back to article Energy-saving LEDs 'will not save energy', say boffins

Federal boffins in the States say that the brave new future in which today's 'leccy-guzzling lights are replaced by efficient LEDs may not, in fact, usher in massive energy savings. This is because, according to the scientists' research, people are likely to use much more lighting as soon as this becomes practical. The greater …


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  1. G R Goslin

    At last

    At last a group with common sense. The whole late progress of the human race has been a progression through stages of greater power use, in the quest for a better life, at no greater cost in man sourced power. They ought to promote these guys to the top of their profession

    1. Anonymous Coward

      But we won't all be growing older forever

      With childhood obesity rates increasing, life expectancy should start dipping again.

      Mines the one with the pie in the pocket

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        "Should" but still haven't

        In fact, life expectancies have continued to grow despite the increasing obesity rates which can only be explained one of two ways: either medical advances are outpacing our dangerous wastelines, or the "obesity epidemic" is a bunch of scaremongering horse shit brought to you by the same people (left or right) that disapprove of your lifestyle and want government to fix you.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge


      I have a 12W LED that's supposedly equivalent to a 60W bulb, but is not noticeably darker than a 100W incandescent bulb and is certainly brighter than the sunlight through the window. If someone decided that they wanted the room to be lit with 5 of these to make the room painfully bright then that still only adds up to 60 W, 40% less than a single 100W bulb. Your still using less electricity!

      Not that people are going to do that, but hey. Their arguing that people are going to leave them on for longer because it doesn't cost so much. Sounds fair, until you do the maths. A single 12W LED bulb ran for 24 hours draws marginally less power than a single 100W bulb used for 3 hours. I really can't see how your going to be using more power with LED's...

      Now if they wanted to claim that you'd have to use more energy for heating as they produce less heat then they might be onto something, but this just looks like nonsense tbh.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have a 15m long drive.

        This drive has trees at one side and rocks at another. It also curves and sometimes has things (tools etc) left on it.

        If I could do it cheaply, I'd illuminate the driveway. However, I can't- thanks to the odd shape of it (plus I drive up it, so would have to avoid direct-bulb-viewing glare) I'd have to use a good few of them, and this would be bloody expensive with incandescent lights.

        LED lights are, however, making it possible to do this. I might even run power to the long-deactivated gaslamps on the pillars at the end. Current power consumption: 0W. Future power consumption: say 100W including a stack of bright LED lights and two larger lamps. That's a LOT of LEDs and a lot of electricity (though, obviously, they'd not be on all day) that wouldn't be used without LED lights.

        1. Tim #3

          a drive with gaslamps on the pillars?

          Can't you just tell your footmen to stand outside with torches?

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        12W LED

        If it's anything like the LED lights I've seen, it probably is as bright as a 100W bulb - over an angle of a few degrees. The problem is that the 100W bulb spreads the light out over a who sphere, and so it can light the whole room. The LED light on the other hand just projected a spot on the wall / floor. In my old kitchen even 10 of the LED bulbs did not give as much light as the single 60W fluorescent light, so they went back to the shop.

        1. Dazed and Confused

          Spot light replacements

          I've recently swapped the 50W halogen spot light in my study for 7W LED equivalents, The illuminated area is very similar, but you can choose different "angles" when ordering both. I'd say the LEDs are noticeably brighter, but the colour temperature is no where near what Philips claim, they are supposed to be 2700K tungsten equivalent but they seem much closer to sun light. My wife kept thinking I'd left the blinds open.

          They also save in cooling costs.

          The guys in this report are probably right that in many case people will just use more and more lighting, but this is a trend that has been going on for ever. In the past, as people got richer they used more candles, then more oil lamps. The fashion for using GU10 and their low voltage equivalent bulbs tended to see a massive increase in the number and strength of lighting. It wasn't uncommon to see single 100W traditional bulbs being replaced with a dozen ceiling mounted 50W spots.

          1. david wilson

            @Dazed and Confused

            >>"The fashion for using GU10 and their low voltage equivalent bulbs tended to see a massive increase in the number and strength of lighting. It wasn't uncommon to see single 100W traditional bulbs being replaced with a dozen ceiling mounted 50W spots."

            And bearing in mind the original article's premise, where what you describe happened, was it actually linked to any great change in the price (or affordability) of electricity, or to entirely unrelated factors?

            1. Dazed and Confused

              @dave wilson

              fashion, usually the major driving force in these things

          2. Alan Firminger

            They are a con

            Spotlight downlighters I mean. It has been fashion driven by the visual excitement of spotlighting the new polished wood flooring. And the result is what it says on the tin - spots of light !

            Initially led will replace spotlights cos that is how they are made now. Ultimately solid state science will produce a decent panel light, then we are in business.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I see your problem...

            "I'd say the LEDs are noticeably brighter, but the colour temperature is no where near what Philips claim, ... ... ... they seem much closer to sun light. My wife kept thinking I'd left the blinds open."

            Here's your energy use problem: closing the blinds and turning the lights on!

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: 12W LED.

          Sorry, I should have been more specific. It's a 12W 240V LED in "bulb" style that slots into a standard UK Bayonet Clip fitting, not a MR16/GAU10 12V spot that I guess you've seen. It lights up the entire room with the single bulb, not just a spot.

        3. FreeTard

          Optics my friend, optics

          Yes leds can be "spotlighty", but you just use a wider spread optics and bobs your uncle.

      3. The Indomitable Gall

        Well, personally...

        "I have a 12W LED that's supposedly equivalent to a 60W bulb, but is not noticeably darker than a 100W incandescent bulb and is certainly brighter than the sunlight through the window. If someone decided that they wanted the room to be lit with 5 of these to make the room painfully bright then that still only adds up to 60 W, 40% less than a single 100W bulb."

        I've been waiting ages for cheap LEDs that I can string along behind the picture-rail in my living room in order to have an uplit ceiling with subtle differences in colour and intensity based on mood and time of day. I also have a fairly long L-shaped hall which has funny patterns of light and dark because of where the single light is located.

        LEDs will probably end up being used in long strips rather than in single "bulbs".

        Think the end of the "lamp post" and instead a great big row of LEDs stretching along the buildings at the side of the street casting uniform light on the pavement rather than a series of amber cones will dull patches in between.

        Think aeroplane/cinema-aisle floor-lighting in most offices and public buildings, and think of that being considered a health and safety requirement, hence always on. Think of door-handles that glow constantly in a soft blue, and these being required by health and safety. Think of a stair that has all its edges lit up, and again think about how that ties in with health and safety.

        Think of garden ornaments (although they'll probably have their own solar power).

        Think of bicycles and motor vehicles with sidelights for added peace-of-mind.

        Think of small lights inside all of your kitchen cupboards and appliances, rather than just the fridge and the oven.

        Think of a keyboard with LEDs under each key so that the letter glows.

        Think of beds with a string of LEDs in the headboard for reading.

        Think of some other things that I'm not going to mention cos they might be patentable....

        1. JC 2

          @ Well, personally

          ... think not, because they could've already done that with rows of lower wattage incan bulbs instead of fewer higher wattage versions. Can it be done? Sure, but maybe the answer is spending daylight hours awake, using sunlight as man always has, and lighting only your immediate area when it's dark.

          Increases in complexity towards a novel end, quickly become a burden upon themselves.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge


          Think of the children...!

      4. Jim 59


        Nah. People will strive for a comfortable light level, not the brightest possible. Technology reached that "comfortable" level decades ago. The average person can already afford blindingly bright lights if they so wish. But they don't. Neither do they strive to have light in unoccupied rooms.

      5. Doug 3

        RE: Well, personally... ( game changer )

        there is always the case that people will build larger homes so they can put in more lights and keep that constant energy expense line going another century or so.

        the part these people are missing is that part where technology and the cost of that technology change the game. What was it which caused the limits which stuck the number at the .72 number for so long? And how much as it wavered from that number over the years and why?

        Unless LED lighting manufacturers start building in a shorter lifespan for the LED lights, just the constant cost of replacing lights( or the lack of ) should be enough to change the game. Maybe it's time for a bend in that line( at .72 percent ) to happen.

        grenade, because it's a game changer

        1. Mark 65

          GDP trend...

          "Unless LED lighting manufacturers start building in a shorter lifespan for the LED lights, just the constant cost of replacing lights( or the lack of ) should be enough to change the game. Maybe it's time for a bend in that line( at .72 percent ) to happen."

          This is a reference to the percentage of per capita GDP spent on lighting, right? We now have lower wattage lighting producing similar light levels. Cue the never ending rise in electricity prices to fix up any deviation from 0.72%. There may be energy savings but I doubt there'll be any cost savings. In previous periods the fuel type was changing (candle -> gas -> electric) and population levels, and hence resources, were not what they now are - high and constrained respectively.

