Shedding light on the increasing popularity of LED lights

| November 11, 2013

America is getting brighter — and greener — as light-emitting diode (LED) lights soar in popularity. These lights have been on the market for several years, but they’re picking up steam as people look for ways to increase energy efficiency in their homes.

led lights

LED lights emit a warmer glow than fluorescent lights. From Michael Gil.

To be fair, “soar” is a relative term, as LED lights still only make up about one percent of the bulbs in American homes. A lot of that has to do with price. Traditionally, LED lights have cost as much as $30 per bulb. Lately, however, prices have begun to drop.  The New York Times cites several manufacturers now making LED bulbs for as little as $10 per bulb.

That steep price tag is offset by lower energy bills as well as an extraordinary lifespan — LED light bulbs can burn for as many as 25,000 to 50,000 hours. To put that in perspective, “typical incandescent bulbs last 1,000 to 2,000 hours.” When you do the math, you could pay 25 times as much for an LED bulb as a traditional bulb and still come out even on price — not even counting the reduction on your energy bill.

In America, Diane Cardwell of New York Times reports, “incandescent bulbs, including newer, more efficient halogen models, accounted for roughly 75 percent of general lighting sales this year.” The remaining quarter is mostly comprised of compact florescent bulbs, or CFLs. Many people looking to make a green lighting choice initially made the switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs, only to be disappointed by the aesthetics and performance.

Common complaints from consumers include the fact that CFLs take longer to light up, do not dim smoothly, they don’t fit with clip-on shades and, worst of all, they cast a harsh and unflattering light. “I don’t like the cool blue light that [a CFL bulb] emits,” Nancy Finkelmeier, a retired nurse from Cincinnati, told the Times.

LEDs provide somewhat warmer light when compared to CFLs, which is just one more reason we can expect people to increasingly turn to LEDs. “LED sales are expected to sharply increase, especially given the steep subsidies utilities pay manufacturers and distributors to bring the prices even lower by the time the products reach the lighting aisle,” reports Cardwell.

LED lights

New York City street lamps will soon contain LED lights. From Dave Hosford.

Homeowners aren’t the only people turning to LEDs. Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with New York City’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, just announced that “in an energy-saving effort, the city plans to replace all of its 250,000 streetlights with brighter, whiter, energy-saving [LED] fixtures in one of the nation’s largest retrofitting projects.”

This ambitious effort is “expected to save $14 million a year in energy and maintenance costs.” With an estimated project cost of $76.5 million, it will take a while for the project to break even — but don’t forget about the longevity of LED bulbs!

Ms. Sadik-Khan says that the lights “really do a good job in providing fresher light.”

This is just the latest go-green effort in the Big Apple, where recycling efforts have also been stepped up in recent years. New York City has always been a trendsetter, so here’s hoping the rest of the country follows suit.

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About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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