By George Harvey
Vermont can boast that in addition to ski slopes, dairy farms, and its other attractions, it has a lighting manufacturer at the leading edge of technology. LEDdynamics is based in Randolph, Vermont. A prominent statement at their web site tells us clearly what they have achieved in their field: “It’s Easy Being Green.”
For years, advice has been to use fluorescent lights wherever possible, instead of incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent lights last longer and use less power, making them a much more environmentally friendly alternative. Initially they cost more, but that problem has been overcome, and there are very few reasons remaining to use incandescent bulbs at all.
Now all that is changing. LED lights last longer than fluorescents, and use even less power than fluorescents, so they have the same advantages fluorescents once had over incandescent bulbs. Interestingly, they have a number of other advantages as well.
Among the down sides of fluorescent lights is the fact that they have to be disposed of carefully, because they contain mercury. The mercury, in fact, qualifies the lights as hazardous waste, so this is not a trivial issue. There are other problems with fluorescent lights as well. One of these is that they flicker to some degree, a problem some people cannot perceive, but others find very annoying. The long fluorescent tubes in light fixtures are omni-directional, so some of their light is lost against surfaces that we do not need illuminated. They are dim when they are in cold environments, and it takes some time for many to warm up; in some places the cold prevents them from working at all, depending on various factors such as the type of ballast used in the lamp.
LED lights can solve all these problems. They can be as bright as fluorescents, and they come on strong in the cold. They are more efficient in converting electricity to light, and they can direct that light usefully to function more effectively. They do not flicker. They can come in different colors, so there are choices available for how “warm” the light is. Many LEDs are color-corrected for different purposes. Most importantly to me, they do not represent a waste problem.
The down side of LED lights, for now, is that they are much more expensive than fluorescent lights. In fact, they are so much more expensive that most people will not want to buy them for their homes even though the long-term cost is comparable. The payback time for LED lights is just too long. The good news is that it is too long for now. The prices of LEDs are going down, and with their decline, we can expect an improvement in the payback period.
LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are semiconductors. This puts them in the same class as solar PV cells, computer processor and memory chips, and such devices. Just as the prices of computers and solar installations have declined, we can expect the prices of LED lighting to decline. The other types of semiconductors had more initial demand, so they were developed faster and the supply expanded faster. Now it is the turn of LED lights to follow the same path.
Nearly anyone might have a reason to buy LED lights. It happens that fully a third of industrial electricity goes to lighting. In schools, the percentage of electricity going to lighting is even higher. In such places, the improved quality of light argues strongly in favor of LEDs, but the economics do as well. The long-term benefits of changing lights less frequently combine with the short-term benefits of lower electric bills to make them attractive.
The payback period is rather long, but here LEDdynamics really has made things easy. The LED tubes they make are designed to fit into the standard fluorescent fixtures. You take out the old fluorescent tube, and put in its improved replacement. Even the ballasts do not have to be replaced.
For the homeowner, the new lights might be a little daunting because of their cost. Here, however, I would make a suggestion. If you have a fluorescent tube that needs to be replaced, try one of these to see what difference it makes. You will learn what it means to you, and when the price comes down to a more comfortable level, you will know when to buy more.
LEDdynamics’s web site is http://www.leddynamics.com. You can either purchase from their site or use the contact info to speak to them directly. They are quite happy to connect with individuals who need information or help purchasing their “EverLED” products.