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The future is light

The lighting industry is undergoing a revolution as energy saving becomes a top priority…

It is widely known that many countries are now phasing out the use of traditional incandescent light bulbs to save energy. Although the incandescent lamp has been around since it was invented by Thomas Edison back in 1878, it is not particularly energy efficient as a light source; only 10% of the energy generated by an incandescent lamp goes into creating light, the other 90% is wasted in heat. There are now more energy efficient products available and legislation is in place to make sure we use them.

The lighting industry has evolved accordingly and many companies have developed new products to meet the demand for better energy performance. With the introduction of LED light sources, a lot of new manufacturers have joined the market and there is now a bewildering array of options to choose from. This diversity comes with an equally varied range of quality and price. In this area, where safety is paramount, a reputable manufacturer should always be the first purchasing consideration. Alongside that, an understanding of the performance and characteristics of the various available product types is important to make informed specification decisions.

The three main lamp types that offer energy efficiency and performance are LEDs, CFLs, and tungsten halogen.

LED lamps are hugely popular at the moment as they are energy efficient, long lasting and versatile. They are available in various shapes, intensities, beam angles and colours. Their dimunitive dimensions and easy connectivity make them popular in applications where creativity needs to combine with easy to install lighting effects. LED lamps give a lot of light for the energy consumed and they can be more than four times as efficient as their incandescent counterparts. Also, unlike some other types of energy saving lamps, LEDs can produce instant warm, soothing light from the moment they are switched on. 

These are the result of traditional ?uorescent lamp making skills that have created a range of retro?t lamps to directly replace incandescent mains voltage lamps. CFLs are available in a range of shapes and formats to meet the growing need for compact, energy efficient performance. They offer a comprehensive range of light source solutions giving long life, high colour rendering and constant light output throughout their life.

Halogen lamps are known for excellent colour rendering and a cool crisp white light. This makes them the preferred light source for decorative, accent and general lighting. They can operate on mains voltage or low voltage supplies. Mains voltage halogen lamps operate without the need for a transformer and can be dimmed, making them quick and easy to install, simple to operate, and economical due to the subsequent lowering of installation and user costs. Low voltage halogen lamps operate on step-down transformers to lower mains voltage to approximately 12V and are also dimmable. High light intensity and long life make them an ideal lamp for accent lighting, task lighting and spotlight applications.

What does the future hold?
The public and the lighting industry are understandably excited about LEDs as the technology promises to reduce carbon footprints. This has created a great demand for LED products that is increasingly being fuelled by manufacturers aggressively marketing their products in an attempt to accelerate usage. In fact, although LED occupies 95% of the column inches on lighting, it actually represents only 5% of total turnover in lamp products. The benefits of LED have to be balanced with the fact that the products are relatively expensive and the technology is still evolving. However, over the course of their lifetime, LEDs more than pay for themselves due to the lower operating costs.

Halogen offers excellent quality of light with perfect colour rendition. The lamps are dimmable and offer full intensity from the moment they are switched on and generally last twice as long as the now banned incandescent types. However, using halogen comes with a price – heat generation and power consumption – which many view as undesirable.

CFLs are more than four times as efficient as incandescent light bulbs while lasting up to ten times longer. An additional advantage is that they can be used in almost all of the locations where incandescent lamps are currently used. There again, they not always suitable for dimming and they cannot be used as spotlights, so they do have their drawbacks.

LEDs are obviously an attractive choice, especially so at the very top end of the market. The hype around LEDs is unlikely to die down. They are an expensive option and their price alone may put them beyond the budget of many. Whilst this is the case, it is clear that there is still a lot of mileage left in existing technologies.

Ian Major is Product and Marketing Manager at Havells-Sylvania

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