With all the talk about green alternatives, LED lighting is set to become a multi-billion industry in Australia, with the state and federal governments set to pass legislation dictating to both electricians and installers as to what they can install in terms of new and retrofitted lighting.In NSW, the state government has already made moves to eliminate power hungry lighting in residential buildings and a number of builders and installers have been forced to shift to new power-saving technologies such as LEDs.
LED or a light-emitting diode is a semiconductor diode that emits incoherent narrow-spectrum light in the form of electroluminescence.
The color of the emitted light depends on the composition and condition of the semiconducting material used, and can be infrared, visible, or ultraviolet.
LEDs can also be used as a regular household light source and also in application such as retail displays and signs.
According to one LED distributor, Spectrum Lighting, recent technical advances have dramatically improved the reliability and the performance of LEDs since they were invented in the 1960s.
The lifetime for the new generation of LEDs is about 100,000 hours of use, or 30 to 40 years of normal operation. As they are a semiconductor device, they are also very rugged and are not subject to fail when dropped or vibrated as are incandescent or fluorescent lights.
The original LEDs only emitted light of one frequency or colour of light. These were blues, greens, yellows, oranges or reds and they were unsuited for domestic lighting. Recent innovations in materials, doping and die structure have developed high brightness LEDs that emit light in all visible frequencies to produce white light.
According to Owen Manley, Technical Manager of the Lighting Council of Australia, a body that represents most of the lighting makers and distributors in the country, the technological advances in LED lighting has been “exponential”, and that the technology has managed to achieve in 10 years what took incandescent lights “50 years to achieve”.
Regardless, says Manley, there are many misconceptions about LED lighting, most of which surrounds the “quoted lifespan of the lights themselves and also where they can be used”.
Moreover he notes that the LED light should not be seen as a simple replacement for other, older technologies, as when installing LEDs, you have to consider a whole raft of factors “including wall colours, architectural features like alcoves and also positioning of the lights themselves”.
Regardless, Manley is also adamant the LED technology is very much the future of a lot of lighting applications, both here and overseas.
By comparing the power consumption of LEDs to fluorescent and incandescent lights its no wonder as a fluorescent would use 5 W, and incandescent 7W but an LED would only use up 2W over the same period.
And in terms of lifespan, an incandescent light may last up to 1000 hours; an LED one can do 100,000.
Project Manager and Interior Designer Antoinette Richards is one industry professional who has had to come up to speed on the whole LED/Halogen issue recently.
As a project manager/house builder and currently renovating her own home, Richards found the issue of LED lighting to have as many pitfalls as it does benefits.
“We wanted to do an eco-green style construction and we looked at a whole range of lighting technologies including using water tanks, fluorescent lights and the like”.
When it came to the lighting part said Richards, “we found that the eco-flourescent light produce a blue light which is very unflattering for walls, furniture and even people”.
Furthermore she notes that, “we started exploring what was available and found that unless you only need to have an indirect light source like that used in a blind box scenario and pointed towards the roof, the effect is really ugly”.
Therefore she notes, halogens are about your only real option.
Moreover says Richards, the NSW government has now passed laws that require any new or retrofitted building to ensure that any halogen lighting is at least “150 mm away from any building material” – in effect, making nigh impossible to install halogen downlights practically in any roof or wall cavity.
This Richards agrees is a back-door way of eliminating halogen lights, in the same way tungsten wire globes was done.
“Within 4-5 years’, she notes, “Halogen lights will go the same was as incandescent lights”.
So LEDs as grow in popularity, their applications too will become more widespread – in fact in terms of retail displays, outdoor signage and strip lighting, LEDs have already established a foothold.
However pricing and light colour issues still need to be ironed out, although in many ways, such as power consumption, heat output and even from a safety angle, LEDs have a lot going for them.