Have LED Light Bulb Questions? Infographics & Such to “Enlighten”

Angie's List Infographic - LEDs

Angie’s List Infographic – LEDs

A lot of companies are participating in the new LED light bulb market, also called Solid State Lighting or SSL. These companies can be LED light bulb makers or participate by making some component of the LED light bulb ranging from heat sinks and LED chips to the sapphire growers, polishers and fabricators that make the foundation of the LED, the sapphire chip. All of them have a vested interest in helping consumers understand LED light bulbs and why they are different from CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs. We’ve gathered together some resources to help consumers understand their lighting options.

The US Department of Energy is leading the effort to educate consumers about their new lighting options and have enlisted companies that participate in the LED lighting market to help. The DOE has developed some very good resources on their own web site for the industry, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/. But they’ve also developed resources for consumers to learn more about their lighting choices. Some sample resources for consumers to learn more about LED lighting include a good FAQ here, http://energy.gov/articles/askenergysaver-led-lights.

The Federal Trade Commission requires a new lighting label, Lighting Facts, on all light bulb packages to help consumers understand what they’re buying. Optical and lighting publication Novus Light Today wrote about these new labeling requirements featuring an infographic from light bulb manufacturer Cree.

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic










Many of these companies as well as consumer groups are producing infographics to help the consumer learn more. Here’s a round-up of links to additional resources for learning more about LEDs.

Angie’s List, Infographic: What’s in a light bulb?,


The information in the Angie’s List infographic is great, except for the pricing. LED light bulbs have gone down quite a bit in price with some at retailers in the US coming in at just under $10 and a few others cost less and are even more affordable when combined with rebates and other special offers.

Philips, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://community.lighting.philips.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/102-1201-34-4943/Infographic_LED+Revolution_Philips+2012.png

Light bulb vendor Philips compiled a nice all around look at the energy-saving benefits of LED light bulbs and translates them into benefits for the environment and life.

Lumican, Can LED lighting really save energy and money?, http://lumican.com/portfolio-items/can-led-lighting-really-save-energy-and-money/

Canadian lighting solutions provider Lumican highlights US Department of Energy statistics and compares energy usage and savings of LED, halogen, CFL and traditional light bulbs.

LiveScience, NRDC Guide to Light Bulbs, http://www.livescience.com/42509-goodbye-to-old-lightbulbs.html

The NRDC does a great job at comparing LED light bulbs to CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs and gives a good explanation at the new light bulb packaging required by the US government.

We’ve also covered LEDs vs. CFLs on the Clearlysapphire blog. You can read them, here:

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL? http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=601

Clearlysapphire.com, Confused about Your Home Lighting? – LED, CFL and Incandescent Compared, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=492

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=371

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169

And the Survey Says: Consumer Awareness of Light Bulb Phase-Out Grows

LED Light Bulb

LED Light Bulb

Have you noticed a change in the light bulb aisle at your favorite store?  The shelves look quite a bit different than they did a mere two or three years ago.

When Congress enacted The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, they changed general lighting in the United States forever. The legislation created higher efficiency standards for lighting of all kinds from 40–100W incandescent and halogen general-service lamps. As a result, light bulbs that don’t conform to the new standard have been phased-out. Beginning in 2012, 100W lamps were required to be 28% more efficient.  That standard was applied to 75W lamps in 2013 and 40-60W lamps in January of 2014 in a rolling phase-out.

So, what do consumers think? The sixth annual SYLVANIA Socket Survey found that 65 percent of Americans plan to switch to more energy-efficient lighting technologies, as a result of the light bulb phase-out. But, consumers aren’t all the way there yet. The survey revealed that 30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of incandescent light bulbs while they’re still available and will continue using them. The 2012 survey found only 19 percent planned to hoard light bulbs. The higher 2013 number is probably due to awareness of the phase-out. Think hoarders…

The survey did have some good news about the phase-out. Since the yearly survey began in 2009, more consumers are aware of it.  This year, 64 percent of consumers were aware of the phase out, compared with only 26 percent in 2009 when the survey began.  And now, more than half of consumers surveyed are excited about the phase-out.  This year’s survey also found that 46 percent of consumers plan to switch to CFLs, 24 percent will opt for LEDs, and 13 percent say that they will choose halogens.

