Philips LED lighting.
LED lighting is becoming more and more popular—due to several very good reasons. Today’s LED lamps and fixtures are more reliable, incredibly energy-efficient and long lasting, and their prices are dropping fast.
Add to that the phase-out of inefficient incandescent lighting, consumers’ general dislike of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and rising electrical costs that are likely to result in many parts due to the EPA’s stricter regulations on coal-fired electric plants.
It’s the perfect storm for LED lamps, which are up to 90 percent more efficient than soon-to-be extinct incandescents. LED lighting quality has improved to the point where it can be indistinguishable from the incandescents and halogen. LEDs also can be networked for easy lighting control and even powered over Ethernet cable (PoE).
We posed a few questions about LEDs to two experts on the front line of this new and soon to-be-dominant lighting technology: Erik Anderson of lighting control giant Lutron and Jonathan Stovall of green tech and LED distributor Energy Squad.
Anderson is Lutron Electronic’s national sales manager for Residential Construction. Lutron is gaining traction in the homebuilder market for its basic Caseta Wireless lighting control package that comes with a wall plate, universal dimmer and handheld Pico remote for convenient control. Smartphone app-based control is possible with a smart bridge (about $200) that comes out later in June.
Jonathan Stovall heads green tech distributor Energy Squad, which has been marketing LEDs to commercial and residential customers through dealers.
“Builders who have been doing green for a while understand the vast difference between a CFL and an LED,” says Anderson.
“It’s an easy transformation for them to make from CFLs to LEDs, and price is not as much a concern to that camp. They understand the value proposition and how to relay that to the homebuyer.” Those builders who haven’t thought green or are in areas where there are not strong energy efficiency mandates need to know the differences and how to market LEDs, he adds.
What big trends are you seeing in home LED lighting?
Stovall: Retrofit projects for both LED bulbs and fixtures have been taking off now that pricing is coming down and the light quality and dimming capabilities are improving. Landscape LED lighting is also growing more popular as we move into the warmer months.
Anderson: People hear LED, and they are starting to think of it as a technology product, as people and becoming more and more comfortable with technology in the home. Because you have that comfort level, it’s opening the doors to a floodgate of other technologies that can be paired with it, like smartphone control.
We just added LED landscape lighting to our house, and our neighbors noticed right away. It makes a big difference.
What one or two things should homebuilders know about LEDs?
Stovall: The savvy homebuyer knows about LED and will at least want an LED option to consider. Separate yourself from the competition and actually make LEDs standard and market better lighting, energy savings and no maintenance.
Anderson: They have to know how the light itself will affect the rest of the space. They need to have the core competency of what Kelvin [a measurement of color temperature] and CRI [color rendering index] means so they don’t spend big bucks on bulbs that make a space look horrible.
Are you seeing more LED fixtures for new home construction, such as entire recessed lighting can fixtures?
Stovall: Absolutely, and with more LED manufactures the price points are really coming down fast.
Anderson: I am [seeing this] because fixtures look better. Can [or recessed] lighting with the lamp coming in the housing so everything is nicely tied together has a much better look than a screw-in bulb.
How can homebuilders best plan for LED lighting to enhance the design of a home?
Anderson: They need to incorporate lighting designers, because they can say that you want lights here and here to make a house look great. Take a dining room with a chandelier and pin lights in the ceiling. You can dim that chandelier so the fixture looks beautiful, and there could be mini-cans in the ceiling shining down to see what you’re doing. Once you see that, you never design a dining room the same way.
If builders do model homes and showcase that, people will immediately identify with what they’re doing. And a better lit home will sell faster. It’s all about showcasing your product.
Stovall: Work with an Electronic Systems Contractor that is up to speed on current LED lighting technologies. Consider LED compatible lighting control system/dimming options as well.
What do think of so-called “smart” LEDs, such as those controlled via a smartphone?
Stovall: These are fun, especially the color changing ones. But the way most homes are wired, the smart device won’t control a smart light bulb that doesn’t have power to it because a light switch is turned off. Lighting control systems also come with apps and offer a much better overall solution.
Anderson: I think the control is still going to come from the wall where the dimmers and switches go. It’s easier for the homeowners. If you think about recessed lights in the kitchen, cans in ceiling, pendants over island—if control is in the bulb itself, I’d have to replace those all those bulbs [to start a smart LED-controlled system], versus replacing a wall switch that can be controlled.
The only time I use a smartphone app to control my home lighting is when I’m remote or want to press the good night scene.
Any other cool LED products or applications you’re eyeing?
Anderson: I like the LED products we’re starting to see that dim to a more yellow light of around 2100K (Kelvin).
Stovall: OLED fixtures are becoming more and more popular for architectural lighting applications. Limitless possibilities … this is a very exciting technology for fixture manufacturers.