LEDs Beat Incandescents in Lifecycle Assessment Energy Use

by | Dec 1, 2009

OsramLampComparisonAn Osram study shows that LED lamps are more energy-efficient than light bulbs even when the energy used during the manufacturing process is factored into the equation, reports the New York Times. Some critics of LEDs had pointed to the amount of energy used to manufacture the lights.

The study also finds that LED lamps will save more energy and achieve even better lifecycle assessment (LCA) results in the future as they become more efficient.

Even green LEDs are becoming more efficient. 3M recently unveiled a green LED with a rated 181 lumens per watt efficiency at a drive current of 350 mA/mm2, which was achieved by bonding an Osram blue ThinGan LED with a proprietary color-converting material that absorbs the blue light and re-emits it as green, reports an EDN blog. LED expert Doug Leeper told EDN that this is six times more efficient than a green LED has ever achieved and because green is the major energy consumer used in backlights it could cut power consumption in half and make RGB LEDs more efficient than white LEDs.

The OSRAM report, “Life Cycle Assessment of Illuminants” (PDF), shows that over the entire life cycle of an incandescent bulb from manufacturing to disposal, the energy it uses is almost five times that used for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LED lamps.

Another key finding reveals that CFL and LED lamps use less than 670 kWh of energy during their entire life compared to about 3,302 kWh for incandescent lamps, which translates into an 80 percent energy savings.

The lifecycle assessment of LED lamps included all components and production processes of the lamps during five life cycle stages, which are raw material production, manufacturing & assembly, transport, use and end of life.

In addition to the energy used for each process, the assessment also looked at the emissions created in each stage, and calculated the effect of six different global warming indexes, reports the New York Times.

This included the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by each process, the acid rain potential, eutrophication (excessive algae), photochemical ozone creation, the release of harmful chemical compounds, and the resultant scarcity of gas, coal, and oil, reports the New York Times.

The methodology met the requirements set by industry standard ISO 14040/44, and was certified by three university professors in Denmark and Germany as adhering to the standard, according to the New York Times.

With the push for energy efficiency, LEDs are being used in a variety of products ranging from general illumination to electric signs, reports Underwriters Laboratories. As a result, the new technology is used in newer high-voltage and light-output applications, which raises several safety concerns including the risk of overheating, electric shock and fire, according to the product safety certification organization.

To address these concerns, UL recently released the first global safety standard for LED lighting products and their components, called ANSI/UL 8750, Safety Standard for Light Emitting Diode (LED) Equipment for Use in Lighting Products.

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