LED bulbs are perhaps the simplest way any business (or home) can become more sustainable overnight. They are cheaper to run, last way longer, and are now just about as cheap to buy as any other bulb – if you know where to look.
Most decisions in life require compromise, but LEDs may well be one of the few that don’t.
Take a look at this chart…
A typical power bill is made up of 20-30% in lighting cost alone. An LED bulb is around 25% cheaper to run than a traditional incandescent. This means you could cut your monthly power bill by up to 15 or 20% (depending on the type of bulb you currently use).
Much of this efficiency is based on the LED’s ability to convert electricity into light. Incandescent and halogen bulbs are notorious for getting insanely hot, and while CFLs (compact fluorescents) are better, they are still not great. This heat is, in lighting terms, wasted energy. It can also be dangerous.
Hot bulbs are one of the leading causes of domestic fires. By converting to LED bulbs this wasted heat and increased fire risk are both dramatically reduced.
However, the real benefit comes from the frequency with which the bulbs need replacing. This has a threefold benefit.
- Cost. Each time you need to buy a new bulb it costs money. An incandescent bulb will need replacing 15-20 times more often than an LED bulb. Even a long lasting CFL will need replacing twice as often. This means when comparing the raw cost of bulbs, you need to calculate the cost per year of each option. When you do this, LEDs are the clear winner.
- Time. Each time a bulb needs replacing you need to factor the time buying and changing the bulbs. This may not feel a lot, but in a larger business with many lights this can add up.
- Embodied energy. This is really the most important factor. Each bulb needs raw materials, manufacturing, storage, and transportation to reach you. Every step requires energy. The fewer bulbs you need, the less embodied energy is wasted (making them better for the environment).
Okay, so what about compact fluorescents? According to the chart above they look similar to LEDs.
They certainly use less energy, and last much longer than traditional bulbs. But they still don’t really hold a proverbial candle to an LED bulb.
Some estimates actually put the energy efficiency of LEDs at around 50% better than CFLs. (Much larger than the small difference in the chart.) But there is more…
CFLs contain mercury, a highly toxic metal. CFLs also burn out quicker if switched on and off regularly. Not such a problem in an office, but not great for a toilet.
The main issue with CFLs (and standard fluorescents) is the flicker effect. The light from them is not as stable as you may think. Most people can’t consciously see this flickering, but it has been shown to increase stress and trigger headaches. This can reduce health and productivity within the workplace, and that is a major cost which is difficult to calculate.
Some LEDs do flicker too, so be careful. It depends on how good they are at converting AC to DC to create an even current. You don’t need to worry about the technical details, just look for bulbs that are advertised as flicker free.
To clear a little more misunderstanding about LEDs…
You do not need any special fittings. There are now LED bulbs to fit most fitting types. This includes screw in, bayonet, halogen, spots, fluorescent fittings, etc.
Also the low wattage you see on LEDs just means they use less energy. This is a good thing. Check the chart above to calculate the approximate LED wattage you will need to match a comparable standard bulb.
You can also get LEDs for outdoor lighting, growing plants, your car, flashlights and a range of other uses. There are even some that you can control the colour of the bulb. This is perfect for creating flexible mood lighting, or reducing the blue spectrum of the light in the evenings to help you sleep better.
And the cost?
LEDs have been around for some time now, and their cost has been falling steadily. Even so, many stores are still charging way more than they need.
If you want a sure way to reduce operation costs, reduce maintenance costs, and help the environment, then it’s time to go LED.