Earth Day 2016 - If LEDs Lit America
Today we say thanks to the life-sustaining blue and green marble we live on: Earth. Since we are a lighting blog, you may think that we blindly tote out the virtues of LED lighting, year after year, for this esteemed occasion. However, you already have a general knowledge of the environmentally-friendly advantages of LEDs. So this year, we want to pose a question, “What would happen if overnight, the entire population of the United States switched to LED light bulbs?”
Today, you wake up and get ready for work, thinking once again that you really need to invest in an automatic coffeemaker. You lose precious moments of prep time, waiting for the coffee to brew, but any hope of acting as a functional person hinges on that morning jolt. You try to stream some music to give yourself some energy but the lag time from buffering keeps you in silence. Your neighbor next door must have figured out how to jump on your WiFi again, something he fervently denies. Your routine reaches an anxious peak as you worry that the lights have caused you to trim your beard unevenly and a patch of your 5 o’clock shadow still remains. As a woman, you may find yourself fighting to apply your makeup before the bathroom lights melt it off. The pre-dawn drive seems chaotic; drivers either creep slowly down long spans of highway under unlit street lights or fly past you in a flash of tail lights. Today is unlucky as you seem to hit every broken or red light along the way and you missed your turn. Work is good—except for the flickering of the light right over your desk that is driving you crazy, making your eye twitch and concentration difficult. You make it home in time to feed the cat/dog/iguana and begin to try to feed yourself. You sort the mail you picked up on your way in and look at your electric bill in dismay. At this point, you feel like you should have a stake in the company with amount you pay. With what’s left of today, you slouch through a shower and decide you have just enough energy to dry your hair while dinner cooks via microwave. However, in your consistent haste to fill the growing hole in your stomach made you forget how your blow dryer and microwave are frenemies. One grumpy, dripping stomp to main breaker later, dinner is served while you wait for Netflix to quit buffering and show the latest episode of Daredevil.
That was yesterday. Then there is tomorrow.
Tomorrow, you wake up and get ready for work. Actually, you will wake up and stumble out of bed on time with the aroma of coffee luring you into kitchen. You’re not sure when you started the coffeemaker (must have been sleepwalking) but you accept the gift for what it is. Since you already here, you add a frozen breakfast burrito to your routine and mentally pat yourself on the head for remembering the first meal of the day. Your next surprise involves the ease at which your music comes on. Your neighbor, the WiFi kidnapper, must have decided to sleep in today. As you bob your head to beat, you vaguely note how bright everything seems. You dismiss the thought but it becomes more apparent that something is different when the bathroom lights blaze on. You gratefully dim the lights while blinking away the sparkly dots of color floating across your eyeballs. The even lighting makes beard trimming a breeze; it’s so straight, it looks like you used a ruler. Or you may be taking selfies of your makeup and hair because, without a single smudge or errant curl, who knows when you will ever manage this level of perfection again. The pre-dawn drive is smooth; drivers have regained their sanity and it looks like the city finally replaced all of those street lights. Work is great—in fact, you nearly jumped for joy when you saw the new flicker-free light over your desk. Everything really does seem brighter today. Colors are more vibrant and you don’t have to squint to read your magazine in the breakroom while you wait for your second cup of coffee. Your smile dims as you arrive home and look at your electric bill in trepidation, but the number catches your eye. In shock, you read the bill again, your current balance is a quarter of the amount your remember from yesterday. How is that even possible? A quick call to your provider confirms your good fortune. You won’t have to attempt a hostile takeover of the company after all. Today is so good, you decide to indulge in popcorn and a movie. The real test of today’s luck came after you showered. The microwave and hair dryer have made amends, because you were able to pop popcorn and blow dry your hair at the same time. The frequent trip to the breaker box is auspiciously missing this evening. Your last thoughts before you sleep are of how today was so easy and if only every day could be like this one, only to wake up and have this satisfying simplicity happen with increasing frequency.
The only thing that changed was your lighting.
How Much Money Could the U.S. Save by Switching to LED?
In the future, at its current rate of conversion, 74% of all lighting sales in America will be LED by 2030. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), LED lighting installations accounted for $1.4 billion in energy savings in 2014. That’s $1.4 billion in savings while only 3% of lighting in the U.S. has made the switch to LED. If you woke up tomorrow and every light bulb in America had become its LED sibling overnight, it would seem like nearly $48 billion magically rained down from the sky, or in other words, like handing every man, woman, and child, all 321.4 million American citizens, about $149 each in cash. By 2030 and without selling one more LED, the savings from current LED installations will result in a 46% reduction in electricity consumption, which is enough power to light 24 million homes, approximately one-fifth of total households in the U.S. today.
In 2030, 300 terawatt-hours of energy could be saved annually. Today, a coal-based power plant can generate an average of 547 megawatts every hour, 300 TWh would be enough to take about one-eighth of over 500 coal plants in the U.S. offline permanently. From 2010 to 2030 the DOE estimates that as LEDs continue to gain ground in retail and commercial industries, $250 billion—more than the net worth of the owners of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook combined—could be saved. In a future full of LEDs, 1,800 million metric tons of carbon would never exist.
That is a future we can look forward to. You could argue about the initially higher cost of LEDs, the drivers required for larger installations, or even the lack of comparable brightness in commercial applications. Still all of those issues would be followed by a “yet.” LEDs do cost more initially yet the prices are falling every day. LED drivers are required for larger installations yet many manufacturers are offering LEDs and LED-capable fixtures designed to ease older buildings into the new lighting construction. Commercial applications for LEDs are limited by the lack of a comparable lumen-count (i.e. brightness) to their HID counterparts yet every generation of LEDs is brighter and more efficient than the last. The arguments against LEDs are temporary consequences. If a better cost of living across the nation and more money in your pockets are the only permanent consequences of switching to LEDs, then the overwhelming majority of responses will probably be, “Sign me up!”
We are climbing off the soap box, but the possibility of brighter future with LED lighting remains. From table lamps to Christmas lights, LEDs are being manufactured for any occasion and every setting. You can begin adding money to your wallet and make your life better by embracing LED lighting. 1000Bulbs.com has one of the largest online inventories of LEDs, search our website for the bulbs you need to make the switch. If you would like to climb on the soap box to present more facts and figures about the market for LED lighting, have some trivia about alternative energy sources to share, or simply want to know more about LEDs, please comment in the area below. You’ll find more information, news, tips, and a whole lot of images of gorgeously-lit rooms on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. The staff of 1000Bulbs.com simply wishes you a Happy Earth Day!
Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications, Report Summary, U.S. Department of Energy
Coal and Other Fossil Fuels, Union of Concerned Scientists
Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications, Report Summary, U.S. Department of Energy
Quick Facts, United States, U.S. Census Bureau