Skip to comments.LEDs Move Into Home Lighting Market
Posted on 06/25/2007 3:08:11 AM PDT by Wiz
LEDs Expand Their Reach Into the Aesthetic-Minded Market for Home Lighting
EVERETT, Mass. (AP) -- Joey Nicotera's fascination with multicolored light bulbs bordered on obsession when he was a teenager. He framed posters in lights and decorated his own Christmas tree. When he couldn't find a color bulb he wanted, he got paint cans from the basement and made some himself, bathing his second-story bedroom in an eerie glow.
"I'd be driving home from work at night, and I could see his room from five blocks away, with all the weird colors and flashing lights," recalls his father, Joe Nicotera Sr.
Joey is now 32 and out of the family home. But a rainbow of ever-changing colors still emanates from his current living space, an 840-square-foot loft condominium in a renovated candy bar factory in Everett, just north of Boston.
Instead of painting light bulbs, Nicotera spent $5,000 to equip his bachelor pad with 54 fixtures containing light-emitting diodes, or LEDs -- devices similar to computer semiconductors that convert electricity into light and stream it out of glass domes the size of matchstick heads.
They may be pricey now, but LEDs are being touted as eventual replacements for standard, incandescent bulbs and even compact fluorescents because of their growing efficiency and predictions of increasingly lower costs.
And as LEDs expand their reach into the aesthetic-minded market for home lighting, they boast something traditional lighting sources can't: LEDs can be programmed to emit light in virtually any color without the use of filters, enabling homeowners to design their own living room light shows, or tailor the color of the light to their mood.
"If colored light is needed, now there is a technology that can cater to that," said Nadarajah Narendran, director of lighting research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
Nicotera counts himself among an apparent handful of lighting enthusiasts around the country who have outfitted their homes with large numbers of LEDs. Now, his pad is a popular party spot and a great place to bring dates.
"I wanted a Vegas cocktail lounge look, with a Jetsons flavor to it," said Nicotera, an information technology manager in Boston. "I always figured that George and Jane would have walls that changed color," he said of the old TV cartoon characters.
Narendran says niche applications are already emerging as homeowners install LEDs to light display cabinets and add color to high-end home theaters. But it's hard to say how many homeowners will follow Nicotera's example by installing color LEDs and programming light shows.
"It's a matter of personal preference, like fashions," Narendran said.
Nicotera installed all his LED fixtures himself. Each contains 45 to 75 of the tiny spotlight-producing LEDs, commonly used in on-off indicators for electronics and appliances. He doesn't have any incandescent bulbs and relies on 50 halogen fixtures for overhead light.
He says his 54 LED fixtures together use less electricity than a single 100-watt incandescent and account for just $2 a month on his utility bill.
But it's the light show capabilities that capture Nicotera's interest. He taps controls on a wall switch panel to choose among eight programs or uses lighting control software on his laptop to expand programming options even further. Each program varies the color and brightness of the LED arrays in hanging lamps and the LED strips in backlit wall shelving and kitchen cabinets.
The wall switch and laptop are linked to a flash memory device and a pair of VCR-sized transformers that control the lights from a hallway closet. Shelves and cabinets abruptly shift from one hue to the next or shimmer gradually through the spectrum, bathing the condo's neutral gray walls in light.
Nicotera runs a red-white-and-blue program each Fourth of July, and he can change colors on shelf panels to simulate Tetris, the falling-blocks video puzzle game. When Italy won soccer's World Cup last year, Nicotera displayed Italy's national colors in his first-floor condo, which is visible to nearby traffic.
"It was all red, white and green," Nicotera said. "People who would drive by would honk their horns."
Because of their color advantage, LEDs are being used to light display shelves at jewelry stores and supply ambiance in restaurants. Hotels are installing LEDs to provide splashes of exterior color. And Toronto's CN Tower is being lit this month with more than 1,300 color-changing LEDs running up the 1,815-foot structure.
As for LEDs that cast white light, Narendran expects it will be five to 10 years before such products begin seriously challenging other light sources in homes.
So far, cost is the biggest obstacle, but that should change over the next few decades.
Three years ago, the first 10 fixtures Nicotera mounted in the bathroom ceiling cost $125 apiece. Since then, the cost has come down to less than $75 each. He says he hasn't had to replace or fix any of his LEDs, which are touted to run continuously for 11 years.
Last Tuesday, Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics NV expanded its LED presence by offering $688 million to acquire Color Kinetics Inc., a decade-old Boston company that designed the CN Tower's new lighting and holds patents on systems to control LED color and brightness.
Fritz Morgan, Color Kinetics' chief technology officer, said the semiconductor technology underlying LEDs is becoming more affordable and efficient at a rate on par with advances in computing speed. Today's LEDs are about as efficient as the latest compact fluorescents, Morgan said, and they are improving faster than fluorescents.
"There's been a dramatic increase in just two or three years, where LEDs went from being as efficient as incandescents, to then being as good as halogens, to now being at the level of compact fluorescents," Morgan said.
