Does LED Lighting Save Energy?

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
light bulb
Chuck Coker (CC-BY-ND)

The US is turning to new lighting technologies to save energy, but do these changes really have an effect? We do the math with our guests and take your questions on lighting technologies.

Featured in this Show

  • Watts The Story With Lumens?: A Guide To Buying Bulbs

    Those incandescent light bulbs most people grew up with are becoming harder and harder to find, but that doesn’t mean the lighting aisle isn’t still filled with lots of choices. New federal energy standards in the last 10 years have seen halogen, compact florescent (CFL) and LED bulbs replace the old 40- or 60-watters on store shelves.

    But with varying technologies and different electrical ratings, what’s the right bulb to choose?

    Knowing how lumens relate to watts is the key says Andrea Hicks, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    “In the past we thought of a 60-watt bulb as a 60-watt bulb and that’s how much light you get. A 60-watt bulb is equivalent to about 800 lumens, or measure of light,” Hicks explained. “So the big question is whether you’re replacing a bulb with an equivalent lumen amount, even though all the watt measures have changed.”

    To help buyers sort things out, Hicks said, manufacturer include conversion charts on bulb packaging.

    “You’ll see a CFL that says it’s a 60-watt equivalent. That doesn’t mean it uses 60 watts of energy but it should produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent,” she said.

    The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. The new bulbs use less energy to produce the same lumens. To get the same amount of light as an old 60-watt bulb, a CFL uses 13 watts and a LED uses 9.5, Hicks said.

    The new bulbs not only use less energy, they last much longer, she said. A 60-watt incandescent will last 1,000 hours. A CFL equivalent lasts for 10,000 hours and a LED for 25,000.

    Even though CFL and LED lights are more expensive, they make up for it because they last so long. According to, replacing 15 traditional incandescents in your home with the new energy-saving light bulbs could save about $50 per year.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Jill Nadeau Producer
  • John Greenler Guest
  • Andrea Hicks Guest

Related Stories