With lighting accounting for almost 6% of CO2 emissions across the world according to international non-profit The Climate Group, it is a key frontier in the fight for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable world. LED lighting can certainly play an instrumental role in the achievement of this goal, given its long life and energy efficiency compared to both halogen and fluorescent alternatives.
As we have touched on previously here at INUI, LED light bulbs can be counted on for their considerable energy efficiency, which is as much as 80% greater than traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights. The 95% of energy that LEDs convert into light - with only 5% being wasted as heat - stands in stark contrast to the 5% of energy that is converted into light by fluorescent lights, thereby leaving 95% of energy to be wasted as heat.
The less energy a given form of lighting uses, the less demand it places on power plants and the lower the greenhouse gas emissions as a result, which is why energy efficiency is such a vital factor when assessing the ecological effects of LED light bulbs.
The raw numbers alone go a long way to demonstrating the unrivalled energy efficiency that has long marked out LED bulbs; whereas an LED bulb can be expected to last for around 40,000 hours or up to 20 years if moderately used, a lifespan of between only 750 and 2,000 is typical for an incandescent bulb. Even a typical fluorescent bulb can only be expected to deliver 8,000 to 10,000 hours of use.
It is not merely LEDs' lifespan and efficiency that enhance their green credentials, but also the elements contained within them. Many offices presently use fluorescent strip lights consisting of noxious materials such as mercury, which contaminate the environment on disposal in landfill.
This creates the need for a registered waste carrier to responsibly dispose of such lighting, which draws attention to the role of LEDs in minimising the wider environment's exposure to toxic waste. Indeed, LED light bulbs are also fully recyclable.
While it is not quite true - as is often claimed by the industry - that LEDs do not produce any UV radiation at all, the amount produced is small and the amount emitted even less, due to its conversion to white light by the phosphors inside the bulb.
Although UV radiation in high doses has been associated with such adverse health effects as sunburn, skin cancer and cataracts, this is unlikely to be an issue for ordinary light bulb users, with the greatest concern instead being the scope for certain types of lighting - such as compact fluorescents (CFLs) - to emit sufficient UV to cause damage over time to artwork and fabrics.
This effect of UV radiation helps to explain why high-quality LEDs have come to see widespread use in museums, where it is especially vital to protect treasured artefacts' colour and condition, as well as in many residential and commercial settings where a great amount of lighting may need to be installed. After all, it is important to remember that carpets, window coverings and painted surfaces can all suffer degradation due to UV.
The characteristics of LEDs lend themselves especially well to larger scale, difficult-to-illuminate spaces such as warehouses. The quality of light distribution from LEDs is superior to their more time-honoured alternatives; with light from LEDs being focused in one direction rather than wastefully emitted in all directions, fewer lights are required to achieve a brightness level on a par with that provided by incandescent lights and fluorescents.
Many case studies exist to demonstrate the considerable value that LED lighting has brought to warehouse environments, including that of Greencroft Bottling (Lanchester Group), which found that the installation of LED lighting in just one of its many factory-warehouses brought a 66% energy and carbon reduction. The anticipated lifetime energy and maintenance savings were £139,583, the average annual savings £20,100 and the lifetime CO2 savings 388 tonnes.
The benefits of LED lighting in schools have also long been demonstrated. Christ Church CofE Primary School in Chadderton, for example, undertook a project with its pupils to compare how fluorescent and LED lighting differed in terms of both energy usage and cost.
Daily test results found that fluorescent lights in just one classroom brought not only drastically lower costs, but also very different energy and CO2e readings of 73.4 and 28.49 respectively for the fluorescents, and 0.265 and 2.27 for LED lighting, demonstrating what a substantial impact the latter can make in the drive to reduce both energy costs and carbon footprint.
Similarly great benefits were seen at William Hogarth Primary School in London, where the decision to convert the gym into two classrooms presented key architectural and aesthetic challenges, given the very high ceilings and tall windows of the given space. Not only was a sufficiently high quality of light required in such an expansive space, but the council also wished to see quick paybacks in energy consumption.
The chosen LED lighting solution brought an immediate 51% energy saving, but also entirely positive feedback from both pupils and staff, who observed a significant improvement in the appearance of the lighting and the brightness and happiness of the learning environment.
In today's world in which there are very real practical and budgetary motivations for seeking the most energy-efficient lighting solutions possible, particularly for large-scale warehouse and school environments as well as for domestic settings, LED light bulbs bring very real, proven advantages over the more traditional alternatives, easily outweighing a slightly higher initial cost.
However, LEDs' ecological friendliness also makes such bulbs a very wise choice for the demonstration of your business's social responsibility, at a time when stakeholders will have never placed greater emphasis on this aspect of its operations.
With the present advantages that LEDs enjoy over such other options as CFLs only likely to increase in the years to come with technological advancements that will maximise their already impressive efficiency, to say nothing of ever-decreasing initial unit costs, now really is the time to invest in LED lighting to ensure that your firm is very much a 'green' one.