07. Green lighting 101

Energy efficient lighting has come a long way

Tags: Energy Efficiency

Published June 13, 2012

Blog: Green lighting for dummies – Getting the skinny on LEDs, CFLs and light multiplying fixtures

In 1812 you had to harpoon a 40-ton sperm whale and drain its oil to get a little bedside reading done. In 2012 you can flip on an LED bulb recently created by Phillips that won a ten million dollar prize.

Switching a light switch on and off may have entered society’s collective muscle memory, but the changes that are coming mean billions of dollars in savings and investments as everyone from Walmart to the Jones family makes the switch to LEDs.

According to Natural Resources Canada lighting accounts for about 11 percent of electricity use in a Canadian home. That average Canadian home also has an average of 30 light fixtures and the average Canadian spends about $130 per year on electricity to light their home.

Lighting is also the easiest and best way to use less energy. The return on investment for buying energy efficient lighting is off the charts compared to things like solar panels on your roof. They also have the distinct advantage of being a lot cheaper.

The $10 million dollar lightbulb

There is no better way to illustrate the coming wave in energy efficient lighting than the story of the Phillips Ambient LED.

The Phillips Ambient LED was the very first winner of the $10 million L-Prize, an initiative by the US Department of Energy to accelerate the shift from inefficient, dated lighting to high-quality, high efficiency solid state lighting products.

It took three years for a company to win the very first L-Prize, which aimed to the replace the standard 60 watt incandescent bulb. As the 60 watt bulb makes up nearly half of American incandescent light bulb market it only made sense.

The winning bulb had to recreate the size, dimmability, light pattern and warm white glow of a regular bulb all while being five times more efficient. The trickiest part? Recreating that comfortable color temperature we’ve all grown up with. With early stage LEDs suffering from a cold, bluish cast, the engineers at Phillips came up with an interesting workaround. More…

Podcast: What you can do with a simple light switch

CKUA logoThe landscape of lighting is changing. We may have just gotten used to CFLs but LEDs are now on the scene. Listen to our expert Wayne Rogers of Luminessence Lighting break down the difference between these two important energy efficient lighting technologies.


Podcast: The Philips Ambient LED - An incandescent replacement that's worth it

CKUA logoIt's not every day you can walk down to your favourite retailer and purchase a $10 million dollar light bulb but that's what you can do with theh Phillips Ambient LED. The very first winner of the $10 million L-Prize, an initiative by the US Department of Energy to accelerate the shift from inefficient, dated lighting to high-quality, high efficiency solid state lighting products, it replaces the common 60 watt incandescent bulb. Learn about its advantages in our weekly podcast.


Quick Facts

What is an LED?

Originally used in electronic products, an LED is a semiconductor device (diode) capable of emitting light when an electric current is passed through it. Unlike incandescent bulbs, where only 5 % of the energy used is to produce light and the balance is wasted in heat, LEDs use energy more efficiently.

There are two basic types ofLEDs. First, low-brightness LEDs, 5-millimetre LEDs as an example, are seen in electronic devices and holiday lights. The second type is high-brightness LEDs, which are more appropriate for general lighting products.

The light produced by an individual LEDis directional and focused. Using arrays or groups ofLEDs, as well as lenses or optics, aLEDlighting product can provide light over a larger area, for either ambient or task functions.

LEDs are sold in two formats: as "replacement" bulbs for your existing fixtures or as fixtures with integrated LED light sources. The integrated option is the more efficient because the fixture is designed specifically to effectively distribute the light output of theLEDlight source.

What is the advantage of LEDs as a lighting source?

LEDs are highly efficient, which means they use very little electricity to produce light, and all that light is emitted in a specific direction. By comparison, standard incandescent light bulbs are only about 10 per cent efficient, with the remaining 90 per cent of their power use lost as heat. Even compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) waste much of their energy.

As a result, LEDs use at least 75 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs and about half that of CFLs. Considering that about 15 per cent of the typical home's electrical use is for lighting, switching to LEDs represents a big savings in that electrical use. With a lifespan of between 50,000 and 100,000 hours, LEDs also last some 50 times longer than incandescents and up to 10 times longer than CFLs. In other words, an LED in a typical house could last for decades before needing to be replaced.

