LED Lights of the Future

The acronym stands for ‘light emitting diode’, and this technology uses the tiniest fraction of energy consumed by conventional incandescent and fluorescent bulbs for a given amount of light output. LED technology is poised to boost the energy efficiency and reliability of area lighting in a big way. Poised, but not quite there yet for all applications.

Until four or five years ago, the predominant place you’d see LEDs was the illuminated read-out screens of:

  • VCRs
  • Microwaves
  • Ancient calculators from the 1970s.

The first high profile breakout from these traditional uses was Christmas lights. Nowadays, an entire string of colorful LED lights uses less energy than a single incandescent holiday bulb did from yesteryear. The working life of LED lights is measured in tens of thousands of hours, too. They last and last and last. All this got me watching and waiting to see how long it would take before LED bulbs became available for serious, interior lighting applications. We don’t have to wait for the technology anymore, though high LED prices remain a stumbling block, at least for now.

LED Efficiency

LED bulbs are so efficient because they produce light in an entirely different way than other kinds of bulbs:

  • Instead of using electricity to heat up a metal filament, LEDs produce light by channeling an electric current through a semiconductor material.
  • This approach converts almost 100% of the electricity into light, with virtually no waste heat produced.

Accessability

It’s now possible to buy LED equivalents for various types of household and specialty light fixtures that were originally designed for much less efficient bulbs. You won’t see many of these new LED bulbs on hardware store shelves in a big way yet, but leading Canadian specialty suppliers are beginning to offer a growing line-up of promising LED bulbs. One such pioneer is Michael Salerno.

Salerno left 20 years in corporate Canada to start AllPurposeLEDs.com (416-889-2719 ), one of a handful of LED bulb suppliers that are emerging as this technology becomes cheaper and more effective.

“At the moment, ambient or accent LED lighting is the most suitable use for average homeowners because the cost of LED bulbs is high relative to their output”, explains Salerno.

Cost

  • The price of an MR16 LED to replace a traditional halogen design runs from $35-$60 for a single bulb.
  • LED’s cost five to eight times more money than halogen.
  • LED’s last 20 to 25 times longer.
  • LED’s use 90% less energy.

Application

  • LEDs make especially good sense in applications where lights stay on a lot, where the heat build-up of traditional bulbs is a problem, or where it’s difficult to change bulbs after they burn out.
  • “Commercial-residential applications are one area where lights are switched ON in hallways, stairwells or elevators 24-7, for example. LEDs make good sense here. They’re also useful for exterior residential applications. They last for years and function well in cold temperatures. In our studies, we’ve even found that unlike halogens, fluorescents and incandescent bulbs, LEDs don’t attract insects. They don’t emit UV rays, either, so LEDs won’t cause fading of fabrics and surfaces.”

Response to Pressure

  • All the changes that ripple through our modern world can be traced back to the same, basic dynamic: a new pressure that triggers a subsequent response. LED lighting is a response to the pressures we’re all feeling as energy costs rise.
  • The cheap, convenient and plentiful sources of energy we’ve built our world upon are starting to crumble.
  • We’ve also developed a keener sense of the hidden costs of our extravagant energy use.

Some day, our kids and grandkids will smile and shake their heads as we tell them about light bulbs in the olden days that burned so hot you couldn’t touch them. Changes like these are a lot closer than you might think.

Posted on November 17th, 2010

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