Last week Randall Parker had a neat post on LED lighting advances, and how much energy savings we could create by switching from incandescent to LED. The article he cites suggests that the switch would also save us $125 million/year in electricity costs. Randall wonders if that number is low, but I don’t think it is. Lighting doesn’t use as much electricity as you think, and if you take into account the technological changes to incandescent bulbs and the shift to compact florescent, I think that’s a reasonable estimate.
LED lighting is like the Post-It note in a lot of ways. It’s an innovation that is likely to have enormous implications, way beyond what we currently perceive.
LED lights give off lots of lumens in a very small package; in the KP household we’ve got several, for headlamps and bicycle lights. In the past couple of years the technology has advanced and been priced attractively. I bought the KP Spouse a fancy schmancy LED headlamp that has three level settings and a strobe setting, and it’s about the size of a pair of D cell batteries. His old headlamp made him look like a coal miner.
LED lights also don’t give off waste heat, because they do not emit light in the infrared spectrum (or at least I think that’s the reason). That’s another reason why they are so energy efficient; all of the energy input goes into producing lumens, not lumens+heat.
LED lighting is also like the Post-It note because of an interesting fact that Randall notes: the innovation he’s describing in his post, which is using quantum dots to create a coating that yields warm, yellow light from an LED, happened by accident. The researchers were exploring quantum dots for another application entirely, and it turns out to have this other nifty application. The history of technological change is littered with such accidental discoveries, many of which (like the Post-It note) have transformed our lives.