October 4, 2009 – Vol.14 No.29
L.E.D. LIGHTING: AN INVESTMENT IN ENERGY SAVINGS.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
It’s probably not a good idea to use one’s own work as research material. Nonetheless, here are a couple of paragraphs I authored and published on or about March 14,1999:
“Energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs haven’t exactly been a smash hit with consumers. Now both Siemens and Hewlett-Packard have developed white-light LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) that might soon create a real market challenge to incandescent bulbs.
While white LEDs introduced by both companies are designed for low level or electronic illumination, Siemens envisions energy-efficient and long lasting LEDs that can compete with incandescent bulbs for room illumination in 3-5 years.”
The first sentence in the top paragraph is still true. Compact fluorescent bulbs still aren’t a smash hit with consumers. The last phrase at the end of the second paragraph turned out to be a failed prediction. A decade after that prediction, LED’s are not quite ready to compete with incandescent bulbs for room illumination.
Technology is much about wishful thinking, LED lighting included.
Still white-light LED lighting has moved forward dramatically since 1999. The first white light LEDs were barely white, a very light blue would be a better description. Now there’s a warm white, still not the incandescent glow consumers are comfortable with but close enough. And, white light LEDs are found in all kinds of products from Christmas tree lights, to flashlights to the latest: back lighting for flat computer displays. (I’m looking forward to one of those when (and if) prices drop.
But general illumination remains illusive.
Why? There are challenges LED developers may not have thought of in 1999, but challenges that are slowly being met. Those challenges are still cost, brightness and comparability with traditional light bulbs. Some recent announcements show that there is progress.
Lighting Science Group (LSG), for example, has announced that not only has it dramatically increased its product lineup it has also increased LED light output and cut costs – by a half. By the last quarter of this year the company will be offering LED reflector lamps ranging from 20-watt equivalent up to 75-watt equivalent. Wattage consumption for those LED lamps will range from 5 to 18 watts.
The company will also have an A19, standard shape lamp that will replace a 40 watt bulb but consume only 6 - 8 watts and last about 50,000 hours.
LSG says prices will drop compared with its current product line by a half, but we’ll have to wait until the lamps are on the market to see what half-cost really means. Pricing hasn’t been posted.
Most of LSG’s new product lineup is in reflector lamps. There’s a reason for this and it’s one of the LED developer’s challenges: light from LEDs leans toward directional. That is, it’s easier to build a lamp for use in spotlights and downlights than it is for overall illumination like a standard, upside-down pear-shaped, Edison base bulb.
Also notice that LSG is offering only a 40-watt equivalent standard-shaped lamp. Forty watt bulbs are pretty dim and unless used in multiple bulb fixtures are limited in their usefulness. A 40-watt bulb by itself isn’t enough to read by.
However, LSG is far from alone in the LED lighting business. Lemmis Lighting has formally launched what it calls “the first true replacement for the incandescent bulb.” They call it the Pharox60. It’s a 60-watt equivalent (enough to read by) and as the company says. “is up to 90% more energy efficient than an incandescent and lasts up to 25 times longer, with an estimated 25-year life span. That's six times longer than a CFL.”
The price? $39.95 available online from the company and eventually through Amazon.com. Forty dollars seems a lot to pay for a light bulb, but if company claims hold true most people will move before the lamp fails. (Here’s an upcoming trend: When you move take your LEDs with you!)
Of course, LEDs from LSG or Lemmis, or anyone else will be saving money all along compared with incandescents, so the initial outlay is really an investment in lighting and energy saving. (Keep those bulbs.) Lemmis says the Pharoh will save $280 over the life of the bulb when buying electricity at 15 cents per kilowatt hour over 35,000 hours of operation.
The next stop on the LED innovation train will be organic light emitting diodes or OLEDs. These, developers and researchers promise, will be cheaper and more efficient than run-of -the-mill LEDs. OLEDs are to be manufactured in sheets in roll-to-roll processes and used in flat or bent, curved panel illumination sources. Availability? Some OLED light products are available now at very high cost, more products aimed at lighting developers will be around in a year or so, but it will take a number of years before prices on light fixtures made with OLEDs fall out of the stratosphere.
Lighting Science Group
Pharox LED Light
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