several seconds for the process to omit light; newer CFLs have a more efficient process and warm-up time is hardly noticeable. While not quite as efficient as LEDs, CFLs still use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs and last about 5 to 10 times longer.

One myth about CFLs is the alleged poor quality of light color. When CFLs first hit the market in the early 1990s, people complained that CFLs threw a dim, antiseptic light that paled next to the warmth of good old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. However, a 2007 study conducted by Popular Mechanics found that CFLs burned almost as brightly and produced a better quality light than a 75-watt incandescent bulb.

The bad news about CFLs is that they contain mercury, a highly toxic chemical causing damage to the brain, kidney and lungs. Symptoms typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing and speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. For this reason, extreme care should be taken when disposing of a burnt out CLF or cleaning up a broken CFL.[i]

Analyzing the Gr$$n

For me the proof was in the pudding: “show me,” as a Missourian would say. So I went about constructing a spreadsheet analysis of the typical light bulbs used in my house. Like most households, I use 60 watt standard shape bulbs in the lamps and overhead ceiling lights, 65 watt flood bulbs in recessed ceiling lights, and 25 watt decorative bulbs in bookcases and in the china cabinet. After constructing the spreadsheet, I took an inventory counting only those bulbs that were used. Into the spreadsheet I added my energy costs and calculated how much I was spending on my old incandescent light bulbs. Next I researched replacement bulbs (some suggested websites are: www.1000bulbs.com; and www.ecodirect.com), and then added the replacement LED and CFL bulbs into my spreadsheet to calculate my savings, which amounted to a whopping $600 per year, nearly enough to purchase the replacement LED bulbs! I installed the bulbs when my wife and kids went away for the weekend. To my pleasant surprise, when they came back, they never noticed the change.

While the initial cost of an LED bulb may produce “sticker shock,” and analysis of the savings shows initial investment cost are recouped within the first years and then yield annual saving of about $10 a year per LED bulb. My take away from this analysis is:

· Go LED not CFL. While CFL bulbs can still yield a big savings, over their lifetime, LED bulbs save nearly twice the money. Moreover, LED bulbs do not have the environmental concern of mercury poisoning.

· Next time a bulb burns out, replace it with an LED. No one should be replacing an incandescent light bulb with an incandescent light bulb; you might as well be flushing $10 dollars down the toilet each time you do it (Or as my preacher says, “Put an extra $10 in the basket.”).

· Replace Decorative lights left on 24/7 NOW! Don’t wait for your decorative lights left on 24/7 to burnout before replacing them–they suck up substantial energy. A 25 watt light bulb left on 24/7 uses $30 of energy per year. A comparable LED uses use $4.00 per year.

Regardless of whether you’re a tree hugger or a capitalist; both can agree LEDs make Gr$$n sense.

[1] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends disposing of CFLs through recycling agencies, and that CFLs not be thrown into dumpsters or landfills as the mercury will be released into the atmosphere when the bulbs or crushed. The EPA recommends the following four steps for cleaning a broken CLF bulb:

1. First, turn off your central heating or cooling system so fumes aren’t moved from one room to another. Then open up the windows and let the room ventilate for 15 minutes.

2. Next, clean up the broken bulb. Put on gloves to make sure you don’t touch any of the mercury powder. Use a piece of cardboard to scoop up large pieces of glass. Switch to sticky tape to pick up small fragments and shards. Don’t use your vacuum cleaner, and make sure all broken pieces, tape and cardboard are placed in a plastic bag.

3. Then, wipe the area with a damp paper towel and place the used towel in the plastic bag.

4. Seal the bag and immediately throw it away.