Monday, October 12, 2009

LED Home Lighting Not Far Off

Energy conservation, carbon footprints and all things green have taken on a higher priority recently. Many of us are aware of the need to change our behavior to assure future generations a sustainable environment, but the rapid changes in technologies often leave us confused and uncertain how to respond. One of the areas that has been getting a lot of attention is lighting. Lighting for homes, offices and businesses accounts for a substantial amount of our electrical generating capacity and thus our use of natural resources and, in many cases, increased carbon emissions.

With all the attention being given to this problem, it is no surprise that there has been a steep rise in the acceptance of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) over Edison’s incandescent bulb. Perhaps you received some discount coupons in the mail from Duke Energy offering steep discounts for CFLs. They have been around for several years and do save energy. Some down sides are the light output seems harsh to many and they take a minute or two to reach full brightness when first switched on. Perhaps more disturbing is that each bulb has a tiny amount of mercury. This makes the disposal of CFLs problematic. Don’t just put them out for the Rumpke guy to take away.

There is a whole new generation of lighting now becoming available based on LED technology. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs were first developed in the 1920s, but their use as a lighting source only became popular in the 1960s when they began to be used as indicator lights on stereos and other electronic devices. Beginning in the 1990s we saw applications such as automobile tail lights and even Christmas tree lights. They were slow to be developed into practical and affordable products for home and office lighting. That is changing quickly.

There are several companies who have introduced replacement lamps for home use in lamps, ceiling fixtures and other applications based on LED technology. The benefits are outstanding. LEDs use a fraction of energy than used by even the best CFL, they have no mercury and they will last years. The bad news is that they are still very expensive with a LED equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb priced at about $40.

When CFLs first hit the market, they were pricey but as consumer acceptance increased the price dropped. Expect the same to happen with LEDs. It may well not be practical for many of us to run out and replace all our home lighting with LEDs right now, but I think it is a safe bet to expect that within five years LEDs will be an affordable and environmentally prudent choice.

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