LIGHT-EMITTING DIODES Welcome to a new generation of illumination
The new bulb has an expected life of 50,000 hours.
By STACY DOWNS
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Call 2004 the breakthrough year for light-emitting diodes.
Although the diodes, or LEDs, were invented in the late 1960s, only recently have they been considered a viable light source for the home. They tended not to shine as brightly as other lights and were reserved for accent illumination -- a pity because LEDs are longer lasting and more energy efficient.
But the first LED-based floodlight capable of replacing a 45- or 65-watt incandescent bulb was introduced in October. The floodlight, by Enlux Lighting, costs $80 and has an expected life of 50,000 hours compared with about 2,000 for an incandescent, which costs about $6.
The LED light bulb pays for itself in about two years if it is on for 12 hours a day, says Dan Nelson, marketing director for Enlux. The energy savings in one floodlight's lifetime can exceed $400.
The LED bulb can be used indoors, outdoors and in places where incandescent and halogen floodlights are found, Nelson says. No separate wiring or power supplies are needed because it screws into an existing medium-base socket. The floodlight is appealing for track lighting because it's so long-lasting, he says.
"Everyone knows what a pain it is to replace a bulb in a high ceiling," Nelson says.
The LED floodlight is available in three tones of white: warm, neutral and cool. It's also sold as an accent light in amber, blue and red. The floodlight must be ordered online at www.enluxled.com or by phone, (480) 733-8065 .
Last month, Enlux's floodlight was awarded Popular Science magazine's "Best of What's New" in the Home Tech category. It also won the new product "Energy Award" and the "Best of Category Award for LED Lamps" at this year's Lightfair International, an architectural and commercial lighting trade show.
Meanwhile, other companies have expanded their LED offerings. Lumatec, based in Austin, Texas, sells LED booklights, magnifiers and keychain flashlights. Products can be ordered online at www.lumatec.com or by phone, (800) 651-2460 .
Chris Ferguson, lighting product designer and owner of Fixture Designs in Prairie Village, says there are good alternatives to incandescent bulbs besides LED lights that are long-lasting and less expensive. A compact fluorescent bulb costs $10 and lasts 10,000 hours. A par lamp, using halogen filament, costs $5, lasts 2,500 hours and burns five times brighter than an incandescent bulb, he says.
The LED technology has room to grow, lighting experts say. The current LED lighting is "soft and fairylike," best suited as accent lighting for hallways and staircases, says Joel Slavis, owner of Light Waves Concept, a Manhattan-based lights supplier for products including LEDs.
"LEDs are like personal computers," Slavis says. "Give them a little bit longer, and the price will come down as the quality improves."