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You post does not offer a solution. If you think LEDs are so terrible, would you like everyone to continue using incandescent bulbs in their home? If we have more efficient technology, we should be urging people to use that when they can in applications that make sense to. Of course we shouldn't just have more efficient lighting, we should find ways to use it less also.

Obviously covering a building with lights is not an efficient use of our energy, but that doesn't make LEDs themselves a bad idea. You are taking a few instances of poor applications in terms of energy use to determine that a specific source of light is a bad choice. Good job taking a broad idea, focusing it to one issue, and then trying to apply that thinking broadly again.

Kris De Decker


I thought my solution was clear: use less incandescent light bulbs for less hours, and go to bed earlier. We don't need new technology if we want to lower energy consumption.

Besides, I am not against LEDs, they offer some interesting applications. Just don't pretend they will lower energy use.

S.P. Gass


Excellent post. I have begun replacing incandescent bulbs in my house with CFLs, but only when an incandescent bulb burns out. I agree, however, that the CFL light is not as pleasing as an old-fashioned incandescent bulb. And there are some applications, such as bulbs on a dimmer switch where low cost CFLs are not an option.

I will consider LED bulbs, or better technology, when they are readily available.



I don't know what you mean by "not pleasing" or "anything but cozy." I absolutely despise the warm (red/yellow) colors of traditional bulbs and flame. I much prefer the blue-ish light of LEDs and the more "white" light of CFLs

Eric H


Have you heard this? It brilliantly illustrates Kris' point:

The Times Square ball is going to be left on all year.

"When the 32,000 LED lights inside blared on, it was dazzling. Even in the middle of the afternoon, it hurt to look right at it. ... Computer controlled LEDs swirl in every color of the rainbow. ...

"It was the new design that allowed Jeffrey Strauss to dream that a year-round ball was possible. Strauss is the co-producer of New Year's Eve.

"He says that the old incandescent bulbs would have cost a fortune to keep lit all year, plus you it wouldn't have been bright enough to see them during the day. But this ball, Strauss says, could conceivably be used to celebrate everything."

If the LEDs use 1% of the energy, they are still going to be on for 365 days, and so at least 3.65 times the total energy usage. But they don't use 1% of the energy, as this is now a much brighter design.



"CFLs are more energy efficient and have longer life expectancies than incandescent light bulbs..."

There is a type of lighting that does even better, Induction lighting.

"...but the light they produce is not as pleasing as a normal light bulb."

What do you mean, doesn't it depend on personal taste?

kris de decker


"...but the light they produce is not as pleasing as a normal light bulb."

What I actually meant was that CFL's are not yet able to "reproduce the colours of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in color-critical applications such as photography and cinematography".

See the link in the text, just after the quote. And here it is again:


So it's not about personal taste. I corrected the quote, since it does not say what I wanted to say.



"I thought my solution was clear: use less incandescent light bulbs for less hours, and go to bed earlier. We don't need new technology if we want to lower energy consumption."

When you combine this with LED Lights in your rooms you could even save more energy.



I have an even better idea: Go back to open fire instead of electric light. That's dangerous and requires some work to maintain it burning.

And therefore you could safe so much energy - amazing.

You could even safe much more energy when you live in the trees and use the natural daylight. You dont's event need heating then - because it's just useless in the trees.



Buildings have been lit up since long before the invention of the LED. Have you never seen Las Vegas or Times Square or Piccadilly Circus or Shinjuku? Maybe some buildings can now be lit more brightly with LEDs than would have been affordable before, but you provide no evidence that LEDs increase energy consumption overall. Given that only a very small proportion of total energy consumption is used to light a few high profile landmark buildings, this seems unlikely.

LEDs use so much less power than incandescent bulbs, less than a tenth, that there could be up to ten times as much light in the world, and there would still be a saving. Might not that be a good thing?

LEDs mean that I rarely have to replace my cycle light batteries, LEDs make my wind-up torch practical and LEDs allow poor Indians to use solar charged lights in place of smoky kerosene lanterns. That’s certainly a good thing.



CFL based lighting is not as efficient as you might think. Due to the low power factor of the circuitry that drives the bulb, the power company has to produce as much as twice the power to actually power the bulb than the bulb is rated for. Combine that with the annoying light spectrum, much shorter life than advertised, and the mercury content, most knowledgeable people consider CFLs a failure.

I plan on stockpiling incandescent bulbs before our nanny state government goons ban them. And you will never see a carbon tax in the US because most people recognize it as another scam to line the pockets of con artists like Al Gore, who stands to make millions if we are dumb enough not to stop him.

LEDs will continue to progress and will eventually be a great substitute for the incandescent bulb. But don't try to force alternative technologies down our throats with legislation - we'll always find a way around it.

Michael Drake


Get your facts right before sounding off. Edison did not invent the light bulb, that's an American conceit. LCD and plasma display panels are not more efficient than cathode ray tubes,quite the reverse.

kris de decker


Read before you make a comment. The article says: "The incandescent light bulb, perfected and brought to commercial success by Thomas Edison,..."

It does not say: "Edison invented the light bulb".

Your second remark is simply wrong. LCD and plasma display panels are more efficient than cathode ray tubes for a given screen size. The thing is that they are larger than CRTs, and therefore in the end consume more energy. An energy-efficient technology has been translated into extra applications instead of energy savings, an excellent example of the energy efficiency paradox that is the subject of this article. Oh, of course, you did not read it.



'Efficiency' is one thing, but what is most overlooked in the debate over lighting energy is saving energy through not lighting things, or lighting things more for usability, rather than just 'more'. It seems odd that all the pictures in this post are all 'waste' light - none of them is actually helping solve a task.

To clarify on the 'light quality' issue - Neither 'more light' nor 'whiter light' necissarily means that what you are trying to see will be clearer to you. This is because both flourescent tubes and LEDs tend to emit light only in tiny fragments of the whole spectrum (generally the broader the spectrum, the easier to see what you are looking at). But this does not mean that these technologies CANNOT do this - however its more expensive to make a more readable flourescent tube than a standard one (basically it requires more different phosphors - not just a small selection of the cheaper ones that can be combined to become white)

Another factor that is important to note is the physiological effect of light on the body, and the effects of 'light pollution' etc. (for instance, street lights usually emit alot of light but are amongst the least readable lights of any kind). For this I can only very highly recommend the book:

Ott, John N. (1973). Health and Light: The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man and Other Living Things

(John Ott wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ott )



The problem isn't LEDs, it's people being wasteful. LEDs are a pretty useful technology, but they're not idiot-proof. Few things are.

Kris De Decker


"The typical digital billboard consumes about 30 times as much energy as the average American household."


Aaron Lin


I really enjoyed this post. I've noticed this energy-efficiency paradox in other areas, too, especially when it comes to solar energy. Most people don't stop to think about the rare metals and energy required to produce solar panels, so they have the incorrect impression that solar energy is free. As a result, instead of cutting back on their power usage, they just pave their entire house over with panels.

It's expensive and not necessarily more effective than just relying on the conventional grid, but unplugging all your appliances.

Jim Baerg


Quite aside from issues of greater energy use, there is the aesthetic & environmental issue of light pollution.


I would like to be able to see the stars. Also many life forms including humans are harmed by not having a period of darkness.

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