          I've read a few pieces on LED lights now and I recall it takes about 9 years on average for the cost savings of replacing all your incandescents with LED lights (at fixed energy costs I believe). CFLs take about 6 years using the same assumptions. Obviously fixed energy costs are a big but necessary assumption for a starting point and I can't remember the details regarding the number and/or mix of incandescents and halogens - the old "average household" problem. I believe there are still some issues with 240v vs low voltage ones as well - lifetime and quality of light I think. Article also mentioned the CREE brand as being on the money for quality but I've found them bloody expensive where I live.

          One thing I have noticed though from browsing the houses for sale locally is that some of the new or renovated ones have kitchen lighting that you could use to land a light aircraft. These aren't as good as some previous examples I've seen but illustrate the point...

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Idiocy need no be rewarded

      I'm betting that the average consumer is actually smarter than the boffins that came up with this drivel.

      I'm using CF lighting and I use the same illumination as before, but use less energy. LED should be even better once perfected. My monthly electricity proves the savings.

    4. John Bailey

      Not really.

      I've been living in the same flat for the last 20 years.

      Day one. One ceiling light fitting. Still there. Used 100W bulb.

      Years later, one ceiling light, one table light. Used 60W bulb.

      About ten years ago, switched to low energy bulbs.

      Last year. Added a desk light. low energy bulbs now used throughout. Normally jut the ceiling light on, with occasional use of the desk light, or just the table light.

      In total, I'm less electricity to light my living room than I did on day one.

      Cheaper lighting does not automatically mean more used.

      Sorry..You will have to find a better way to justify using more electricity than you actually need to.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ten times more light?

    I'm sure they're right to an extent: the amount of light used will go up - at least, it will while there is still cheap energy.

    But LEDs are something like 10x more efficient than the halogens that they (mostly) replace. Do they really think we're going to use 10x more light? We'd need to wear sunglasses in the house! I'd believe twice as much light used in the developed world, but not much more than that.

    However, the important point to me is that LEDs would let us retain the same level of lighting we currently enjoy, even when oil is $300/barrel or more - they may not represent a major leap forward, but they may stop us sliding backwards.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. handle

      10x more light isn't that much

      Remember we perceive light levels logarithmically; it's only about 10dB up.

      The trend to plaster your ceiling in gross numbers of cheap mains halogen fitments isn't much to do with light levels but merely fashion. Replace those with 3W LEDs (which are available for about £5 a piece now if you shop around) and there will be a step change in energy consumption. The main problem with these LED replacements - assuming you buy reliable ones - is that they are deeper than the halogen dichroics.

      1. Liam Thom

        3w LEDs

        Yes, I've got two of those in the kitchen. They actually make the room darker when you turn them on.

    3. Natalie Gritpants
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ten times more light

      3D TV glasses do cut out some light so brighter lights will enable you to keep them on when you make a cup of tea. Plus any fule kno wearing sunglasses indoors is cool.

  3. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    To the horror of the enviro-whackos

    This statement, "increasing human productivity and quality of life" will bring about much derision from the no-growth, flat-Earth, enviro-Marxists.

    I now have an 11W LED spot lamp illuminating the flag in my front yard. It lights up the front of my house about as well as a 60W Halogen. Not as focused as I would like, but that aside, it is pretty damned impressive. I could put four of them on my flag now, and really light it up, bringing my consumption to 44W. See how power hungry I am already?

    For Earth Day this year I lit up Old Glory with four 100W Halogens. Yes, 400W of freedom-illuminating power, baby! I probably paid an extra $.50 for it, but since I have $.50 to spare and all. Of course, once these whack-jobs get their way through the abominable EPA, that would also be taxed extra for my associated carbon footprint.

    What bullshit. Yes, bullshit. Cap and Trade is nothing more that punishment for consuming, period. None of this "fair share" rubbish. If I have the $.50 to pay for an hour of 400W of light output, then who the carp are you to say that is more than my "fair share?" I put into the system by working, and therefore should be able to avail myself of more product.

    And this ecosystem thing, human arrogance, plain and simple, to think that we could have the effect on a planetary system the way these so-called experts predict. We will have a menial effect on Earth, short of a thermonuclear war which obliterates us and half the planet -- which Earth will easily shrug off in a few hundred thousand years, ready for the next half-wits to walk on her.

    "Conservation does not mean going without, it means avoiding waste." Best quote I have read in a while, and I wish I knew to whom I owe the credit.

    Anyway, enough ranting. I have work to do so that I can pay for next year's Earth Day display.

    And while I am at it, that "Earth Day" light-out business is more bullshit. "Oh, we're gonna show governments how serious we are by NOT doing something." Sounds about right, actually. A lot of these people tend to get ahead by NOT doing something, while the rest of us bust our humps and accidentally participate. Screw that.

    Paris, screw that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...for one minute then I belived there is a finite amount of oil and gas. Thanks for correcting us.

      Besides the glow from the back of your neck will illuminate us for who's to worry.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      I had to laugh at him

      @ Alan W. Rateliff, II

      >We will have a menial effect on Earth

      So deforestation, species extinction, ocean acidification, building cities which cause heat pools and pollution hotspots, poisoning water with pharmaceutical byproducts, draining most of the freshwater from rivers and lakes, dumping vast amounts of nitrogen into water supplies, leaking billions of gallons of oil into the sea, etc etc etc are "menial"?

      Even ignoring the stuff about global warming (because the general ignorance of that is not the point here), we're having an absolutely massive effect on the environment.

      Go look at the Aral sea and tell me who nuked it and how the damage there matches a radioactive blast pattern?

      1. perlcat

        aral sea

        The Aral Sea is where it is because almost all of the water that used to go to it has been diverted to the irrigation of cotton. Another fine socialist engineering project you can see from space. Not likely to go back anytime soon, as the majority of people in Uzbekistan decided they like making money from cotton. It pays for their air conditioners, keeps the doors open, lights on and all that.

        What you are implying is a nuclear blast pattern is a dramatically receding coastline. The two don't look anything alike.

        Paradoxically, if there is no climate change, about the only way to save the Aral would be to make people wear clothing made of synthetic materials, and ban clothing that uses too much cotton plunging the region back into abject poverty. In another paradox, the increased rainfall from global warming may be the only way to realistically return the Aral to its old proportions.

        Most of our laments about the state of the environment can be summed up in two phrases:

        1) "There are too many people"

        2) "We don't like change"

        Sorry -- neither looks likely to me to be going to do what seems to be desired, and so the best thing we can do is put our teeth back in our mouths and adapt.

    3. david wilson

      @Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Excellent parody, Al - for a minute, I was almost taken in by it.

      Sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell the deliberate wind-up from the unknowingly self-parodying, and you got the balance just about perfect, not too far over the top, and with a style that was spot-on.

  4. Paul Gomme

    That'd be...

    "Enlightened policy decisions may be necessary to partner with the technologies to have big impacts."

    That would be tax increases then, wouldn't it...?

    1. Ainteenbooty


      They will have to force that 0.72 % GPD by ratcheting up the only tool at their disposal.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    "Presented with the availability of cheaper light"

    1) Using LED lighting is only going to be cheaper than today's lighting if energy prices don't massively go up

    2) Not everyone in the world is American, although most of the world's resources are consumed by or on behalf of Americans

    3) Even some Americans know that enough is enough, and that if too much of something costs more than enough of something, they'll stop at enough.


    Lewis, given the choice of a green tree or a wrong one, once again chooses to bark up the wrong tree.

    1. Captain Thyratron

      Popular is a color

      Of course, some folks would have us believe that the "green" one is:

      * The right one

      * Actually green

  6. brudinie

    in cold countries - not at all!

    In cold countries, energy efficient lighting will NOT save energy.

    This is because with non-energy efficient lighting the bi-product of the inefficiency is heat!

    In this case, the bi-product is useful and you will not save any energy at all.

    In hot countries, where air conditioning is essential you will definitely save energy as the bi-product of normal bulbs is counter productive to the desired temperature.

    1. Nigel 11
      Thumb Up

      Ever-egged, but a good point

      A good point but over-stated. Not "not at all" but "less than you think".

      A bulb emitting heat neat the ceiling is a sub-optimal way of heating a room (especially if upstairs does not need heating at the time). Also electricity generation and transmission is inefficient, compared to generating the same heat in a good modern condenser boiler.

      Nevertheless, anyone who calculates energy saved by taking the difference in wattage between incandescent and LED replacement, and multiplying by hours used, will be very disappointed. At best it'll be half that. My guess is one third to one quarter, since in the UK the need for lighting in summer is greatly reduced by the long daylight hours.

      And a point about hot countries. Here, not only is waste heat truly wasted, but they are usually running an air-con to get rid of it. So in these places, the energy saving multiplier will be greater than one.

      1. Gerhard Mack

        Warm countries use lights in the summer

        In southern Europe (I can confirm Spain and Italy) it's common practice to close the shutters during the day to keep the sun from baking the house and that means using the lights more often.

    2. Ainteenbooty

      well then I guess...

      we need Heat Emitting Diodes as well.

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Is anyone yet working

        on a Beer Emitting Diode?

