Happy New Year … of LED Efficiency

Happy New Year … of LED Efficiency

New Years Eve Times Square Ball

Three, two, one …

More than a billion people around the world will be mesmerized this New Year’s Eve while watching a 12-foot, nearly 12,000-pound ball drop above New York’s Times Square. This year’s ball drop is significant—and not just because it marks the end of another year.

This year’s countdown marks the end of a long era and the start of an exciting new one. As the clock strikes midnight, efficiency standards will go into effect that end the manufacturing of inefficient 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs. Today’s incandescent bulb technology is from the days of Thomas Edison, and has been in use for more than a century.

It’s only fitting that the Times Square Ball is made of 32,256 new-fangled LEDs (light-emitting diodes). The huge ball itself only uses the energy of two wall ovens when completely lit. And when the ball descends to mark the beginning of 2014, the “1” and “4” will be illuminated for the first time in changing colors, using 207 programmable Philips hue bulbs. The hue lamps allow users to adjust and change the colors of the lights via a smartphone or tablet, choosing preset “scenes” or up to 16 million colors, or even the color from a digital photo.

The Times Square Ball and Philips hue only hint at the potential of LEDs, however. Not only can they save a lot of energy, their solid-state circuitry makes them pieces of electronics. That means they can be operated and dimmed by smartphones. They can be networked and connected to security systems and door locks to turn on and off automatically. Some can change colors to entertain guests, highlight art and architecture, and set just the mood.

The Gateway to Efficiency

The phase-out of inefficient lighting has been going on for a few years, starting with 100-watt bulbs that didn’t meet energy efficiency requirements in 2012 and culminating in 2014 with the 40- and 60-watt mandates. The new laws don't specifically outlaw the cheap incandescent bulbs most of us have grown up with, but incandescents simply can’t meet the new efficiency specs. About 90 percent of the energy they use is wasted as heat.

The 40- and 60-watt bulbs are staples of many homes, but consumers will now be buying compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen lamps (a more efficient form of incandescent lighting), and will be exposed more and more to the wonders of LEDs.

And because LEDs are so efficient, this will introduce many consumers to the world of energy efficiency. LED lights are an entry point to efficiency. People are starting to understand energy-efficiency through the new lighting standards, and this will present opportunities for homebuilders to sell more efficiency systems, from connected thermostats to tankless water heaters, solar panels and home energy monitoring and  management systems.

So when that ball drops, kiss your honey, revel and cheer. And sing Auld Lang Syne to the realization of a new and exciting era.

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