The first LED (light emitting diodes) light bulbs capable of producing the same amount of light as a conventional 100-watt incandescent bulb were unveiled at an international lighting convention in Philadelphia, promising a future full of lower electric bills.
The LED bulbs — by companies such as Switch Lighting, from California; Lighting Sciences Group Corp., from Florida; and Osram Sylvania, a unit of Germany’s Siemens AG — made their debut at the 2011 Lightfair International Trade Show, at a time when public policy is turning the page on Thomas Edison’s world-changing invention in the United States.
A 2007 U.S. law that requires light bulbs use at least 25 percent less energy to produce the same amount of light will phase out 75-watt incandescent bulbs in January 2013 and 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs in January 2014. The bipartisan law, signed by President George W. Bush, exempts bulbs in appliances, three-way bulbs, colored bulbs and 19 other types of incandescent bulbs that aren’t as common.
Energy-Efficient LED Technology Poised to Light the Way
Although LEDs were mostly found on watches and elevator buttons 15 years ago, interest in the technology has skyrocketed, according to Jordon Papanier, of California-based LEDtronics.
“The demand and the applications have exploded because the technology has started to catch up with general lighting applications,” Papanier said.
Papanier said that a decade ago at Lightfair International, LEDtronics was one of only a handful of companies selling LEDs. However, this year at the trade show, LEDs are everywhere.
Over the last couple of years, companies have advanced LED technology to the point where lights have become bright enough for general everyday use, such as in street lamps and office lighting. Additionally, engineers have gotten better at filtering out the often-criticized bluish tint of LEDs. And, with the incandescent bulb phase-out on the horizon, business for energy-efficient LED bulbs is taking off.
“Everybody's going green,” Papanier said. “Saving the planet, cutting back on carbon footprints.”
Philips: LED Bulbs Can Last More than 20 Years
As an example of what consumers can expect from new LEDs, Switch Lighting said its 100-watt equivalent LED bulb will use 85 percent less electricity than comparable incandescent bulbs. The company estimates the bulb will pay for itself in about a year by helping lower monthly electric bills. And since all parts of LED bulbs can be reused, recycled or reclaimed, the company said there’s little chance of its bulbs ending up in landfills.
Ed Crawford, of lighting giant Philips, said his company’s new 75-watt equivalent LED bulb, which uses a yellow filter to create the same color light as an incandescent bulb, is 80 percent more energy efficient and lasts 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb.
“With this light bulb if you screw one into your nursery when your child is born, you won't have to replace it until they're out of college,” Crawford said.
The new bulbs from Switch Lighting and Philips are expected to hit store shelves in the fall.
“LEDs Replace 100-Watt Light Bulbs Nearing Phaseout,” USA Today, May 17, 2011.
“At Lighting Trade Show, It's All About Energy-Efficient LEDs,” NewsWorks, May 17, 2011.