From the latest issue of LEDs Magazine.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: LEDs not all they're cracked up to be?
Although LED lighting is proving to be useful in many applications, RON DAVIS, a marketing consultant with Vu1 Corporation, believes the industry should continue to consider other lighting options.
ARTICLES < Previous Next > Contents (August 2010) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: LEDs not all they're cracked up to be? (MAGAZINE)Although LED lighting is proving to be useful in many applications, RON DAVIS, a marketing consultant with Vu1 corporation, believes the industry should continue to consider other lighting options.
Many years ago, I was assigned the task of establishing a beachhead of mini-computers in a large Fortune 50 company that had been operating under an “IBM only” buying mandate. I was working for the second largest computer company in the world, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). To set the expectations of the 22-person DEC sales team calling on this account I brought them into the customer’s primary data center. I walked them into a 50,000 square foot “glass house” packed with huge IBM mainframe computers and said “here’s your challenge”. As someone involved with a new lighting technology that is not LED based – I felt the same “challenge” as I walked into this year’s Light Fair. I have commented that the name should have been changed to “LED Fair”. I mentioned on the Vu1 Corporation blog (vu1corp.blogspot.com) that one was hard pressed to find even a CFL at this year’s Light Fair.
This all leads me to suggest that the lighting industry should not be putting all of its “eggs in one basket”. LEDs will likely prove to be a great solution in many applications. They are already showing great promise in automotive, street lights, traffic signals, retail and display applications. Unfortunately, some of the basic characteristics of LEDs may keep them from being the best solution in general illumination lighting. Concerns regarding brightness, spectrum, glare, dissipation, CRI and cost are issues that may not have easy solutions. Recent articles by leading U.S. Department of Energy SSL representatives are confirming that in LED general illumination products are too often over promising and under delivering.
Another consideration often overlooked is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for LEDs over a reasonable period of time such as 5-6 years. A LED value proposition that is based on 30-50K hours does not hold up when you consider the actual time a homeowner will stay in their current home – 6 years (according to the National Association of Realtors). A light bulb needs to reach breakeven in less than 2 years and start generating measureable savings. It will be a long while before a true direct replacement R30 or A19 LED bulb will come close to offering a compelling 5-6 year TCO. Lastly, the environmentally focused will start to look at the cradle-to-grave environmental cost of LED lighting solutions. When one considers - materials (especially heat sinking), manufacturing processes and the real show stopper - transportation costs (consider the weight of an LED versus a CFL or incandescent) – the LED may end up being a losing proposition.
The CFL industry is currently in a losing battle as they try to down play down their environmental Achilles Heel - the “mercury issue”. If the “small amount of mercury” in the CFL bulbs sold in America over the last 5 years were to end up in landfills potentially gaining exposure to soil and water – it will represent “enough mercury to contaminate every lake, river and stream in North America”. (www.informinc.com). The EPA predicts that – best case – only 25% of CFLs will be recycled. The rest will end up in landfills.
There are several General Illumination energy efficient technologies that should be considered and supported by industry and governments; Halogen Infrared Reflecting (HIR), Photoluminescent Nanofibers (PLNs), induction and of course my favorite, Electron Stimulated Luminescent (ESL).
Vu1 has been working to apply electron physics in a way never before used in general illumination lighting to create a product that essentially duplicates the incandescent light spectrum while being fully dimmable, instant on, trash bin disposable and similar in price and life to a CFL. Vu1 is hoping that industry and governments will want to hedge their bets and not put all their “eggs in one basket”.
By the way, what happened to the “2nd largest computer company in the world” – DEC? They went out of business after 40 years. Why? Because they bet the farm on the mini-computer and refused to acknowledge that there could be a better technology on the way (the personal computer). Their “eggs were all in one basket”.
This article was published in the July/August 2010 issue of LEDs Magazine. To read the full version of this article, please visit our magazine page, where you can download FREE electronic PDF versions of all issues of LEDs Magazine. You can also request a print copy of LEDs Magazine (available by paid subscription) and sign up for our free weekly email newsletter.