LEDs have been around for quite a while, as car headlights and taillights, in flashlights and holiday lights, and in electronic games, and now the low energy, high lumen light-emitting diodes are being used by home builders to illuminate new homes.
Forbes reports that consumer sales are increasing at a high rate. LEDs occupied 12 percent of the lighting market in 2012, but that’s grown to 25 percent this year, and is projected to be 80 percent of the market by 2020.
California requires hardwired LEDs in new home construction under Title 24. But despite the good news, industry experts say homeowners are still hesitant to pick LEDs, perhaps thinking of the glowing red eyeball of a certain movie.
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Teaching People to be Comfortable with LEDs
The problem with many types of lighting, CFLs in particular, is that people are comfortable with the shape and warm illumination of old-school Edison-style incandescent bulbs.
“As people, we have a certain idea of what lights should look like, with a lamp you have a bulb in it, a tube florescent is linear,” says Jay Moser, an electrical consultant for Sunlite, Science and Technology. “We have these things the mind has been trained to look for, but they aren’t the most efficient ways to use an LED.”
There are LEDs that look like incandescent bulbs, but those are less efficient implementations of the technology, he says. The best way to use LEDs isn’t in table lamps or spot lighting, but rather to illuminate an entire space smoothly, without shadows or dark areas, and do it efficiently.
“You have to be willing to change the ways things are designed, and a lot of companies aren’t doing that,” Moser says.
Sunlite got its start 17 years ago manufacturing LED chips, over the years the operation has changed and now is focusing on lighting solutions for residential and commercial uses.
Letting potential customers experience LEDs in a home setting is the best way for them to let go of old prejudices and … err … see the light. Earlier this year, Sunlite installed lighting in the 34th annual Designers’ Showhouse in Topeka, a remodeled Frank Lloyd Wright-style home. The model home allows potential clients to view Sunlite’s main products in several settings.
“Once people see and understand what it feels like to be in a room with the lights they get on board with us,” Moser says.
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Color Temperature Matters
Color temperature matters a lot in LED lighting. Joyce Mason of Pardee Homes says it’s the number one issue when homeowners purchase LEDs, but it’s an issue that many people don’t know about. “You don’t want to have a grid of recessed lights in a kitchen and have each a different light temperature,” she told us during TecHome Builder’s Energy Advantage Webcast last week.
Incandescent lights burn at about 2,700 degrees Kelvin, creating that warm glow we all know. Pardee installs 2700 to 3000K LED lamps in its LivingSmart energy efficient homes
Color temperature also matters for circadian cycles, Sunlite’s Moser says. A Department of Energy study found that one or two hours of amber colored lighting in the evening helps prepare humans for sleep, although scientists are not sure how. Bright blue lights, however, help people awake in the morning and feel refreshed. “The blue lights reset the circadian cycle,” Moser said.
Quick Hit: Circadian Lighting in the Honda Smart Home
Lighting temperature also matters when you’re trying to dress for success, or when women put on their makeup for an evening out. Makeup that looks good under the bright lights of a bathroom will not look the same in a candlelit restaurant.
“You’re getting ready under the cool lights in the bathroom and you want to go to a candlelight dinner you’ll feel good in that cool temperature, but you’ll look different in the warm temperature,” Moser says.
Moser says builders should think about installing LEDs that can change color temperature in the bathroom so homeowners can dress for success in any light.
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Smooth Lighting Surfaces
Lighting, of course, has a major impact on lifestyle and what a homeowner can do in a space. Take the standard apartment kitchen, where Moser eerily described this writer’s kitchen.
“You have one light, and you’re trying to do work around the kitchen you’re dealing with dark areas because you’re not in the middle you’re along the edge, which is why you need supplemental lighting at least over the sink and over the stove.”
Sunlite installed its fixtures into a new home in Topeka, Kan. The home showcases Sunlite’s ability to design for lighting for unique spaces.
“In this house, we used small lights over a large area, this creates a smooth lighting surface instead of spots,” Moser says.
“You don’t lose light based on your location, so you don’t need desk lights or lamps to affect your lighting.”
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Because LEDs are small and bright, they’ve become popular to use with green wall installations. Sunlite has designed lighting a green wall at the University of Kansas’s Center for Design Research, which researches sustainability best practices in architectural design, and one at a community college in Kansas.
Quick Hits: Going Vertical with Green Walls
Often times with green walls and other special design elements, there’s a disconnect between what the designer the architect or homebuilder. “You’ve got builders and architects who ask a designer to design a wall, but as far as lighting goes, the designer will make a recommendation on what type of lighting to use, what brightness is needed, but doesn’t offer a solution. So we’re trying to fill that gap. We do lighting design ourselves.
“We tell people to give us the room size and dimensions and we’ll give them the number of lights and the power supply they need.”
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LEDs work well with smart home systems, with automatic dimmers and sunlight harvesting systems becoming popular. Systems like Leviton, which began life 100 years ago making housings for Edison’s light bulbs, offer lighting systems that incorporate into their whole home systems. But not every builder wants to install a whole home system. Sunlite LEDs can be integrated with smart home systems.
“A lot of power supplies we use work effectively with 0-10v dimmers, so any of those dimming systems work.,”
“We’re trying to make something more effective for LED and makes the LED more useful as a unit, instead of making something everyone is comfortable with,” Moser says.