LCA Example: Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
The US Department of Energy has developed an LCA report to help evaluate the energy and environmental benefits of LEDs when compared to incandescent and fluorescent lighting. This analysis follows the four steps outlined above. When using LCA to compare equipment, it is important to establish a common unit of performance by which each will be judged. For lighting, the useful life of the three alternatives below varies greatly. When comparing the total environmental impact of LEDs with incandescents, one must remember the frequent replacement needs of the latter.
Figure 1: Number of Lamps Needed to Supply 20 Million Lumen-Hours.1
The figure below sums up the results of DOE’s study: though the manufacturing of LEDs may have a greater environmental impact than its competition, the dominant source of impact is the lifetime energy use. Today’s LEDs are roughly equivalent to CFLs with respect to LCA. If the technology continues to advance as expected, by 2015 the LED should have the clear advantage with respect to total environmental impact.
Figure 2: Life-Cycle Energy of Incandescent Lamps, CFLs, and LED Lamps.2