Home Lighting Burke VA
Virginia Beach, VA
Harrisonburg , VA
The way we light our homes is about to undergo a revolution and leading the charge will be a light source called the light-emitting diode, or LED.
For years, LEDs have been used in a wide array of places as traffic lights and auto brake lights, on computers and audio equipment, in toys and flashlights. But their use as home interior lighting has been limited.
That's starting to change. Although they're not quite ready for residential prime time, the number of LED home lighting fixtures is growing and with that growth will come a number of benefits, not the least of which is environmental. If widely adopted, LED lighting could decrease consumption of electricity by almost 30 percent a month, which would reduce carbon emissions from electrical generating plants, says Manual Lynch, president and CEO of Permlight, a manufacturer of LED recessed lighting and pendants.
Of course, by reducing their usage of electricity, homeowners could also reduce energy costs significantly. That alone might tempt many homeowners to make the switch to LEDs, but there are some points to consider before making the change.
What is an LED?
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, will enable us to light our homes in new ways while saving on energy costs.
An LED is a solid-state semi-conductor device that converts electrical energy into light. There are no filaments in LEDs, as in incandescent bulbs. And they're much smaller than a regular light bulb -- just a quarter-inch across or less. So to be an effective light source, they have to be gathered into arrays of six, 12, 18 or more, depending on their intended use.
In addition, they're directional, meaning they cast their light in a single direction, rather than omni-directional. Unless the installation features an array of LEDs in a fixture that distributes the light 360 degrees in a uniform fashion, or in a unit with the appropriate lens, LED lighting can't cover the same area as a conventional light source.
Though LED lamps can work for selected applications, in replacement applications they may not perform as expected, notes Patricia Rizzo, who heads the Residential Lighting Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center in Troy, N.Y. LEDs work best, she adds, when fitted into fixtures designed for them from scratch, developed to utilize their benefits as a distributed source.
For instance, certain types of LEDs, such as recessed ceiling can lights, also called high hats, and hanging lights known as pendants take advantage of the fact that LEDs are directional light sources. Typically, in an incandescent or fluorescent high hat, about 40 percent of the light is lost inside the can, explains Lynch. But because LEDs in high hats direct light only in one direction, the light output is maximized.
Another issue affecting the use of LEDs is cost. Currently, they can be expensive for the amount of light they put out. However, that, too, is changing.
LEDs are continually falling in cost, and at the same time they are increasing in brightness, allowing the evolution of progressively less-expensive lighting systems, says Felicia Spagnoli, spokesperson for Color Kinetics, a Boston-based LED lighting systems company.
Benefits of LEDs
So, given issues such as cost and the directional nature of LEDs, why do many experts believe they're the future of home lighting? There are plenty of reasons, as it turns out.
Long life. Compared to standard incandescents and fluorescents, which have life expectancies of about 1,000 hours and 10,000 hours respectively, LEDs are marathoners expected to last between 50,000 to 100,000 hours. This means you could install an LED light and never again have to change it during your lifetime.
Energy efficiency. LEDs provide very good efficacy (energy use, or the amount of light per watt of energy consumed) and continue to improve compared to their alternatives. Incandescents typically provide 15 lumens per watt of energy consumed. On average, fluorescents range from 65 to 85 lumens per watt. Right now, the LED has surpassed incandescents in efficacy, providing 30 and 60 lumens per watt; however, the U.S. Department of Energy is targeting 150 lumens per watt efficacy by the year 2012 with improvements in materials and design.
Color. The light from an LED can appear white or almost any color without the use of color filters, which are required for incandescents and fluorescents. The color is based on the composition of the LED and the elements used in its production.
Temperature-tolerant. LEDs are not sensitive to the cold; they do not suffer from compromised light output and shortened life due to low temperatures, as fluorescents do. Given those attributes, they can perform well outdoors as pathway and stair lighting, and last a long time inside a refrigerator or freezer.
Safe and reliable. Since they don't break or shatter like glass, do not radiate heat and emit no ultraviolet or infrared lighting, LEDs are ideal for use in places such as wine cellars, or in rooms or niches with artwork.
LEDs in the Home
To increase their effectiveness, new styles of LEDs are being introduced. Some companies are manufacturing LEDs that are replacements for direct screw-in bulbs; they'll fit into traditional chandelier-base fixtures or Edison-base incandescent sockets, and are dimmable. Other LEDs work in distinct LED fixtures, such as LED desk lamps, high-hats and pendant luminaries.
Also available: dedicated, slim-profile, fixed-length tubes, flexible-fixed length strips and flexible ropes cut from spools for installation under counters, under cabinets, in coves and in bookshelves.
The Future of LEDs
Perhaps what's most exciting about LEDs is that they will enable us to light our homes in all new ways. In the not-too-distant future, homeowners may have the ability to tune, and even fine-tune, lighting effects in every room, predicts Steve Landau, marketing communications manager of Lumileds Lighting, a San Jose, Calif.-based manufacturer of high-power LEDs.
Unlike conventional light in the home, which is controllable only to the extent you can turn it on, turn it off and dim it, with LEDs -- because there are available in a wide range of colors and they can be mixed there is the potential to create digitally tunable lighting that can replicate all sorts of lighting effects, he explains. With LEDs, it is possible to take a white wall and make it any color you want, and use that color to adjust the mood in the room.
Another possibility was demonstrated recently by the Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST), a lighting industry alliance organized by the Lighting Research Center in Troy, N.Y. The alliance's demonstration project is a full-scale mock-up of an office with walls and ceiling composed of interchangeable, modular, 18-inch square panels, some with integrated LED lighting fixtures that snap into and out of an electrical grid.
Changing the location of light fixtures or adding new ones is simply a matter of moving or swapping out panels. The power for any panel comes from the support grid, enabling adaptable lighting without the need to drill holes, patch drywall or call an electrician. For example, for lighting over a desk the type of light traditionally delivered by a down-light a blank panel over the desk would be replaced with a panel embedded with LEDs that deliver light right where it is needed.
The same type of technology, utilized in homes, would have a profound impact. In the coming years, walls and ceilings might be pre-circuited, so homeowners can place lighting as well as audio speakers and other electronic equipment anywhere, suggests Rizzo.
Clearly, emerging LED technology will break the constraints of today's lighting conventions. Just as incandescents changed (home lighting) when they were introduced about 125 years ago, we are anticipating that LEDs will change the way homes are lit, Rizzo concludes.
William and Patti Feldman are frequent contributors to Smart HomeOwner. They're based in New York.