For some, LED worthiness is a tough sell. A lot of that has to do with lingering resentment and disappointment over the compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), which was pitched as the perfect replacement for incandescent bulbs. Undoubtedly, CFLs offer a huge improvement efficiency-wise over incandescent bulbs, but there are a few significant drawbacks that make them a less-than-perfect option. The impetus for switching to a more efficient, environmentally responsible lighting source is twofold. Most importantly it is about reducing environmental impact, with cheaper electricity bills as an added bonus. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that LED has CFLs beat on both aspects—not only do they have a less detrimental effect on the environment waste-wise, but they are also more efficient and will save more money in the long run.
In the aftermath of the strong push to switch to CFLs in recent years, complaints generally centered on the unappealing, harsh light they cast, a slow warm-up period before they reach full brightness, the difficulty in finding dimmable options, and constant humming and/or flickering. Most importantly, however, many were concerned with the fact that CFLs require mercury to produce light. They don’t contain a vast amount, on average four milligrams per bulb, but it’s enough that they must be disposed of as hazardous waste rather than just throwing them away in the regular garbage. Not to mention the fact that they are quite fragile—no wonder people are leery!
If reducing waste is the goal, it’s extremely important to factor in the big picture ‘cost’ of using CFLs versus LED. To help illustrate, here are numbers from Eartheasy.com’s helpful bulb comparison chart. With a projected light bulb lifespan five times longer than CFLs, LEDs will need to be replaced 1/5 as often. That means, for every one LED, five expended CFLs will need safeguarding and careful transportation to the Eco Station for appropriate disposal. The chart also does a great job illustrating the overall cost-effectiveness of LEDs versus CFLs with the total cost (bulb price and total electricity used) over the average lifespan of an LED (in this case 50, 000 hours) equaling $85.75. The same lifespan in CFLs will cost $89.75. Factoring in wasted energy worrying about proper disposal and trips to the Eco Station, it becomes clear which is the smarter choice. Think of LED as a long-term investment not only in the sense of reducing waste, but also in terms of providing a brighter future, one bulb at a time.