Friday, January 25, 2008

Magic Lighting

This week I spent a little time in New York City and experienced first hand the magic of LED lighting as used in retail spaces. LED (light emitting diode) lighting technology has been around for awhile, but hasn’t been perfected for all residential applications yet. LEDs are small in size and give a directional light, but can be grouped together for higher intensity applications. They use much less energy than incandescent or fluorescent lighting and don’t give off heat like incandescents. An LED can last up to 60,000 hours. (that translates to 6.8 years-with the light on 24 hrs/day or 20 plus years of typical use).

This Nokia store in Manhatten has translucent panels with LEDs behind them. They are programmed to change colors- from blue to red, yellow, white and green. It's almost mesmerizing enough to spend that $10,000 for a custom leather/diamond phone (NOT really- but it is a beautiful store)

The FAO Schwartz store has LEDs in the ceiling that also change colors and patterns.

In the plaza in front of the FAO store stands the Apple Store entry. It’s a minimalist glass cube with meticulously detailed round glass elevator and staircase. Like everything that Apple designs, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Although LED seems to be the way of the future, we are a few years away from affordable, well-designed LEDs for general residential applications. Word on the street is that incandescent lights will be banned in the near future (they are already in Australia for 2009) and there will need to be viable alternatives. There has been a big emphasis on CFLs (Compact Fluorescents)- but they have some major downsides, namely light quality and the fact that they contain mercury leads to disposal issues.

As we researched lighting solutions for our new home, we started looking first at EnergyStar rated fixtures. We quickly found that the design options were very limited, they are all lamped for only fluorescent bulbs and they are a bit more expensive than a similar incandescent-lamped fixture. We decided to use standard fixtures, but switch out the bulb to CFLs for storage rooms, bedrooms and closets. In living spaces, we are using halogen fixtures on dimmers to reduce energy use and be able to tailor the lighting for various situations.

At Lappin Lighting, we were able to find a LED version of a recessed can light
It inserts into a typical housing, so it can be retrofitted or used for new installations. It is dimmable and the LED can be ordered in a white light or warmer version 2700K (what I prefer). These are about 3-4 times the cost of a standard recessed halogen model, but we are going to try 3 of these fixtures in our living area.
We were hoping to also have LED pendant fixtures for our kitchen island. Bruck is a German company that has quite a few LED light options, including some great-looking pendant lights. Although the German-quality might be worth it, our budget just can’t fit them in at the moment. We always have the option of trying a LED bulb that screws into a standard Edison socket (for about $26)


pottersmith said...

Yes CFL's contain Mercury and need to be treated as hazardous waste but there are two factors to consider:
Emissions: The amount of Mercury in a cfl is nano in scale to the mercury released in the burning of coal to energize an incandescent lamp.
Recycling: It is getting better. CFL's can last so long ( I have three Panasonics that are now 14 years old and still working well) That when time comes to recycle the changes in recycling programs will have worked their way through the system Details at:

pottersmith said...

In lighting the right tool for the right job is really important, I think those LED downlights your using are great. A good resource for quality fixtures for delivering the light produced by CFL or LED lamps is the Lighting for Tomorrow web page. This is an annual contest to see who among the manufacturers can design the best. They have yearbooks going back to 2004 and for 2006 and 2007 have included SSL (Solid State Lighting) Want to know more:

obed eriksson said...

Have you considered recessed lighting in the floor? That would be so cool!

Aimee said...

That Apple store entry is amazing!

fairdinkum said...

Do you have any ideas for energy efficient light fixtures for your outdoor entries?

Kevin & Roxanne said...

For the exterior entries, we are planning on a simple overhead fluorscent fixture
Even though fluorescents don't always perform well in cold weather, we have one now that does fine.
We are also looking at LED solar powered lights for the steps and walkway. I haven't selected them yet, but there is plenty of good options.
I also just ordered a great LED doorbell that I'm pretty excited about! De-light Doorbell Button by Spore at

Kevin & Roxanne said...

Thanks for the good info and links. I see that the LED downlights we're using are in the Lighting for Tomorrow website.
I'm planning on following up with another posting on lighting, as we're following MN GreenStar requirements.