August 17, 2006

New Light

I'm fascinated by future technology switchovers. Roaming around the net you can see the future coming and calculate when it's going to arrive. Here's something from the DOE lead me to a bit of calculation on when we're going to start switching our lighting fixtures.

How long will it take before we see energy-efficient, cost-competitive, white-light products on the market? DOE's SSL R&D plan spans 20 years (2000-2020), and includes three components: Core Technology Research, Product Development, and Commercialization Support activities. The good news is that tremendous progress is being made, faster than originally anticipated. Researchers have already improved the efficacy of white LEDs to approximately 50 lumens per watt, almost four times more efficient than incandescent sources. Costs are still high, but continue to drop significantly, from approximately $250/kilo-lumen in 2004 to around $50/kilo-lumen in 2006 (based on manufacturer estimates for volume purchase). For comparison, conventional light sources (incandescent, fluorescent) cost around $1/kilo-lumen.

So we've got a huge drop in costs, 80% in the past two years so light bulbs with LEDs are only 50x more expensive than conventional light sources. That's neat stuff but it seems like we're still a very long way away from LED lights. But there's more:

[A] 75-watt incandescent light bulb typically produces about 1,000 lumens and costs less than $1. The problem is, it only lasts about 1,000 hours and only converts about 5% of the electricity it consumes into light (the rest is wasted as heat). A comparable CFL is 5 times more efficient, lasts 10,000 hours, and costs less than $5. ... Unlike other light sources, LEDs don't typically “burn out;” they simply get dimmer over time. Although there is not yet an official industry standard defining “life” of an LED, the leading manufacturers report it as the point at which light output has reached 70% of initial light output. Using that definition, the best white LEDs have been found to have a useful life of around 35,000 hours (that's four years of continuous operation).
So that LED lightbulb lasts 35x a conventional incandescent and 3.5x a fluorescent bulb. All of a sudden we're looking at needing to drop LED prices by 30% from current, not 98% in order to start seeing a significant market shift. That looks like a reasonable near future event and something to keep an eye on. With lumen per what ratings double what can be produced by incandescent lighbulbs and none of the flicker or color problems of fluorescent bulbs, LED lighting will likely be welcomed by the public and lead to less energy use. Posted by TMLutas at August 17, 2006 03:07 PM