The future of household lighting is changing. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are starting to replace the commonly used incandescent light bulb. So, are we favouring more energy-efficient lighting to feed our green conscience? And will this be a long term thing or a short lived fad?
If the current measures recently passed by Governments around the world are anything to go by, then the answer is this will be a long term addition to the world of household lighting. Household lighting and retail lighting will now focus on becoming more energy-efficient. The Governments of Brazil and Venezuela were the first to take steps to phase-out the incandescent light bulb in 2005. The controversial phase-out regulations effectively ban the manufacture, importation or sale of incandescent light bulbs for general lighting. The European Union, Switzerland and Australia followed Brazil and Venezuela’s lead in 2009.
Several other nations have also scheduled phase-outs or have at least reviewed and implemented new energy standards; Argentina, Russia, the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Malaysia and South Korea. So, with so many nations making a stand in favour of the more energy-friendly LED, what does the future hold for the incandescent light bulb? There have been many objections made against the phase-out, including the higher purchase cost of efficient replacements and the different quality of light produced. Manufacturers have also argued that one of the energy-efficient bulbs, the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFLs) contains small amounts of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. However, environmentalists have hit back stating that the use of energy-efficient bulbs can actually reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment and they also point out that various programmes have been put in place to mitigate the effects of these concerns. There has also been a lot of public opposition, which has led to the phase out being dubbed as “light bulb socialism.” The European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation, BEUC, have stated a concern for people who use incandescent bulbs for “health –related reasons such as light sensitivity.”
Several UK charities; Lupus UK, Eclipse Support Group, Skin Care Campaign; have also come together to form a campaign group called SPECTRUM which is an “alliance for light sensitivity” to oppose “UK and EU plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs.” Their campaign has also been picked up and supported by the British Association of Dermatologists, calling for access to incandescent light bulbs for those who are medically sensitive to non-incandescent bulbs. However, there are huge advantages that come with LED lights. The operational light of a current white LED is 100,000 hours, which is equivalent to 11 years of continuous operation.
The average life of an incandescent bulb is approximately 5000 hours. Whilst many argue that LEDs are far more expensive than a incandescent bulb, when you think about the cost of replacement bulbs and labour expenses if a fitting needs to be changed, the LED is better value in comparison. This is particularly good news for office buildings and large retail units, where the long term cost of replacing bulbs can be enormous. When designed properly, an LED circuit will approach 80% efficiency, which means 80% of the electrical energy is converted to light energy. The other 20% is lost as heat energy. Incandescent bulbs operate at about 20% efficiency, whilst the other 80% is lost as heat energy. Whilst LEDs are proving to be strong allies in the fight for energy-efficient lighting, there are many who feel the incandescent bulb cannot be replaced. To whichever group you belong, the big question is ‘can we really place a price on reducing our power consumption and lowering our energy costs?’