07 Sep 2012:
LED Bulbs Widening Gap
In Energy Efficiency, Report Says
While today’s light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are slightly better for the environment than compact fluorescent lamps, the energy efficiency gap will widen over the next five years
as the technology and manufacturing methods of LEDs improve, according to a new report. In an analysis of the impacts of the light technologies in 15 categories — including the energy and resources required to manufacture, operate, and dispose of the bulbs — researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that CFLs caused slightly more environmental harm than existing LED technologies in all but one of the areas studied. The one exception, they said, was hazardous waste generation because existing LEDs utilize a component, called a heat sink, which requires mining, refining, and processing of the aluminum. Improved efficiencies in emerging LED technologies, however, will reduce the amount of heat produced and, in turn, the size of heat sink required. As a result, they say, LED bulbs are expected by 2017 to have 50 percent less environmental impact than today’s bulbs and 70 percent less than existing CFLs. According to the lab’s analysis, consumers using either existing LED or CFL bulbs will reduce their environmental impact by three to 10 times compared with less-efficient incandescent light bulbs.