LEDs Rising to Prominence|
Dominating the lighting industry for over one hundred years, the incandescent bulb has changed little from the original design that made Thomas Edison famous when he introduced it to the general public. The incandescent bulb is responsible for much of how we produce and use electricity today and although it has been a reliable and historical part of mans rise to modernity, it is fast approaching the end of its usefulness.
Starting in 2012, The Energy Independence and Security act begins to take full effect. This piece of legislation is a direct result of the world’s continually growing hunger for electrical power and the difficulties this growth presents. This act requires light bulbs to be 25% or more efficient beginning in 2012. By 2020, light bulbs will be required to be 200% more efficient. Although the incandescent bulb has indeed been improved significantly since its original design, further improvements are proving limited due to the incandescent bulbs basic operating principles. Since the incandescent lamp relies on resistance to produce light, its efficiency potential is severely restricted by the fact that a great deal of energy is wasted as heat produced by electrical resistance.
With the incandescent so limited, it has become clear that other methods of producing light must be found if efficiency is to be improved by any meaningful margin. Two new forms of lighting have come to the fore as a result, however, only one shows a real potential to produce incredibly efficient light without additional drawbacks or serious caveats. Both the CFL, or, Compact Fluorescent Lamp and the LED Light Emitting Diode have emerged as contenders for the dominant position currently held by the incandescent lamp. Only one of these two however hold the true potential to improve every aspect of how energy is used to produce light while the other brings with it even more problems that must be surmounted before it can gain true widespread popularity.
CFL’s represent little more than a miniaturization of the common fluorescent tube lamp. Although significantly more efficient than the incandescent they are intended to replace, they also retain many of the same problems associated with regular fluorescent tubes. Some of the more important problems associated with CFLs are their tendency to lose a great deal of lamp life when cycled on and off and their reliance on toxic materials for their operation. Although a CFL carries the potential to produce great energy savings, this savings is drastically reduced when lamp longevity drops off due to the repeated on and off operation required of a truly practical light. CFLs also contain mercury, a highly toxic substance that must eventually be specially disposed of at the end of the CFL’s useful life, raising the costs associated with the CFL’s use. Other problems are associated with aesthetics and the quality of light produced. Since their introduction, consumers have complained about the quality of the light produced by CFLs and although to be fair, improvements have been made, this still remains one of the top complaints. CFLs are also susceptible to extremes of cold and heat, require a warm up period before they reach full power, and are highly limited in their useful application. While CFLs may be effective in the home, industrial operations require much more light output than CFLs can deliver.
LEDs on the other hand produce light far more efficiently than both the CFL and incandescent lamp. LEDs also have no mercury or other toxic materials in their construction. Early LEDs presented problems due to the need to develop effective methods of managing heat and a tendency for the LED to produce light that was hard to diffuse evenly and of less than attractive quality. These early LEDs also tended to be less powerful than incandescent or CFLs. However, heavy development has quickly made these problems negligible or nonexistent and LEDs are fast becoming superior to all other forms of lighting in every aspect. LEDs now can replace everything from the typical home light bulb to street lights. They produce more lumens per watt than almost all other types of lamp, require no special care or handling, are highly durable and extremely long lived, and can be developed to work in an almost unlimited number of applications.
One of the first and biggest markets where LEDs are having a significant impact is in commercial and industrial industries. Operations on a large scale, ranging from warehouses, retailers and hospitals to manufacturing and production all rely on extensive lighting systems to maintain operations. Lighting alone accounts for up to 80% of utility expenses in some industrial operations. LEDs represent an excellent lighting alternative that offers the potential to reduce these costs over 50%, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars saved annually in many cases. One of the first applications where LEDs are seeing wide acceptance is in the industrial sector where exterior lighting, equipment lighting and hazardous location lighting are all a mandatory part of daily operations. LEDs are proving popular because along with their high efficiency and power they also offer extreme versatility and durability.
An LED light fixture like Larson Electronics’s LEDLB-200X2E LED Light Emitter offers the ability to produce prodigious amounts of light in an extremely wide range of applications without introducing any new or difficult to address concerns. LED light bars like this are proving an effective and cost efficient way to upgrade industrial lighting on all fronts whether it is permanently mounted interior and exterior lighting or semi permanently mounted equipment illumination. Requiring only a fraction the amount of energy, LED light bars are capable of easily surpassing the performance of incandescent lighting on every front.
They produce more lumens per watt, last for up to 50,000 hours or more, are resistant to extremes of heat and cold, are extremely durable and can be installed in almost every application once held by the incandescent. Because of their higher initial cost LEDs have yet to fully break into the general consumer market, but in special applications such as exterior security lighting and general utility lighting they are already gathering a larger and larger share of the lighting market. As costs continue to decrease and the energy savings they represent continue to materialize, look for LEDs to become the dominant lighting technology for the foreseeable future.