The title of this post may sound like it’s a statement of the obvious. Sure, compact fluorescent bulb and LED’s use far less energy to generate an equivalent amount of light in comparison to standard bulbs. But whether one is looking at electric buses, batteries or bulbs, a much broader – and ultimately more important – question is the total energy usage of a product over its full life cycle, viz., the energy required to manufacture, operate and finally dispose of it.
So, looking at this bigger picture, how do LEDs and CFLs fare? OSRAM Opto Semiconductor says its got the answer.
The company published a study a few days ago reporting on a full life-cycle assessment of each of the lights and the bottom line, according to the study, is that filament bulbs require about five times the energy that CFLs and LEDs use.
Now, admittedly OSRAM-OS is in the LED business, so the doesn’t directly promote the use of CFLs. In fact, the long-term battle for LED makers isn’t to challenge the performance of filament bulbs but to challenge CFLs as the best alternative to filaments. Having noted that, it’s worth taking a look at the following findings from the report:
• Less than 2% of the total energy demand is needed for production of the LED lamp
The manufacturing phase is insignificant in comparison to the use phase for all three lamps as it uses less than 2% of the total energy demand. This study has dismissed any concern that production of LEDs particularly might be very energy-intensive. Merely about 0.4 kWh are needed for production of an LED (OSRAM Golden Dragon Plus), about 9.9 kWh for the production of the Parathom LED lamp including 6 LEDs.
• LED lamps are competitive to CFL today
In contrast to the primary energy consumption of incandescent lamps of around 3,302 kWh, CFL and LED lamps use less than 670 kWh of primary energy during their entire life. Thus 80% of energy can be saved by using CFL or LED lamps. The bottom line is that LED lamps are more efficient than conventional incandescent lamps and also ahead in terms of environmental friendliness. Even today, LED lamps show nearly identical impact on the environment compared to CFL.
• Future improvements of LED lamps will further cut down energy demand
As the efficiency of LEDs continues to increase, LED lamps will be capable of saving more
energy and achieving even better LCA results in future.
An executive summary of the study is available here.
The timing of the study seems a little odd. It appears from the OSRAM-OS website that the study was completed in August. A press release indicates that it was to be sent out for independent verification and, following that, publication in October. However, the study wasn’t posted until Nov. 30. Indeed, the study now includes information that the results were certified by Matthias Finkbeiner, TU Berlin (Germany); Stig Olsen, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet Copenhagen (Denmark); and Jens Hesselbach, Limón GmbH (Kassel, Germany).