Sunday 24 September, 2017

Can T&T light the way to sustainability?

Most think the only way to a sustainable and “greener” future is through the use of renewable energy, like solar and wind, which is why they think they can’t do anything about wanting to be energy efficient.

Little do they know, simple changes around their homes can go a very long way. One such change is through their choice of light bulbs.

Firstly, it must be noted that the price of a lightbulb has become more and more elastic, that is, it is not price sensitive, which is mainly due to the increase in the availability of substitutes on the market.

In Trinidad and Tobago, we traditionally use Incandescent or Compact Fluorescent (CFL) lightbulbs. While CFLs are the better choice of those two, there is an even better, more sustainable choice, which brings us to Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs. LEDs, CFLs and Incandescent light bulbs differ in many ways.

Energy Efficiency & Energy Costs

The average life span of a CFL bulb is 8 000 hours whilst the life span of LEDs and incandescent are 50 000 hours and 1 200 hours respectively. This simply means that LED light bulbs last longer than both incandescent and CFL bulbs.

LED bulbs consume between 12-15 Watts, and emit 75-100 Watts of energy, whereas CFL bulbs consume 24 Watts and emit 100 Watts of energy, and incandescent bulbs consume 100 Watts and emit 60-80 Watts of energy. The most sensible choice, based on energy consumed and emitted would therefore be LEDs since they consume less energy while having a large output of energy. LEDs use less power (Watts) per unit of light generated.

Environmental Impacts

LEDs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and aid in lowering electricity bills. This is because of the lower energy consumption of LED bulbs.

e.g. for 30 bulbs per year, the carbon dioxide emissions are:

- LEDs = 451 pounds/year

- Incandescent bulbs = 4500 pounds/year

- CFLs = 1051 pounds/year

LEDs and incandescent bulbs do not contain toxic mercury, however, CFL bulbs do. Mercury is highly toxic to human health and the environment.

Both LED and incandescent bulbs are RoHS compliant, unlike CFL bulbs. RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances, which originated in the European Union and restricts the use of certain hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products.

Important Facts

LEDs are not sensitive to low temperatures or humidity, unlike CFLs which may not work under 10 or over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and are also sensitive to humidity. Some incandescent bulbs are sensitive to low temperatures and humidity.

LEDs are very durable, unlike both incandescent and CFL bulbs that can break easily.

On/off cycling, i.e. switching on/off quickly, does not affect LED bulbs, but can drastically reduce the lifespan of CFL bulbs.

Both LEDs and incandescent bulbs turn on instantly, however CFL bulbs takes some time to warm up.

Failure in LED bulbs typically do not occur, whilst CFL bulbs have the potential to catch on fire, smoke or emit an odour. Failure only occurs in some incandescent bulbs.

Heat emitted by bulbs:

LED = 3.4 British thermal units per hour

CFL = 30 British thermal units per hour

Incandescent = 85 British thermal units per hour

This means that LED bulbs consumer the least amount of energy and emit the least amount of heat. LEDs emit very little heat. In comparison, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat and CFLs release about 80% of their energy as heat. Only `10% of the energy is emitted as light.

Policy Changes That Can Be Made

Ban the incandescent bulb from being used locally. Some countries such as the United States and India have banned incandescent bulbs from households and certain industries.

e.g. In India, the government’s decision to switch over to LED bulbs by 2018 under the energy efficiency mission would result in saving of up to USD 6 billion per annum.

Increase the tariffs, draft policy measures and implement environmental taxes on the cheaper, more polluting bulb (incandescents) so that the cost would be higher than that of the LED bulb.

Decrease the trade tariffs (if there are any) on LEDs and effectively reduce the price.

Now that the pros and cons of the different types of bulbs have been highlighted, it is clear that the LED bulb is the safer, more economical choice, not only in households and business but in industries as well.

In Trinidad and Tobago, studies done by the Energy Chamber identified that wide scale adoption in Trinidad and Tobago can improve the gas curtailment by 10 percent.

Even though an incandescent bulb cost about $1 US dollar and the LED at its lowest price is $6 US dollars, the LED bulb can be seen as an investment since it has a longer lifespan and consumes less energy to produce light.