LEDs could soon light the way everywhere

Philips says it'll sell them as replacements for fluorescent tubes in particular. They promise to be more efficient, warmer and cheaper.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 11, 2013 2:32PM

File photo of Philips headquarters in Amsterdam (© Lex Van Liefshout/AFP/Getty Images)If you've grown up in postwar America, much of your life has been illuminated by fluorescent lighting. And while they may not have the warm glow of old-school incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights are much more energy-efficient. They also last longer and have been lighting the way in America's schools, businesses and workplaces for decades.


But that might change soon as fluorescent technology gets challenged by light-emitting diodes (LED).


Royal Philips (PHG), the Amsterdam appliance giant, has developed a prototype LED that is not only more efficient than fluorescent lights but cheaper. It has a warmer light and is more environmentally friendly. What's more, the company expects to have these new LEDs mass-produced and on the market by 2015. The expectation is that LEDs will replace about half of the world's fluorescent lighting in the following decade.


"This is a major step forward for the lighting world," Rene van Schooten, the CEO of Philips' light sources division, said in an interview with the The Associated Press. "It will bring an enormous savings in energy."


Not that fluorescent light technology has been standing still. Many of us are familiar with the corkscrew-shaped compact fluorescent lamps that have been gradually taking the place of the incandescent bulbs pioneered by Thomas Edison.


But LED bulbs are also out there, as an option for both businesses and homeowners. The cost for LED bulbs is still well above that of CFLs, although LEDs last longer. And there's still some debate as to whether the U.S. market can afford widespread LED lighting in its current form.

"Right now, the best LED lamps have approximately the same efficiency as the best CFLs, but they cost about 10 times as much," said GreenBuildingAdvisor.com senior editor Martin Holladay in 2011. "Although LED lamps should last longer than CFLs, you won't see any savings from switching to LEDs -- unless the labor cost for changing out a lamp is very high."


But AP points out that Philips -- as well as Siemens (SI), General Electric (GE), Cree (CREE) and others -- have made "significant inroads" in the LED market as they replace incandescent and halogen technologies.


In fact, Philips' Van Schooten notes his company not only makes LEDs but is a major producer of fluorescent lighting. "Clearly we'll have to phase (the fluorescents) out," he said. "We knew this moment was coming for some time."


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Apr 11, 2013 3:04PM
Apr 11, 2013 3:28PM
Will a new law be passed now requiring everyone to get rid of the fluorescents they've been directed to replace incandescents with?
Apr 11, 2013 3:12PM
halogen not hologen - does anyone know how to proof read?
Apr 11, 2013 3:12PM
You write an article about lights and start it off talking about "post war America".  Really????

Of course, I could ask, exactly which of the many wars are you talking about?
Apr 11, 2013 3:57PM

I still can't wait until the first law suit due to mishandling and incorrect disposal of these mercury filed lamps currently in use.  I mean, weren't fluorescents considered evil because of the amount of mercury that escaped into our water system.

Or was it just harmful before it became environmently "good" to use them?

Apr 11, 2013 3:32PM
I think it's a great idea who's time has finally come. I run the maintenance department for a rural school district. Even though we're not a huge school district, we still go through a lot of fluorescent tubes and ballasts. Then if you dispose of them correctly (according to the EPA), it is very expensive. Even if the led lights cost more initially; I believe that the money saved from proper disposal and not having to buy ballasts will more than make up the difference in cost. In order for it to work in this country though the new bulbs will have to fit into the old fluorescent fixtures and the ballasts need to be eliminated. I do believe that light emitting diodes are the lights of the future, with just a little more tweeking, I think they will take care of all our lighting needs. Less electricity needed, better on the environment. Win, Win situation.
Apr 11, 2013 3:02PM
Apr 11, 2013 3:00PM
I have always enjoyed the customer service in the USA, mainly because here in Canada there is no customer service at all. None. Anywhere. It's a running joke about how bad it is.
Apr 11, 2013 4:02PM
At least you spelled "light" correctly.
Apr 11, 2013 5:07PM
I want to see a 8' led tube that fits standard fixtures!
Apr 11, 2013 5:11PM
What a crappy article.  I have converted over to LED 4 years ago and it was a big savings over CFL.  In many cases they can use 12 the electricity and produce a brighter white light.  All you have to do if shop around and find the sale on the bulbs.  They do cost a little more but I have cut our total lighting wattage from over 900 watts to just under 500 watts.  
Apr 11, 2013 5:41PM
One thing they forget to mention (well one of many things) is that if you break a CFL while it is lit, you release vaporized Mercury into the air all around you. There are instructions for what to do if one does break in these circumstances and they read like a nuclear disaster clean up manual. But there have already been noted cases of kids who were in the room when one of these bulbs broke (just one bulb mind you) and they ended up having to be rushed to the hospital because of heavy metal poisoning. After reading that, I started saving money to convert my entire house away from CFL's to LEDs. It will cost hundreds, but the potential medical bill for my kids would be thousands.
Apr 11, 2013 5:27PM
go back to incandescent bulbs,look at the money you will save in heating bills.
Apr 11, 2013 3:17PM
We have been using both fluorescent and LED bulbs.  Fluorescent bulb technology has improve over the years to eliminate blaring cold white lights, flicking and noise.  Most of the LED lights are still very expensive and having the teething problems of  the early fluorescent as above. 
Apr 11, 2013 5:25PM
LED night lights are good. 8 LED bulbs  use less energy than 1 incandescent bulb and they last much longer too. In 3 years, none of the LED bulbs have burned out.
Apr 11, 2013 4:47PM
I just changed to all CFL  about a year ago.  I will not say good bye to it at least 5 more years since I won't see any savings from switching to LEDs.
Apr 11, 2013 4:00PM
If you are going to write an article about FLUORESCENT bulbs, at least lrn2spl FLUORESCENT
Apr 11, 2013 3:43PM
im in the lighting industry and a customer of philips . while LED lamps are good for some applications they can not replace the low pressure fluorescent lamps in a large amount of applications. will not produce short wave to replace sterilization lamps and are not stable for most UV applications. the color quality of the LED from all of the leading makers is not as good as the high color fluorescent lamps, and while the LED part of the lamp has an extremely long life the driver that controls them leaves a lot to be desired.  for general purpose light they are efficient but remain pricey .
Apr 11, 2013 3:05PM
Will the LED bulbs fit into the same fixtures as the current florescent?  Right now they generally DO NOT.  They better think of that or they might find themselves having to dust a lot of LEDs in their inventory since this buyer has enough florescents to last my lifetime...
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