LED Light Bulb: What are they?
LED light bulbs are electronic devices which emit light from a semiconductor chip or battery. They have been around since the 1980s but their popularity increased with the introduction of compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting in the 1990s. LEDs were initially used for ceiling fixtures such as ceiling fans and spotlights, but they quickly became popularized due to their low energy consumption compared to traditional incandescent lamps.
The main advantage of LEDs over other types of lighting is their high efficiency. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a typical LED lamp uses only one-fifth as much electricity as a similar-sized incandescent lamp, making them ideal for use in small spaces where conventional lighting would not be practical.
Another benefit of LEDs is that they do not require any maintenance. They last for many years without needing to be replaced. Another advantage is that they produce no harmful fumes or particulates when burned.
In addition, LEDs are relatively cheap to manufacture and install. However, there are some drawbacks to using these types of lighting systems. For example, LEDs tend to create a lot of heat which can cause problems if installed near the floor because it may affect the insulation in your home’s foundation and floors. LEDs can also darken the area around them making things a bit harder to see if they are installed in your home’s lighting fixtures.
This has lead to the development of “energy-efficient” lighting systems which produce light at lower temperatures that do not affect the surroundings as much. These types of light bulbs are very popular today and are used extensively in street lights, parking garage lighting, and any other place where lighting is needed on a large scale.
LEDs vs. CFLs: Similarities and Differences
One of the most important things to know about LEDs is that they are a type of “cold” light. This means they produce light in a different way than incandescent and halogen bulbs (which are “hot” lights).
Incandescent and halogen lights work by sending an electrical current through a filament, which gets very hot and produces heat and light simultaneously. These types of lights are very efficient at producing heat and not so efficient at producing light. This is one of the reasons why using traditional lights can contribute to climate change: The amount of energy required to power these lights (to produce that much heat) contributes to greenhouse gas emissions which, in turn, causes climate change.
In contrast, LEDs and CFLs work by sending an electrical charge through a semiconducting material called a semiconductor, which produces light but not heat. Because LEDs and CFLs do not get as hot as incandescent and halogen lights, less energy is required to power them.
However, this does not mean that they are completely “green.” While they may use less energy to produce the same amount of light, they still require energy. This means that there are still greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production no matter how minor those emissions may be.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all light bulbs are equally efficient. Some types of incandescent lights are more energy-efficient than others. The same is true for CFLs and LEDs. While it may be tempting to look for the cheapest option, you may find that these cheap options require you to use them more often since they do not produce as much light, which means that you end up paying more money on electricity than you would with a higher quality option.
The Energy Matters blog has a great infographic that compares how much energy is used to produce light from one incandescent light bulb, 11 CFLs, and 11 LEDs to produce the same amount of light over the course of one year.
As you can see in the graphic, it takes .21 megajoules of energy to power an incandescent light bulb for one year. It takes .37 megajoules to power CFLs and 1.05 megajoules to power LEDs—both over a period of one year.
The difference in energy usage between these three types of lighting is quite significant, which is why LEDs and CFLs are better options in terms of energy conservation.
The next thing to consider is the cost to power these lights. According to The Energy Conservatory, it costs $0.10 per hour to power an incandescent light bulb for one hour, $0.040 per hour to power a CFL, and $0.015 per hour to power an LED.
Again, the difference is quite significant.
Does this mean you should throw out all of your incandescent light bulbs immediately?
Probably not. There are still a few situations where traditional lights may be preferable.
For one, incandescent lights will still be available for some time. The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that production of these types of lights will not be phased out until 2014. Also, some people still prefer the quality of light that incandescent lights produce.
So while traditional lights may not be “energy efficient” in the strictest sense, they are certainly more aesthetically pleasing to some people.
So how can you, as a consumer, decide which lights are right for you?
The first thing you should do is learn more about LED lights. While they are generally more expensive up front, they will last significantly longer than other lights (up to 20 years) and will save you money in the long-run. You can also take advantage of rebates that are typically offered by your local utility company.
Another thing to look for is the lighting Facts label that will give you all of the information you need to compare different types of bulbs. Just remember that the higher the “lumens” rating, the brighter the light.
You should also educate yourself about the lights that are available to you. For incandescent bulbs, look for those that have a higher “wattage,” as these use less energy and produce more light per bulb. For CFLs, look for those with the lowest “wattage” ratings . And for LEDs, just remember that the higher the lumens, the brighter the light.
Whatever you do, just make sure you are looking at lighting facts labels when making your comparisons. This will give you all of the information that you need to compare different lights and make an informed decision about which ones will work best in your home.
Also, be on the lookout for scams and misleading claims. Just because a light is more expensive, does not necessarily mean that it is better. You also need to look at lumens, wattage, and the estimated lifespan of the bulb.
Whatever you do, make sure you are doing your homework before buying lighting for your home. This way, you can be confident that you are making a sound investment that will pay for itself over time.
After all, saving money is always a good thing. Not just for your wallet, but for the environment as well.
In the next and final post of this series on home energy efficiency, we will discuss your home’s heating and air conditioning system. These systems consume the most energy in the average home, so it is important that you have an understanding of how they work and the different types of heating and cooling systems that are available.
Until then, make it a habit to read the lighting facts labels on any light bulbs you buy. This handy label contains all of the information you need to compare different bulbs and choose the most energy-efficient option. By doing this, you can rest assured that you will be making a positive contribution towards saving energy and saving money.
This blog is brought to you by Nate at My Home Improvements.
Sources & references used in this article:
Led candelabra fixture and lamp by AR Nelkin, DR Nelkin, AA Gelder – US Patent App. 12/496,957, 2010 – Google Patents
LED light bulb by RS Laizure Jr, W Pawelko, LC Cote, P Jin – US Patent 7,396,142, 2008 – Google Patents
LED based candelabra lamp by MJ Bergmann, D Power, S Schwab, FWD Heng… – US Patent …, 2017 – Google Patents
One-way to Three-way Light Bulb Adaptor by AE Adams – US Patent App. 11/873,514, 2008 – Google Patents
Universal electric lamp socket adapter by A Al-Turki – US Patent 6,113,433, 2000 – Google Patents
Interchangeable adapter for changing LED light bulbs by J Gurwicz, M Rosen – US Patent 10,429,040, 2019 – Google Patents
LED candle light by Y Liu, QC Li – US Patent App. 29/615,300, 2019 – Google Patents
Small form-factor LED lamp with color-controlled dimming by MJ Bergmann, J Garceran – US Patent 9,909,723, 2018 – Google Patents
Candelabra for LED candle lights by C Pineault, T Roberts, C Liu – US Patent App. 29/316,647, 2010 – Google Patents