When it comes to good lighting, the future is now
Imagine not having to change a light bulb for years. There are light-emitting diode (LED) products available in 2010 that will make frequent light bulb changes so 20th-century.
The term LED immediately conjures up images of traffic signals, brake lights and headlights on luxury cars, and indicator lights on appliances. That is about to change. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), lighting manufacturers have invested considerable time, effort and research into adapting this super energy-efficient technology for household use. The technology has advanced enough to win approval from the government's popular and well-respected Energy Star program.
"The year 2010 will be the first year when LEDs will explode in the residential marketplace," says architect Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design. "We are already seeing amazing LED developments in all parts of our lives, from Christmas lights to LED TVs. One area where LEDs will become predominant in 2010 is the category of desk and task lamps," Rey-Barreau says. "Another major development will be in replacement bulbs."
"The extreme long life of an LED bulb makes it ideal for replacing recessed lights in hard-to-reach areas such as vaulted ceilings in living rooms or kitchens. This year you will find super energy-efficient replacements for all existing types of incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs.
"You will see LED products meet - and in some cases outperform - traditional light sources," says Brian Brandes, vice president of product development for SATCO. "The lighting industry is moving and merging technologies, quickly becoming part of the electronics marketplace and presenting choices previously not available. Today, there are LED options in every lighting category," says Brandes. For example, SATCO recently unveiled a variety of LED bulbs that can replace incandescent track and recessed bulbs as well as outdoor spotlights.
In addition to long life, another benefit of LED is energy efficiency. In the past, such products weren't very consumer friendly, according to Glenn Siegel, marketing director for Cooper Lighting, a manufacturer of lighting fixtures. "(Earlier models) did not always satisfy all of the homeowner's needs and wants. They needed lighting with lower operating costs and longer life, but wanted it to perform like an incandescent," he says.
Cooper Lighting has an Energy Star-qualified LED downlight that replaces the 65-watt BR30 lamp, but only consumes 14 watts. The LED version, from its Halo division, closely matches the light output and color appearance of its incandescent counterpart. Siegel reports that the LED model will still emit 70 percent of its lumens at 50,000 hours and can be dimmed down to 5 percent. "If you use the light for six hours a day, it will last more than 22 years," Siegel estimates.
Chris Primous, director of sales and business development for Permlight's Brillia LED brand, has been impressed with the strides LED lighting has made in just the last several years. The technology first emerged as outdoor path illumination and in under-cabinet kitchen lighting. "Now you're seeing recessed, table lamps, chandeliers and pendants, all using LEDs," he says.
Consumers who aren't sold on the appearance of LED lighting - or its high initial cost - can take heart. There are plenty of developments in compact fluorescent technology arriving in stores in 2010. CFLs are more affordable than LEDs and now come in a variety of familiar shapes - a big change from the original spiral configuration. "You're also going to see more dimmable CFLs coming onto the market, plus CFL models for outdoors that have built-in photocells," Primous remarks.
The color temperature of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) has been steadily improving. Gone is the flickering and bluish cast that was long associated with fluorescent lighting. Today's CFLs can provide color rendering so close to that of incandescent versions that consumers have to see it to believe it - and they can very well do just that at their local ALA-member showroom, where there are often demonstration rooms or displays set up for that purpose.
Another key area where changes are occurring in lighting is the design and construction of energy-efficient houses, according to Rey-Barreau. "The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council has been extremely successful in commercial buildings and is now available for home construction. While the residential sector has been hit hard these past two years, the focus on energy efficiency will be huge when the market rebounds," he says.
If you are curious about LEDs, but aren't sure yet if you want to devote a large portion of your living space to the technology, Rey-Barreau suggests trying under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, a desk or task lamp or path lighting outside to see if you like the illumination it provides before investing in an entire ceiling of recessed fixtures or a large chandelier.