Nicotera -- whose home is equipped with Color Kinetics LED products bought through distributors -- is so impressed with the technology that he's put his condo up for sale and plans to build a new home from scratch, equipped exclusively with LEDs.
His condo is being offered at $359,000 -- he may throw in the unit's LED lights and controls for a little extra, subject to negotiation.
Although the LEDs may turn off some prospective buyers, Nicotera's mother is proof that there can be rewards to investing in a new technology. She was initially skeptical when her son started planning his condo's design.
"When he started talking about having a wall of lights, I couldn't really imagine what he was talking about," Linda Nicotera said. "I thought it was going to look like a disco, or something on the tacky side.
"But there was a 'wow' factor when I finally saw it. It ended a lot better than I thought."
“I called Cranes and went to a local electronics specialty shop and could not find any LED products. I am still waiting for products to emerge.”
This Dragon Fish LED lights may be “vaporware”. They have been promising it for months... and no bulb. It’s now promised for Sept. It certainly is too expensive at this point.
Thanks, I should clarify. I have some decorator type lamps in the living room that take the smaller diameter threads, i.e. small output bulbs. I did find something with more output, but not LED.
If he heats with electricity this saves him no money on his electrical bill during the heating season, which is much of the year in MA. The "wasted" energy of the "less-efficient" incandescent or fluourescent bulbs is in the form of heat, which when using LEDs must be replaced by the furnace.
OTOH, the LEDs lack of waste heat saves on cooling costs as well as lighting costs during the summer.
Crane quotes the highest output screw in LED assembly (not reflector type) as 60 lumens. (Lumens are a measure of light output). These are 2.5 watt power consumption at 120V.
A 100w incandescent soft light bulb runs about 1200 lumens. A 100w halogen is 1600 lumens. A 23w CCFL bulb has about 1500 lumens output.
So, if one is to duplicate the useful light output of a standard 100w incandescent bulb, it looks like you will need 20 LED assemblies to yield 1200 lumens. Or, to match a 23w CCFL bulb you will need 25 LED assemblies for 1500 lumens.
So, unless I am missing something here, these drop-in LED replacements don’t provide much light output.
There may be an issue with illumination angle, as the LEDs could provide focused light intensity for spot lighting, whilst the incandescents and CCFLs are omni directional.
Typical reporter lack of knowledge about his subject. Halogen lights have a wire filament, threfore are an incandescent lamp. Only difference is they have a gas of the halogen family added to the bulb to allow the filament to run hotter than normal without premature burnout.
I do alot of work with them on “product in place” research and testing.
Here is my professional view about LEDs, about 8 years ago or so I accidentally found myself in a position building then LED flashlights I personally modified from existing bulb types, I had numerous versions and other experiments including using laser diodes in cartridge cases for bore sighting purposes, these products are currently on the market. At first it was an open playing field but soon the Chinese flooded the market and I withdrew and ceased building any new prototypes.
Its all about corporate greed and high profit margins. You will not for the most part find a LED type of lamp with an output near a conventional bulb in Walmart, but they have been available for many years. Anybody with some minor electrical background in auto lighting can buy 12v white or colored LED lamps from Ebay and a regulated 12 volt DC power supply and build a home lighting system, I did many years ago. Its the Walmart curse, we won’t really see useful technological products in the big box stores until they can be made ultra cheap and thats usually at least a year or two after their is a public interest.Its also the gullibility factor, recently we were lectured CFLs were the wave of the future but in pure reality they are a dangerous product to dispose of. Mercury being a toxic material, LEDs however are almost entirely made from solid material like epoxy resins and have except for some designs no dangerous gases or materials. Introducing high output LED lamps at this time would disrupt many areas of other consumer goods, right now there are new RPTVs with LED lamps that are more efficient than other DLP lamps that have a life of around 6,000 hours. Many new cars have marker lamps of LEDs, that now decreases the demand for replacement bulbs, flashlights usually had an hour or two of battery run time, now with LED lamps its measured in months, less battery sales. Trafficlight systems are mostly LED now, lamps now last over 5 years and less people needed to change lamps thoght technically a traffic signal may not need a “lamp” replacement if LED for well over 10 years.
Introducing high output low cost LEDs on the market right now is on a comparison to being able to buy a new car that ran on tap water and was affordable to anyone like buying a bicycle, almost totally maintenance free and not needing expensive fuels or replacement parts.In the real world its a sad fact that there is a stranglehold on consumer products that we the consumer are blind too, we have been lead to believe we need to constantly buy products that require high maintenace costs like printers and such. The smart consumer would do best to abstain from living off the the “affordable” goods coming from the big box stores like Walmart, instead research for instance what boaters use for lighting, myself I buy very few high end items from Walmart, for the most part its Mobil 1 oil, laundry detergent and Gatorade, with the current love of high profit margins a place like Walmart is just an outlet for Chinese goods made cheaply and with many possible hazards of toxins and such due to the low standards.
Currently Ebay is a good place to get LED lamps, I tell all my friends to look there, plus the shipping on most items are small.
I’m suspicious of a 32 year old single male living in a loft.
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