LED Revolution: The Future of Lighting Technology

Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (image courtesy of USA Today)

Edison, it was a nice run while it lasted.

Thomas Alva Edison’s brainchild, the incandescent lightbulb, has been the leading lighting technology for over 100 years. The technology, which was patented in 1880, is currently being phased out by federal law which was signed by George W. Bush in 2007. The Energy Independence and Security Act requires lightbulbs to use at least 25% less energy per lumen. This leads to more energy-efficient lightbulbs and cost savings in the long run, Yay!

This coming January, 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs will no longer be available on store shelves and lower wattage lightbulbs will begin to be phased out soon after. Wendy Koch of USA Today writes:

The bipartisan law, signed by President George W. Bush, will also phase out the traditional 75-watt incandescent beginning in January 2013 and the 60-watt and 40-watt versions in January 2014. California is phasing each out a year earlier. The law exempts appliance, colored, three-way and 19 other less commonly used incandescent bulbs.

No, don’t worry, we won’t all have to sit in the dark and read by candlelight. There are various technologies that will meet the new standard.

Edison’s bulbs won’t meet the standard, but the mercury-free halogen incandescent will. So, too, will the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and the LED (light emitting diode), each of which is at least 75% more efficient.

Which brings us to the topic on the minds of millions of Americans looking to save a buck any way they can, “is this going to cost me?” The answer is yes and no. The new lighting options all have a greater up front cost to purchase the lightbulbs, but because of the increased efficiency of each, will recoup the cost through energy savings. The Department of Energy estimates that a typical household could save $50 per year by switching out 15 standard incandescent lightbulbs with a more energy-efficient option. Additionally, the DOE estimates that once all the standards are in place by 2015, the law will help eliminate 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year— the equivalent of taking about 8 million cars off the road each year.

That’s what we in the economics world like to call a positive externality.

Check out the links below for more information about the new law and tips for energy savings.

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