Among all of the lighting options available on the market, lighting designer Gary Gordon says there is one that professional builders should dismiss entirely from their repertoire. "There's no reason anyone should be using the standard household incandescent bulb anymore," says the principal of New York?based Gary Gordon Lighting. "It's far too energy-inefficient to be used anywhere."
So what should pros do? Consider LEDs.
LEDs (short for light emitting diodes) are actually tiny, encapsulated semi-conductors that can last for 30,000 hours to 50,000 hours or more. While LEDs are widely known as colored indicator lights in items such as computer monitors or car dashboards, in recent years manufacturers have begun to offer them in shades of white and grouped in the shape of a light bulb so they can be screwed into traditional fixtures or replace incandescent downlights. The EnLux LED downlight, for example, can be installed in most 5- and 6-inch recessed housings, and uses just 14 watts of energy but provides 700 lumens, the company says.
Also fitting easily in most standard 6-inch recessed housing is the LR6 downlight module from Cree (circle 107). Designed for new construction and retrofits, the LED module delivers 650 lumens with 12 watts of power and is dimmable to 25%.
Some manufacturers are producing speciality housing in addition to the lighting modules. Cooper Lighting's Halo LED Recessed Lighting is an Energy Star?certified fixture. A Halo LED module installs into a dedicated new-construction housing that includes a junction box and hanger bars with pre-installed nails; the module can also be installed in existing Halo, All-Pro, or 6-inch housings. Consuming less than 15 watts, the dimmable LED module provides a warm white color temperature and light output of more than 600 lumens. According to the maker, it has a projected life of 50,000 hours.
Manufacturers and government researchers are investing millions of dollars in overcoming LEDs' drawbacks. One problem is that they are not yet as efficient as compact fluorescents–their efficacy is between 30 and 60 lumens per watt. But LED efficiency is improving by about 100% every 24 months, estimates Joseph A. Rey-Barreau, a lighting designer and associate professor at the College of Design at the University of Kentucky. "In five to 10 years, it may be the most predominant light source everywhere," he says.
Large LED fixtures also cost five to 10 times that of compact fluorescent fixtures, pushing them out of the price range of most residential applications. But designers say they are using small LEDs in cove, undercabinet, and step lighting applications. Kichler's Design Pro LED undercabinet lighting features an ultra-thin, 1/2-inch profile and provides 40,000 hours of life. It is offered in three outputs: a 4-watt, 6-inch-long fixture; an 8-watt, 12-inch-long fixture; and a 12-watt, 18-inch-long fixture.
In years to come, organic LEDs (LEDs stretched into thin films) could change the way we see lighting entirely, allowing designers to stretch a light source across a wall or ceiling and turning fixtures and sockets into a remnant of the past. Excerpted from March/April 2009 issue of Ecohome magazine. To read the entire article, visit www.ecohomemagazine.com.