In recent years, in an effort to increase energy savings and environmental protection, relevant regulations have been successively issued in the largest consumer markets prescribing a gradual phase out of the widely used incandescent lamps. Whether consumers like it or not, in the near future, lighting products used for household and commercial purposes will change. It is widely agreed within the lighting industry that in the long run LED will be the ideal technology to replace incandescent lamps.
As the 16th Guangzhou International Lighting Exhibition showed, the lighting industry is all about the LED. Held in June 2011, 12 of its 20 exhibition halls were filled with LED products, which represented 80% of all exhibited products. Such trends show that the LED is heading towards becoming the main lighting solution.
Incandescent light has its days numbered
Without a doubt, the ascent of LEDs has been accelerated by regulators’ decision to remove the century-old incandescent light bulbs from consumer and commercial use. The US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 completely forbids the use of 100 W incandescent light from 2012 onward. In 2013, the US will phase out 75 W incandescent light, with 60 W and 40 W incandescent light following in 2014. In the EU incandescent light bulbs are also gradually being phased out in accordance with ErP IM 244/2009. From September 2009 to 2012, the 100 W, 75 W and 60 W incandescent lamps will be gradually removed from the market. In China, experts from the China Association of Lighting expect the “The Twelfth Five-Year Plan” to incorporate LED into new strategic industries, and pushing energy saving and environmental protection to become a target for local governments.
LEDs proved to be more efficient than incandescent lamps going by almost all criteria. Considering the electricity consumption, incandescent lamps can only transform 10% of electricity into light, while the remaining is turned into wasted thermal energy. With the incessant improvement of the luminous efficiency of LEDs, they can now provide 54 Im/W, while the incandescent lamp can only achieve 18 Im/W. Such improved efficiencies can help reduce fossil fuels consumption and reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
Another cutting-edge advantage is the long lifetime of LEDs. At present, the LED is proven to have a lifetime of over 20,000 hours, and some even reach 100,000 hours. Meanwhile the incandescent lamp lasts for about 1,000 to 2,000 hours. But the lifetime of LED lighting products depends not only on the LED itself, it also relies on the performance of LED power supplies.
Although the future of LED lighting looks great, there are still a few hurdles that need to be faced. The most urgent problems are heat dissipation and light distribution. The life of an over-heated LED is dramatically shortened, while at low temperatures, the higher the electric current, the brighter the LED becomes. The most common way to ensure heat dissipation is physical cooling, either by heat conduction with integrated heat sinks or by thermal radiation using fans.
Light distribution relates to the light shape of the LED. The LED typically shed light in one direction and as a result they work great as signal lighting. But to adequately replace incandescent lamps, LED light distribution must be scattered into a surface-distribution shape.
Before the LED can make a significant entry on to the general lighting market, such technological drawbacks need to be addressed. But with the largest players in the lighting industry heavily investing into semi-conductor technologies, reaching the relevant technological advancements is just a matter of time. Furthermore, regulators around the world are keeping a watchful eye on this industry, releasing standards that set detailed requirements for the performance and technical parameters of LED luminaries. New LED standards are currently being prepared or are undergoing improvements, particularly IEC standards.
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