LED lighting is (almost) there

Here is an interesting cost comparison between LED, CFL and incandescent. I have not checked the numbers but they seem pretty accurate. They clearly show that over the life of the bulb it makes a lot of sense to buy LED.

What the numbers do not show are the quality. I’ve tried a lot of the LEDs on the market and they still lack the quality of an incandescent. One of my colleagues says he saw a blind test where people preferred CFL lighting over incandescent and I can understand that. Some of the CFL’s available now are really great.

But the LEDs I’ve tested still have issues. The multi diode with refractory lense ones are the best but they still feel very white “spotlight”. They are getting damn close, though. And for an increasing number of home applications they are by far the best choice.

Sort of on a tangent, one of the clear benefits of using good LEDs in a Brooklyn brownstone that has old electrical wiring is that they decrease the electrical load on the house. This means less runs down to the basement to switch the circuit breaker back on!

When Eco Brooklyn does a green renovation on a Brooklyn brownstone one of the first things we do is address the electrical load on the house. Energy star appliances, timers, dimmers, LEDs or CFLs all reduce the load directly. Insulation, passive solar heating, and good air design reduce the load indirectly since you don’t need the electric heater or air conditioner as much.

Anyway, below is a great breakdown of costs from EarthEasy.com

Cost Comparison between LEDs, CFLs and Incandescent light bulbs

LED CFL Incandescent
Light bulb projected lifespan
50,000 hours
10,000 hours
1,200 hours
Watts per bulb (equiv. 60 watts)
Cost per bulb
KWh of electricity used over
50,000 hours
Cost of electricity (@ 0.20per KWh)
Bulbs needed for 50k hours of use
Equivalent 50k hours bulb expense
Total cost for 50k hours
Energy Savings over 50,000 hours, assuming 25 bulbs per household:
Total cost for 30 bulbs
Savings to household by switching
from incandescents

“LED light bulbs will eventually be what we use to replace incandescent bulbs – CFLs are a temporary solution to energy-efficient lighting. The reason LEDs have not yet displaced CFLs from the market are twofold: the first generation LED bulbs had a narrow and focused light beam, and the cost of the LED bulbs was too high.

Recent developments in LED technology, however, have been addressing these issues. LEDs have been ‘clustered’ to provide more light, and mounted within diffuser lenses which spread the light across a wider area. And advancements in manufacturing technology have driven the prices down to a level where LED bulbs are more cost-effective than CFLs or incandescent bulbs. This trend is continuing, with LED bulbs being designed for more applications while the prices are going down over time.

The ‘sticker shock’ of the new LEDs remains a deterrent to their widespread acceptance by consumers. The following comparison charts illustrate the value of the latest LED bulbs when compared with CFLs and incandescents for overall efficiency as well as cost-effectiveness.”

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

5 comments to “LED lighting is (almost) there”

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  1. Maya Jack - December 17, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I always appreciate the people for their efforts towards the eco-friendliness & would like to refer another i.e. SUPERIOR LIGHTING; playing an important role by launching their energy efficient LEDs & soothing light bulbs.

  2. peter dublin - November 24, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Hello Gennaro

    I see Halogenica raised some similar points

    First of all thanks for the interesting comparisons.

    CFL savings data are in my view questionable though,
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li13x onwards
    = comparative brightness, lifespans, power factors, lifecycles, heat factor etc with referenced research
    – CFL power factor alone doubles the supposed KwH usage as output by the power station,
    CFL lifespans lab tested in 3 hour cycles and much less in practice with on-off switching,
    while there are significant heat factor savings in non-tropical areas with ordinary bulbs (and associated emissions depend not only on electricity source but also on the ordinary room heating source)

    LEDs are useful, but are not a reason to ban ordinary light bulbs
    Also, cost is only one aspect of why people like different lights

    RE LEDs have been ‘clustered’ to provide more light, and mounted within diffuser lenses which spread the light across a wider area
    – as you say lack of brightness remains an issue, also because clustering increases light size for various fittings while diffusers reduce light output.

    Still I agree that LEDs -and OLED sheeting- are exciting new developments

    RE “The project was mostly R&D to see for ourselves where LEDs really stood…If I can make them for $30 why can’t they”
    Hey keep me in mind if you start selling what you produced 🙂

  3. redeyedreindeer - November 20, 2009 at 10:54 am

    “And yes incandescent bulbs help towards heat but that heat comes from the burning of coal in the power plant so I don’t think it is a good heating source.”

