In the final results of a three-part study funded by the US Energy Department (AKA, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewal Energy), it was determined that the environmental impact of the LED was far less than incandescent lights and CFL bulbs. This study was heavily based on Edison base bulbs (the standard screw based bulbs used in most fixtures and lamps) but speaks to all varieties of LED lighting.
Not only do LED products leave less of a carbon footprint on our environment through energy efficiency and long lifespans but they also are more environmentally friendly in the areas of manufacturing, transport and disposal. When compared to incandescent lamps and CFL bulbs, the LED’s held a huge edge over incandescents and a slight edge over CFL’s.
Although the energy efficiency of any particular lighting product is the primary factor in determining the environmental impact, the disposal of all of the artificial lighting products we use is a major concern as millions of lighting products are disposed of each year. There are elements in every type of artificial lighting product on the market that can and do create disposal concerns.
In regard to federal regulations of elements that might cause disposal concerns, all lamp types in the study had levels that were below most state landfill regulations. When considering the impact of hazardous waste in the state of California, which is the highest regulated state in regard to toxic and otherwise environmentally unfriendly substances, the study determined that, regardless of the type of lighting technology, at least one of the California restrictions were exceeded. The substances in the lights that exceed the restrictions are generally copper, zinc, antimony, nickel, and some traces of mercury.
The components which create the greatest impact in exceeding environmental impact thresholds are the screw bases, filaments, wires, drivers, ballasts and heat sinks. The study indicated that aluminum recycling would be highly effective in helping to reduce the impact of LED lighting product disposal, as many of those products contain aluminum heat sinks. The study also determined that as the LED technology has progressed, the amount of environmental impact of that form of lighting has decreased, both in regard to energy efficiency and disposal.
The Energy Department has concluded that solid-state lighting technology can, potentially, reduce lighting energy usage by a factor of 75%. That unprecedented, massive reduction could produce a very significant contribution to the environmental impact and in turn to climate change solutions. LED lighting is the current state of refined solid-state lighting technology but other forms are being researched and the future of artificial lighting is definitely bright (pun intended).
As always, if you have questions in regard to any of your lighting projects, please feel free to call Polar-Ray at 303-494-5773 to speak with a lighting consultant.
Since Edison base bulbs were a subject in this writing, here is a tip for problem free removal of those bulbs. To avoid the issue of a bulb that won’t unscrew from a socket, just rub the corner of a bar of soap across the threads in 3-4 places prior to installation and you will never have to call a bulb by another four letter word when it comes to removal. I wouldn’t recommend Lava hand soap but any other will fit the bill and the best might just be Ivory soap.