US DOE Reports on Efficiency and Environmental Impact of LED Lighting

LED lighting has been hyped as the next best thing in lighting because of its energy efficiency. As Earth Day 2012 approaches, we would like to share the results of a new report from the US DOE, Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products Part I: Review of the Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Lamps, February 2012.

Part 1 of the report focuses on a comparison of the energy consumption during the lifecycle of LEDs, CFLs, halogen and Incandescent light bulbs. The lifecycle is defined as the three major lifecycle phases: manufacturing, transportation and use.  The authors of the report took on a lot of work. The report is a comprehensive look at the energy consumption of the three light technologies based on ten existing studies from academia, manufacturers and independent researchers.

The results of the report were not surprising given the buzz about LEDs.  The use phase is the most energy intensive for all — incandescent, CFLs and LED lighting.  Transportation accounted for less than one percent of the lifecycle for all. The real differences occurred during the manufacturing phase with LEDs initially being higher due to the larger “packages” required to meet the equivalent lumens, or the amount of light.  These differences in the manufacturing phase will be eliminated by advances in LEDs over time.  For example, as LED technology improves with increases in yield, wafer size and automation in LED manufacturing, LEDs will become brighter requiring fewer, smaller “packages” to make the same amount of light, lumens.  Even given these initial differences in current LEDs, they all disappeared when totaling everything up throughout the lifecycle.

According to the authors of the report, “the key results of this analysis indicate that the average life-cycle energy consumption of LED lamps and CFLs are similar, at approximately 3,900 MJ per functional unit (20 million lumen-hours). This is about one quarter of the incandescent lamp energy consumption—15,100 MJ per functional unit.”  Further, the authors estimate that, “by 2015, if LED lamps meet their performance targets, their life-cycle energy use is expected to decrease by approximately one half.” This means that as LEDs become more efficient, they’ll outshine CFLs.

This all sounds like very good news for LEDs, but it still is very early. The report is the first report from a larger DOE project to assess the lifecycle environmental and resource costs to manufacture, use and dispose of LED lighting products versus comparable traditional lighting technologies.  Look for more from the DOE.

For Further Reading:, LED Manufacturing,

US DOE, SSL Program,

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About Beth

It seems like LEDs are in everything these days – backlighting everything from your mobile phone, Apple iPad and flat screen HDTV to traffic lights, light bulbs and even the kitchen sink. But, making LEDs is a complex process that begins with the creation of sapphire. Not the pretty blue gemstone, but large commercial crystals that can weigh as much as 400 lbs. Once these large sapphire crystals are grown into boules and cooled, they’re cut into cores, cut further into flat circular wafers, polished and then used to grow LEDs. About 85 percent of HB-LEDs (high brightness) are grown on sapphire. There’s not that much information out there about the process. This blog is meant to shed some light (excuse the pun) on sapphire, LEDs and the industry that is devoted to making our lives just a little brighter. In the months ahead, we’ll tackle some topics that will help you understand a little more about sapphire and LED industry. Here’s a sample of what we’ll cover in the coming months: • Growing sapphire • For a wafer, size matters • Quality - When sapphire wafers go bad • LED light bulbs • Market & myths • Interviews with industry shining stars • Reports from industry events • Current events in perspective Please join us each week to learn more about sapphire and the LED market. We look forward to seeing you.

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