Energy-saving: domestic LED bulbs hit the market

LED-based light bulbs, a technology promising enormous energy savings, but not expected to be widely used before 2020, are now being offered by several companies. The first entry to a US government co…

LED-based light bulbs, a technology promising enormous energy savings, but not expected to be widely used before 2020, are now being offered by several companies. The first entry to a US government competition – the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes (L Prize), established by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2007 – seeking a LED, or light-emitting diode, replacement for the 60-watt incandescent bulb was submitted by Philips Electronics in September 2009. Philips and German firm Osram began selling similar LED bulbs over the summer, followed by Panasonic in October 2009. LED bulbs are said to last longer than CFLs“ typical 6,000-15,000-hour lifespan, while they do not contain mercury, making them easier to recycle. Restrictions on the sale of incandescent bulbs began to undergo their first phase in the EU in September 2009, while a similar phase-out will take place in the US from 2012. The winners of the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes will have access to public procurement contracts and their products are expected to become industry standards. The DOE criteria: energy use of less than 10W, efficiency exceeding 90lm/W, a minimum 25,000-hour lifetime and a suitable colour, will be used to test Philips“ entry independently. Moreover, winning products must also have a cost of about USD 22 per unit and have the possibility of being made in quantities of at least 250,000 per year. According to a senior energy researcher at Oxford University“s Environmental Change Institute, Daniel Curtis, it will take some time for a wholesale switch, since 250,000 light bulbs a year represents only 0.016% of the US market. He added that even if Philips subsidises the product while it builds up its market position, the unit price will probably be more than USD 30. The L Prize does, however, promote LED development, and should also ensure data collected on different products are robust and comparable, unlike those for CFLs. Curtis said he expects LED lighting to take off only after 2020, but that in his opinion, it could become the only lighting technology by 2040. Assuming efficiency of 200lm/W, the energy requirements of UK lighting could even be 80% less than the 1990 levels by 2031. Philips“ L Prize entry is not on the market yet, but the company started selling a small range of LED bulbs in the UK this summer, with prices ranging from GBP 10-25. Also in the summer, and more precisely in August, Osram launched what it claims is the world“s first bulb-shaped LED lamp to replace 40W incandescents. According to Osram, the EUR 35 (GBP 32.60) 8W Parathom Classic lasts for 25,000 hours, and saves users almost EUR 200 in electricity and 400 kilos of CO2 over its lifetime. The company also announced that it will launch a replacement for 60W bulbs in 2010. Panasonic, which started commercialization of 6.9W Everled LED bulbs to replace 60W incandescents in Japan in mid-October, claims the bulbs will last 19 years, when used for 5.5 hours a day. Looking further to the future, organic LEDs, which are polymer films used in some televisions and computer monitors, are expected to provide still greater advances. These LEDs, which can be built into window panes or walls, provide a diffused glow rather than a light beam.