The evolution of artificial lighting is currently in a state of amazing advancements. The LED industry is beginning to turn artificial lighting into a revolution that would make Edison and all the inventors and tinkerers in the previous lighting development fields and mentioned in previous installments of this series shake their heads and smile with astonishment. As with many new technologies, LEDs were quite inefficient when first developed but many saw the potential and as the improvements and refinements continued, a number of interested parties jumped on the bandwagon. The fact is, in the beginning the LED efficiency was no better than incandescent lighting. In the year 2000, a push by the U.S. Energy Department to partner up with private industry to accelerate the development of white LED technology and create a high efficiency light which packaged the small devices into arrays to produce useable light was begun. This was a massive boost to LED development.
In 2008 a competition labeled as the L Prize, sponsored by the Energy Department, started to spur the development of highly efficient solid state lighting (which is what LEDs are – solid state electronic devices). At the time there were very few LED lights on the market which could efficiently replace incandescents. Most of the choices were 25-40 watt equivalents and were very pricey. Phillips Lighting North America entered its LED bulb into the 60 watt replacement category in L Prize competition in late 2009. After a demanding battery of trials and evaluations by many independent labs and much field testing, in 2011, the Energy Department awarded the first L Prize to Phillips Lighting North America. The incentive for competitors to concentrate on the 60 watt equivalent bulb was due to the fact that the Department determined that there were about 971 million 60 watt incandescent bulbs in use at that time. The fact that Phillips was able to develop the LED bulb that would win the competition demonstrated to others that the technology was a potential breakthrough in the lighting industry that they could strive to emulate.
As lighting companies continued to make improvements in the quality of the light and the efficiency of the LEDs, there were also, of course, constant cuts in production costs. All the improvements were marching along at a pretty good clip and that was definitely a good thing. Together they started to bring about the true successful commercialization of LED lighting – lighting that consumers were starting to become comfortable with. To the consumer, the price was a top (if not the top) consideration. With cuts in production costs The Energy Department estimated that in 2013, the cost of LED bulbs had dropped by an astounding amount of over 85% when compared to the cost in 2008. Even just as astounding, the cost today, in 2017, when compared to 2013 is a drop of about 50-90%, depending on the quality. Quality … remember you get what you pay for and there definitely are numerous cheaply manufactured LEDs on the market that would be best to avoid. The advancements in the efficiency has been just as impressive. The LED bulbs of today are seven to ten times more efficient than equivalent incandescent lighting, can cut energy costs by over 80% and have a lifetime which can be multiplied by more than 25.
The above mentioned improvements in the evolution of LED lighting greatly boosted the successful commercialization of LED lighting and the rapid integration of LED lighting by both residential and commercial consumers. Statistics from 2012 indicate that more than 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. and that saved approximately $675 million in annual energy costs. It is estimated that by 2019, LEDs are expected to gain up to a 53% global lighting market penetration. Despite all the wonderful advantages of LED lighting, and the rapidly increasing use, the most prominent lighting is still that old energy eating incandescent technology. However, with the ongoing phase out of incandescent bulbs, the LED lighting market will gradually increase and the engineering improvements and cuts in production will continue to reduce the initial cost and, no doubt, increase the efficiency, and improve all the other metrics of the LED. Never before in the history of lighting has a single technology had such enormous potential to transformation every lighting application known to man; from the lights in your house to those in the largest sports arenas, the lights in cars, that flashlight, their use in medicine – both as illumination and as therapy, and on and on. Even the changes that the introduction of the incandescent light brought about are going to pale as the LED technology marches on.
This blog is a multi-part writing which has touched on the evolution of artificial lighting, there will be one more installment of the series (then a new subject will have to be . In the meantime, if you need help with your LED lighting projects, please feel free to call Polar Ray at 303-494-5773 to speak with a lighting consultant. Thank you for perusing the Polar Ray website.