Friday, February 26, 2010

Cool Technology of the Week

I try to be an early adopter of emerging technologies so that I can assess their readiness for the marketplace, reporting on the good and the bad in an effort to benefit my colleagues.

On the green energy front, I retired incandescent bulbs in my household and converted to compact fluorescents (CFL) very early in the product development cycle. All in all it was a great experience, although the first CFLs had a harsh cool white light.

Recently, I've explored the next generation of replaceable home light bulbs - Ultra LEDs. Sylvania has introduced 40 watt LED light bulbs with an essentially infinite lifespan, no mercury, little heat, and a perfect 2700K spectrum of warm white light.

It's an exciting development because there are no moving parts, nothing to burn out, and nothing to break. I've replaced an entire room (a studio that my wife, my daughter and I share for art, music and studying) with LEDs.

For ceiling and track lights, I used Sylvania Parabolic Aluminum Reflector (PAR20) 210 lumens, 7 watt, 40 watt equivalent bulbs.

For the table lamp, I used a Sylvania A19 (standard light bulb shape) 350 lumen, 8 watt, 40 watt bulb.

Above is a photo of the room in LED lighting.

So, what's the downside of light bulbs that last forever, use very little energy, and have a great soft white spectrum? The cost is currently $30-40 per bulb. Of course, over the life of the bulb, plus the energy saved, that's not significantly different than incandescents or compact fluorescent.

I asked my favorite local hardware store about emerging LED technology. Their view is that the economics will not yet quite work. The room pictured above uses six 7 watt reflectors and one 8 watt A19 bulb. Total energy expenditure to brightly light the entire space with LEDs - 50 watts. Total cost $230.00, amortized over the life of the house i.e. the bulbs will last longer than I will.

Like any new technology, the price will drop as economies of scale, competition, and manufacturing advances reduce production costs.

Although the capital cost to convert a room is currently high, I'm impressed by the technology. Given that one of my long term goals is to build a small, carbon neutral retirement cottage and that my daughter may become an environmental engineer, LED lighting technologies are likely to play an important role in our future.


Anonymous said...

You just made Sylvania's day!

Chris said...

While LEDs are energy efficient meaning there is minimal heat emitted with the light, they are sensitive to heat build-up on the circuitry (back) side. There are typically heat sinks built into the bulbs. Excessive heat will kill an LED, so recessed can lights and other fixtures that that weren't designed for LED bulbs might not have the long life advantage(max 100k hours).