We all know that we need to find a way to decrease our dependency upon foreign energy sources. Oil is currently a very critical energy source given the volatility in the Middle East and the extreme anti-American posture taken by bafoons such as the current leader of Venezuela. There is also a very real concern that the continued burning of carbon-based fuels may be accelerating global warming by adding to greenhouse gasses. LED lighting technology may provide a partial solutions.
Unfortunately, there aren’t very many viable alternatives on the production side of the equation. Solar energy is becoming more cost-effective, but is still to expensive and too limited in scope to meet the needs of an energy hungry America. Wind power can only be utilized effectively in a relatively few windy locations. Nuclear power is probably the most cost-effective way to resolve the issues, but it continues to meet stiff resistance from anti-nuclear and environmental groups.
LED Technology to the Rescue
While the government and the energy companies wrestle with the supply-side issues, there is something that consumers can do to both lessen the overall demand for electricity and save themselves some money. LED technology uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to generate light much more efficiently than standard tungsten incandescent lighting. The vast majority of light bulbs in use today use a tungsten filament that is heated with electricity to produce light. The problem with tungsten lighting is that it is very inefficient. About 80% of the electricity consumed by tungsten lighting escapes as heat, which is why tungsten light bulb get so hot. LED lighting, also called solid state lighting, converts most of the electricity into light.
The result is that LED lights produce more light per watt of power consumed.
The Limitations with LED Lighting
The drawback with LED lighting is that the current technology produces a limited amount of lumen output. In other words, it’s not quite bright enough to replace most incandescent lighting. There are initiatives in place, such as the US Department of Energy’s Lighting Technology Roadmap, that call for further development of LED technology with a goal of producing 150 lumens per watt of energy consumed by 2012. Current white LED technology produces light output in the range of 50 to 70 lumens per watt. Some laboratory prototypes LEDs are already claimed to be producing 150 lumens per watt. Once these premium prototype LEDs are perfected and mass-produced, both the efficiency and lumen output of LEDs will likely raise it to the level where it can compete with the low cost of tungsten bulbs.
The Future Looks Bright for LEDs
Several states are in the process of enacting legislation that will eventually eliminate the sale of inefficient incandescent lighting. California, North Carolina, Connecticut and Rhode Island have each introduced legislation to promote use of energy efficient light bulbs. These bills contain language that will ban the sale of incandescent lights while promoting more energy efficient alternatives, such as LED lighting, halogen lamps and compact florescent bulbs. This follows an announcement by Australia where they plan to elimnate the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2010.
Keep your eye on LED lighting technology. It is already in widespread use for flashlights, lanterns, night lights, Christmas lights and other applications where strong lighting is not required. As this technology progresses, you will see it used more often for lighting homes, offices, shopping malls and other locations that will benefit from a substantially reduction in the use of power for lighting. Expect to see a wide range of LED products hit the market withing the next few years.