Our Industry has seen the most dramatic changes in light sources over the last few years since the invention of the incandescent lamp (Household Lightbulb) by Joseph Swan, the English scientist. For the record the common belief is that Thomas Edison the American invented the lightbulb. It is true that Edison was developing an incandescent lamp at the same time as Swan but it was Swan that got to the finishing line first as Edison couldnt work out how to create a vacuum in an incandescent lamp. Edison teamed up with Swan to form the Ediswan Lightbulb company so that he could use Swans technology. Edison kept his eye on the big picture and developed generators to power New York City with electricity so that his invention could be used.
LED Lightbulbs have now been developed to a stage that they are becoming viable as are placement to regular household lightbulbs, so we thought now would be a good time to review where the market is and make a few predictions for the future.
LED – the state of play
The biggest market for LED lightbulbs is as a replacement for mains voltage Halogen GU10 spotlights, in fact 77% of the market for replacement LED lightbulbs are GU10’s. Most manufacturers now have a 5.5-6w LED bulb that is the same size as its halogen equivalents. It's dimmable and offers the same light output as a 50w Halogen bulb ie 350 Lumens. Some manufacturers now have very good ranges of LED Golf Ball bulbs, LED Candle Bulbs, and LED Household bulb replacements. Megaman and Philips are leading the way as they have given some attention to what the markets requires and are offering all lamps caps including SBC that some manufacturers have just ignored, so things have progressed well for LED lightsources.
LED – the future
The most exciting development in LED technology that we have seen has been using Gallium Nitride as a substrate material, referred to as GaN. When using GaN as a substrate the developed LED doesn’t have any fissures this means that electrons flow freely through the LED material, the result being that as electrons don’t collide with the fissures causing them to give off heat as they move to a lower energy state, lamps will run cooler and give more lumens per watt used.
The cost of LED light sources is still the biggest barrier to entry, the architectural and industrial market are accepting LED light sources but the pricing point is simply too high to enter the much larger domestic market.
The phasing out of non reflector incandescent lightbulbs was completed in September 2012– referred to as DIM1, this should have meant that all regular lightbulbs with a wattage of15w or greater are no longer available. This simply hasn’t been the case, the overwhelming support of incandescent sources by consumers has meant that some innovative lamp manufacturers have come up with rough service or industrial replacements to satisfy market requirements. Lamps-on-line.com sales of incandescent lamps have not been affected by the EU legislation as the demand by most of our customers is still for incandescent lightbulbs.
In January I visited the Interiors exhibition at the NEC and was surprised that every single decorative manufacturer of light fittings had incandescent or halogen lamps in their fixtures.When I spoke to representatives of the manufacturers they all explained that if they went along with the EU directive it would have a detrimental effect on their sales of fixtures as their clients demanded to be supplied with incandescent lightbulbs. I also visited a SuperDry store in January to review their lighting and was surprised that probably the most popular brand of clothing in the UK today didn’t have any LED lightbulbs in their store (I noted two LED Projectors in the shop window). When I asked why? I was informed that SuperDry are very particular indeed on their choice of lighbulb, and had a preference for incandescent as it created the warm appearance that helped to create the right effect in their stores and this was more important than energy saving even though lights are on for long hours in SuperDry stores throughout the UK.
Incandescent lightbulbs are here to stay.
LED’s have a place in our industry where energy saving is paramount and capital outlay is lower on the agenda, but they will compete more with CFL energy saving compact fluorescent lamp types as opposed to incandescent lightbulbs.
LED’s as retrofit lightbulbs to replace fluorescent tubes, HID lamps and non ballasted compact fluorescent, wont happen. Fluorescent tubes are energy saving cost effective and still the best energy saving lightsource for office and public area lighting. HID lamps such asCDMT and HQI-TS pack a punch that LED’s cant compete with have a long life and are afraction of the cost of their LED counterparts.