If you're already considering solar energy for your home, then now is also the time to think of LED lights, if you haven't already. They may be a little more expensive at the outset, but they last longer and consume less. Switching will reduce your energy consumption, making solar a more profitable investment, regardless of whether you are buying or leasing your system, or simply switching to a solar power purchasing agreement (see our past article).

Let's compare a 60 watt incandescent bulb with an equivalent compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb and an equivalent light emitting diode (LED) bulb. The CFL bulb consumes 13-15 watts, and the LED only 6-8 watts. Assuming that you have 10 lights at home and you use each for 6 hours per day, and assuming an average cost of electricity of $0.12/kWh, over the course of one year the cost of using incandescents is $150, compared to $35 for CFL and $20 for LED. Over the course of 20 years, the average lifespan of a solar investment, the costs add up: $3000 for incandescent, $700 for CFL, and only $400 for LED. On top of that, the more you save in energy, the more you have to sell back to the grid if you have an agreement with your local utility company.

Another positive to consider is that LED bulbs contain no harmful mercury, which requires proper disposal and is a risk to one's health and the environment. Moreover, both the CFL and the LED last much longer than the incandescent, but the LED leads the pack: 1,200 hours is the average lifespan of a 60 W incandescent bulb, compared to 8,000 hours for the CFL and a whopping 50,000 hours for the LED.

The quality of the light is a concern that often arises when the various green lighting options are considered. While it's difficult to achieve the nice, warm glow of incandescent, advances are being made to mimic this desirable quality when it comes to CFL and LED bulbs. And an important advantage of LED over CFL, at least up until recently, has been the fact that LED bulbs can be dimmed, where as CFL bulbs could not be. Moreover, LED bulbs light up more quickly than CFL bulbs, which take some time to reach their full glow.

LED bulbs are making important contributions for another reason, one more directly related to solar energy. In Africa and other parts of the developing world, consistent access to electricity is a significant issue. According to The World Bank, 70% of Africans are not connected to the power grid. Instead, they rely on kerosene fuel, which is expensive and dangerous, not only as a fire hazard but because the fine particles in the fumes lead to pulmonary disease. LED lights powered by solar energy are changing how people live and work. Instead of packing it in when night falls, or relying on kerosene, people in developing countries with LED lights can carry on with work or studies, relying only on the power of the sun.

So when you think of solar energy, you should also think of LED lights. Both are good for the environment, as well as your bottom line.