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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Lighting

LED Bulbs Take a Giant Leap Forward in the Home Lighting Market

A seawave of change is coming to interior lighting...LEDs and energy efficiency business models.

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"In the U.S., 78 percent of the public is completely unaware that traditional light bulbs will be phased out in 2012," reports Charles F. Jerabek, president and CEO of Osram Sylvania, a unit of Siemens.

By law, bulbs must be 30% more efficient than current incandescent versions beginning 2012.

While the current crop of compact fluorescents (CFLs) could do the interior lighting job, the home lighting industry is rallying around LED lamps for many applications. Lighting manufacturers say LEDs last longer than incandescent bulbs and CFL bulbs and their energy consumption could eventually be less than fluorescent lights". They can also be made in many shapes and sizes and colors.

Unlike compact fluorescents bulbs, LED lights contain no mercury and they work well in cold weather. They also provide more pleasing light than fluorescents.

LED applications that already are capturing marketshare include large warehouses, garages and street-lighting fixtures, flexible light ribbons, and replacements for the halogen reflector lamps used in kitchens and offices.

Strips of flexible LEDs put light in places where it could not otherwise fit. Later this year, Osram will market tiny LED chandelier lights that use 6 watts instead of the 15 watts typical of an incandescent version.

Energy efficiency is a major driver of innovation and much of the industry’s effort is aimed at making LED lamps that emit as much light as a 60-watt or 75-watt incandescent bulb. Cree, a leading researcher and manufacturer of LEDs, has developed a new version of its LED ceiling fixture that uses 6.5 watts, compared with the 11 watts used by last year’s model, to create the light of a standard 65-watt lamp.

Even with a wide range of LED products available, CFL bulbs will be the a popular consumer choice for many years because of LEDs’ high prices — more than $20 for a 40-watt-equivalent bulb — and the challenge of delivering bright bulbs. Consumers like bright light!

But the sea change is coming -- GE Lighting, a division of General Electric, is devoting 50% of its research and development money to LED-related technologies.

Technology Change Brings With It Business Model Change

Long-lasting bulbs will remove the "replacement" factor from the lighting business model. Light bulb companies have to shift away from making most of their money selling replacement bulbs. Philips (Osram) has been facing that change in the business model by remaking itself with acquisitions that sell lamp fixtures for homes and businesses.

Philips expects its LED sales in the United States to increase from $120 million in 2008 to $200 million in 2009, says Kaj den Daas, president of Philips’s lighting group for the US. Instead of $1.25 light bulbs, they’ll be selling $10 to $20 lighting systems.

The industry is still reeling from the market's rejection of early CFLs that produced unacceptable quality. They are taking extra care that the same reaction doesn't happen with their introduction of LED lighting to the consumer marketplace.

Read the complete article at New York Times

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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