DOE Report Compares Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of LED Lamps with Incumbent Lighting Technologies

The discussion about LEDs as an energy and environmental cure-all has led to some skepticism about whether LEDs are truly big energy-savers and green when one considers the total lifecycle energy and environmental cost of the product, including manufacturing and transportation. To its credit, DOE took this seriously enough to commission a study. The first report, dealing with lifecycle energy consumption for replacement lamps, was recently published: Review of the Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Lamps. The second report will address luminaires as well, and also incorporate environmental impacts.

The first report, based on existing lifecycle assessment literature of lighting products, shows that as one might expect, most energy for a lamp is consumed during its actual use. DOE estimates that about 90% of total lifecycle energy consumption occurs during use, while 7-9% occurs during manufacturing and less than 1% during transportation. The study also found that, based on DOE’s assumption that the average LED lamp provides service life equivalent to about 22 incandescent lamps, the average LED lamp consumes 75% less energy than the average incandescent lamp. Finally, based on DOE’s assumption that the average LED lamp’s service life is equivalent to three compact fluorescent lamps, the average lifecycle energy consumption of LED lamps is about the same as that for compact fluorescent.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.


  1. Dan Edenbaum says:

    Interesting, I haven’t read through the whole report yet but I still find LED lamps will not pay for themselves in their lifetime, not clear if that ‘initial cost’ aspect was considered in this report?

  2. Paul says:

    Dan – Based on the few examples I’ve calculated using my electricty rate (and this is by no means comprehensive), switching to LED will save me over $5 a year per lamp based on an average useage of 3 hours per lamp per day. Obviously not all of your lights are on that often, but I figure if I start with the lamps that are used most often, this will result in significant savings. Remember, that LED lamp will last you years. If it cost $40, it will pay for itself in less than 8 years based on 3 hours a day, even faster if used more often. That’s not counting the cost of the incandesecnt lamps you are purchasing during that same time period. Note at 3 hours/ day, you are buying one a year on average.

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