I saw my very first Ã¯Â¿Â½architecturalÃ¯Â¿Â½ LED about twenty years ago. It was small, and it was dim Ã¯Â¿Â½ but it was intriguing. The very small size of the semi-conductor source made them ideal for indicator lamps, but for architecture? We couldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t see it Ã¯Â¿Â½ almost literally, we couldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t see it. Fast-forward to today and we are looking at the LED as a possible replacement for much of our home lighting.
How did that happen?
The first architecturally-useful LED relied on the fact that the LED is a Ã¯Â¿Â½naturalÃ¯Â¿Â½ spotlight. All other light sources give out their light in all directions and have to be collected by a reflector in order to create a light beam. And there are much inefficiency in that method.
LEDs, on the other hand, project their light straight from the chip. Combine that with a lens system that fits directly over the chip and you end up with a far more efficient way of delivering light.
But for LEDs to be accepted as a true energy-efficient source their light output needed to become similar to that of the fluorescent lamp. If that could be achieved then weÃ¯Â¿Â½d have an extremely bright source that could see the end of the traditional filament lamp in all its guises. WeÃ¯Â¿Â½re not there yet, but itÃ¯Â¿Â½s clear that weÃ¯Â¿Â½re not far away and it may be that, by the time you read this, the first commercially-available LED that matches fluorescent output will have been announced.
For me, the most exciting aspect of this is the possibility of a whole new application for the LED. Up to now, LEDs have either been incorporated into fittings Ã¯Â¿Â½ so should the LED fail you have to replace the entire fixture, or they have been replacements for small spot lamps, typically of those small 50mm diameter tungsten halogen reflector lamps. But the first LED replacements for Ã¯Â¿Â½ordinaryÃ¯Â¿Â½ light bulbs are almost with us. Lower wattages (up to 40W) are already available, and the 60W equivalent is almost in our grasp.
Why does this matter?
The Ã¯Â¿Â½greeningÃ¯Â¿Â½ of our lighting is a vital part of the strategy to reduce energy dependency. So far the only practical alternative weÃ¯Â¿Â½ve been offered is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Now Ã¯Â¿Â½ the CFL is a good light source, regardless of the negative publicity thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s been generated (and thereÃ¯Â¿Â½s been more heat than light in all of that), but I am concerned that CFLs still contain toxic materials that require the failed lamp to be disposed of as Ã¯Â¿Â½hazardous materialÃ¯Â¿Â½. But how likely is this to happen? WeÃ¯Â¿Â½re talking about millions and millions of lamps eventually being thrown away and I fear that most of them will end up in landfill, eventually leaching this bad stuff into ground water. ThatÃ¯Â¿Â½s a scary scenario.
IÃ¯Â¿Â½m sure itÃ¯Â¿Â½s only a matter of time before someone offers up some negative aspect of the LED lamp. At the moment there are issues around the brightness of the LED and risks to the eye should you look directly into the light beam. Hmmm Ã¯Â¿Â½ OK, I see the problem, but I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t think it compares with the risk of poisoning our water supply.
A (very) basic guide to ethical specification
Lighting design: it's a client thing
Calculating obtrusive light: whose job is it?
When there's nothing in the catalogue
When is a chandelier not a pendant? When its a lantern!
When clients learn too much . . .
One of our details is missing
Where will light fittings come from?
The end of the light bulb?
Always something new . . . again
Always something new . . .
Combining old and new
On being in the dark . . .
Riffing The Internet of Things
John Bullock writes a regular column for lighting magazines. You can find all of the archived pieces here.
BLOGS - LIGHTING DESIGN
John Bullock writes about all things and anything concerning architectural lighting design; new technologies and old lamps; anything,really.
HOME LIGHTING CONSULTANT
John Bullock designs innovative lighting designs for people's homes. By working closely with clients he is able to deliver solutions that meet - and exceed - their expectations.
BLOGS - CPD RIBA CORE PROGRAMME 2015
John Bullock will be presenting a seminar on latest lighting design and technologies as part of the RIBA CPD Core programme 2015
BLOGS - SUSTAINABILITY
John Bullock believes that the UK lighting industry needs to embrace a sustainable way of delivering good quality product through good design, fabrication and end-of-life management.
BLOGS - LIGHTING HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Lighting has a vital role to play in our health and wellbeing.
CONDUIT (6) - Lighting for Winter Gardens
CONDUIT 5: Home Lighting - LED Lighting (2)
FX Magazine: Lighting Focus - Sustainability (Issue 258)
CONDUIT 4: Home Lighting - LED Lighting (1)
Can Smart Lighting Save The Planet?
CONDUIT 3: Home Lighting - The Bathroom
Can Lighting Save Us From Ourselves . . . NO!
CONDUIT 2: Home Lighting - The Dining Room