Let there be light: Couple explores LED lights for their home
by Janet Miller | for Ann Arbor Business Review
Thursday September 25, 2008, 5:30 AM
Robert RameyLee Daniels with an LED light.
Leigh Daniels and Evie Gauthier are poised to save thousands of dollars on their electric bill over the next 20 years. But that's not the reason the Ann Arbor couple recently replaced 40 incandescent cans with energy-efficient LED lights.
Their motivation: The environment. "We need to do our part to decrease electricity usage," said Daniels, who retired from a career in computers and is a now a composer and musician. "The environment is the biggest issue we have to deal with right now. With the lights, we thought now was the time to change." But LED lighting technology remains in its infancy, said Laurie Gross, president of Gross Electric in Ann Arbor.
"LED is just emerging. There are very few products that are ready for prime time," she said. "There's a lot of junk out there."
LED technology struggles on a number of fronts, she said, including dissipating the heat, color and light output. Still. there are good LED lights on the market, Gross said. They include lines of undercabinet and overcabinet LED lights, recessed cans and pendants. But rather than developing an entire line of LED lights, companies are specializing, such as Progress offering pendant lights and LLF offering a line of recessed cans. "There are a lot of products in the pipeline. We're seeing a few more every day," Gross said.
â€¢ Least expensive. Four-pack of 60-watt GE Reveal costs $4.79 ($1.2 each).
â€¢ Shortest lasting, from 1,000 to 2,000 hours.
Compact fluorescent lighting
â€¢ Moderately priced. GE Spiral CFL, 13 watts, cost about $6.79 each.
â€¢ Lasts up to 8,000 hours, four times longer than incandescent.
Light Emitting Diode lighting
â€¢ Expensive. The equivalent of a 60 watt bulbs costs about $70.
â€¢ Super long lasting, 50,000 or more hours. That's about once every 20 years.
She expects to see a rush of new products in January at the industry lighting show in Dallas. But the day when consumers can purchase quality LED bulbs to replace their incandescent - much like they do now with compact fluorescents - is a year or more off, Gross said.
In the meantime, buyers should beware: "Some LED bulbs are not much more efficient than fluorescents. Many of them don't get more lumens per watt than fluorescents." Daniels said he had watched with interest as the city of Ann Arbor began replacing streetlights with LED bulbs. So when the dust was about to fly on a major home renovation project late last year, they figured the time would be right to replace their recessed cans with LED lights.
They turned to Gross Electric for advice. They wanted to retrofit the fixtures in their basement, living room and dining room. There weren't many choices: LLF, a North Carolina company recently purchased by Cree LED Lighting Solutions, was the only brand and they offered two choices: A warm color that looked similar to incandescent light and a cooler color that was used mostly in kitchens. Daniels said they went with the warmer color. "I liked the light a lot better. It was easy to read in. And it was more even and softer," he said.
He has only one small complaint: The dimming range of the LEDs is shorter compared to incandescent lights. While the LEDs can be dimmed, they switch off before they are completely dimmed. According to information from Cree, running a 65-watt light for 50,000 hours (about 20 years) costs $325 in electricity. Because the LED uses only 12 watts, running the light for 50,000 hours will cost only $60 under the same scenario. There's a savings of $265 dollars over the life of one bulb, which more than covers the $110 cost to purchase the light.
LED lights use roughly 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and 50 percent less than compact fluorescents. And they don't contain the toxic mercury found in the fluorescents. Because they only have to be replaced every 20 years, they save time.
Still, the upfront cost needs to be considered: "This isn't for someone looking for a quick turn around," Gauthier said.