LEDs Win Nobel Prize, Gain Fans at Home

LEDs Win Nobel Prize, Gain Fans at Home

When three researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics this week for their work on Light Emitting Diodes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences praised the energy efficiency that LED technology will eventually bring around the world.

“Replacing light bulbs and fluorescent tubes with LEDs will lead to a drastic reduction of electricity requirements for lighting,” the academy said. “With 20 percent of the world’s electricity used for lighting, it’s been calculated that optimal use of LED lighting could reduce this to 4 percent.”

Thanks to advances in LED color production, more homeowners in Charlotte are choosing those energy savings now, says Marsha Powers, co-owner of highly rated Plantation Lighting of Huntersville.

LEDs have long been popular as energy efficient, long-lasting outdoor lights, but improvements in the products have persuaded more homeowners to use them for indoor applications.

“Early on, the problem was the color factor,” Powers says. “People weren’t used to seeing it and didn’t find it attractive.”

The industry has responded, Powers says, and consumers now have a range of color options to consider.

“There’s a measurement called a ‘K number’ on the bulbs that relates to the color,” she says. “LEDs can be bought with these different K numbers and you can get a different color. You have to know what you’re buying.”

For example, a bulb with a 6,000 K number is “very blue,” while bulbs with below 3,000 are in the yellow range. “Most of task lighting in LED is coming out at 3,000,” says Powers, who recommends that K number for kitchens. “It’s neither blue, nor yellow, but it’s a sharp clear light.” As always, LEDs are more expensive initially than other bulbs, but their longevity provides savings over the long haul. Right now, Powers says many consumers are buying LED retrofit bulbs, which use a regular socket in the home.

Plantation Lighting, which has been open since 1995, isn’t selling a lot of LED fixtures, because there aren’t many on the market yet for LEDs. But the fixture market is growing, she says, with more contemporary styles being developed and sold. Most of that activity is on the west coast for now, but it’s sure to head eastward soon.

In fact, like the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Powers sees LEDs eventually becoming the dominant retail lighting option – and soon. Thanks to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, manufacturers already have phased out 100-watt and 75-watt incandescent bulbs, with 40- and 60-watt bulbs next to go.

Of the remaining options – fluorescent and high-efficiency incandescent bulbs – LEDs will likely rule.

“The energy savings is going to push LED ahead,” she says. “All of our under cabinet lights are LED. Recessed can lights that people are buying are LED.

“In two years, almost all new and replacement lighting will use it.”

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