    3. Blain Hamon
      Thumb Up

      Well noted

      There's actually an interesting example of it in the States. A lot of cities are switching from incandescent lighting to LEDs for stop lights. In places like California, it's a nobrainer, and is very successful. In places like Chicago, however, they had to switch back to incandescents, because in the winter, snow would accumulate in the light ports and block light. Using incandescents there would melt away the snow, a useful side effect that LEDs did not provide.

      However, I wonder about the energy efficiency of a 100W bulb vs a 12W light and a 80W heater. It still might be economical to have the LEDs because then each do what they're best at. That is, a light must be somewhere high, so the heat generated by the 100W is more likely to be lost through the roof, whereas the dedicated heater can be localized or part of central heating, where the heat can be better used and delivered.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        With LED + heater

        you could even only switch the heater on when it snows...

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward


    The solution is obviously to tax light. That'll show 'em.

    Mine's the one with a big picture in the pocket.

  9. John Ridley

    I don't buy it

    We've been running CF bulbs in our house for many years now, and we don't leave our 16 watt CFs on any longer than we left the 100 watt incandescents that they replaced. If those got replaced with 4 watt LEDs, I still wouldn't leave them on any longer.

  10. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    I call bollocks.

    My GFs kitchen/diner had 1100 watts of GU10 50W bulbs in there - sounds horrendous, but it wasn't more than you'd expect to see in a room that size.

    Replacing these with a 3.5W GU10 LED like one of the newest Exergi or Homewatt bulbs gives about 90% of the light by my measure, of a similar enough colour that you won't notice, and for a total wattage of 77W. Even the highest wattage LED GU10 replacements I've found take 6W, still an order of magnitude better.

    To be fair it's also £500 worth of light bulbs, but that's a different argument.

    Perhaps in the US they still illuminate their kitchen with a single 60W bulb, who knows?

    1. Baldychap

      Not quite.

      The £500 worth of bulbs is not a different argument. That's £500 of bulbs that is going towards the cost per capita on lighting.

      So the wattage of the bulbs may decrease, but you spend more on them and then as they get smaller you put them in places you never used to.

      Net result - spending the same.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: US still illuminate with single 60W bulb

      Actually, many of us do (at about 174kWh / yr per bulb). You will find a lot of pitfalls whenever someone bandies about "averages"... Americans use more energy than other countries, and yet most of the people in my neighborhood can only afford 140 - 170 kWh a month (less if you don't have a small netbook computer) for a total of about 2040kWh / yr - less than 1/2 of the UK.

      But then, we also can't afford XBox, 56" TV, home wifi, 80K btu aircon...

      Averages like the average yearly income in my area is well into six digits, and I don't know any making *that* much. So, who and where is bringing up the average, and what kind of lifestyle do you need to live to pull THAT off?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Thanks El Reg

    Don't want to be left in the dark about these important issues ;o)

  12. FreeTard
    Thumb Down


    I already use leds in my ceiling to replace halogen GU-10's, as well as suplimental lighting in my reeftank (72w rather than 220w), and my energy usage has dropped significantly as a direct result.

    The kitchen has a total of 12 halogen sockets, each with 3.6w CREE leds, which directly replaced 35w halogen. Do the sums people.

    I will replace every light unit in the house with other leds, when the prices drop a bit more.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well duh!

    Well done for having the balls to say it, but it has to be said this was blindingly obvious to anyone with any common sense.

    The only way we can reduce the effect our power hungriness has on the world is to expend more effort on research in to energy sources that are both clean and can provide orders of magnitude more power than we need. Renewables aren't going to cut it, we need something like fusion power.

    I can't help thinking of the disparity between the amount spent by the Axis of Freedom on the war in Iraq to secure our oil supplies^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H freedom from terrorists and the amount spent on research in to fusion power. If the US/UK had spent even 1% of the total for the war on research of such things over the past 10 or 20 years we'd be in a much better place right now.

    1. Elmer Phud

      'Common' sense?

      Over the years I have come to realise that 'common sense' is anything but 'common'.

      Plus it usually goes along with Al Murray's 'They really haven't thought this through'.

      And please don't use 'blindingly obvious' as it just means 'If you don't agree with me then you are a fucking twat whether I'm right or not'.

      'Common sense ' is a rather poor form of verbal bullying as everyoner is supposed to go 'Yeah, it's common sense, we all know that. You must be a right pillock to believe anything other than what the rest of the herd thinks' Oh, and it's often to be found in the Daily Mail comments, which gives an idea about its usage.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        That's a big assumption you made there.

        That would be one interpretation of my use of the phrase "common sense"; and it would indeed be the correct one if I were the sort of person who isn't prepared to listen to a reasonable argument. Unless you have proof that I am indeed that kind of person then I believe your tirade to be somewhat aggressive and narrow minded. I always find it a bit sad that people are so quick to make such assumptions about people they do not know. This is why forums are such angry places most of the time.

        So, are you disagreeing with my opinion (and, incidentally, with that of ), or are you just being truculent?

        If the former, then a good idea would have been to state your disagreement and start a debate. If it then turned out that I wasn't prepared to listen to your viewpoint, you could have responded with your initial post with full justification. However, if the latter is true then I have little time for people like you.

        I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this time and assume you were just having a bad day.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LEDs in the US

    My parents, primarily my Mother, used to harp constantly about turning off unnecessary lights. She was a depression age child who grew up with the basic need to conserve EVERYTHING and she imposed this on her children. You didn't leave the water on while brushing your teeth. Only to wet your toothbrush and then to rinse. You didn't use more toilet paper then necessary. You packed the dishwasher until not one more dish or utensil could be squeezed in before running it. You never ran a 1/2 load of laundry and you turned off the lights when you left a room. Any infraction of the above any you were grounded for at least the next day, longer for multiple or repeat offenses.

    Today's US family just doesn't follow the same mindset. Often times I come home from work and literally, every light and TV in the house is on and it drives me absolutely bonkers. Several times I've walked through the house turning everything off only to realize the rest of the family is out visiting with one of the neighbors. I've tried to convey conservation techniques to my children but it is a constant uphill battle that sometimes feels out of reach.

    So while this article sounds a bit exaggerated, it is more accurate than you would want to believe. LEDs will not lower energy consumption in the US and I'm willing to bet the Government is well aware of this. It is more likely that they just want people to spend more money on things they have in the past. This puts more money into the economy and opens more options for when the tax man cometh.


    1. Elmer Phud


      You are a standard 'Dad' AICMFP

    2. wim

      main switch

      I know a family where the father had the same problem.

      the solution is very easy.

      You install a main switch in a locked box.

      on that switch are the non essential power lines. (TV, Radio, Computer, games console, stereo, mood lights) You come home and find everything switched on, the next day before leaving: unlock the main switch box. turn it of. enjoy your day at work knowing they can not waste energy.

      Normally after 3 days everybody gets the message.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Not if I was your kid..

        First off, I always knew *MUCH* more about electricity as my dad, but I'd come up with a reason to connect the freezer to the powered off circuit. Having to replace the contents once ought to offset the saving enough to make the point..

        (yes, I was an evil, inventive sod when I was young - and only my age has changed :-).

  15. James Hughes 1


    Let me get this straight. If I use LED lightbulbs, I will start to leave my lights on overnight?

    Point being - surely we have reached the point where we have enough lighting? I don't feel the need at the moment to ration my lighting, so having cheaper lighting wont change my modus operandi.

    I suppose there is the 'marketting side' where huge billboards will use more lighting, but most households already use as much lighting as they want. reducing the cost of that lighting wont change the usage pattern.

    Or have I missed the point?

    1. Kay Burley ate my hamster
      Thumb Up


      Spot on!

      The past increase came from bad lighting, but we aren't making a move from candles/gas lighting this time, LED's provide the same lighting as current systems so apart from commercial uses I can't see this report being credible.

      Who paid for it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      missed the point?

      I don't know if you've missed the point. But my grandparents used to light their lounge with a 60W bulb. And Grandad used to shop around to find 8W bulbs to light the stairs and landing. Ok, he was exceptional.

      My lounge probably is brighter than my parents' though. And if it were closer to daylight levels, then my webcam would work much better. It seems entirely possible that we won't stop consuming more and more lighting products until indoors is as well lit as outdoors at midday.

      I don't know if this report is right, but the gist is at least plausible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        indoors *are* lit as brightly as outdoors midday nowadays, at least in "modern" builds. My flat has 6 50watt halogen bulbs in the living room, and i hate it, it's like living in a kitchen/bathroom showroom... It's too bright!

        I generally don't use the ceiling lighting anymore, instead using a desklamp for the nicer quality of light. If i could* replace the halogens with dimmer LED bulbs, with a nicer colour temperature, i would in an instant.

        *although i can't! A 12 foot ceiling sounded like a good idea when i moved in :)

        1. asiaseen


          in a step-ladder.

  16. Steve Foster

    Saturation point flaw...

    This logic seems reasonable, except that they don't appear to have considered that we already reached the "as much as is practical" point - some already are using as much light as they can (think entire house illuminated day and night), and therefore upgrading existing light sources with more energy-efficient ones will still result in lower consumption.

