Switching to LED Lighting Could Cut Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Half
Data compiled in recent studies suggests that the United States could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by sources of lighting by 50 percent, simply by swapping traditional bulb-powered lights for LEDs.
Besides being far more cost-effective, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are extremely energy-efficient. With better than double the efficiency of compact fluorescent light bulbs—which are the current green standard—LEDs also contain absolutely no toxic materials. They also have such a long lifespan that they don't cause disposal issues. Further advantages of LED lighting include dimmer compatibility and faster turn-on times than fluorescent lights.
Some American cities, notably Ann Arbor, Michigan and Raleigh, North Carolina, are using LEDs in parking structures and street lights. If all U.S. cities made the same switch, and included large buildings as part of the LED revolution, carbon dioxide output from lighting sources would be cut in half in less than 20 years.
President Barack Obama's stimulus package includes cash for the development of environmentally friendly infrastructure, which is expected to hasten the transition to municipal use of LED lights.
However, there are significant barriers. The amount of infrastructure required to make the switch is considerable, as LED fixtures are semi-permanent. Federal cash for green infrastructure would cover only a small portion of the total cost, and taxpayers would likely be asked to foot the rest of the bill.
Private homeowners would also feel a pinch if LED lighting became mandatory for homes; at current prices, it would take as long as 10 years for homeowners to recoup the costs of switching to LED home lighting through energy savings. The light produced by LEDs is also directional and focused, and doesn't provide 360-degree coverage.
While it's impossible to deny that making a mass switch to LED lighting would have environmental benefits, implementing it poses significant costs and challenges. Given the rapid evolution of LED technology and its increasing cost efficiency, it might be best to wait a few years for the industry to make the breakthroughs that are currently imminent but unrealized. Only then would the LED switch be an easy sell to taxpayers.