Power of Community - Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Making the digital switch

Upgrade your lights from “analog” to digital with LED bulbs.

By Anne Prince, NRECA

Just as you upgraded your TV/cable and phone from an analog system to digital for better sound and picture quality, the lighting industry has been modernizing its options and products in order to offer consumers greater energy efficiency. For the past several years, traditional incandescent bulbs have been phased out in favor of halogen and compact fluorescent (CFL) lights that offer greater efficiency. Even more recent innovations in technology have focused on Light Emitting Diode light sources, or LED bulbs, which are essentially digital light.  

Longevity and efficiency in one

Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED lights have an estimated operational life span of up to 50,000 hours. This equates to 17 years of continuous operation, or 34 years of 50 percent operation. So if you were to use an LED fixture for eight hours per day, it would take approximately 17 years before it would need to be replaced. 

Bulb comparison chartLED lights have an estimated operational life span of up to 50,000 hours. Click chart to expand.

LED lights are different from fluorescent and incandescent light sources, as LEDs do not contain a gas or filament of any kind. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a semiconductor, which is solid in nature and makes LEDs more durable. LED lights are small, packed electronic chip devices where two conductive materials are placed together on a chip (a diode). Electricity passes through the diode, releasing energy in the form of light. Unlike fluorescent lights that require a few minutes to warm up before reaching their full level of brightness, LEDs achieve full illumination immediately.

The cost of “analog” lights

If you are still hanging on to your traditional or “analog” era lighting, your light bulb is operating at only 20 percent energy efficiency. Eighty percent of the electricity from the “analog” bulb is lost as heat. To illustrate how this inefficiency impacts your wallet, consider this. If you have traditional lighting and your electric bill is $100, then you are spending $80 to heat the room instead of lighting it. Using LED illumination with 80 percent efficiency, your electricity cost would be approximately $20, saving you about $80.

Ideal for outdoor use

LEDs are ideal for outdoor use because of their durability. LED lights are resistant to vibrations, shock and external impacts such as exposure to weather, wind and rain. In addition, they are temperature resistant and operate in colder outdoor temperatures. In contrast, colder temperatures may affect operation of fluorescent lamps. LEDs can also be dimmed, allowing maximum flexibility in usage.

Smart choice for emergency use

If you have a portable generator or battery-back-up, in the event of a power outage or weather emergency, LED lights are a smart complement to your back-up power system. Because they draw so little power, using LED lights instead of CFL or traditional bulbs will allow you to illuminate more areas or channel the “saved” energy to other needed applications.

To see how some homeowners have used LED lights with their back-up power systems, check out these videos.

Table top battery back-up

Medium size battery-back-up

Don’t be fooled

When purchasing an LED light, look for the Energy Star label to ensure you have a genuine product, as there are poor quality LED products in the marketplace. Some of these products are manufactured outside of the U.S. with components that produce low light levels, don’t stand up on long service life, or have exaggerated energy saving claims. So like any other purchase, research before you buy! Visit energystar.gov for more information about Energy Star LED lights.

While it is true that LEDs generally cost more to purchase than fluorescent and incandescent lights, they are much less expensive to operate over time. LEDs are energy efficient so the replacement and maintenance requirements are dramatically lower. In addition, as with other electronics, prices are expected to come down as more products enter the market. Make the switch from analog to digital, and you will see an increase in your home energy efficiency and a decrease in your energy costs.  

Making the digital upgrade

Are you interested in learning more about LEDs and how they can fit with your home and lifestyle? Read the Department of Energy's Lighting Choices to Save You Money to compare LEDs to new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs and CFLs. 

And don’t forget to review Pedernales Electric Cooperative's resources to learn about additional ways to save energy around the home! A few examples include the energy efficiency resources on the Co-op's website, PEC's MyUse Energy Analyzerrebates for efficiency upgrades, and the PEC Business Center's Commercial Energy Calculator. Your Co-op has got your energy efficiency resources covered!


Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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