Energy & Climate Change
Wouldn’t Sailors Be Happier if They Didn’t Have to Change Light Bulbs?
By Sandra I. Erwin
Navy energy experts estimate that the service could save millions of dollars in fuel costs -- and improve sailors' quality of life at sea -- by replacing fluorescent light bulbs aboard ships with solid-state lighting.
“I'm very excited about the solid-state lighting opportunities,” said Larry Schuette, director of innovation at the Office of Naval Research. The potential for energy savings is huge, he told Pentagon Web radio during a recent webcast.
Solid-state lighting uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as sources of illumination rather than electrical filaments, plasma or gas. The term "solid state" refers to the way the light in an LED is emitted from a solid object such as a block of semiconductor rather than from a vacuum or gas tube, as is the case in traditional incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent lamps. Solid-state lighting is more resistant to shock, vibration and wear. It is often used in traffic lights, modern vehicle lights, train marker lights and remote controls.
“You have flashlights now that have little LEDs in them, the white LEDs,” said Schuette. “I see nothing standing in the way of solid-state lighting replacing fluorescent lighting onboard ships.”
The long-term benefits would outweigh the upfront costs, he noted. A solid-state bulb may cost $30 to $40, versus a couple of bucks for a compact fluorescent or 50 cents for a standard incandescent bulb. It’s already well known that compact fluorescents are more energy efficient, but the savings with the solid-state lighting are even greater, he said.
“I think the Navy will lead in this area,” said Schuette. Solid-state lights last so much longer that they will help the Navy not only reduce energy consumption but also ease sailors’ workload at sea. “They're not nearly as fragile because they're not long and slender like a fluorescent tube. They don't have mercury. We like to get the mercury off the ships … I don't have to have people changing them.”
At sea, “you'd rather have guys doing other things. Sailors have better things to do than changing light bulbs,” he said. “So let's put some lights out there that will pay for themselves in the long run and have a higher quality of life.”