    OTOH, it also seems unlikely that we have an accurate tally of the number of candles in use in the year dot, thus casting doubt on the whole report anyway.

  17. Chris Green

    Mmmm, maybe not

    Way back, when candles / oil was pricey, the limit on everyday people's lighting was money.

    That cost 'blockage' gradually reduced as electricity became the standard lighting energy because it became cheaper and more convenient.

    In recent times, money was less of a problem for many, even high powered exterior lights (annoyingly) sprouted all over the place.

    You may remember when you had a long 50w florescent tube in your kitchen and it was as bright as you wanted. Then you replaced it with 12 x 50w spots and you had good light here and there.

    Then you see real LED lamps that put out serious lumens and start replacing those hot spot bulbs and you are back to 12 x 4w.

    A touch under the wattage of that 50w tube, but one hell of a lot less than your 'don't touch me' furnace lights, so we are getting back down to where we were, perhaps 20 years ago (or at least, I have).

    However, even if energy stays affordable, the next real life limit on lighting will be eyeballs. You probably already were sunglasses when out and about on a good day. Maybe you'll want your home more comfortably lit, with just enough light for whatever you are doing and will make space for some soothing darker areas.

    So, unless bright/dim spark comes up with super stylish house-light glasses that make sure we don't all go LED blind, we must be on a downward trend for lighting/energy usage.

    Then again, there's always that population explosion problem looming...more people...more lights? Bugger!

  18. Belvedere Mulholland

    I re-echo the calls of "arsewash"

    If there is pent up lighting lust, how do these boffins explain the existing limit they imply?

    If we all want loads more light... it is already dirt cheap. Why haven't we gorged at the teat of photon goddess already?

    Or perhaps as the other guys here suggest... this story is cock.

  19. mulder

    other savings

    i did not take the cost of reduced meaintenance in account , the reduced production cost / transport cost as a result of the longer lifespan of led.

    Also the heating argument is only valid if the house is electric heated; if its heated by another source it will be cheaper then electric and as a result the few watt of heat not produced by the light will be cheaper.

    Also i personally prefer to sleep in the dark so switch off lighting in my bedroom ect.

    For people who are to lazy to switch light on and off there are the sensors that can do that for them and they are also getting far cheaper so that could be an aditional saving.

    Since led works on direct current it becomes far more practical to have a solar panel/ storage battery setup to take care fo the ligths of a building.

    Its true led ligths will "not save the earth" all by themselfs but only narrow minded people think there is a single silver bullit for all problems combined..

  20. david wilson


    Surely, a great deal depends on the devices on offer, and how they can easily be installed?

    With a move from incandescent to CFLs, did people generally go out and buy adapters to allow fitting multiple CFLs into each existing socket in order to consume the same amount of electricity?

    Maybe if there had been lots of 250W-equivalent CFLS consuming ~50W, some people would have bought them to replace 60 or 100W bulbs with, but would everyone (or even most people) have done that even in the absence of a great price premium?

    I might occasionally jump up a grade (putting a supposed 60W equivalent CFL in a desk light that had had a 40W in), but most of the time I'd tend to just do a straight lighting-equivalent replacement.

    Presumably, when decent LED-based bulb replacements are available, they'll generally be used in the same way that CFLs were.

    Also, at the moment, even though it's just about possible to make a bulb-sized LED unit about as bright as a regular ~60W bulb, there are heat issues even then, and in the forseeable future, it'd be very hard to fit LEDs consuming anything like 60W into that volume unless there was active cooling - there'd just be far too much heat generated.

    In the short/medium term, it's also likely that unit prices for LED-based bulb replacements of a given quality would be charged vaguely in line with output, and that that up-front cost would tend to push many people away from stepping up in terms of output even if running costs were negligible or the people paid no attention to such costs.

    In the longer run, we might end up with buildings designed to use LED lighting and keep the LEDs decently cooled, rather than retrofitting into existing wiring, but in such a situation, there'd be the likelihood of having some reasonably intelligent control systems.

    In any case, it seems likely that a higher maximum light output would end up costing rather more than a lower maximum output in terms of space, LEDs, optics and electronics, and particularly in the case where lighting is distributed, at any one time the materials cost per installation seems likely to scale roughly linearly with total output.

    Though it's easy to be too subjective, candles really are dim, oil lamps not great, but with electric lighting, people do generally seem to act as if they think a certain amount of light is about enough - people often use dimmer switches, or selectively turn off some light sources depending on what they are doing, and except maybe for actually doing manual work, often don't use supplemental lighting, except for reading lights when in a room that is otherwise dimly lit or unlit.

    Even if lighting was effectively free, there's a limit to how brightly most people would want their living rooms to be when they're watching TV, or their office to be lit if they're using a computer with existing screen technology, and I'm not sure that that limit is radically higher than existing levels.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    140 years too late

    So these researchers rehash the Jevons Paradox ( and expect this to contribute to the great quest for business as usual in a world where limitless energy is becoming a questionable assumption. Fortunately for them, insightful journalists talk up their astonishing findings, so it must all be true.

    Surely even Mr Page must have thought twice before regurgitating this piece.


  22. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I'm not sure what part of this is "research".

    Did they find a way to examine or visit a parallel universe where LED lighting is already common, and collect statistics on its use?

    If homes in America, as stated, have lights on all the time already, then I agree, to use more you have to try really hard.

    1. John Gamble


      Lessee. Scientists (oops, sorry, boffins) make a prediction based on behavior not actually studied and not in their chosen field.

      Reg commentators in general do the math and find it wanting.

      Usual exceptions come from people-haters and that one guy who keeps claiming that incandescent bulbs are necessary for heating the home, conveniently neglecting considerations of efficiency and that part of the weather cycle known as "summer".

      Having said that, the one case in the physics article that may have a valid point has to do with street lighting. I don't know about other cities, but here in Chicago they've just looooove putting up another street light, regardless of whether there's a safety benefit or not. So I could see the energy savings being squandered in that case.

      On the other hand, their graphs don't go back very far to support their claim of a trend, and they themselves admit "We conclude that it is possible that the developed countries are nearing a saturation point in average illuminance," but then try to save face with "but plausible arguments can be made that the saturation point may yet be a factor of 10 or more higher."

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Not just Chicago

        My city is building new roadway and state office buildings. The parking lot is using new LED lamps with impressive quality and coverage. The new road, however, uses the good ol' sodium vapor lamps stationed about every 50 feet or so. As in your case, I am quite sure the safety benefit of every 50 feet versus every 100 feet is minimal, and such a distance would cut down consumption by one-half for this stretch.

        Paris, just 'cause.

  23. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @I re-echo the calls of "arsewash"

    When we had candles we didn't light the streets, with gas lights we put one small lamp at the street corner, with high pressure sodium we illuminate entire freeways.

    With LEDS it will be practical, for the same power cost, to light every parking lot and every street as brightly as the inside of your house

    And in the US after the first person trips in an unlit packing lot or crashes on an regular lit road - the lawyers and insurers will make it compulsory

    1. david wilson

      @Yet Another Anonymous coward

      >>"With LEDS it will be practical, for the same power cost, to light every parking lot and every street as brightly as the inside of your house."

      At the moment, we're looking at the best LEDs being a bit more efficient than CFL and HPS, but we're already about half-way to the maximum possible theoretical LED efficiency, a goal which we will presumably stop some way short of.

      For the same power input, maybe we might eventually get 2.5-3x the lumen output per Watt, if we're lucky (which in practice would generally look like rather less than a 3x difference).

      Units (and their housing, mounting, cabling, etc) will still cost money to install, and there will be a limit how much people are prepared to spend to get light levels higher than is considered necessary.

      There are presumably already standards defining 'necessary' for various applications.

      In the best possible scenario, the time overlap between LED starting to be used and legacy lighting being replaced looks like it could be substantial, unless there's heavy government pressure making it otherwise.

      Where there are standards, if standards are left unchanged, there's little incentive for people to overspecify new lighting setups.

      If different standards are brought in for new or replacement installations that effectively mandate little or no energy saving, there would be limited financial incentive for people to upgrade from old to new lighting systems - were I required to have a new LED setup 3x brighter than my existing HPS lighting system, why should I bother changing if I save no money in running costs?

      In the end, it's up to government to set minimum standards, and if they and the power companies see saving power as a good^H^H^H^Hprofitable thing, they're unlikely to write standards that leave consumption the same.

      >>"And in the US after the first person trips in an unlit packing lot or crashes on an regular lit road - the lawyers and insurers will make it compulsory"

      So logically, I guess that means that at the moment, every possible tripping space is already pretty well-lit by HPS or other lighting?

    2. FreeTard

      @Yet Another Anonymous coward

      Now that's a bad thing, we can barely see the stars as it is...

      Poxy light pollution.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Schrodinger lights

    To really save energy, we should get boffins to build us a schrodinger light - one that only illuminates when someone is looking.

    If only we could figure out a way to make photons act in accordance with quantum physics..

    oh, hang on...

  25. Nigel 11
    Thumb Up

    One huge advantage for LEDs

    LEDs do have one huge advantage over CFLs and incandescent. They are an instant-on technology, and one that does not suffer shortened life expectance if turned on and off many times each day.