    -> Unlike CFLs and LEDs, incandescents deliver radiant energy mostly into the direction where the light is directed at, unless special measures are taken to divert or catch the IR. Great during the heating period for selective additional heating of small areas and okay for anyone who is not using power-consuming cooling during summer. A dirt-cheaply operating power plant is not going to emit any less dirt unless unhealthy emissions are capped and/or taxed. Please don’t confuse energy use with electricity use, Halogenica seems to be rightfully allergic to this.

    “We were able to make LEDs that put out good light that easily matched a 60W incandescent in lumens. They consumed around 11 Watts including the driver consumption.”

    -> “good” light = CRI 82? Not good enough for replacing my incandescents. Without adding at least a substantial dose of deeper reds and some cyan, blue+phosphor based LEDs won’t make things look beautiful. I doubt that color filtering of high CCT LEDs that you performed is more efficient because Cree could have done it to get CRI 90+ light out of their LR6, and afaik, they did not.

    “the technology is there IMO”
    -> Yes, absolutely, but with most commercial “quality warm white LED bulbs” hovering around 25 lpw just as some available LV halogens, investing a sum of money in other energy- or c*rb*n-saving measures is often much more economical at this time. If you opt for LEDs, consider lamps with exchangeable emitter unit interfaces because their efficacy will evolve quicker than a well-built, and well-cooled LED lamp will die. I’m still trying to kill a few old, underused, but sturdy CFLs that emit horrible light by switching them on and off like incandescents.

  4. Gennaro Brooks-Church - November 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I’d say a green home has a larger % of electricity alloted to lighting since you are using low consumption appliances and your heating uses natural gas not electricity.

    And yes incandescent bulbs help towards heat but that heat comes from the burning of coal in the power plant so I don’t think it is a good heating source.

    I had a full time electrical engineer on my staff for four months and we bought all sorts of LEDs, from bulbs to the parts that we assembled.

    We were able to make LEDs that put out good light that easily matched a 60W incandescent in lumens. They consumed around 11 Watts including the driver consumption.

    We did have to warm the light with filters since the natural LED is really high on the Kelvin range. And that meant we did loose some light.

    We tried various drivers, from phone chargers to old computer parts. For heat sinks we found that old processor heat sinks from computers worked the best.

    The project was mostly R&D to see for ourselves where LEDs really stood. We concluded that they should be there. I’m not in the LED manufacturing business and I don’t want to go through the whole process of legalizing what we made.

    But I’m waiting for somebody to get it together and do it right because the technology is there IMO.

    And I’m not talking $200 LED high hats, which I think is ridiculous. If I can make them for $30 why can’t they?

  5. Halogenica - November 16, 2009 at 8:26 am

    If you have not checked the numbers, how can you be sure they are “pretty accurate”?

    Perhaps I can be of assistance with some facts?

    1. LEDs

    a. DOE test has found LED claims often to be hugely exaggerated, even if there is a trend of improvement.

    b. The best quality LEDs may possibly last very long, but always at continual loss of output, and in simpler models that easily overheat life span can be much reduced.

    c. A 6W LED is NOT enough to replace a 60W incandescent, you’re lucky if it replaces a 25W. Try for yourself. I have (see my energy savers review:

    d. The LEDs available/affordable to the public today have mediocre light quality and don’t come in high wattages. So even if they are comparatively energy efficient, you still don’t have much use for a 5-7W bulb other than for mood lighting, and the cold, dull gloomy light you get from an LED is only useful as mood lighting at a halloween party.

    4. CFLs

    a. CFL longevity depends on bulb type and brand (some last 4500 hours, some over 12 000 hours), placement (CFLs are sensitive to heat and don’t perform well in recessed cans and closed luminares) and use (frequent switching on-and-off may shorten CFL life span with up to 85%).

    b. The best CFLs look better now, don’t flicker and light upp less slowly. But they still don’t render colours accurately, still take a while to light up and still contain mercury.

    c. In order to compensate for the poorer light quality and for the continous reduction in output as it ages, you may need a 20W to replace a 60W incandescent.

    3. Incandescent lamps (incl halogen)

    a. Incandescent bulbs usually last around 1000 hours, some 800 hours. Long life lamps may last 2 500 hours (at a slight reduction in output). Halogen Energy Savers last 2000 hours. Halogen spots may last 2000-5000 hours.

    b. Incandescent lamps still give the best quality light with perfect colour rendering and a sparkly effect that is inimitable, light up instantly, is dimmable and contain no mercury. The excess heat is useful in cooler regions and seasons.

    With these facts in mind you may perhaps be in a better position to make reasonable estimates.

    But: lighting only around 2-3% of total home energy use anyway so skimping on light quality is not the most useful thing you can do to save money and the environment. Why not focus on the other 97-98% instead, of which the majority goes towards heating, cooling and heating water?

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