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LEDs are reducing energy demand for lighting across the United States

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Since 2008, the cost of light emitting diodes (LEDs) has dropped by more than 85%. With this drop, the United States saw total installations of LEDs increase dramatically. In total, by 2012, more than 49 million energy-efficient LEDs were installed across the United States, representing an estimated $675 million in annual energy cost savings compared to traditional lightbulbs.

More facts on the evolution of lightbulbs, from the first “arc lamp” in the early 1800s in Great Britain through today’s advanced LED designs, one can explore the U.S. Department of Energy’s interactive online “History of the Lightbulb” website.

Photo and Graphic Credit:

[1] Photo of LED lightbulbs courtest of the U.S. Department of Energy

[2] Graph of LED cost versus total sales by Sarah Gerrity, U.S. Department of Energy

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Wayne Williamson 5:29 pm 02/3/2014

    It would be interesting to see what percentage of lighting this represents, ie. how much further we can go…and what the savings would be.

    As a side note, the new layout of the web pages suck….stuff on top of stuff on top of stuff, and no borders.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Dragons 5:59 pm 02/3/2014

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-11/uoc-ntt111213.php

    Link to this
  3. 3. dpierce3 8:00 pm 02/3/2014

    In US:
    4 billion sockets – 3+ billion are incandescent
    2 billion bulbs sold a year (=2 yr life span) and $1+ billion sales…
    The 49 million installed LEDs is 2012. I would have estimated that another 49 million were installed in 2013 and the number will double each year till an equilibrium of 80+% LEDs is reached in 4-5 years 2013 50 mil+, 2014 100 mil(200 mil total), 2015 200 mil (400 mil total), 2016 400 mil (800 mil total)with the curve leveling out as the newly installed LEDs continue to glow, the market is approaching saturation though growing because of positive economic effect of lower energy costs… there will always be a few quaint incandescent bulbs just like there are a few gas-lit romantic restaurants around…
    DOE is less optimistic than me at least as far as time course:
    lighting.com/doe-forecast-leds-74/

    Link to this
  4. 4. oldfarmermac 3:46 am 02/4/2014

    If the price of LED’s keeps falling until the more common sizes can be bought for five bucks I think dpierce3 may be in the ballpark.

    I intend to install LED’s myself as my CFL’s wear out.But some of them will easily last another five years.If I can get a good enough deal on the price of new LED bulbs I may just toss still good CFL’s.

    Most of my acquaintances will do the same based on the cost savings rather than any desire to save the environment.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Wuzawuza 7:49 am 02/5/2014

    Cost of the bulb, and power usage are two parts of the equation. My experience is the CFL bulbs do not last as long as advertized. Also, I had one where the base got so hot, it started to smoke – turns out it was a recalled model, but I didn’t know about it. The LED bulbs I have now are always cool enough to hold. There is another problem with CFL bulbs. If you drop one, or the lamp tips over, they are prone to breaking and leaving very small, sharp shards of glass with mercury. This is especially serious if you have pets or children. I have never had a conventional bulb or LED break in the same circumstances. I think (hope) CFL bulbs will be a short blip on the light bulb line of history.

    Link to this
  6. 6. stroy 9:24 am 02/7/2014

    I have a lot of X-10 powerline control devices in my house. I have found that the CFLs produce electrical noise on the powerline that jams the X-10 signals, whereas the LED lamps do not. Of course this might be an issue with the specific brand of CFLs I bought, but I have not researched this further.

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