One of the biggest developments in lighting our homes, businesses and streets involves the use of light emitting-diodes (LED). These lightbulbs convert electricity directly into bright, white light far more efficiently than other lighting options.

Farms pose unique challenges for lighting—excessive dirt, dust, heat, humidity and ammonia emissions impact bulb performance that conventional light sources have been unable to successfully address.

However, LEDs may offer a robust, environmentally sustainable, and potentially longer-lasting solution. Even better, since LED light can be manipulated, it may be able to improve production.

Hundreds of LED fixtures being tested at roughly 50 farms across rural America—several of which are led by electric co-ops—save on energy and maintenance costs. With a rated life of 35,000 to 50,000 hours, LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, four to eight times longer than linear fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, and over twice the time of high-intensity discharge bulbs.

While LEDs are more expensive than traditional lighting, the U.S. Department of Energy reports a price drop of 54 percent over the last two years. LEDs offer farmers several attractive attributes, including:

  • Rugged, vibration-resistant construction
  • Directional lighting for less wasted light
  • Customizable colors
  • Dimmable capabilities and integration with lighting controls
  • No mercury or waste disposal costs
  • Water- and ammonia-resistant bulbs can be cleaned without damage.

While assessment continues, many claims about LED farm performance are not yet backed by statistically sound science, but preliminary results imply promising and significant energy savings and hint at production boosts.

Farmers can remain cautiously optimistic that research and LED companies will be able to create lighting that is cost-effective and long-lasting.

–Brian Sloboda & Martha Carney, CRN

As the research and development arm of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, CRN, the Cooperative Research Network, pursues innovative solutions that help Michigan electric co-ops deliver safe, reliable and affordable power to their consumer-members.