Monday, July 18, 2011

LED Lighting - Try it, we did

I will have to say I was not impressed.  One of the projects a while back was to install down lights in the ceiling of the living room.  Sorry about the photo, while it was one of my favorite projects, I don't think Mrs. Fix-It shared in my excitement.  They basic 4" cans with a reflective cone in the trim ring.  There are four in the space and then a single one over the window.  The one over the window can be switched on separately which I thought would be good to leave on at night or when we are out etc. 

Part of what I do when I am working is consulting on Energy related topics or primarily controlling energy consuming devices.  Lighting is a huge consumer of energy and LED lighting has promised the world when it comes to saving energy and providing quality light.  My opinion is they can do it, but what is the cost.  In commercial spaces where lights are on 4,000 hrs a year the savings can easily justify the cost of some of these fixtures.  How do you bring that into a home where maybe your kitchen lights are on 1,000 hrs per year (8,070 hrs/year, avg 3hrs/day)?  The manufacturers are trying to bring the cost of the lamps down and focus on retrofitting existing fixtures.  They are making products that will sit on the shelf at Home Depot next to your $0.50 incandescent bulb.  These products for the most part suck.
 Why would you want that ugly thing showing in your space at all.  Not to mention you see the heat sink when you install it in your fixture, but you get 3 points of light from the middle of your lamp.  These 3 pts are visible when lit and being in the center, typically miss the reflector of the fixture so your light isn't reflected properly.  Fixtures are designed for specific types of lamps and as hard as they try LED can't replace an incandescent.

There are options though.  The picture below shows an LED lamp that can be retrofit into an existing or a new can.  It replaces the reflector and trim ring for the LED lamp.  This option might cost $50/lamp but these may last you 20+ years.  The reflector and diffuser are designed for the LED light, so the output is better. 
Well, what about your standard light bulb.  There is a great option for that now also.  Philips came up with a remote phosphor technology for the standard light bulb.  The LEDs are arranged to disperse light by shinning through a phosphor coated lens which turns the Blue LED light to white.  The light is even and can be dispersed in many directions.  You can see in the pics below how it glows white and when it is off, the lens is yellowish.  Remote phosphor is also available in other lamps like PAR lamps for your down lights or decorative lamps for chandeliers.   It is a cool technology. 
I think one of the key requirements for a descent LED lamp is that it is not a direct light. It needs to be diffused or reflected.  The lamps with the multiple LED points shinning directly out of a fixture look awful.  So, what about color temperature.  How do you get that wonderful glow in a room like below?  You need to mix light sources, or wait till LED starts providing a color shift along with dimming technology.  You can bring in ambient light from LED sources and then use a lamp with a dimmed incandescent bulb to add the warm glow to a room. 
So what is my point to this blog?  LED is the future, I think it will be a good one, but people need to become educated on what is out there and what works.  Most people who grab a lamp from Home Depot without much thought are not going to be too happy with the results.  This is going to slow the transition for bringing LED to the mass market.  If people are buying the right product, mfrs. will make more of it and the costs will come down.  If you are building a home or remodeling a space, consider LED fixtures.  They will last the life of your space and if chosen properly will provide you with a wonderfully lit space that will cost you pennies on the dollar in energy.

What do you think? Will you give LED a try?  Questions?


  1. My husband works in the commercial LED world and I have this conversation with him a lot. "Why don't we have LEDs in our HOUSE if they are so wonderful??" (which they are!!) His answer, just like you said, is that the replacements bulbs (and other household products) are just not there yet ... but they will be! You're ahead of the curve here. Let me know if you want to know more!

  2. I love LEDs, but I agree with you that manufacturers still have a ways to go. Especially with the how the lights are diffused. I know a ton of people who bought the LED Christmas lights last year, trying to be green, who were very disappointed in the cool, blue color. Hopefully the market will keep demanding improvements, and soon we'll get some better products to work with in our homes!

  3. I am anxiously waiting to get quality options for the home. When Mrs Fix-Its and I get out of our condo, I am going to be sure to get LED put in our new home where ever possible. Educated buyers will be able to help speed this process along by making smart decisions and paying for quality products. Sadly we seem to only be buying whatever is cheap or on-sale.
    @momentspassslow: If your husband is in the LED industry and wants to connect, have him send an email to