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Healthy Lighting

From introduction to capturing the majority of the market for residential lighting, no other energy efficient technology has been adopted more quickly than the light-emitting diode (LED) bulb. Before 2014, medium base, screw-in LEDs were nearly nonexistent due to their limited light output and very high cost.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) reported that only 4% of households used LEDs for most or all of their indoor lighting. That year, the average cost of a 60-watt equivalent LED was $15. When conducting the 2020 RECS, 47% reported using LEDs for most or all of their indoor lighting. At the start of 2021, the New York Times reported an average LED bulb costs around $3.

Today, LEDs use an impressive 85% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs with comparable light output. They also last up to 25 times longer. When purchased in a multipack, LEDs that replace 60-watt incandescents are about $2 per bulb.

However, exposure to natural light is still necessary to maintain our health. “White” light is produced when all the colors of the spectrum combine in different proportions. Natural sunlight has high concentrations from the blue portion of the spectrum during midday and very little during early morning and late afternoon hours. In contrast, almost all LEDs, including those used in bulbs and electronic displays are always rich in “blue light.”

Exposure to blue light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin – a hormone responsible for establishing our sleep-wake cycles or circadian rhythm. When melatonin levels lower, we are awake and alert. As we spend more time at the end of our day exposed to blue light while watching television or using computers, notepads and cell phones, sleep disorders are becoming more prevalent. Studies have also linked excessive blue light exposure to myopia (short-sightedness), age-related macular degeneration, obesity, diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as depression. To offset these effects, many mobile devices now include features to reduce the emission of blue light in the evening – and blue blocker glasses – that filter out such wavelengths are available.

However, filters are not enough. Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, director of the Circadian Light Research Center, recommends exposure to bright white light that is rich with blue light for at least 30 minutes during the early to midportion of our day. Then reduce or eliminate exposure to blue light at least one hour before bedtime. Consider taking lunch breaks outside, squeezing in a morning walk before work, or winding down on the patio at the end of the day.

Your local utility wants to help you save money while satisfying all of your illumination needs with reliable, low cost and sustainable energy. For more ideas or information about EnergyWiseSM lighting incentives, contact them.

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