For Further Reading

Sylvania, 6th Annual “SYLVANIA Socket Survey” Finds That Almost Two-Third Of Americans Plan To Switch To Energy-Efficient Lighting As A Result Of Legislation, https://www.sylvania.com/en-us/tools-and-resources/surveys/Pages/socket-survey.aspx

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Bulbs Days are Numbered, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=27

Clearlysapphire.com, US DOE Reports on Efficiency and Environmental Impact of LED Lighting, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=156

Decorating for the holidays – LED vs. Incandescent

The Griswold House from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

The Griswold House from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

It’s that time again and Christmas displays are popping up in and on homes all around the world.  As we watch retailers like Home Depot and Walmart reduce prices on LED light bulbs, the same is happening with LED Christmas lights.  So, is it time to make the switch?

Depending on your tastes, LED lighting for Christmas holiday decorating can be a quick affair with a few strings of lights on your Christmas tree or can be a large artistic expression in light on your home like you’re Clark Griswold of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie.

Let’s take a look at some of the facts.

LED lighting for the holidays is safer – they’re not hot to the touch, so they won’t start a fire, especially if lit for a long period of time. They’re sturdier and made of epoxy lenses rather than plastic or glass like traditional incandescents.  They’re longer-lasting and could be in use 20 or even 40 years from now.  And they use less energy (about 80 percent) so that you can connect more strings together in series without blowing a fuse (your’s and the lights).

You might remember the moment in Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold turned on the Christmas lights on his home (decorated with 25,000 incandescent imported Italian twinkle lights) and caused a major power outage in the city of Chicago.  While you might not take out your local power grid, you might be concerned with your electric bill if you tend to decorate like a Griswold.  You may want to consider some information that the US Department of Energy put together information about energy requirements of Christmas lighting.

According to the DOE, it can cost up to $10 to light a six-foot tree, 12 hours a day for 40 days using large C-9 incandescent lights while incandescent mini-lights would cost about $2.72.  LEDs on the other hand would cost 27 cents or 82 cents respectively to light that same tree for the same period of time.  Over a decade, it could be quite costly to stick with incandescents.  The DOE table is below.

Retailers are bringing more LED Christmas lights to consumers.  According to a recent article in the Kansas City Star newspaper, Walmart dedicated half of its shelf space to LEDs. Costs are coming down from $5 for a string of 50 mini LED lights, down from $6.30 last year.  In fact, Costco won’t sell incandescent Christmas lights in 2013.  General Electric, selling holiday lights since 1903, anticipates that two out of every five strings of lights sold this year will be LEDs.

So, it may be time to ditch the old fashioned Christmas lights for some new LEDs.  And for a laugh and some holiday cheer, watch Christmas Vacation or this clip from the movie where the Griswold’s incandescent Christmas lights take down the Chicago power grid.

US DOE Christmas Light Info

Estimated cost of electricity to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days

Incandescent C-9 lights $10.00
LED C-9 lights $0.27
Incandescent Mini-lights $2.74
LED Mini-lights $0.82


Estimated cost* of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons

Incandescent C-9 lights $122.19
LED C-9 lights $17.99
Incandescent Mini-lights $55.62
LED Mini-lights $33.29

*Assumes 50 C-9 bulbs and 200 mini-lights per tree, with electricity at $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (AEO 2012 Residential Average). Prices of lights based on quoted prices for low volume purchases from major home improvement retailers. All costs have been discounted at an annual rate of 5.6%. Life span assumed to be three seasons (1,500 hours) for non-LED lights.

For Further Reading & Viewing

Kansas City Star, Christmas lights are going green, http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/10/4612642/christmas-lights-are-going-green.html

Energy Manager Today, LEDs Lead the Way for Holiday Lights


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Griswold Home Power Outage Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inWKw8nqQlI

US DOE Info:  http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/led-lighting

LED Light Bulbs Grow in Popularity

Philips 12.5W LED A19 bulb on sale on Homedepot.com for $22.97 US.

A big part of the market opportunity for sapphire is LED lighting.  When the LED lighting market grows, the demand for sapphire, one of the main building blocks for LED chips will increase too.  We’ve been tracking the LED lighting market and take a look at a recent report by Diane Cardwell in The New York Times, LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting.

Cardwell examined the growth in popularity of LED lighting in the piece.  Cardwell notes that the energy-efficient replacement LED bulbs are popular with consumers despite being more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs.  She also looked at the marketing success of LED lighting at retailers like Home Depot and technological improvements by manufacturers like Philips.

Cardwell reported that the growth of LED sales outpaced other lighting technologies in the residential market even though the market share still is small at 3 percent.  She attributes the growth to price decreases and the appeal of saving money on energy to consumers.