Do LEDs have other advantages over other types of lighting?

  • Because of their solid-state construction, with no fragile filaments, LEDs are extremely durable and resistant to damage from shock and vibration
  • They are cool to the touch
  • The light colour - whether it's a cool white light, a warmer white or a coloured light - is very good
  • The light comes on instantly
  • Many models can be used with dimmer switches
  • They are increasingly available in standard screw-in (Edison) bases as well as pin sockets.
  • LEDs emit no UV light and are mercury free and thus don't require hazardous waste disposal.

Is the light they produce too directional for area lighting?

While some LEDs - such as small headlamps and decorative lights - produce small directional light, high-powered LEDs use multiple illuminators inside the fixture to produce area lighting similar to that of incandescent or CFL bulbs.

How much can I save on my electricity bill if I install one or more LEDs?

An eight-watt LED that's on eight hours a day, 365 days a year, costs about $2.35 a year to operate, at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. An equivalent incandescent bulb would cost about $17.50 a year and a CFL about $4.70. While it would take a number of years to pay off the upfront cost of LEDs, their 50,000-hour-plus lifespan makes the economic argument much more attractive.

Because these lights are so efficient, should I just leave them on for long periods of time?

No. Energy conservation is always the smartest thing to do: a light that's turned off uses no energy. So turn off LEDs that are not in active use.

Other than saving money on my long-term lighting bill, why should I consider installing LED lights?

Canada will phase out the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2012. Thereafter, you'll only be able to buy more efficient lights such as CFLs and LEDs. The federal government estimates the ban will reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by more than six million tonnes a year. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that rapid adoption of LED lighting over the next 20 years could deliver national savings of about $265 billion, avoid the construction of 40 new power plants and reduce lighting electricity demand by 33 per cent.

Where does it make the most sense to install LEDs?

They're best used where your lights are operating the most hours such as the kitchen, living room and other high-traffic areas. It also makes sense to install LEDs in areas that are hard to reach, because it's unlikely they'll have to be replaced for many years. Over the same time period (50,000-plus hours), you might have to replace an incandescent bulb more than 40 times.

Are all LEDs well designed?

Although the overall quality of LEDs has improved markedly in recent years, not all makes are well designed or built. ENERGY STAR has started to make a number of LED fixture types eligible for its certification program and is currently developing standards for LED bulbs designed to replace regular screw-base incandescent bulbs. In the meantime, it suggests buyers of LED replacement bulbs check for warranty information and save receipts in case of early failure or dissatisfaction with the light quality.

What are OLEDs?

Organic Light-Emitting Diodes are a new form of LEDs, in which a layer, or film, of organic material between two conductors is charged with an electric current to produce brilliant images in thin TV screens, computer monitors or portable screens for cell phones and the like. An emerging use of this OLED technology is to create energy-efficient, bright white light. Several companies are starting to manufacture these thin lighting panels, which can be flexible and even transparent.

Source - Climate Change Central


These resources relate to this episode. They may be helpful in many ways, but we list them only for your information. This is not an endorsement of any of these programs, services or organizations and we make no guarantees about the products or services these companies or organizations may offer.

LED ROI Calculator

Put a Philips A-19 LED againsta 60-Watt incandescent and calculate payback withcosts & interest GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency

List of Energy Star rated manufacturers

Learn who's on board with Energy Star when it comes to lighting. Always look for the Energy Star label as it ensures that it's claims have been tested independently and that it is more efficient than run of the mill bulbs. GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency

LED Purchasing Toolkit

Are you making a large purchase of new LEDs, use this guide to make sure you're getting what you should GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency

Learning about LEDs

A useful guide from Natural Resources Canada with a ton of informaion on what LEDS are and how they work GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency


Our slideshow for episode 7 features some pretty cool and artistic shots of the various lights we featured - Flickr slideshow

This Wired feature from August of 2011 is a well written exploration of the L-Prize - Wired

The official website for the L-Prize

Buy a 60 watt equivalent Phillips Ambient LED from Amazon

Check out Home Depot in Canada's selection of LEDs. To our mind they are the most progressive retailer in Canada when it comes to green lighting - Home Depot

8 LED Bulbs Leading the Way to a Bright Future - Delmar Fans