SSL Advancements Light Way for Greater Efficiency in 2012
By Steve Nadell
This new year promises to be just as exciting as 2011 for LED development. Without a doubt, we all saw rapid strides in the solid state lighting category – both in terms of improved lamping technology and acceptance at the government level. Energy-efficient lighting legislation has been embraced nationally in the U.S., as seen with the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA. Internationally, we have also seen similar energy-reducing lighting measures in the European Union, United Kingdom, Cuba, and most recently China. The motivation for energy savings reached a fever pitch in 2011—and I believe it will only increase in 2012.
Rapid electrical advancements have created more efficiencies in solid-state lighting products across the board, as many manufacturers continue to increase their investments in this category. As recently as June 2011, a report titled Lighting the Way: Perspectives on the Global Lighting Market by McKinsey & Company found that the solid-state lighting market will amount to almost $91 billion by 2020, or “close to 60 percent of the overall lighting market.” If that’s not an indication of where the lighting industry is heading, I don’t know what is!
Higher Temperatures, More Lumens
Heightened demand has created a new generation of LED products with breakthrough performance in terms of brightness, efficacy, color accuracy, and higher junction point temperatures. These newly designed and enhanced LEDs can reach up to 150⁰ C. For industry professionals, particularly architects and designers, a higher lighting temperature allows for increased light output — which means a decreased amount of LEDs are needed to illuminate a space. Additionally, we saw advancement of junction temperature. Today, we are now seeing up to 100 lumens per watt, compared to 25-30 lumens per watt when LEDs first hit the market.
The color consistency of high-quality LED products has also improved in recent years, moving beyond the undesirable blue-white light we all remember from the 1990s. Improvements in types of diodes, wavelength, voltage, and semi-conductor material have meant today’s performance-engineered LEDs emit a much warmer white light.
Another area where we have seen great advancement is lighting control. Early versions of dimmable LEDs had issues with power supply and dimming circuitry, LED color shifts, visual flicker, and thermal and mechanical stress. However, dimming performance and control have been enhanced dramatically in recent years with the help of automation systems such as Lutron and Crestron. LED dimming features are not only a necessity for long-term energy-efficiency, but also provide consumers with greater control over their interior ambiance.
Because LEDs come with higher upfront costs that must be recovered through energy savings over long lifetimes, LEDs have been cost-prohibitive for residential and small-scale projects. However, this is changing. Costs are already decreasing by an average of 15-20 percent each year, and in some cases as much as 50 percent, depending on the quality of LED product. As cost decreases and light output increases, higher-performing LEDs will be available for an even greater range of applications.
A new generation of LEDs will always be around the corner, bringing us better performance, efficiency and more investment from lighting manufacturers — which all comes back to benefit the consumer. Manufacturers (including CSL ) are committed to reducing market costs while keeping the same light output through value-engineering. In fact, we are currently working with a new heat sink material that will double the light output from our current LED Eco-Downlights.
Even on the decorative and architectural lighting side, I foresee incredible LED design and performance advancements within the next decade. Gone are the days when we thought decorative lighting and LED lamps were mutually exclusive. Instead of making new LED technology fit within our existing designs, we are developing new designs that could never be done before with incandescents. Rather than looking back at the past, we are looking forward the future. And one thing is certain: it will be greener, brighter and better.
Steve Nadell is a 30-year veteran of the lighting manufacturing industry and the current president of CSL (Creative Systems Lighting).