    The best way to make them save energy would therefore be intelligent LED lighting with PIR and/or motion sensors, that turn off(*) whenever there is no-one in the room. Just as long as the sensors run on micro- or milliwatts, rather than soaking up all the energy saved and more, like the ill-designed standby circuitry in TVs and PCs.

    (*) soft-off, please. In other words, dim gradually, so if the sensors are imperfect, it's a mild annoyance cured by moving a bit. Sudden uncommanded off could be a safety hazard as well as unpleasant.

    1. Steve Roper
      Thumb Down

      Why motion sensors?

      Back when I was a geeky kid in the early 80s, I built and installed a lighting control system in my parents' home which is still there and operational. It was actually a reaction to my Dad complaining about us kids leaving lights on all the time.

      It used a IR LED / phototransistor setup putting two beams across a doorway. When a person walked into a room, Beam A was broken before Beam B and this incremented a divide-by-15 counter. When a person walked out of the room, Beam B was broken before Beam A and this decremented the counter. If the counter was at zero, it tripped a relay and the light turned off. It thus kept count of up to 15 people in a room (which was more than any of my parents' rooms could hold), turning the light off only if nobody was in it. Obviously you could also manually turn the light off to go to sleep or if it was day.

      So no need to keep moving every few minutes, or waving hands or other such rubbish to stop the light turning off. My system was simple and it worked. And that was pretty close to 30 years ago!

  26. Tristan Young

    Photon Consumers

    Using more light and not saving energy? This is not news.

    Astronomers have known this for years. People waste light and energy like they waste water, gas, and food.

    People sound all proud and smug when they talk about consuming less by switching to energy-efficient systems, but anyone with half a brain can evaluate those claims, and poke holes in them.

    It's important for people to be vigilant in energy savings. It's not just about switching to a new light source.

    When my wife and I switched to CFL's all those years ago, we did our best to not increase the number of lights we own, except where it made sense (eg: where a single lamp could replace one or more brighter lamps located further away from the intended use).

    We turn lights off when we leave a room. We use less lighting today than we did 10 years ago.

    We hardly ever turn on our outdoor lighting - it's wasteful and hardly ever required, especially with all the bright street lights that you can read by! It also affects people's enjoyment of the night sky by blocking out the stars and deep-sky objects, a growing problem I'm not prepared to contribute to.

    We have realized an energy saving due to our vigilance.

    One thing I notice is people love to leave their outdoor lights on at night, whether they are home or not.

    I notice that my neighbours leave their outdoor lights on during the daytime, where lighting is not needed - even when they are home.

    I'm glad to see LED lighting invading all aspects of our lives. They have definitely improved my life, with LED blacklit TV's, powerful flashlights that sip power from batteries, toys, and more.

    If we aren't careful, we are going to create more problems for ourselves because of it. The article is right, people will produce more lighting when cheaper and more energy efficient lighting comes available, and will become more wasteful. This mindset has to be changed.

    So how to drive the point home about wasteful lighting?

    Electricity will have to quadruple in price before people will smarten up, and even then, once a power pig, always a power pig.

    1. Adam Nealis

      It's not really Jevon's Paradox.

      "If we aren't careful, we are going to create more problems for ourselves because of it. The article is right, people will produce more lighting when cheaper and more energy efficient lighting comes available, and will become more wasteful. This mindset has to be changed."

      I saw a wind-up LED torch. Killer! Really. Solar panels attached to small batteries.

      Smart meters in people's homes, where they can see power use in real time, appear to encourage people to manage their consumption, as they can see imediately the effects of switching off the TV, lawn mower or whatever instead of checking the dial once a day to see how many units it has moved.

      "So how to drive the point home about wasteful lighting?

      Electricity will have to quadruple in price before people will smarten up, and even then, once a power pig, always a power pig."

      You might be right. Look what happened to the US housing market (and then a lot of The West's economies) when the price of that other important energy source, gasoline, quadrupled to $4 a gallon.

      Jevon's Paradox is misunderstood. The point about JP was the reduction in costs of using something made the something useful for more productive <i>economic</i> activity.

  27. Nigel 11

    Another advantage for LEDs

    LEDs are also highly directional. Compare that with a CFL that emits in all directions, including some light that is blocked by other parts of the same tube or tubes. Properly designed LED lighting (rather than plug-in replacements for old bulbs) will deliver light where it is needed and not waste it where it is not.

  28. Matthew Anderson

    Tax lighting


  29. Tim Worstal

    Yes, Jevon's

    Yes, it's Jevon's Paradox rehashed: a more efficient method of using a resource can lead to more of the resource being used, the same or less, it just depends.

    The bit that really surprises me is that light is a normal good. We spend the same amount of our incomes on it even when our incomes rise. I would have thought it was a luxury good (or superiror, just a different name for the same thing) that as our incomes went up we would spend more of our incomes on it (like, say, health care is). Definitely not an inferior good, like potatoes (we spend a smaller portion of our incomes on them as our incomes go up).

    However, all of these different names and effects depend upon the elasticity (of various things, supply, demand, income etc) and one of the things we know about elasticity is that it varies with quantity. So just because it was so in the past doesn't mean that it will be in the future that we'll spend 0.72% of GDP on lighting.

    Err, sorry about that, the economics geek in me struggling to get out.

  30. Paul RND*1000

    Two ways this could be true

    1. You replace that single 100W equivalent CFL in the middle of the ceiling which you only run while you're in the room with lots of trendy accented/spot lighting which stays lit for longer because it's part of the decor and would be pointless switched off.

    2. You want to have the interior of your home make the inside of the sun look dim by packing as much lighting as possible into it and leaving it on in every room 24/7.

    #1 is not just plausible, but a near-certainty.

    #2 assumes that you have a real need for that level of brightness. If you have a TV, movie or photographic studio, getting sunlight equivalent brightness with continuous sources could be very useful, but I wouldn't want to light my living space like that.

  31. Paul Coen

    It's not just home users

    It's commercial customers. Store signs, store lighting, parking lot lighting. And giant LED signs and billboards. Think about it - a few years ago, signs were static things that maybe used light at night. Now you're starting to see electronic ones that use power 100% of the day. That's only going to get worse.

  32. Tom Womack

    Bright lights are wonderful

    I have 85W-power-usage 450W-incandescent-equivalent light bulbs in my bedroom and my dining room; they're fantastic, and meant I didn't find last winter depressingly gloomy. Obviously I don't have them on 24/7, but they're a great improvement over the 25W-power-usage 150W-incandescent-equivalent bulbs I had previously.

  33. JonHendry

    They say the same thing about automobile efficiency

    It's likely true, but only up to a point.

    In the case of car efficiency, a car that gets higher MPG might well lead to more driving, but there's an inherent limit to that. There are only so many hours in the day, and people have better things to do than simply drive their cars 24x7.

    Likewise, there are only so many things to illuminate, and limits to how much we'll illuminate them.

    In either case (cars or bulbs) if the efficiency rises enough, it'll outpace the ability of the average person to match the savings with added use.

    People are unlikely to add many additional low-energy bulbs, because each bulb also requires a lamp, socket, or fixture, and a power source, and a place to put the thing.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spot on

    In the States they are putting up vast electronic (LED) displays for adverts. These burn 250Kw/H each, and wouldn't be possible economically without long-lived LEDs.

    They use more power than 10 houses, and are amazingly annoying if your window opens on one.

  35. Ty Cobb
    Big Brother

    I call shenanigans

    All well and good about the Eco friendliness of reduced power consumption but here in Wisconsin USA it has bit us in the backside.

    Seems that our increasing use of energy efficient appliances and lighting, not to mention job losses which has also reduced demand, has caused an increase in our electricity bills.

    The explanation? The Electric company is not making enough money because consumption has dropped so low.

    We are getting the same thing with our water bills as well....

    Big brother because... well he knows everything we are up to apparently.

  36. Gary Campbell
    Thumb Up

    Interesting article

    @"140 years too late"

    This is social science, not maths; you don't just prove a general theorem and you're done. You need to investigate particular instances and sub-cases to see where the "paradox" holds. (You can in fact view this as a supporting case for the Khazzoom–Brookes *postulate*, itself a form of the Jevons paradox which specifically deals with energy efficiency and consumption.)

    Yes, this is an instance of the Jevons paradox, but you can't assume straight off the bat that Jevons paradox holds for this case -- it's a phenomenon, not a rule -- and it depends on a range of factors, particularly the price elasticity of demand for lighting. Also, bear in mind that what the authors have done is construct a quantitative model (details of which will be reported in the full paper), which is of much more value than the simple qualitative summary delivered in the abstract.

    @bullshit callers

    To those scoffing that they don't expect their lighting requirements to increase by sufficient proportion to offset the increased efficiency, I think you may be overlooking either or both of two things here. First of all, there isn't just domestic use of lighting, there's business and government use as well, and their responses to a drop in the effective price of lighting are likely to be different from households. Secondly, there isn't just a micro-economic effect, there's a macro-economic one too, where the reduction in energy costs increases economic activity, and this will also contribute a component of the additional demand.

