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The dirty little secrets about switching to LED lights Answered

Some years ago we were told to invest in more energy efficient lights for our homes.
Incandescent was using too much power, so CFL's, Compact Flouroscent Lights were the ting to buy.
Much higher price than the normal lightbulb but hey we save a lot of money in the long run.
No one liked the long warm up time to get full brightness...
And even less people actually got the claimed lifespan out of them.
Add the recycling costs and hazardous waste created and the costs of using CFL's is actually much higher than standard light bulbs.
The only savings were for the power companies.

LED lights had a slow start but once mass production started price went downhill fast.
What started in the EU was made compulsory in other countries soon after: A ban on incandescent light bulbs.
Thee are only a few exceptions left like bulbs for your oven as LED's won't cope with the temps here.
So why was the ban necessary?
An incandescent light bulb was available for often under a buck, so having some spares at home was no issue at all.
Making people switch to LED lights that often cost 20 times the amount of an old standard light is impossible.
Biggest incentive of course was the short boom to the local economy as the initial batches were all sold as high quality items.
The scam started to evolve when it became clear that even with LED lights the overall savings hugely depends on how you use your lights.
As a factor on your electricity bill the lights are usually at the bottom of the list.
Things like heaters, airconditioners, fridges, freezers and of course TV's are the main users of electricity in many houses.
During the winter times this changes as we need more light but still the impact is not as high as you might think.
What did change though was the behaviour.
Since we now save so much energy we don't really worry as much if the light is kept on for no good reasons.
Again, the main savings are with the electricity providers.
I won't deny though that a house with 100 60W incandescent lighs will have some benfit on the electricity when switching to 8 or 10W LED lights....

Lifespan...
Like so many others I have some stories about incandescent lights...
For example the one had in the basement when I was a kid.
Often on for several hours, sometimes just for a few seconds to quickly grab something.
But it still worked fine when I was an adut and never had to be replaced.
Or the house that destroyed lights on a regular base thanks to power surges from the nearby industrial areas.
LED light were meant to make the difference here.
Put them in and never worry about replacing.
10.000 or more hours before the LED's fail...
Nice claims but never fully true.
10.000 is a bit over a year of constant use.
Most people won't just leave the lights on for the entire year.
So you would expect that a good LED light will work just fine for at least 5 years, under normal conditions close to 10 maybe.
There is several problems with this claim - none of them are explained in the warranty leaflet and nothing was explained by your government when you were forced onto LED light.
Electronics even as simple as a resistor come with a limited warranty.
Some will remember the disaster when bad capacitors turned thausands of flat screen TV's into flashing lightbulbs.
The parts used to make the lights can be a year old already before they are soldered together.
Then there is time for shipping, storage, distribution.
Sadly not all countries require to print the manufacturing date on the packing or LED light.
Means that by the time you put a new LED light bulb into use it might be two years old already.
Similar for the claim that the light won't emit heat.
Sure the LED light itself is cold but the heatsink the LED's are mounted on is far from it, same for the often underrated electronics inside.
In return the electronics suffer from the excessive heat, espcially if mounted in lamps not designed for them.
Which makes the entire replacement a scam for most people.
It is not uncommon that a LED light fails within a few months.
If you are lucky to have kept the invoice for it you might be able to get a new one from your store.
Now I replaced 20 lights when I moved in here.
Only the first three that failed got replaced, after that the shop claimed I would misuse the warranty.
I inspected them and it was not easy to get inside.
The switching IC used should have had a heatsink according to the datasheet, without it the circuit board got toasted until the IC finally cracked.
Without a sufficient heatsink the IC was only rated for a max of 5W while the light had a LED assembly of 15W...
I kept doing these destructive examinations whenever a LED light fails.
So far they ALL had sure signs of overheating, either for the switching IC or the tiny transformer.
No one really bothers though to keep track of the hours a light was actually used and with that we just keep buying new ones with no worries in the world.

Recycling....
An incandescent light was never really worth much to begin with, so the final grave was the normal rubbish bin.
CFL's required proper disposal due to the hazardous materials in the tubes.
A comparison between the amount of sold lights and what ended up in recycling centers reveiled that the ,ajority of them ended in landfill because people tossed them in the normal rubbish.
The long term impact of those chemicals on the enviroment will be hidden under fresh grass by then.
LED's claimed to be the way out as they were meant to be fully recycleable.
What really happend with our collected recycling bins was clear when China stopped taking it.....
Means all the still usefull materials in those expensice lights again just go into landfill.
A total waste on so many levels.

So what is the real cost then?
Electricity prices are only going up, so saving Watts wherever possible is a good thing.
But ask yourself:
How much energy and ressources were required to produce an incandescent light bulb?
How much more is required to produce a LED light?
We are told to focus on our electricity bill alone without considering the overall costs.
Since we already pay the extra of making them we tend to forget what happens once they fail.
More waste, more landfill, no recycling of the lights at all.
But does it prevent your next blackout when the grid is at max capacity? Nope...
Keeping your big airconditioner off for a hot day or two would save more electricity for the year than changing from incandescent lights to LED's ;)
Does that mean we get way more efficient airconditioners? Nope...
Where in developing countries cheap and highly efficient compressors are used we invented inverter technology ROFL
Makes no difference at all on max power to have an inverter.
The only real difference is that it runs slower at lower capacity while a normal airconditioner turns the compressor on and off.
Forcing the use of highly efficient compressor technologies and replacing our old style systems would have made a real difference on the overall electricity use.
We "save" electricity with LED lights and only turn them on if we really need them.
Still the 5 or 7kW airconditioner runs all summer long and in the winter it heats the house and uses even more electricity.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it? ;)

Discussions

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JoanA43

9 days ago

It does. Thanks

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Liste Flieger

4 weeks ago

Excellent article - thank you