To change the bulbs in the 60-foot-high ceiling lights of Buckingham Palace’s grand stairwell, workers had to erect scaffolding and cover portraits of royal forebears. So when a lighting designer two years ago proposed installing light emitting diodes or LEDs, an emerging lighting technology, the royal family readily assented. The new lights, the designer said, would last more than 22 years and enormously reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. In shifting to LED lighting, the palace is part of a small but fast-growing trend that is redefining the conception of lighting, replacing energy-wasting disposable bulbs with efficient fixtures that are semi-permanent. Studies suggest that a complete conversion to the lights could decrease carbon dioxide emissions from electric power use for lighting by up to 50% in just over 20 years. A recent report by McKinsey & Co cited conversion to LED lighting as the most cost effective of a number of simple approaches to tackling global warming using existing technology. LED lighting was once relegated to basketball scoreboards, cell phone consoles and traffic lights. But as a result of rapid developments in the technology, it is poised to become a staple on streets and in buildings, as well as in homes and offices. LEDs are more than twice as efficient as compact fluorescent bulbs, currently the standard for greener lighting. Unlike compact fluorescents, LEDs turn on quickly and are compatible with dimmer switches. And while fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, which requires special disposal, LED bulbs have no toxic elements. The switch to LEDs is proceeding far more rapidly than experts had predicted two years ago. However, there remain significant barriers. Homeowners may balk at the high initial cost. An outdoor LED spotlight today costs $100, as opposed to $7 for a regular bulb. And in the rush to make cheaper LEDs, poorly manufactured products could erase the technology’s natural advantage, reducing their lifespan from decades to months.
Labels: LED Bulbs Lighting