LEDs and Transitioning From the Incandescent Light Bulb|
Although federal mandates and serious concerns with the current sustainability of energy production have resulted in an unprecedented push to develop and implement more energy efficient forms of lighting, the reality is that consumers have been slow to embrace new lighting technology. At the forefront of problems confronting new lighting technology like CFLs and LEDs are the costs associated with them and how well they perform. Since the incandescent bulb has been the standard around the world since Thomas Edison made it practical enough to mass produce and use, an inherent preference for the color and quality of incandescent bulbs has been instilled in the general public. If an LED or CFL equipped lamp cannot produce light similar in appearance to the incandescent, consumers tend to give them less preference and find the light they produce to be “unnatural” appearing. This is ironic considering that the light produced by the incandescent bulb is anything but natural. Heavily skewed towards the red end of the light spectrum, incandescent bulbs produce a poor replacement for natural sunlight.
As well as the quality of the light produced by LEDs and CFLs, consumers are also concerned with what appear to be the significantly higher costs associated with them. While a 60 watt incandescent bulb may cost only seventy five cents, its CFL equivalent can cost five times as much, the LED up to thirty. This high initial cost is a serious problem as consumers have become accustomed to viewing lighting as a consumable to be used, thrown away and replaced as needed. Changing light bulbs ranks right up there in importance with buying toilet paper for the average consumer. Even in this age of energy awareness and environmental consciousness, viewing the light bulb as a long term investment simply isn’t going to happen overnight. While it is certainly inevitable that our world is going to have to make the change to energy efficient lighting eventually, how easily this transition takes place depends greatly on how well the average consumer is educated about it.
If the average consumer were well versed in the improvements and benefits associated with new lighting technology like LEDs, it is likely we would see a much faster willingness to embrace them as the new lighting of choice. Demonstrating the effectiveness of LED lighting is a fairly simple and straightforward affair in and of itself. As more business switch to LEDs and the commercialization of LEDs continues to grow, the general public will become more familiar with them. In fact, the chances are that most people have already seen entire store displays, offices, warehouses and the like illuminated entirely by LEDs and yet never realized it. This interesting for two reasons; LEDs have been developed to the point of going unnoticed when used and businesses which happen to be highly concerned with long term investments have been quick to embrace the LED for every day lighting. That business has been quick to accept the LED should be of particular interest to the average consumer. Relying on smart investment and good returns on those investments for much of their successful operation, commercial business is one of the first sectors to fully appreciate the benefits of the LED.
With an efficiency up to 80% higher than that of incandescent light bulbs, LEDs require only a fraction as much energy to produce an equal amount of light. Whereas a 150 watt incandescent light fixture may produce 2,000 lumens of light, a 150 watt LED lamp can produce over 10,000 lumens. This is not just a significant improvement, but enough to make incandescent lighting for all practical intents obsolete. In commercial settings, if a business were to replace all of its incandescent high bay warehouse lighting with Larson Electronicss’ 150 Watt High Bay LED Light Fixtures, it’s possible they could reduce their electrical costs for lighting 30- 50% annually simply by changing to LED equipped light fixtures. In fact, across the United States businesses, cities and municipalities have been engaged in trials and upgrade programs that seek to replace typical incandescent lighting with LEDs on a large scale and already reports of energy reductions up to 75% are being reported with projections for even greater savings occurring once the programs are completed. These energy use reductions translate directly into monetary savings as some cities are reporting energy cost reductions totaling over 400,000 dollars annually.
All of this would not have as much impact if LEDs were not long lived as well as energy efficient. Due to their higher initial cost it is necessary to average savings over a longer period of time in order to truly realize their full potential. Fortunately, LEDs are also far longer lived than the incandescent lamp as well as more efficient. A typical incandescent bulb, even high efficiency versions rarely survive past 2,000 hours of use, after which time they must be replaced. LEDs, however, have a lifespan averaging anywhere from 30 to 100,000 hours, allowing them to survive over a decade in some applications before replacement becomes necessary. This extreme longevity is perhaps the defining quality of LEDs that will bring about the full change to LED lighting. In order to match the LED for service life, it would be necessary to replace a typical incandescent at least 25 times. Considering that an LED bulbs costs anywhere from 20 to 45 dollars and an equivalent incandescent around 75 cents, the savings found by using incandescents becomes negligible. Factor in the significant reduction in energy costs and the LED quickly becomes cost effective over the incandescent rather than more expensive.
It is precisely because of the reasons stated above that it is only a matter of time before LEDs become the worlds’ dominant lighting technology. How quickly this takes place, however, depends in large part on how well the public can be educated to view LEDs as the investment they are and not the throw away consumable that the incandescent bulb has become. While phasing out the incandescent, enacting stringent efficiency legislation and reducing the costs of LEDs will do much to bring about the improvements more quickly, simply showing the average consumer how much cheaper LEDs really are reduces the hesitation and concern such incentives cannot address.