LED Lighting Development: The Future of Lighting is Now|
Article- July 2012 By Larson Electronics.com
Larson Electronics Sensor Light with Motion-Night/Day Sensor
Since LEDs first became viable as an effective general use luminary about ten years ago, improvements in LED technology have advanced at a rapid pace. Initially considered to produce too little output for general lighting applications and plagued by problems with color quality and high costs, LEDs have now reached the point of surpassing most common types of light sources in terms of efficiency and output as well as light quality. Costs for LEDs also continue to improve, with the first half of 2012 seeing a significant decline in average LED costs among most major LED manufacturers. With the current heavy emphasis on economic development and energy efficiency, LEDs have proven to be a potentially lucrative new source of economic growth as well as improved energy efficiency on both a national and international level. All of this potential has served to further fuel the rapid development of improved LED technology and it is now common for many developers to announce ever higher lumen per watt output levels on a quarterly basis. With LEDs becoming so effective and prices continuing to drop, it is quickly becoming more cost efficient to upgrade to LED lighting rather than continue to maintain old and outdated incandescent lighting systems regardless of their cheap purchase costs.
Incandescent lighting is the oldest form of electrical illumination and has served well for over 130 years as a reliable light source. The low cost of the incandescent bulb made it a cheap and cost effective source of illumination for almost 100 years before the costs of the energy needed to power the incandescent bulb began to rise dramatically. In the 1970’s, the cost of producing electrical energy quickly began to rise as fuel prices rose, and concerns with energy efficiency and the conservation of fossil fuels became the new focus of nations across the globe as a result. Fast forward now into the new millennium and we see an even greater demand for energy efficient technologies as global warming and the impact of energy production on the environment are added to energy cost and conservation concerns as well . While everything from our refrigerators to our automobiles have been steadily improved to reflect this new energy efficiency awareness, perhaps nowhere is the effort to use energy more wisely and efficiently apparent than in the lighting industries.
An incandescent lamp is a very poor source of illumination. With much of the energy used by a light bulb wasted as radiated heat, up to 90%, the typical incandescent light bulb is more effective as a heater than it is a light source. Although the actual cost of a light bulb is very low, the costs to operate and maintain incandescent lighting have steadily risen over the last 40 years to the point where these maintenance costs now make the incandescent no longer cost effective. With lighting representing a large portion of electrical energy costs in everything from the average home to the industrial workplace, reducing the costs associated with lighting now represents an area of large potential savings. This has been increasingly demonstrated over the last ten years as large businesses and industries make the switch to more efficient lighting technologies such as LEDs.
Cities across the United States are reporting huge reductions in energy usage and costs as they replace outdated or obsolete incandescent and LPS lighting systems with LEDs. Installed in everything from traffic lights, to street lights, to building interiors, LED lighting test programs in cities in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and more are showing energy cost reductions of up to 75%, with maintenance and servicing costs projected to show similar savings as well. In 2007 the city of Raleigh, North Carolina began an initiative to begin switching their normal city lighting to LEDs. In its third year and with only a small sampling of the city’s lighting switched to LEDs initial results were reporting a savings estimate of $214,785 annually. Applebees in Doylestown Pennsylvania reduced lighting expenses by 88% with the installation LED lighting equipment. Invesco Field Stadium in Denver received an upgrade to LED “Wall Washer” lights in February 2011, leading to a 72% reduction in energy consumption and more than $5,000 in annual cost savings. The cities of Madison, Wisconsin and St. Paul, Minnesota retrofitted all of their traffic signals with LEDs and now enjoy a savings of $360,000 annually. These are just a few examples of how significantly the switch from outdated lighting to LEDs can impact costs associated with illumination.
In commercial and industrial operations, lighting accounts for up to 40% of the energy used. With LEDs able to provide reductions of up to 85% in the amount of energy used by lighting, many large operations such as warehousing and hospitals are reporting savings over $300,000 annually from the installation of LED lighting. On a broader scale, IMS Research has projected LED lighting to help reduce energy used by illumination globally up to 20%. Although many current LED projects are in their test phases, many analysts predict LED lighting use to surge in the coming decade as the amount of savings possible begin to be more widely recognized. This trend already appears to be taking place, and the LED lighting industry has reflected this with ever growing unit output and growth predictions surpassing 5% per year in the coming decade.
Although it may seem to some that LED lighting is still in its infancy, the reality is that it is currently possible to upgrade to LEDs on a large scale with little to no risk. The LED systems currently available are well established in their effectiveness and reliability, and most advances in LED technology stem from increases in lumen per watt output rather than any significant change to the technology itself. What this means is that businesses can upgrade now, and reap the benefits now and into the future, without having to worry that the next ten years will see their new lighting systems becoming obsolete or unserviceable.
With LED lighting offering substantial improvements in efficiency, reliability, light output and reduced operating and maintenance costs, companies can easily achieve savings figures reaching into the six figures annually right now. Regardless of how much LED lighting may improve in the future, the current level of LED development has demonstrated that the future era of energy efficient lighting is already here.