Life-cycle energy consumption of LED lamps compares well with incumbents

Feb. 28, 2012
A new DOE report looks at the energy consumption of different lighting technologies over their entire lifetime, including manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has published a report that compared the energy consumed over the entire life-cycle for LED lamps, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and incandescent lamps.

The report is entitled “Review of the Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Lamps” and is based on existing literature that assesses the life-cycle of lighting products.

The report is the first installment of a larger DOE project to assess the life-cycle environmental and resource costs of different lighting technologies. It looks at the manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal of the products.

The report says that the average life-cycle energy consumption of LED lamps and CFLs is similar, and is about one-fourth the consumption of incandescent lamps (see chart). But if LED lamps meet their performance targets by 2015, their life-cycle energy use is expected to decrease by approximately one-half.

Also, the “use” stage of all three types of lamps represents the most energy-intensive life-cycle stage, accounting for 90 percent of total life-cycle energy, on average. This is followed by the manufacturing and transport phases, respectively. Transport represents less than one percent of life-cycle energy use for all lamp types.

Most of the uncertainty in life-cycle energy consumption of an LED lamp centers on the manufacturing of the LED package, which is estimated at anywhere from 0.1 percent to 27 percent of life-cycle energy use, with an average of 7 percent.

The larger DOE study will include a life-cycle assessment of an LED lamp, considering both the direct and indirect material and process inputs to fabricate, ship, operate, and dispose of the lamp.

It will also include the purchase, disassembly, and chemical testing of LED and conventional lighting products to study whether potentially hazardous materials are present in concentrations that exceed hazardous-waste regulatory thresholds.