November 13, 2012
Future Looks Bright For LED Bulbs As 100 Watt Equivalent Arrives
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
LED light bulbs have long offered the promise of energy savings, which could translate into real monetary savings over the lifespan of the bulb. But what LED hasn´t been able to offer is the brightness of standard incandescent bulbs, which may not have left users in the dark, but certainly not basking in the warm glow of a bright light.
The alternative to the long enduring bulb, which hasn´t really changed much since Thomas Edison invented/perfected the electric light in the 1870s, is the compact fluorescent bulb. However, that technology — which had been pushed as the successor to the incandescent — had notable drawbacks, the biggest being that it contained mercury. The presence of which is a problem both for the recycling at the bulb´s end of life but moreover should it break. Additionally, the light from the compact fluorescent has been greatly seen as not as pleasing as the light from the incandescent.
Even as the compact fluorescent bulb was being introduced it was expected to be a short-lived stopgap as LED technology was being developed as a true replacement and successor to the incandescent. LED bulbs don´t contain any volatile, hazardous substances and they are considerably more durable than either incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. But the greatest benefit this new technology offers is that it lasts longer than either.
The LED — or light-emitting diode — has been around almost as long as the incandescent, first being “discovered” in 1907. But it wasn´t until the 1960s that this technology found practical application in electronic components. The LED is used today in computer monitors, mobile phones and of course flat panel TVs. But the technology could light the world as well. New technology in the 1990s allowed the development of LED that produced white light, hence making it possible for light bulbs.
Osram Sylvania, a division of Germany´s Siemans AG, announced on Monday that it is shipping the first batch of its new Ultra LED bulbs to retailers. The bulb could be seen as a bright step forward, as it uses just 20 watts of electricity but offers the same amount of light that is cast from a typical incandescent. This is possible, because the biggest drawback in incandescent bulbs is that much of the energy output is lost as heat as opposed to light.
LED solves this problem, thus more of the energy is transformed in light. The bulb will also reportedly offer more than 25,000 hours of use — roughly 20 times the lifespan of standard, incandescent bulbs.
So that´s the good news. There are of course drawbacks. The first is the solution to the heat problem, because while LED produces less heat from each diode, cramming multiple diodes does generate an increase in heat. This is why LED bulbs require the large fine metal collars to radiate the heat. In turn the bulb is larger in overall size than an incandescent so it won´t fit all light sockets. The other downside is the upfront cost, as the bulbs will sell for $49.99 each. That makes replacing a house full of light bulbs an expensive proposition but given the lifespan of the bulb consumers will see a savings over the life of the bulb.
In addition to the equivalent of the 100W bulbs, Sylvania will also offer 40, 60 and 75W equivalent versions as well. Additionally, unlike compact fluorescent bulbs these can be dimmed to as little 10-percent of the brightness.
And consumers might not have a choice. The government is banning the manufacture of the old 100-watt bulbs to meet new energy-efficiency standards, while similar moves will in essence replace the 75-watt bulb, followed by the 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs in 2014. It should be added that the bulbs are not technically “banned” but rather the new laws required the wattages to be dropped to meet new energy standards.
Eventually it seems that the old incandescent will be turned off for good.