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LED Technology Illuminates New Paths In Sustainable Lighting

Nearly 40 years after its inception, LED lighting is finally becoming more mainstream. LED technology’s lower energy consumption and longer life-span has made it popular with consumers, thus giving it the necessary qualities to push the incandescent light bulb into obsolescence.

And in the world of lighting, the incandescent light bulb has had an incredibly long run. Innovation was rapid in the years following Edison’s patent in 1878, but the technology changed surprisingly little over the next 100 years. Now nearly a century and a half later, the time has arrived for a lighting revolution.

LED stands for light-emitting diode. Technically speaking, LEDs are semi-conductor devices which emit protons when transmitting an electrical current. They are a solid-state illumination technology.

Put more simply, LEDs use electronics to emit light energy, rather than the more traditional methods such as electric filaments or plasma discharge.

In recent years, the LED lights have become drastically more efficient in their energy requirements. Most critically, LED lighting technology has passed the benchmark of 100 lumens per Watt (lumen is the unit measurement for lighting output) thus launching them into competition with incandescent lights. Dr. Roland Haitz identified these exponential increases in LED efficiency, and projected a doubling of lumen output every 3 years, with costs decreasing by a factor of 10 every decade (a concept similar to Moore’s Law).

Recognizing the benefits of more efficient lighting, governments have taken measures to ensure consumers buy energy-efficient bulbs (mind you, some individuals in the U.S. have not taken kindly to such government “intervention”).

But as a result of the government policies and technological improvements, LED lighting has managed to capture 10 percent of the world’s lighting market, up 5 percent since 2010. Some estimates value the LED market at $15.4 billion in 2011.

Recognizing the tantalizing opportunities the LED market presents, GE has recently announced plans to release 60W, 75W, and 100W replacement LED bulbs within the next year and a half. Based on three hours of use per day, the new bulbs will have a lifespan of 20 years.

The influx of LED bulbs on the lighting market is an encouraging sign that lighting technology is finally becoming more energy efficient and sustainable.

How do you interpret the recent numbers on LED lighting? Do you foresee it taking over the lighting market over the next few years? Or are there still some barriers preventing its widespread adoption?

Image: GE Energy Smart® 13-watt LED

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