    @"Tax lighting"

    This would work, but at the end of the day, the problem is energy use and its associated negative externalities, not lighting specifically. If people are using too much energy, it doesn't matter much to anyone whether that excess energy is being spent on lighting, heating, or whatever else. Thus it's not ideal to tax a specific energy use as that would simply distort economic decision-making (as well as leaving other similar problems unaffected. Better instead to properly price/tax energy generation or use directly to try to better take account of the negative externalities (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences) so that the cost of any energy use fairly reflects the true costs of energy generation/use. Carbon pricing is one way of achieving this, and this paper could be seen as evidence supporting such an approach.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Re:Jevons Paradox

    Thank you, I was trying to remember where I saw that (theory) before....

    "Hey let´s make hybrid cars so we can still keep driving around on our SUVs, but now we can carry 6.000 lbs on each vehicle, instead of just 4.000. "

    That's the bottom line, for those that won't bother to read it.. I happen to have learned another saying, quoted here: "If it's free, don't waste it."

    Air is free, feel free to breath really hard and fast until you pass out, if you agree with the SUV quote.

  38. tempemeaty

    Is somebody trying to keep CFLS? If so they failed.

    Heh, if the argument against LEDs is true then it equally applies to CFLS which are similarly less power hungry than incandescents.

    I chose the power saving LEDs thank you. ^.^

  39. ash9.5


    So let me get this straight- I now leave my LED on till bed time; so now Im going to keep it on all night...thanks for telling me.

    the study is flawed


  40. Captain Thyratron


    The only thing I'd worry about is light pollution. Street lights are not destroying the world, but they'll really screw up your view of the night sky if you're anywhere near a city. Fortunately, I'm not, and I'm damn glad there are still parts of this world where you can drive ten miles in any given direction and end up someplace beyond view or earshot of so much as a single soul.

  41. LaeMing

    Don't forget the rest of the world!

    In the "developed" world we may be near needs saturation regarding lighting, but there are still huge swathes of the populace who are nowhere near our levels of luxury, but determined to get there (and I certainly won't fault them for that, though will fault us for setting the bar so high to start with). If we can accomodate all these extra people coming in and just break even, we will be doing prety damed good.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    "These burn 250Kw/H each"

    No they don't.

    Try again once you've understood the difference between power (kW) and energy (kWh) and meaningless mess (kW/H).

  43. Pierre Castille

    So far you have only discussed the affluent world - most people don't live there!!!

    Three observations from other parts of the world.

    On a recent trip to Bolivia I took a torch so that I could read in bed, and get dressed in the morning. The best selling light bulbs are 25 watt incandescent which are unbeleivably dim - but when you don't earn a lot of money (average wage is equivalent to 2 US$ a day) electricity is unbelievable expensive and efficient light bulbs are just too expensive what do you expect?

    Last October I was in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia). Driving through the city in the middle of the night I was amazed by the amount of darkness - the only lights on show were traffic lights, the very occasional advertisement and the red lights on top of sky-scrapers. Again, when energy is expensive it pays/saves to turn out the lights. In the prosperous parts of the world office lights seem to be left on all night, even though everyone has gone home!

    A related matter - involving energy consumption, is the experience of much of Africa, which has become denuded of trees because of the seemingly insatiable hunger for firewood. Cooking on an open fire in very inefficient, so some good people invented a more efficient stove that required less wood. Did this work? - Well no! People used just as much wood, using the greater efficiency to cook more elaborate dishes.

    So, the lesson I would suggest is that you should judge a statement not by your own circumstances, but considering the circumstances of others which may be very different from your own.

  44. JaitcH

    So people need persuading? Fit Time Of Us meters

    When Time Of Use metering reaches your meter cabinet all the incentive needed will be there, particularly when the data is presented in real time by the service provided by Google.

    When you live in a country with high electricity bills, permanent rotating brown outs and power outages there is even more persuasion!

    Besides, LED's can be used to produce effects never attainable with fluorescent or incandescent technology. Being lower voltage and lower current, new house wiring will cost less, too.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Premise is true

    I hadn't heard of Jevons, but I agree this is an example of it. We once had to carry our water from a pump. Now that it comes out of a tap, we leave it running.

    A Car & Driver editor wrote a column years ago pointing out that despite auto manufacturers making cars that were both lighter and more fuel efficient, US consumers had simply switched to pickups and SUV's and the net result was that the average weight and fuel efficiency of vehicles purchased was about the same as twenty or more years previous.

    Thirty years ago my ex and I renovated the bathroom in our first house, replacing an old 100 watt bare bulb (glass shade long disappeared) over the cabinet with a strip of five candelabra base bulbs. We started with 25 watt frosted and ended with 40 watt clears, using 200 watts to equal the output of the old 100 watt bulb.

    The point is well taken: human behaviour will negate the technological efficiency improvement.

    Personally, I'm one of those Depression era parents influenced people. I'm waiting for cheap MR16 led bulbs. They exist but so far are anything but cheap.

  46. -tim

    How much light?

    When I was testing the so called 80% efficient CFLs I noticed that they ranged from -15% to about 64% efficiency compared to an average stock standard incandescent. Due to their odd shapes, those numbers are for where the bulb is the brightest and after they have been on for 100 hours so they aren't getting any better. I learned that many cheap bulbs put out 30% of the light over some of their useful range compared to their brightest spot and the power factor of cheap bulbs is so bad that they will drive up the power costs for anyone with a PF compensating power meter. LED lights also have very nasty power factor but that appears to be improving to meet EU requirements. I also learned that the lumen is a very bad way to describe the light out of anything but an incandescent bulb. Maybe a better solution would be something like the Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) used to describe antenna power output.

    1. TkH11


      if LED's have a bad power factor it's not because of the LEDs! It will be because of the power supplies inside the lamp which have to transform the 240VA AC to a low voltage DC supply to drive the LED.

      That conversion also wastes power, kind of ironic given we're trying to save as much energy as we can.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    News Flash!

    Research conflicts with 11 yeard old girls' preconceived notions about light bulbs - whinging floods teh intertoobz as they QQ all over the message boards after failing to contemplate what the research is actually saying.

    Example: I'm building a new house and by choice or law (does it really matter) I am putting in super efficient Al Gore approved lighting technology. These new super-bulbs will last (practically) forever and they only use a fraction of the energy of the old bulbs. You can bet your ass I'll have WAY more lighting in my new house than I have in my old. Why? Because I can!

    Rope lights backlighting the ceiling? Outdoor lighting all over the damn place? Fuck yeah!

    I know the existence of unintended consequences and counterintuitive behavior patterns is frustrating to all of you Assburger's Syndrome kids so why don't you run along to the latest XBox vs. PS3 debate and leave the grown ups to discuss.

    1. david wilson


      >>"These new super-bulbs will last (practically) forever and they only use a fraction of the energy of the old bulbs. You can bet your ass I'll have WAY more lighting in my new house than I have in my old. Why? Because I can!"

      Irrespective of how much all those installations cost to put in?

      Are you not bothered about upfront costs?

      And having had them put in, you'll run them all *because they're there* (ie because you'd be scared to risk realising you might have wasted money having too many installed in the first place), or run them longer because they're 'cheaper' to run, even if having more lights and running them longer could end up costing rather more than your current lighting does?

      Or maybe (like a few people might) you'd just run them all because you knew there were people who thought it was a pointless waste of resources, the same way that a bratty kid plays music more loudly than they'd otherwise choose to if they think it might annoy someone else, or at least make other people notice they exist.

  48. Bob Camp

    Guilty as charged (no pun intended)

    When I replace a incandescent with a CFL, I always bump up the equivalent wattage to make it brighter. So I replaced my 60W bulbs with 23W CFLs (100W equivalents) instead of the 13W bulbs which are the 60W equivalent. I'm using less energy than before, but I could be using almost 50% less than that.

    I also now leave the outside lights on all night, whereas I would turn them off before. So in the end I'm almost breaking even in energy use, but at least I'm getting more light for my money.

  49. Aussie Brusader

    My little bit for the world

    I swapped my mouse's red LED for a green one.

    1. Adam Nealis

      How did that help?

      @My little bit for the world #

      "I swapped my mouse's red LED for a green one."

      How did that help? Green LED photons have a higher energy than red LED photons.

      1. TkH11

        @Adam Nealis

        Ah, but the human eye is more sensitive to green light than it is to he could turn down the brightness of the green LED and make it use less energy than the red.....

  50. Glen Turner 666

    You can be wasteful and efficient

    My LED lights come on automatically at night in the public rooms of the house. I feel no guilt about that. Because the lower wattage lights allowed the use of a low cost solar system and a small battery.

    That's the real advantage of energy efficient technologies -- you can get the peak energy input of a house well under 2000W and the occupied average down to well under 200W. And once you've done that you are comfortably in the range of what can be powered from solar.

