Led lighting poised to take on CFLs this fall



Photo by Chris Hendricks

Sharp Corp., the Japanese tech giant, will begin selling energy-saving lighting products based on light-emitting diode technology this fall, the company announced this week.

Sharp’s first conventional LED products will be available to consumers in Japan on September 1, in the hope of sparking a “lighting revolution” based on their environmental performance. The company has made LEDs for years, but almost exclusively for use as indicator lights in consumer electronics and home appliances. Lighting for lighting’s sake remains an untapped market for the company, which will face stiff competition from rivals such as Royal Philips Electronics. Philips will also roll out its new home lighting products, the Ledino line, this September in select European countries. These will be the first commercial tests of the consumer market for LEDs.

Lighting industry consensus holds that compact fluorescent lightbulbs are merely a stepping stone en route to a future lit with LEDs. LED fixtures far outstrip both incandescent lightbulbs and CFLs in energy consumption and lifespan. But they are also unattractively expensive and, well, just flat-out unattractive. If you thought CFLs cast a harsh light, LEDs are even worse.

In some instances, the LEDs might still win out. The New York Times cites, in a recent story, a company that spent $12,000 more than the $6,000 needed to light a building’s exterior with a mix of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. The energy trade-off is quite dramatic, though, and the purchase pays off far faster than that trendy rooftop solar panel: the company saves $7,000 a year in energy costs, will earn back its investment in under two years, and won’t need to change a bulb for 20 years.

Which is why I say this makes sense in certain cases. The economic case could be there. Not for me, though – I can barely commit to a two-year lease on my apartment, so I can’t even imagine committing to a 20-year lightbulb. The Ledino bulb that’s intended to replace an ordinary incandescent one will cost about $107. Sure, it’ll last you 50 times as long and use a sliver of the energy of the traditional bulb, but… eek. Consumers will inevitably balk. Nonetheless, that situation is likely to change in the next two to four years – the Times reports that Philips is dedicating the bulk of its lighting R & D budget to LEDs and “not spending one dollar” on improving CFLs.

In addition to home lighting, hybrid and plug-in electric cars will adopt LED lighting aggressively, reports GreenTechMedia. With energy parsimony a constant concern, automakers are under high pressure to make more energy-efficient headlights and interior lighting.

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