LED Lighting Energy Efficiency

Starting in 2012, U.S. efficiency requirements gradually began to put traditional "type A" incandescent light bulbs—the screw-base bulbs you use in lamps and light fixtures—out of business. Today's energy standards require 25 percent greater efficiency than those incandescents can muster. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if you could press a button and replace all the remaining type A incandescent bulbs with their LED equivalents, you'd save U.S. consumers up to 84.1 terawatt hours in a year, enough to power about seven million households.

Lighting Elements

LED lamps start with LED packages. Each package includes an individual red, green or blue LED, and makes up a tiny light source designed for use in socketed bulbs or plug-in tubes. Bundled together with a driver, a group of packages makes up a lamp. Both the individual packages and the lamp feature separate energy efficiencies. Combine efficient LED packages with an inefficient driver, and the result produces less illumination than the same packages tied to a high-efficiency driver. Engineering LEDs to produce light with a specific Color Rendering Index—a measurement of its fidelity to natural light—may affect LED efficiency and lifespan. Implemented efficiently, LEDs can reduce energy use by more than 80 percent over incandescent bulbs says the Department of Energy.


Incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs emit light in all directions. To trap, focus and point their illumination where you want it, you add reflectors and diffusers to its path. Much of the light reaches these devices and goes no farther, wasting energy in the process. Because the light from LEDs goes in only one direction, they can be installed in a lamp in ways that put more illumination where it belongs.

Heat Vs. Light

Lamps emit wasted energy in the form of heat. Incandescent bulbs are the worst offenders in this department, with approximately 90 percent of the energy they consume released as heat instead of light. Compact fluorescent bulbs turn about 80 percent of incoming energy into heat. LED bulbs use heat sinks or other thermal-management devices to draw away the minimal amount of heat they produce. Proper thermal management helps maintain LED packages in good working order over the lifespan of an LED bulb.

Wattage Vs. Lumens

Conventional incandescent bulbs typically equate their wattage—the amount of power they draw as they operate—with their brightness.Comparable wattage usually produces comparable light output. LED bulbs use much less electricity to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. For example, you can replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with an LED lamp that draws 10.8 watts. A comparable compact fluorescent bulb draws 15 watts, making the LED lamp the energy-savings champion. As LED designs mature and their energy efficiency increases, they show the potential to gain further advantages over CFLs. Today's LED lamps already outlast CFLs in service, with the 10.8-watt LED lamp featuring a 15,000-hour life, compared to only 10,000 hours for the 15-watt CFL and 1,000 for the 60-watt incandescent. You can choose LED lamps that produce cool or warm illumination to match specific lighting needs, using their color temperature to compare their output to natural light.

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