    Then the flip side of the attitude explored in the author's paper happens: you don't need to worry about conserving energy. Because you aren't using much in the first place, and what you don't use from the solar cells is going to "waste" anyway. So you leave things on when you are out of the house, you don't turn off lights when out of the room.

    In short, it's not people's "wasteful attitudes" that need modification. It is their homes. But rebuilding the nation's housing stock is a tremendously expensive thing. Which is why pollies would rather blame people.

  51. Anonymous Coward


    What I find amusing is when people with anything more than 2 children start spouting at me and my environmental impact (I don't recycle, I use vehicles purely for fun as I do not commute, I have a vast hoard of incandescent lights as I just prefer them). I accept that to maintain a human presence on Earth that we need to spawn but the fact is that 1 single (non 3rd world) child will have a much more negative impact on the planet than any savings I could make in a lifetime. By choosing to have no children I'm actually contributing far more to the future health of the planet than any one of you with kids. As someone mentioned before - the planet does NOT need us... in fact she'd be far better of without us. Just stop reproducing FFS!

  52. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Alternative motive..

    .. AFAIK, there are rumours that low-energy bulbs have proven somewhat of an own goal for the green lot because they may be using less energy, but they contain chemicals that you don't really want to have in landfill. The result is that those bulbs are heading for an EU ban, which explains the sudden explosion is discounts on them.

    LEDs have always been very efficient compared to other techniques to create light, but until recently either they were not powerful enough, or were simply too expensive to present an economic alternative, but this is starting to change. Even in the end user DIY market lights are starting to appear that are actually affordable.

    However, there is another own goal we're heading for as end users. Money is made from energy sales, with governments taking a substantial part of it. The argument that replacing lights with LED equivalents will save you money is thus IMHO total BS.

    Last but not least, my main like for LEDs is because of their flexibility. I have lit a place with a 3mm 8000mcd LED where I would otherwise not have the ability to put light in - class..

    1. david wilson

      @Fred Flintstone

      >>"LEDs have always been very efficient compared to other techniques to create light, but until recently either they were not powerful enough, or were simply too expensive to present an economic alternative,"

      White LEDs had relatively poor efficiency (or 'luminous efficacy, for any pedants reading this) until fairly recently.

      When I started producing LED-based lights for portable applications about 6 years ago, efficiencies of power LEDs were only roughly the same as power-equivalent halogen bulbs (about 15-20 lumens/Watt).

      5mm LEDs might have had slightly higher efficiencies, but since they are typically rated in mcd rather than lumens, comparisons weren't straightforward. Looking for historical information, it seems that people in 1998 were talking about existing white LEDs then having efficiencies of 5-10lm/W

      The advantages of power LEDs in 2004 were long life, easy dimmability, and much greater flexibility in beamshaping.

      I could certainly get more usable light than out of a halogen for a given amount of power, but that was really down to the spread of light emisson from an LED compared to a bulb.

    2. Nick Carter

      @Fred Flintstone

      I assume you're talking about trace quantities of mercury in CFLs. If that mercury ends up in a landfill and oxidises won't the landfill be no more of an environmental hazard than the original mine that the mercury ore was extracted from? That would surely be better than the mercury that goes direct into the atmosphere from coal burning.

      I think any discounts you might have noticed on CFLs is the usual drop in cost/price due to mass production.

      As for the other own goal you postulate - yes, money is made from energy sales and governments tax it, but won't that lower the tax burden elsewhere in the tax system?

  53. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Missing the point

    With fluorescent lights they had to be left on all the time - you cant wait five minutes for them to warm up when your bladders bursting or the potatoes are boiling over.

    Alas with the new LED's you have to redecorate every room you use them in which is not much of an energy saver and even then I find you need at least two 100W incandescents to every three 12W LED lights to get a light that is tolerable - overuse of those depressing LED's is going to lead to serious mental health problems.

    We can generate wind power at 2p a unit if we can invalidate a few 'patents' and break the virtual monopoly of a few companies. See the Sushi-bar generator ....

  54. Anonymous Coward

    chandeliers are on the way back!

    when I bought my old house in Italy it had chandeliers in some bedrooms, the sort filled with many 25w E-14 small thread 220v bulbs. I removed the light fixtures to basement as often were 'live' with ancient wires. finally just got round to rewiring one - replaced with 6 individual 1,4W cluster and a single 3 x 1watt downlighter. It's rather nice, now installed as the main kitchen light and has a high W.A.F. Went from 3 x 25W halogens that were always blowing - so an average of 60 watts to around 11W, chandeliers are the future! lots of glittery crystals. Unfortunately Leroy-Merlin was a slightly expensive source for the LED's, so now I'm ordering from .DE

  55. Harry

    Re "I have a 15m long drive"

    Though you might be tempted to use 100W of distributed LEDs and leave them on all night, it shouldn't be necessary.

    Sensors at each end of the drive could ensure that the drive is lit only when a person or car is in the drive, which would be a tiny fraction of the time.

    Actually the same could probably be done with LED streetlights in less-used residential roads, provided you linked the sensors a couple of lights ahead so you could still see a reasonable distance ahead and dimmed the more distant ones up and down slowly so they didn't go on and off with a thud that would cause annoyance to nearby residents.

    [The idea mentioned here as a statement of the (blindingly?) obvious, in the hope that it can be used in evidence to ensure nobody will be able to patent it if they haven't already done so].

  56. TkH11

    Lack of logical thought

    The article is flawed. The subtext is quite clearly, let's not bother with LEDs because mankind might just decide to continue to use more power.

    The fact is, LEDs are far more energy efficient than any other form of lighting.

    On a technical level they are superior and this is why they should be used.

    The idea that man might simply negate the lower power of LEDs by using more of them is something that we mankind can do something about. This is within our control.

    It may or may not come true.

    To argue the case that we shouldn't use more efficient lighting technology because of something which may not even happen is rediculous.

    if we don't adopt LED lighting, then we certainly won't reduce our energy usage. So it's definitely worth adopting the technology because it *might* be beneficial. And whether it remains beneficial is a decision that's for *us*, mankind to make.

  57. Anonymous Coward

    "US consumers had simply switched to pickups" (AC 00:23)

    "despite auto manufacturers making cars that were both lighter and more fuel efficient, US consumers had simply switched to pickups and SUV's and the net result was that the average weight and fuel efficiency of vehicles purchased was about the same as twenty or more years previous."

    Well yes, although he may have meant that "US consumers were told (by auto and fuel companies) to switch to pickups" and therefore the sheeple followed, some in the futile belief that buying US-built pickups and SUVs might help preserve what was left of the US's own auto manufacturing base.

    Please bear in mind that such environmentally disastrous short termist stupidity is almost (but not completely) exclusive to the USofA and its hangers-on; other parts of the world have their own special flavours of stupidity.

  58. Sarah Davis


    apart from the various observations made by the more intelligent Ref readers above, my tuppence worth is this. I replaced all by bulbs with enegy bulbs but had no effect at all on my usage - why would it.

    Maybe the boffin who makes these claims is the kind of stupid who would leave lights on now they are more energy efficient, but most people would stay with their current use habit

  59. TkH11

    Reducing electricity use

    There is one way to deal with this energy issue. Everyone talks about reducing electricity use to reduce CO2 emissions.

    If you just change how the electricity is generated, then reducing energy use doesn't matter at all.

  60. justkyle

    The elephant in the room

    Try and buy an LED bulb that will fit in a standard lightbulb socket, and see how much light you get. Is it a lot? Not really.

    LED lights do have their place, and, for the life of me, I can't understand how things with just one LED light in them are so bright compared to the $12 (or probably about 6# for you Brits) I spent on one freaking LED lightbulb which has more than a few LEDs in them, but is the dullest bulb (outside of blacklight) that I have ever seen.

    1. david wilson


      >>"Try and buy an LED bulb that will fit in a standard lightbulb socket, and see how much light you get. Is it a lot? Not really."

      They're certainly being hyped a bit, and there are a lot of badly-designed products around, many with components or thermal design so poor that lifetimes will be short as well as output and efficiency being low.

      Reasonably soon, there's the potential for some good regular bulb replacements.

      Even though LED efficiencies are currently rising relatively slowly, one of the key factors for thermally limited applications is light output vs heat generated, and that ratio improves much faster than the efficiency does. For a given heat budget, an efficiency improvement in light generation from 40% to 50% would mean an increase in the possible output power of 50%.

    2. TkH11

      @justkyte The Elephant in the room

      I've done a lot of experimentation with LEDs recently, making my own light bulbs and you're right.

      Looking at LED bulbs on the market, they're pretty much useless and a complete rip off!

      I purchased a £29 2 Watt LED light bulb from Homebase not so long ago, it's just about ok as tablelamp. £29 for a single 2 Watt LED!! A total rip-off.

      Later, I discovered the same bulb is sold by John Lewis department store for a still whopping £10 !

      You can buy 3 Watt LEDs on Ebay for approximately £1.50 !

      Most of the LED light bulbs available use the old low power 5mm diameter LEDs and perhaps 10 or 20 of them in a single light fitting. I was in a restaurant a few weeks ago where they used a few of these spot lights, and you couldn't even seen any sign of light from them on the walls during daylight. Completely and totally useless.

