CFLs and LEDs Light the Way to Energy Efficiency

The Earth Policy Institute recommends switching from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a simple way to cut carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and save money.

  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Lighting and the Global Light-Duty Vehicle Fleet
    Graph of carbon dioxide emissions from lighting and the global light-duty vehicle fleet.
  • World Electricity Consumption for Lighting
    Pie chart of world electricity consumption for lighting.
  • Electricity Consumption by Incandescent Lighting
    Comparison of electricity consumed by incandescent lighting versus compact fluorescent lighting over 10,000 hours.

  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Lighting and the Global Light-Duty Vehicle Fleet
  • World Electricity Consumption for Lighting
  • Electricity Consumption by Incandescent Lighting

The Earth Policy Institute reports that replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is a simple and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency. This is the first step in the Earth Policy Institute’s climate stabilization plan to steadily increase the efficiency of world energy use. Other components of the plan can be found in the book World on the Edge by Lester R. Brown.

Our inefficient, carbon-based energy economy threatens to irreversibly disrupt the Earth’s climate. Averting dangerous climate change and the resultant crop-shrinking heat waves, more-destructive storms, accelerated sea level rise, and waves of climate refugees means cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.

The first key component of the Earth Policy Institute’s climate stabilization plan is to systematically raise the efficiency of the world energy economy. One of the quickest ways to increase efficiency, cut carbon emissions, and save money is simply to change light bulbs.

Some 19 percent of world electricity demand goes to lighting. The carbon emissions generated by this sector equal roughly 70 percent of those produced by the global automobile fleet.

Of the 3,400 terawatt-hours of electricity consumed annually by the world’s light fixtures, more than 40 percent is used by commercial buildings, including offices, retail businesses, schools, and hospitals. Close to one third is used in the home; 18 percent in industrial buildings; and the remaining 8 percent in outdoor applications, such as lights at traffic stops and in parking lots.

Replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs with highly efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can reduce the electricity used for lighting by three fourths or more. And since they last up to 10 times as long, each typical CFL will cut electricity bills by roughly $40 over its lifetime.

jon cowles
8/18/2011 9:24:18 AM

wait wait wait wait......just hold on a minute. i change to them fancy new flourescent bulbs years ago....but way up here in the upper penninsula some of us need those old round heat generating bulbs to keep our small pump shed or room warm so our water doesnt freeze. what are we going to do if they get rid of them? so far ive been buying and storing a couple doz. of them. men in my family die around 75-80 and i hope ive bought enough. how about some of my neighbors?

8/14/2011 7:42:04 PM

I don’t change a light bulb in my house unless it is to an LED. Even though they are more efficient the deal for me is the convenience because they last 20 years. Even if they are a wash from a cost perspective, burnt out light bulbs is just one less thing I need to think about in my hectic schedule. Plus LED’s don’t get super hot so it is probably less of a fire hazard.

8/2/2011 11:04:47 AM

As an electrician as well as someone who cares abut the planet, I have several problems with CFL's. Of course there is the mercury and all of the other things mentioned above, but additionally, and no one ever seems to mention this when you are buying CFL bulbs, but if you have dimming switches in your home, you must buy dimmable CFLs or replace the dimmers with a standard switch. If you do not, the resulting heat can cause the dimmer or the bulb to fail, and become a potential fire hazard. I have been on numerous service calls in the last 2 years due to this factor. Our utility company sent a case of Chinese made CFLs out to everyone in the district, and my phone hasn't stopped ringing since! (by the way, if anyone wants mine, they are in the garage, unopened). The issue with LED lamps is of course, expense. They are extremely cost prohibitive, even if they do last 20 yrs. I have presented the concept to many customers when wiring new homes or remodels, and have not had one taker when they see the quotation... CFL's are a farce and a cash cow for someone who owns a lot of stock in a Chinese light bulb factory. (Thanks Al Gore). MOST of the CFLs are made there. If you insist on using the bloody things, at least try to buy American Made!!!



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