LEDs are efficient. But by choice, my house is still bathed in the warm glow of hot electrified metal, in a bulb of glass and inert gas.
We take the miracle of the lightbulb for granted. We've been doing this for probably almost 100 years now, within a generation or two after the world figured out AC was the way to send power over distance, and the subsequent widespread adoption. But as LEDs get better and studies are done, the old regular lightbulb is going to villainized as an energy hog. Which it is.
A study covered by the NYTimes today drives the point home even further. Done by lightbulb company (of the old and new kind) Osram, it went beyond the typical lumen-per-watt analysis and studied the entire lifecycle, from manufacturing to disposal. And it was damning. Even considering the relative complication of an LED lightbulb's design, the equivalent life of incandescent bulbs are not as green. Five times less green, they say.
I lament every study like this that passes the news wire. Some others are skeptical of LED lightbulbs today, even while believing in the future of them. Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boingboing covers LED lighting as a beat and says that the best lights are commercial—that the 20 dollar kind at Home Depot are basically, a big fat lie. The thousands of hours they're supposed to live are often off by factors of 20, and that throws the whole green equation off, if you assume Osram didn't do real testing of LED life. And I doubt they did since they're the manufacturer of bulbs, but have no data here. Let's believe that for a moment, ignoring the vague conflicts of interest that may exist in a company that sells lightbulbs, even if it sells both. No matter what you say, LED lightbulbs are efficient as hell. And the new and efficient must replace the old.
This desertion of technology where raw energy is being wasted has a side effect of eliminating the beauty that comes from devices closely harnessing and taming the most primal forces. In the last half century, I feel as if we've turned away from wanting to know where untamed power comes from, much like we stopped wanting to know where meat comes from. First the nuke plants went boom in Chernobyl, and then our dreams for a safe, nuclear-powered future go with it. And steam-powered devices, even in play, are ok, as long as we don't talk about the majority of steam powered devices being powered by ugly, sooty coal. Electric cars are seen as far more futuristic, efficient and cool than the muscular cars that harness fire—fire!—in blocks of metal, powered by sipping pickled dinosaur juice. Electric ranges are being used in the most tech'd high end restaurants for sake of control and efficiency, and although BBQ will never die, I would find it hard to argue with the efficiency of electric range if I were building a new home. We think "fire"—smoke or smokeless—is primitive and has no place in our future. Consider this all more man vs nature conflict, where man further tames the wild and natural. And another step in the suppression of an analog world by digital means. This decade, the lightbulb, driven by hot filament so ready to ignite if only it were given oxygen and a chance, finds itself under this same scrutiny. This coming decade will find it a relic and a terrible thing to have around, given a greener alternative.