Why LEDs?

Why switch to LEDs now?

Mercury, financial, CO2 and energy Savings: A transition to LEDs by 2025 would save 198 tonnes of mercury emissions, US $1.34 trillion, 3.3 GT of CO2 emissions, and 9,602 TWh (energy) from 2025-2050. 

Global equity: With many OECD countries banning fluorescents in the coming years in favor of more efficient LEDs, developing countries are vulnerable to becoming dumping grounds for toxic lighting – exacerbating strain on their power grids, and increasing risk of mercury pollution in their communities. 

Longer lifespan: LED bulbs typically last 2-3 times longer than fluorescents, meaning they do not need to be replaced as often, and offer lower servicing costs for building owners. For example, fluorescent lamps are typically rated 20,000 hours, but the standard lifetime rating for an LED tube is 50,000 hours. The longer lifespan is particularly beneficial for hard-to-reach locations: a 50,000-hour LED lamp operating for 10 hours per day will last for 13 years before it needs replacing. 

Compatibility: LEDs’ Retrofits are Plug & Play. A European study published a database of 470 fluorescent ballasts, incorporating compatibility literature published by three manufacturers. The study found that 91-93% of European fluorescent fixtures can accept plug-and-play LED retrofit tubes. A similar study in North America reviewed compatibility literature from eight manufacturers found 92-94% compatibility with plug-and-play LED tubes. Literature published by several global lighting companies, including OSRAM/LEDvance, Signify/Philips, Sylvania, and Havells advertise very high levels of LED retrofit tube compatibility with existing fluorescent fixtures. 

Is the global market ready to transition to LED by 2025?

Yes – the time to say ‘farewell to fluorescent’ is now. The CEO of the world’s largest lighting company, Signify/Philips, recently called on governments around the world to accelerate the transition to LED lighting. He recognizes that this will not only bring public health benefits through the elimination of mercury, but the significant energy savings will contribute significant CO2 savings, helping to achieve the world’s targets of the Paris Agreement and COP27. 

The switch to LED retrofit lamps is also highly cost-effective. For general purpose lamps, LED lamps today are the same price or in many markets cheaper than the compact fluorescent lamps they were designed to replace. For the linear tubes, LED retrofit lamps are also highly cost effective – paying back the initial purchase cost in a matter of a few months, and then saving that business significant amounts of money over time through lower energy bills. The following screen capture from the OSRAM/LEDVANCE website points to the fact that payback periods can be as short as four months.

Does lighting contribute to significant mercury emission?

Yes – fluorescent lighting represents 9.3-10.3% of total mercury emissions.

The UN Global Mercury Assessment (2018) and the UN Mercury Supply Trade and Demand Study, (2017) (table 12, page 46) both report that lamps are 3% of the total mercury consumed in 2015. The 2017 study provides a distinction between products (listed in Annex A of the Minamata Convention) and processes (listed in Annex B). Considering all the products listed in Annex A of the Convention, fluorescent lighting represents 9.3-10.3% of anthropogenic consumption in products. 

Won’t markets eventually phase out fluorescents without policy intervention?

Eventually, yes. However, without policy intervention, our forecast shows stakeholders continuing to manufacture and distribute fluorescents until 2040 to turn a greater profit. This delay would result in significant amounts of avoidable energy costs, mercury and CO2 emissions.  

See our COP5 page to learn more about the cost of delaying a fluorescent phase-out.

How can governments support a global phase-out of mercury-containing fluorescent lighting products by 2025?

Governments that are parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury can adopt policies to phase out linear fluorescent lamps at the upcoming COP5 in Geneva, Switzerland, 30 October – 3 November 2023. 

At the national level, governments can utilise CLiC’s Market Transformation Toolkit. The Toolkit is a resource for governments aiming to accelerate the transition to LED lighting in their national markets – including five key components: 

As OECD governments ban toxic fluorescent lighting due to the mercury content, government officials in the rest of the world must protect their lighting markets from becoming dumping grounds for these banned products. In un- and under-regulated markets, fluorescent lamps are still the market leaders. This CLiC Market Transformation Toolkit contains a wide range of suggested interventions including draft policies, initiatives and programmes that governments can launch that will push, pull and support a sustained transition toward energy-efficient LED lighting. 

Check out our Market Transformation Toolkit! 

Can LED retrofit lamps be installed directly into fluorescent fixtures?

Yes, there are tens of thousands of mercury-free LED lamps that are available and have been designed specifically to replace fluorescent tubes in existing fluorescent fixtures. LED retrofit lamps are designed to fit into existing fluorescent fixtures to minimise inconvenience and avoid the need for rewiring. The types of LED retrofit tubes available now include lamps that can be installed directly into fixtures with a magnetic (“choke”) ballast and starter as well as electronic (“high-frequency”) ballast. For magnetic ballasts, the LED tubes are 100% compatible and can operate directly on those ballasts. For the electronic ballasts, the LED tubes are 80-90% compatible from most suppliers, and from some manufacturers, even higher. For the small percentage of ballasts which are not compatible, installers have the option of by-passing the ballasts or retrofitting an LED driver – both options allow the old fluorescent fixture to continue to be used, reducing waste and saving cost. 

The figure below presents some marketing material from Sylvania, which offers a T8 retrofit solution it describes as “ideal for upgrading fluorescent fixtures to LED.”  That product operates “with a ballast or directly online voltage” for a high degree of flexibility, making these lamps ideal for upgrading fluorescent installations to LED. 

Are LED lamps safe to use in my home or office?

Yes, the lighting industry has worked hard through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to develop safety standards for LED retrofit lamps. Just like any other electrical product placed on the market, lighting products that comply with these safety standards are safe to install and use, and will not pose any undue safety concerns while in use. 

These safety standards have been in place for years and have been updated by the standardisation community as the technology has progressed. The IEC safety standard for self-ballasted LED lamps for general lighting services is IEC 62560:2011 and the IEC safety standard for linear LED retrofit tubes is IEC 62776:2014.