Communicating Ocean Change: A Revolution in Lighting

Communicating Ocean Change is a bi-weekly discussion-starter intended for individuals who are interested in exploring ways of communicating the complex science of ocean change. It is created for an internal audience at the New England Aquarium, but also shared here with colleagues across the country.

Question for interpreters: Are there changes you've made to your lighting "portfolio" at your institution, or in your own home? How can that be a part of your conversations about climate?

It may be time to change some of our lighting lingo. Many of us have been talking for years about switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs as an easy step to help reduce carbon emissions. (We took on this crusade despite the challenge of recycling these bulbs containing mercury.) But technologies change — FAST.

The next ten years, or less, will reveal a revolution in lighting. Yet, most Americans (75% according to the Sylvania Socket Survey) are not aware that January 1, 2012 marked the beginning of a three-year phase-out of the familiar incandescent bulbs. It is now illegal to manufacture or import 100-watt incandescent bulbs. Others will be phased out by the end of 2014.

Recently, an informal, non-scientific survey (mine) discovered that many people still think of LED bulbs as merely decorations for Christmas trees. In fact, industry experts say that LEDs will soon replace all other lighting because they are the most efficient source of white light. The efficiency has to do with how much light is produced (lumens) per watt (unit of power). According to the second article linked below, old-fashioned light bulbs put out 10-15 lumens per watt and CFLs gives off 40-60 lumens per watt. Currently, LEDs can produce 100-150 lumens per watt!

The cost of LED bulbs still makes most consumers gasp, but prices are expected to drop significantly even by the end of this year. Even with the current pricing, one LED bulb can save $200 or more in about half its life of 20-22 years.

LEDs were invented 50 years ago, but their impending rapid rise to common usage offers us a perfect opportunity to talk about how we already have the technologies to solve many of our most pressing problems.

Personal testimony: I’ve tried some LED bulbs in my home and have been quite satisfied. I discovered an added bonus when a floor lamp with an LED bulb and no shade came careening down 13 stairs in my home and landed on the bulb. (Don’t ask; it’s a long story!) The lamp is seriously bent, but the bulb still works! I wouldn’t recommend throwing them, but they can definitely withstand more jostling than the average bulb.

In case you’d like to read a little further…