Report | 2008

Comparison of Life Cycle Analyses of Compact Fluorescent and Incandescent Lamps Based on the Rated Life of Compact Fluorescent Lamps


This paper addresses the debate over compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and incandescents through life cycle analysis (LCA) conducted in the SimaPro1 life cycle analysis program. It compares the environmental impacts of providing a given amount of light (approximately 1,600 lumens) from incandescents and CFLs for 10,000 hours. Special attention has been paid to recently raised concerns regarding CFLs—specifically that their complex manufacturing process uses so much energy that it outweighs the benefits of using CFLs, that turning CFLs on and off frequently eliminates their energy-efficiency benefits, and that they contain a large amount of mercury. The research shows that the efficiency benefits compensate for the added complexity in manufacturing, that while rapid on-off cycling of the lamp does reduce the environmental (and payback) benefits of CFLs they remain a net “win,” and that the mercury emitted over a CFL’s life—by power plants to power the CFL and by leakage on disposal—is still less than the mercury that can be attributed to powering the incandescent.