Canton has switched their downtown Christmas lights from the usual incandescent bulbs to LEDs, a more efficient type of lighting.
The new lights were purchased from Coakley Carpet Ace One Hardware, a 107-year-old family business owned by Bill Coakley, brother of SLU Vice President of Administrative Operations Tom Coakley. The cost of the new lights was about $6,000, but it is estimated that they will allow for energy savings of over $14,000 this year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Bill Coakley, who promoted the LEDs along with Canton Mayor Charlotte Ramsay, said that initially, LEDs were bluish and cold looking — not popular as Christmas lights. But as the technology has improved — to a warm, bright white — they have become increasingly popular, not just for community Christmas light purchases, but for individual consumers as well.
The first kind of energy-efficient light bulbs, CFLs (“compact fluorescent,” as opposed to LED, “light emitting diode”) were coil-shaped. In the past, CFLs have been given out to SLU students in an effort to support sustainability. Traditional or incandescent bulbs are the spherical, glowing orbs that we often see depicted as representing an idea. The newest idea to come out of someone’s brain regarding light bulb technology is the LED, which looks more like a showerhead or a disco ball: a sphere with little glowing balls inside of it.
Professor Amanda Lavigne, who teaches a class called Energy and the Environment, explained that both CFLs and LEDs are more energy intensive and expensive to produce than traditional incandescent light bulbs. (They are more expensive to buy, as well.) But energy savings during their use make up for energy use in their production, as well as for their initial cost.
“We always have to be careful about displacing use impacts to different phases of the product lifecycle – it takes a lot more energy to produce CFLs and LEDs, but if they actually realize the lifetimes that are estimated, this increased production energy is averaged out over a longer period, and thus these bulbs still wind up ahead,” said Lavigne.
Citing her support for LEDs, Canton’s Christmas lights of choice, over CFLs, Lavigne said,
“LEDs do not have the toxic metal (mercury) issue to deal with that CFLs do, making recycling a lot easier.”
Coakley estimated that the new LEDs will last perhaps up to 10-12 years, as opposed to the 3-5 years that the incandescent bulbs last, under nightly use from December to February.