LED a Headache Cure?

If Fluorescent Lights gave You Headaches, Would You Care About Energy Efficiency?

Many Californians are excited about the change to energy efficient fluorescent lights. By 2012, legislators hope to have incandescent lights banned. While this may very well save the average home $50 and help to save energy, for some that’s not enough to motivate them to make the change. I would sooner go out of state for some illegal incandescent lighting, than take the fatigue, headaches, and even fainting spells caused by fluorescent lighting.

For me, and others with scoptic sensitivity syndrome, the possibility of a change to fluorescent lighting sounds like a horror movie.For more information on incandescent lights, fluorescent lights, and energy efficiency, I recommend reading Summer Minor’s excellent article: “Energy Efficient Fluorescent Light Bulbs Gain Popularity.”

To summarize a bit, incandescent light bulbs have been around for a long time, but aren’t all that efficient. Most importantly, this energy efficiency has inspired legislators in California to increase fluorescent lighting use and even ban incandescent lighting. Those with scoptic sensitivity syndrome (Irlen syndrome) in California are definitely not rejoicing over this proposed change. While not all symptoms of scoptic sensitivity syndrome relate to fluorescent lighting, several do.

For example, many people who have been diagnosed with scoptic sensitivity syndrome experience strain or fatigue working and reading under fluorescent lights. They may even get a headache or even a migraine if under such lighting for any length of time. Performance may deteriorate under fluorescent lighting and concentration may fade. Those with scoptic sensitivity syndrome may become restless and daydream under fluorescent lights. while not everyone with Irlen syndrome will have the same symptoms, fluorescent lighting is very likely to cause at least some problems.

Why LED?

The country is experiencing an energy crisis characterized by rapid and drastic price increases as well as threatened shortages. Within one year Americans spend $1 trillion on energy and the rising cost is of primary concern.Electricity, which is an output from many energy resources, is used to power most equipment and facilities. Its usage has increased to ten times of the 1950s level. The nation’s capacity to generate and distribute electricity has not increased in accordance with the growing demand.

This gap has led to power reliability problems resulting in major blackouts throughout the country. Power outages disrupt business operations and result in the loss of significant portions of business inventories. In general, energy markets are experiencing high demand and limited supplies, resulting in volatile and soaring prices. The end product will be inflationary pressures that continue to challenge the country’s businesses as they struggle to adjust to the new economic conditions. Environmental considerations are gaining prominence for responsible businesses.

Electricity is one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions, so every time you turn on the television or computer you are adding to global warming. Using efficient light sources is vital to conservation and sustainability. 49% of the electricity in the US is produced from coal fired power plants. Besides CO2, these power plants emit hazardous substances including mercury, nitrous oxides, sulphur oxides, and particulates. Using LEDs for lighting means using less electricity, and that means less of these substances contaminating our environment. Most household lighting today comes from incandescent bulbs — the same sort that Thomas Edison invented more than 100 years ago. They are bright and cheap but also wasteful and the higher wattage translates to a higher cost on your electricity bill.

A compact fluorescent bulb, the most common alternative, can throw off just as much light but requires far fewer watts to do so and, unlike incandescent, doesn’t generate needless heat. But there are drawbacks to compact fluorescents. They have mercury in them. Mercury, a heavy metal, is toxic and extremely hazardous when it is breathed as a vapor where it can be absorbed through the lungs. These exposures can occur when mercury is spilled or products that contain mercury break and are exposed to the air, particularly in warm or poorly-ventilated indoor spaces. CFLs or other fluorescent light bulbs thrown into the trash are usually sent to a landfill or incinerated.

These disposal methods will lead to releases of mercury into the environment through breakage and leakage. There is also the potential for exposure to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs thrown in a dumpster, trash compactor, or trash can. Approximately 670 million fluorescent light bulbs are discarded each year in the United States. These discarded bulbs can release approximately 2 to 4 tons of mercury per year into the environment. Once in the environment, mercury can be converted to an organic form that accumulates in living organisms and contaminates the food chain. In contrast, LEDs contain no mercury and require no special handling for disposal.

LED’s longer life-cycle reduces waste and energy associated with repair and replacement that is typical of neon and incandescent lighting. Commercial and industrial managers are generally interested in using a light source that is reliable and lasts a long time. Frequent lamp replacements can be costly from a maintenance perspective, and failed lamps could expose lamp operators to liabilities. In fact, maintenance savings are one of the primary reasons behind the adoption of LEDs in several markets. LED sources radiate less heat than fluorescents, limiting the growth of bacteria thus increasing shelf life of meat products in refrigerated display cases.

Most LED Street and area lighting products in the market have color temperatures of 3000-8000k and color rendering indices of 70-85. With these color characteristics, LED Street and area lights compare favorably with high pressure sodium lamps that have color temperatures of 1900-2200, providing a yellow/orange light, and color rendering indices as low as 23. LEDs depreciate slowly over time in comparison with high intensity discharge (HID) lamps. The difference between HID initial and mean lumen output is significant, and leads to a lower efficacy over the lifetime of the HID lamp. It is estimated that there are 829 million recessed down light fixtures in the U.S. The commercial sector installed base of recessed down lights is derived from the Electric Light Fixture Current Industrial Reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This study tracks electric light fixture sales by fixture type in the U.S. for the residential, commercial, industrial, and outdoor stationary sectors. For the residential sector, the recessed downlight inventory was estimated by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Electric Light Fixture Current Industrial Reports and the California Residential Lighting and Appliance Efficiency Saturation Surveys. The California household survey reports the average number of lighting fixtures per room for Californian residences, including the average number of recessed can fixtures per residence. 371 million incandescent recessed downlight fixtures in the residential sector were calculated.

Residential CFL recessed downlight fixtures were not tracked in the survey. The CFL recessed downlight inventory in the residential sector was estimated by the percentage of CFL recessed down-lights in California (14.7%) was the same nationwide. This assumption yields a total of 64 million CFL recessed cans in the residential sector. The national residential inventory of recessed down-lights, equal to the addition of the number of incandescent recessed down-lights, equal to the addition of the number of incandescent recessed down-lights and compact fluorescent recessed down-lights, is estimated to be 435 million fixtures.

Thus, if LEDs with a luminaire efficacy of 60.9 lm/W achieved 100% market share of recessed down-lights, a potential electricity savings of 81.2 TWh could be realized per year, the greatest electricity savings potential of any niche application. In terms of primary energy consumption, the potential energy savings of LED recessed down-lights.

Indoor and outdoor white-light applications have the greatest potential of all to save substantial amounts of energy. If indoor white-light applications switched entirely to LEDs, a potential of 131 TWh per year of electricity could be saved, equivalent to the annual output of approximately twenty large (1000 MW) electric power plants or the annual electricity consumption of eleven million typical U.S. households.In the outdoor white-light applications, street and area lights represent the most significant niche market opportunity for LEDs.

However, if the market switched entirely to LEDs, street and area lights have the potential to save 44.7 TWh per year and outdoor step, path, and porch lights have the potential to save 12.6 TWh per year of electricity, yielding a total of 57.3 TWh/year of electricity savings, the annual output of approximately nine large (1000 MW) electric power plants or the annual electricity consumption of almost five million households.

LED light bulbs offer substantial energy savings and greater savings overall using less energy and lasting approx 50,000 to 100,000 hrs. Making LEDs more and more practical; they will be the choice of the future.