      There are some bulbs on the market which use 3x 1.5 watt LEDs, and they are significantly better. But even this is very new, and they're not that readily available in the UK. Sure, you can import them from abroad easily.

      But they're still way behind though. I use 3 Watt LEDs. And you even purchase much more powerful ones but the question is one of thermal management, keeping them cool.

      The problem is that the classic fittings such as GU10's, with 3x 3.5 watt LEDs are going to get very hot, they get hot even with 3 x 1.5 Watt LEDs and the hotter an LED gets, the shorter its life will be.

      I think realistically, if we're going to see very bright LED light bulbs running at a reasonable temperature which doesn't shorten the life too much, then a new light bulb format needs to be produced.

      At the moment, 'most' LED lights are bespoke designs, and the idea of a standard lightbulb which can be used in different luminaires in the way you can with conventional tungsten filament bulbs doesn't exist. Sure, they've fitted LEDs into existing light bulb formats, but they're not very good are they?

      The result is, that any decent LED luminare is expensive. The production volumes aren't there to allow economies of scale to reduce the manufacturing cost down.

      1. david wilson


        >>"You can buy 3 Watt LEDs on Ebay for approximately £1.50 !"

        Well, there are 3 Watt LEDs, and then there are 3W LEDs.

        On Ebay UK at the moment, there are 3W LEDs rated 110lm@750mA and 100-120lm@750mA, someone selling Luxeon IIIs [no longer produced], and someone selling used Golden Dragons which look like they're ~21lm/W, and therefore about 6 year-old technology.

        On the other hand, even in 50-up quantities, I'm currently paying ~£4-50 each for Cree XPGs from Cutter, but then they are >140lm@350mA, ~250lm@700mA, and so hugely less heat-generating for a given light output.

        The whole Watt-based rating thing does seem almost guaranteed to mislead domestic consumers at the moment as far as LEDs are concerned, just as many flashlight manufacturers seemed to use to 'Watts' to try and punt torches/headlights using obsolete LEDs onto people some years ago, (and no doubt many still are).

        I especially loved the 'Uses 3W LED!!!' on lights where even with fresh cells, you could bet that the LED would never see 3W in a month of Sundays.

        Watts can be useful for the power consumption side, for people who understand that's only half the picture, but with the great variation in efficiency, are of no real use for a consumer trying to guess at output even when manufacturers are actually being honest.


        Sorry, justkyle.

        Looks like 2 of us managed to misread/mistype your name.

  61. Nick Carter

    LEDs and world food production

    As both photovoltaics and LEDs get more efficient then it would be possible using multi-storey hydroponics to grow more per hectare. The electricity from 30% efficient PV (or concentrated solar in some places) could power LED lighting which emits light at the optimum wavelength for photosynthesis.

    1. asiaseen

      Not to mention

      the advantages to pot growers - less anomalous power consumption and giveaway heat signatures.

    2. chris 130

      Cannabis multi-storey hydroponic farms


      - don't give the cannabis farms ideas, the only way the fuzz catches them is by watching for high electricity usage.

      Oh no, multi-storey hydroponic farms in council houses!

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Try and buy an LED bulb that will fit in a standard lightbulb socket, and see how much light you get."

    This is why I'm interested in MR16 LED replacements. Because MR16's are 12V DC the fixtures are ideal for an LED. Because track lights using them are intended for multiple smaller output lamps, they are also ideal for a lower output lamp like an LED.

    "although he may have meant that "US consumers were told (by auto and fuel companies) to switch to pickups" and therefore the sheeple followed, some in the futile belief that buying US-built pickups and SUVs might help preserve what was left of the US's own auto manufacturing base."

    No. Fat ass North Americans just want big cars. At least up until recently, US manufacturers could make and sell unlimited numbers of fuel guzzling pickups and SUV's because they were classed as trucks and immune from CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) regulations. The only thing that will change this behaviour is much higher fuel prices. Europe has them, and also has smaller and much more fuel efficient vehicles.

  63. Roger Mew

    Wot no switch

    I go along with the "not saving power". I have installed several of these beasties and due to the consumtion have not wired in a switch, why? the economics are that the lights will have to be switched on and off when not actually in use, shal we say they will then be on for 12 hours. The 12 hours "Off" will save over 30 years the cost of installing the switch, the cost of the materials and the like, IF the user switches the lights on and off.

    Then also one has to consider will the user want the same installation in 30 years, unlikely, therefore putting the switch in and saving energy will not happen.

    Do though then consider that the cable, the plastic, copper, and steel for the wall box and the materials in the switch will have been saved.

    So, whilst energy down the wire will not have been saved, ecologically there is a bigger saving on materials.

  64. Roger Mew

    Wot no switch

    Posted Friday 27th August 2010 15:49 GMT

    I go along with the "not saving power". I have installed several of these beasties and due to the consumtion have not wired in a switch, why? the economics are that the lights will have to be switched on and off when not actually in use, shal we say they will then be on for 12 hours. The 12 hours "Off" will save over 30 years the cost of installing the switch, the cost of the materials and the like, IF the user switches the lights on and off.

    Then also one has to consider will the user want the same installation in 30 years, unlikely, therefore putting the switch in and saving energy will not happen.

    Do though then consider that the cable, the plastic, copper, and steel for the wall box and the materials in the switch will have been saved.

    So, whilst energy down the wire will not have been saved, ecologically there is a bigger saving on materials.

    1. david wilson

      @Roger Mew

      >>"...the economics are that the lights will have to be switched on and off when not actually in use, shal we say they will then be on for 12 hours. The 12 hours "Off" will save over 30 years the cost of installing the switch, the cost of the materials and the like, IF the user switches the lights on and off."

      I guess there are various things to consider, such as:

      How much power is a given switch switching (one switch per room, vs one switch per LED)?

      What future energy price[s] are expected?

      What applications is the 12 hours on/12 hours off calculation accurate for?

      Might there be times when you (or some possible future buyer of the building) might actually *want* the lights to be off ?

      However, it is an interesting point - could there be applications (presumably most likely in new-build, where connections aren't being made to existing switched power) where having switches installed would actually seem likely to be uneconomic?

  65. Scarborough Dave

    My house is total LED

    My quarterly electric bill is £50.

    Totally worth the £300 of bulbs I got from china.

  66. KayKay

    LEDs don't NEED power

    from the grid. They run on DC. Using grid power, you waste a lot in converting to DC and from 110/240 down to 6 or 3 volts.

    Guess what solar panels produce best? around 3 to 6 volts DC.

    Where are the majority of street lights located? open air and up fairly high? where they get a bit of light?

    LEDs use so little, they'd run off big capacitors, no need to hoist heavy short-life batteries up to the tops of poles.

    LED banks made up of strips could lose 15% of their diodes without noticeably affecting the amount of light., so no more dark corners, and plenty of time to replace the unit....about once every 8 years at the current life of LEDs.

    They'd be light enough to go onto existing poles, together with the solar panel and bank of caps, the bundle weighing about half of the current mercury vapour monsters.

    Street and public outdoor lighting uses some large percentage of total electricity use which would be totally saved this way.

  67. Richard Porter

    There is no such thing

    as an energy-saving lamp. Lamps use energy, or more accurately they convert it from one form to another. They don't save it.

    That said, I have a 1w LED lamp that replaced a 40w incandescent reflector lamp. That doesn't mean I use it any more. As for the ageing population, we would use more light as we get older regardless of how it is produced.

  68. chris 130

    LEDS Bright? Where do you get them from?

    I bought 4 LED lamps to replace 4x 50 watt GU10 (240v) bulbs in the kitchen

    It was like, well night with a candle and the colour was well dull bluish tinge.

    Totally crap - I took them out and went for my my money back.

    I'm all for CFL bulbs and installed them before they were popular and cost £15 each in the early 90's

    one original still works!

    Love the idea of LED's

    but need direct replacements for GU10

    and so far - rubbish.

    Where and and what's the brand name of the miniature suns?

  69. JW-NJ

    How could it be that using less electricity would be a bad thing?

    What force would insist that using a more efficient technology is just plain a bad idea?

    Sounds like a protectionist stance. Sure, its disruptive, but, in the long run, its better to have fewer power plants. perhaps we should skip the CFL generation? Can't see the upside if LED tech is superior.

  70. david wilson

    Practically speaking

    We do seem to be at a point where, assuming that bulb-replacement devices are going to last for a decent amount of time, it's probably going to be better to wait for a year or two or so for better things to come out than to rush out and buy now, even if one was to try and buy the best possible current devices..

    From current lab-level demonstration devices, it really does look like there might be some significantly better LEDs around in a year or so, allowing products which, compared to the best current products, are either significantly brighter for the same heat production, or somewhat brighter and cooler-running for the same power consumption, or equally bright and rather cooler with lower power consumption.

    I like LEDs, and I make/sell/use portable LED lighting, but I wouldn't rush out now to switch my general domestic lighting over to LED use

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