Solid-State Lighting is a Bright Idea for Energy Efficiency, Study Says

Solid-State Lighting is a Bright Idea for Energy Efficiency, Study Says

It is imperative for society to move to solid-state lighting to save money in the built environment and lessen the impacts to the broader environment -- but in the U.S. it may take a policy change to force the nation to use more sustainable lighting, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon engineering and public policy researchers.

Lighting for commercial buildings, streets and houses constitutes more than 20 percent of total electricity consumption in the U.S., and using light emitting diodes can reduce consumption and greenhouse gases because of the way that LEDS convert electricity to light, says Ines Lima Azevedo, a researcher at the Carnegie Mellon Climate Decision Making Center and its Electricity Industry Center.

LEDs are a type of solid-state lighting, so called because light is emitted from a solid object, a semiconductor, instead of a vacuum or gas tube as in incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent lights. LEDs generate less heat and have a longer lifespan than non-solid state lighting.

Some LED technology is cheaper than traditional lighting and white LEDs can be a cost-effective, energy efficient way to reduce emissions, in addition to being mercury-free from mercury unlike fluorescent tubes, say the other members of the research team, M. Granger Morgan and Fritz Morgan. M. Granger Morgan is the Lord Chair Professor of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. Fritz Morgan is chief technology officer of Philips-Color Kinetics and a Carnegie Mellon alumnus.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy section calls solid-state lighting "a pivotal emerging technology that promises to fundamentally alter lighting in the future." The EERE also says, "No other lighting technology offers as much potential to save energy and enhance the quality of our building environments, contributing to our nation's energy and climate change solutions."

The Carnegie Mellon researchers say, however, that there are barriers to widespread use of LEDs. The group recommends development of nationwide lighting standards for new commercial and residential construction in the U.S., and contends the country will not move to more environmentally friendly lighting without such a directive.

"Even if the LED technology is cheaper on a lifecycle basis, consumers are likely to stick to what they know," Azevedo said in a statement. "We need the design of smart policies to make this transition."

The Carnegie Mellon University announced the research findings this week. They were published in March by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Spectrum Magazine.

White LEDs - Image by I-Jack