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Measure Tips and Techniques:

3/10/2015

35. LEDs vs. CFL Longer life means more savings and other benefits
By now, almost all of our programs have gone to LED screw-in lamps instead of Compact Fluorescent
Lamp (CFL) screw-in lamps, but it is important to know why. There are 5 good reasons why LEDs
offer an enhancement over CFL technology and each will be reviewed in some detail.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Higher Efficacy
Longer Lifetime
Instant On to Full Brightness
Dimmable
Less impacted by temperature fluctuations/low temperatures

Higher efficacy or more light output per watt is the number one reason LED lamps offer more
savings compared to CFL lamps. Classic CFLs had efficacies in the range of 40-60 lumens per watt
(LPW) which were great when compared to incandescent and halogen, but are now surpassed by
70-100 lumen per watt LED lamps. LED lamps are also more of a point source of light so their light
output is easier to shape into controlled beams of light which CFL could never do. Since LEDs
produce more light using fewer watts, you get more power reduction. (Inefficient System Watts
Efficient System Watts) = power reduction in Watts.
The next part of the life cycle energy savings perspective is how long does the new lamp last?
Classic CFL technology typically had lamp lifetimes of 8,000-10,000 hours which was up to ten times
longer than an incandescent lamp, but amazingly less than half as long as the typical LED lifetime of
25,000 hours! Taking these two facts into account, lets figure out how many times more lifecycle
energy savings a typical LED lamp at 80 lumens per watt and lasting 25,000 hours would generate
compared to a typical CFL producing light at 60 lumens per watt and lasting 10,000 hrs. Imagine
you are starting with a long life 600 lumen incandescent source producing light at 10 lumens per
watt. So the life cycle energy savings of a CFL system would be (600/10-600/60)/1000*10,000 or
500 lifetime kWh saved. Now lets take a look at a 25,000 hour 80 LPW LED lamp. The life cycle
savings would be (600/10-600/80)/1000*25,000 or 1312 lifetime kWh saved which is more than 2.6
times as many life cycle kWh savings!
Now that we know they save 2.6 times as much energy it is time to review some icing on the cake
for LEDs as compared to CFLs. Instant on to full light output is a huge benefit of LED compared to
CFL. Remember the days when we turned on CFLs and we saw them flicker and then gradually
come to full brightness? Most often this was a challenge in restrooms and storage areas which
were used infrequently, but when someone entered they wanted lighting at full brightness. LED
now give us this! Adding in reason 5 here: LEDs also operate better at low temperatures where
CFLs had a hard time even turning on let alone coming to full brightness. Unconditioned restrooms
here we come!
LEDs can also dim much better than CFLs but care must still be taken to insure proper dimmer
switch compatibility. Even at their best, CFL screw-in lamps never really took on the dimming
challenge and normally became less efficient as they dimmed because the lamp had to maintain
cathode heating to keep the mercury arc active. Another side benefit of LED no mercury! The
National Electrical Manufacturing Association has adopted a neat dimming compatibility standard
called NEMA SSL-7a which will help dimming switch manufacturers and dimming lamp
manufacturers products work together even better!