New U-M study finds LED lighting dramatically more efficient than fluorescent tubes

A new University of Michigan (U-M) study shows that LED lighting is up to 44% more efficient than standard four-foot fluorescent tubes. Published online this November in the journal "Lighting Research and Technology," the discovery is consistent with the U.S. Department of Energy’s finding that LED systems are 25% more energy-efficient than fluorescents.

"It's good news for bringing more public awareness on how to save money and reduce one's carbon footprint," says Greg Keoleian, a senior author on the study and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at U-M's School for Environment and Sustainability. 

The study compared the costs of six replacement options (one fluorescent and five LED) for linear recessed lighting systems. The research found that LED products were 18-44% more efficient than one-inch-diameter fluorescent lamps. 

Researchers investigated more than 160 LED replacement options, which included lamp replacements (a change-out of lamps sans any electrical modification), retrofits (a modification of existing fixtures to accommodate a new light source or electronics), and luminaire replacements (a complete change-out of a lighting system and mechanical structure). 

"Lighting is responsible for 11% of the electrical load in commercial buildings and peoples' basements, garages, and shops," Keoleian says. "Our findings are important when it comes to looking at reducing energy consumption, both in commercial buildings and other types of businesses."

Keoleian says his team's research shows that linear recessed lighting systems (also called linear fixtures or troffer lights) are one of the most viable opportunities for improving energy efficiency. He hopes the study's findings will encourage more Washtenaw County homeowners to consider LEDs when changing their lamps out. 

"What we definitely don't want people to do is replace a burned-out fluorescent lamp with a new fluorescent lamp," he says. "That's an opportunity that is lost – both to save money and energy, and to reduce emissions."

Furthermore, Keoleian stresses that switching to LED lighting options also offers an opportunity for people to be "responsible stewards of the environment during a time when we are experiencing a climate emergency."

"We're just not hitting our goals and targets when it comes to reducing global emissions and avoiding some adverse effects of climate change," he says. "Maybe our individual impact might be small in reducing global emissions, but every action by individuals, by communities, and by nations is critical and adds up." 

Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

"Fluorescent Light Study" by russellstreet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
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