Are you prepared for the phasing out worldwide of the incandescent light bulb? The lighting with that warm, yellowish glow we have all become accustomed to ever since its first public demonstration by Thomas Edison on December 31, 1879? If not, you should be preparing now since these replacement lightbulbs are already shipping and more are on the way (see this article by Fast Company called “Philips’ New Green 12-Watt LED Bulbs Could Replace 425 Million 60-Watt Energy Hogs” about this week’s breakthrough announcement by Philips).
The promise of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting for energy conservation and long life has been unfulfilled for mainstream consumers due to the low light output (i.e., lumens) and the historically high cost of LED light bulbs (about $40 for a 60W). With conventional incandescent bulbs or the newer compact fluorescent (CFL) ones costing roughly $2 apiece, LED light-bulb production has quite a way to go before the technology moves beyond simple applications in the home such as accent lighting.
Why might 2010 become the year LEDs become mainstream?
WHY LED LIGHTING IS BECOMING MAINSTREAM THIS YEAR
1) Mandate: One key reason the shift away from incandescent bulbs will accelerate this year is due to the governmental phase-outs of the manufacturing of these energy-hungry light bulbs. Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, Ireland, Switzerland and the European Union have already phased out incandescent bulbs. Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom will do the same by 2011. Canada will eliminate them in 2012, and the United States is on-track to bid them adieu between 2012 and 2014. The movement away from incandescent and toward more efficient forms of lighting is truly global.
2) Efficiency: The increase in lumens and reduction in cost of LEDs are more reasons why this alternative will grow as an option over CFLs, especially due to the environmental concerns surrounding CFLs and their trace amounts of mercury, which makes them hazardous if broken in the home or disposed of improperly. If consumers have a relatively equal choice of CFL or LED–with cost being equal–they will likely choose LED, especially if breakthroughs like the one reported on in January of 2009, where researchers at Cambridge University developed an LED bulb that costs £2 (about $3 U.S.), is 12 times as energy efficient as an incandescent bulb, and lasts 100,000 hours!
3) Color: The color of the light output — often seen by consumers as disconcerting due to the bluish, cool nature of it — has been addressed by manufacturers. According to the Fast Company article mentioned above, the color of the LED light in Philips new 60W bulb replacement resulted in Philips having to, “…call in the scientists to perfect the “remote phosphor” technology (the magic that makes these units glow in soft white colors) in the new white LEDs inside the Endura bulbs, as well as working to get the optical light-casting performance of the bulbs up to standard.“
4) Durability: Philips’ new LED bulb can “deliver up to 80% energy savings and last 25 times longer than its century-old predecessor.” Though each bulb will cost significantly more than an incandescent one (no pricing was announced, however the $40 Sylvania is charging for their bulb is probably in the ballpark) but the lifespan of Philips new Endura bulb is 25,000 hours (three years if lit all the time or roughly 10 years under normal use) coupled with the savings in electricity will undoubtedly cause consumers to make the shift and is finally equaling the promised long life of LED lighting technology.
Are there any downsides for you as a manufacturer, retailer or interior designer to the acceptance and mainstreaming of LED lighting? Maybe…which is why we’re going to be keeping a close eye on how LED lighting (and standards) develop.
COLOR UNDER LED LIGHTING
At The Trend Curve, we always keep our eyes open for trends that impact color or its perception. That’s why we have been analyzing what might occur to color when the mainstreaming of LED lighting occurs. This is especially important since there is a risk that the typical ambient color of light in the home might shift dramatically when LED lighting becomes mainstream. In our view, light output, cost and durability take a back seat to the color temperature of LED lighting and the visual perception of color on products and their color combinations.
Philips is one major corporation that is researching (and delivering today) lighting that can change color and affect the ambiance within the home. The best example of this is Philips’ LivingAmbiance initiative and their lighting products in the LivingColors line, mood lighting technologies that allow non-natural light ambiance to change color in quite dramatic ways as you can see in the photo below. As a result, the next few years will be a time when the lighting in consumer’s homes will undergo the most profound shift yet and may present you with both design opportunities and challenges.
Fortunately, standards are being worked on by the Technical Committee responsible for officially recommending a new way to measure color rendering/color perception under LED lighting sources. This Committee is working within the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), the worldwide standards body.
The Trend Curve recently reached out to the chair of that committee, Dr. Wendy Davis at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST), to inquire about the current state of the Color Quality Scale (CQS), a accurate perceptual and measurement scale. We wanted to know whether it is close to becoming a standard, and if not, when it might be.
As it turns out, several committees were formed throughout the 1980s and 90s with the same task of coming up with an agreed-upon measurement, yet all of them ended without the members reaching a consensus. Everyone currently involved is optimistic that this time they will be able to come to an agreement on a standard measurement. Since LEDs can be programmed to deliver colors across a wide spectrum of light, standards will be critical. The Trend Curve will be watching their development closely going forward.
The good news? Light output, durability, cost and color temperature are all being addressed, and the category itself is backed up by the manufacturing might and prowess of companies like Osram Sylvania, Philips, General Electric and Panasonic. Add to that what’s likely to be a critical mass of savvy consumers ready to buy affordable, technologically sophisticated lighting and you can see why The Trend Curve believes that 2010 may well be the year in which LED lighting becomes mainstream.