Low quantum defect lasers are possible using near-resonant optical pumping. This paper examines the laser material performance as the quantum defect of the laser is reduced. A steady-state model is developed, which incorporates the relevant physical processes in these materials and predicts extraction efficiency and waste heat generation. As the laser quantum defect is reduced below a few percent, the impact of fluorescence cooling must be included in the analysis. The special case of a net zero quantum defect laser is examined in detail. This condition, referred to as the radiation balance laser (RBL), is shown to provide two orders of magnitude lower heat generation at the cost of roughly 10% loss in extraction efficiency. Numerical examples are presented with the host materials Yb:YAG and Yb:Silica. The general conditions, which yield optimal laser efficiency, are derived and explored.