Eco friendly alternatives for light bulbs

June 19, 2008 7:14:44 PM PDT
We've heard a lot lately about compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use a lot less energy but contain mercury that can be dangerous to the environment. There may be another energy saving alternative on the horizon.

You know those little lights you see on your electronic appliances? They're called light emitting diodes or LED's. They work great lighting up gadgets, but can they light up a whole house?

We see them everywhere these days -- LED lights are in the crosswalks, our cell phones, digital clocks even elevators. LED'S use far less energy than any bulb on the market, including CFL's.

So why don't we use them to light our homes?

"Five years' time from now, nobody will have CFL's in their homes. Nobody will have incandescent in their homes, they will have LED's," said Warner Philips from Lemnis Lighting.

Warner is the Dutch manufacturer of the LED bulb called Pharox. It's made to be as bright as a 40-watt bulb, but uses only five watts of power and led's contain no toxic mercury -- like CFL'S do.

"To me, this is a no-brainer that this is the lighting standard for the future," said Warner.

Yet very few LED's are used for home lighting. Why is that?

"We haven't found a lot of led's that put out the same light output in terms of brightness and colors," said PG&E Energy Efficiency Supervisor Marcela Fox.

Fox says it's a challenge to turn glowing colored lights into a warm white light for homes. Not only that, but LED's cost a bundle.

"It's not currently available for the average consumer who's on a tight budget," said Fox.

Warner's bulbs cost $40 apiece, compared to $1 or $2 for CFL's. But Warner says prices are coming down, and LED's can last 50 times longer than a standard bulb using far less power.

A PG&E meter shows the standard 40-watt bulb using 43 watts, while the led uses five. An equivalent CFL uses eight watts.

San Francisco lighting designer Mike Ricciardi is skeptical about LED's.

"It's just not a bright enough light source. It's good as an accent, under cabinets," said Ricciardi.

Warner says the led works best shining down like a chandelier. So Mike tested them.

"That is the 40-watt bulb, and that's the led. It actually looks as bright," said Ricciardi.

Impressive, he says, but still expensive.

"If you can get them down to a better price then they may be beneficial," said Ricciardi.

Several manufacturers are developing new versions of led lights. Warner's company is still working on a 60-watt equivalent.

Right now his led bulbs are available only online.

Related links:

  • Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED Light Bulb Challenge
  • Energy Efficient Lighting
  • PG&E energy efficiency guide
  • Lemnis Lighting


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