Posts tagged CFL
Posts tagged CFL
Many small businesses are converting their incandescent and halogen lights to more energy efficient sources. The reasons are clear for fairly low upfront costs businesses will save money through decreased energy consumption, lower lighting replacement costs and local, state and federal rebates. For many business owners the question becomes, "Great so what do I switch to? I hear a lot about LEDs but my electrician says fluorescent is cheaper."
Are you happy with the way your space is lit today? Does your space accomplish all of the marketing and atmosphere goals you have? If the honest answer is “No” then before calling a lighting distributor or contractor you should call a lighting designer.
If on the other hand you’re happy with your lighting scheme, where lights are and what they are doing. Then retrofit is the answer. Within the world of retrofit the question often arises CFL versus LED. Well take a look at the following slideshow then see my conclusions below.
There’s nothing wrong with using CFL. But for goodness sake at least try to match the kelvin rating.
From Architectural Lighting Magazine - an introduction into a recent study on the lifecycle energy use of LED, CFL and Incandescent Lamps.
The surprise here is that at this moment in the technology cycle, LED and CFL are similiar. Not surprisingly, incandescent is about 4 times as energy intensive.
The Plumen lamp is enormously popular in Europe. I saw it at least 4 or 5 times during BlogTour. Yet it’s not so popular in the USA, despite being available in native voltage.
Why do we think that is?
Times Square Silhouette (Taken with instagram)
A while back, I posted about the difference in life cycle energy consumption between different light sources. Unfortunately, I’m not an engineer, so my study of hthe topic was rudimentary at best. Well, the Department of Energy commissioned a study looking into the same topic with some interesting results.
The study compared the energy consumption of an LED A-lamp to incandescent and CFL counterparts. This study did not develop new data, but rather aggragated and compared data from existing studies on Incandescent, CFL and LED life cycle energy consumption. Life cycle included manufacturing, transportation, and use. One minor failure of the report is that halogen sources are considered in an use-only version of the model, due to lack of suffiecient data on the manufacturing and transportation of these lamps. The entire report is available for download here, but the following chart is probably the key highlight.
The key point to understand about this study is that after looking at the total life-cycle consumption of these sources, it was found that the use phase of the cycle was the most energy intensive. Meaning that when the light source is actually on and creating light is when it’s consuming the most energy, versus when it was being manufactured or transported. Under that rubric, especially when considering that LED life is so much longer than CFL or Incandescent, it’s no wonder that the energy footprint of LED is dramatically lower.
That said, there is a caveat in the study. Because LED A-lamp manufacturing isn’t a standardized and stable process like that of incandescent of CFL manufacturing, there are different estimates about the energy used in the manufacturing phase of an LED. The study goes on to provide a range of potential energy use in the manufacturing of LED. Here’s that comparison.
According to the study, even at it’s highest life cycle consumption 1 LED lamp will consume over it’s life less than half the energy of 22 incandescent light bulbs to create the same amount of light for the same amount of time. I’m happy to see that the DOE is studying this topic deeply, as least on an energy consumption side. I’d love to see comparative studies of light quality, but then again it’s the department of aesthetics.
One last thing, big hat tip to LightNOW blog for alerting me to the study. If you’re not reading them…you need to start right away.
One of the points she raised in her talk is the idea that many more consumers are interested in the life cycle of their product choices than have been in the past. This got me thinking about the life cycle choices of typical light sources. Let’s take three - incandescent / halogen, fluorescent (linear and compact), and LED. In order to think about this in a very basic, (blog post) kind of way, I broke the use of a source into three factors materials that comprise the light source, energy burned in use, and means of disposal. I’m not a materials expert or engineer by any means ( I welcome input on this) but I thought this might be a useful exercise in thinking about where the impacts of our choices may be.
Materials Used: Glass, Tungsten and conductive metals at base. My understanding is that the materials used in making incandescent and halogen lamps are both plentiful and highly commoditized.
Energy Consumed: If you’ve ever read anything I write you know how consumptive incandescent light is. For the light emitted - incandescent light is by far the most consumptive light source of the three we’re discussing. That’s an important point for a couple of reasons. While the production of the light bulb it self uses relatively little by way of resources and those resources are non-toxic (for the most part), a massive amount of pollution and resource consumption is created to power these lamps. We just don’t see it. Our energy is mostly produced by coal-fired plants, those plants not only destroy grounds where they are established, but they release carbon dioxide and mercury into the atmosphere. In fact, an incandescent lamp releases more mercury in it’s shorter life than a CFL.
Disposal: While it is possible to recycle a light bulb, it’s rarely done and the materials which comprise the light bulb will not be used in another light source.
Materials Used: Along with the phospherous gas inside the glass tube or coil there is of course mercury. As I’ve previously written about, there is a remarkably small amount of mercury in a CFL. That mercury is only released into the atmosphere if the lamp is broken.
Energy Consumed: A CFL uses about 1/5th the energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. That means 1/5th the carbon footprint and environmental damage over the much longer life of the lamp.
Disposal: Recycling programs are available for CFLs at most major retailers. Personally, I don’t think enough has been done to promote these programs or make them an understood part of the life cycle of CFL lamps. When properly recycled, these sources can be reused and their toxic components are never released into the atmosphere or allowed to leach into landfills.
Materials Used: I’m not qualified to list all of the materials that comprise an LED board or light bulb. Here’s what I can say. The materials used are not a pancea. LED is comprised of rare earth materials which are harder to mine, more expensive to refine and that must be shipped around the world (usually from China) to make it into their end products. These lamps also contain materials which are known to cause cancer. The materials are not released unless the lamp is badly damaged, but that damage could occur if the lamp is not properly disposed.
Energy Consumed: LED represents another major reduction in the energy needed to produce equivalent light. The light produced by a 60w incandescent bulb, is produced by an 8w LED.
Disposal: At present I am unaware of any recycling or reprocessing programs for LED lamps. This needs to be addressed by the industry. Even if they last their rated 50,000 hours, that’s not the end of time, it’s about 6 years.
Life Cycle analysis is hard. In general, our greatest enviromental impact is made by using energy. So LED is still the least impactful, but to be truly green we have to make sure CFL and LED lamps are properly recycled and their materials are reused for future, even more efficient light sources.
Today, I’m experimenting with Google+’s hangout feature. I’ll be holding a public hangout to talk about light sources and color. It won’t be an exhaustive conversation, just a chance to show off a few light sources and talk their effects on color. If you’re interested, circle me on G+ and I’ll see you at 4pm !
Hope to see you there!