Brad Paulsen, from mega home retailer Home Depot, told Cardwell that he anticipates that LED technology will become the most popular lighting technology that is out there.  Home Depot has been selling LED light bulbs since 2009 according to information Bill Hamilton from Home Depot shared at a Department of Energy, 2012 Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop.  The retailer now sells 104 options online and in-store.  Consumers are seeing healthy price decreases.  For example, a Philips 12.5W LED A19 bulb (a 60W equivalent) decreased in price 37% to $24.97 between 2011 and 2012 at Home Depot and now sells on the Home Depot website for $22.97.

The Times article highlighted some interesting market statistics about LED lighting.  A-type LEDs, the most common bulb size that fits in home light sockets, will outsell incandescent bulbs in North America in 2014, according to market research firm IMS Research.  The firm also maintains that LEDs will become the most popular A-type technology by 2016 with North American shipments reaching almost 370 million, more than 10 times the roughly 33 million shipped last year.

Light bulb manufacturers are seeing LED lighting growth as well.  Cardwell noted that Philips, a major manufacturer of light bulbs in the US, saw LED light bulbs contribute to 24 percent of lighting sales in 2012. Overall LED-based sales grew by 51%, and now account for 24% of total lighting sales for Philips in Q3 2012. Philips took in over EUR 500 million, that’s around $650 million in US dollars, in LED-based sales for the third quarter.  That’s a lot of LEDs.

For Further Reading

Bill Hamilton, Home Depot presentation, Department of Energy, 2012 Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/hamilton_trends_pittsburgh2012.pdf

New York Times, LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/business/leds-emerge-as-a-popular-green-lighting.html?_r=0

Do You LED? – NECA, IBEW and DOE Education Efforts on LED Lighting

Electrical contractors are often on the front lines in helping their customers select electrical fixtures for their homes and businesses.  Their customers look to them for advice and experience when making important decisions about the lighting fixtures from lighting aesthetics and placement to maintenance and energy costs over the fixture’s lifetime.

The National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have a new series of videos on their ElectricTV.net web site specifically developed to help electrical contractors get ready for the opportunities and challenges of LED lighting. The first video is a great introduction to LED technology and its benefits.  The US Department of Energy is using the video series to help explain LED lighting to consumers on their website too.

Part 1 of the three part series introduces LEDs and their potential benefits. The segment features an interview with DOE Lighting Program Manager, Dr. James Brodrick that explains some of the advantages of LED lighting and where to look for information that can help you learn more.

According to Brodrick, by 2030, LED products will reduce lighting consumption by 46%. That means a savings of $30 billion in savings that would go back to the consumer and business.  LED products bring efficiency, durability, directional light and dimming capabilities.  He does claim that CFLs won’t go away.  According to Brodrick, they’re not quite as efficient as LEDs, but LEDs will become more efficient than CFLs could ever be. Brodrick also points out that we’ve never completely displaced a light source given that candles still have a place.

“At this point in time education is really important,” says Brodrick in the video.  “There are lots of new concepts and the lighting operates differently.  You need to get a hold of information.” He admits that there are some good products and some not so good ones.  The DOE has put together some programs to help contractors and consumers make sense of LED lighting.

The CALiPer program (DOE’s Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program) is like the department’s Good Housekeeping seal. The program supports testing of a wide array of SSL products available for general illumination. DOE allows its test results to be distributed in the public interest for non-commercial, educational purposes only.

The video also references the GATEWAY program.  DOE GATEWAY demonstrations showcase high-performance LED products for general illumination in a variety of commercial and residential applications.  Demonstration results provide real-world experience and data on state-of-the-art solid-state lighting (SSL) product performance and cost effectiveness.

For Additional Reading

DOE, Solid State Lighting: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/SSL/

The CALiPER program:  DOE Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program)

GATEWAY Demonstrations: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/gatewaydemos.html

LED Lighting Goes Back-to-School

A student at James Monroe Elementary school in Everett, Washington under new LED lights

Fall means that it is time to go back to school, but with fewer resources due to the down economy school districts are looking for ways to save money – including the switch to LEDs.  With fluorescent fixtures popular in K-12 schools, fluorescent retrofits can help the schools save money.  With the recent DoE “ban” on T-12 fluorescent bulbs, many schools will need to look to alternatives as the supply of fluorescent tubes dwindles. In fact, New Jersey is offering $6 million in incentives to K-12 schools to replace inefficient T-12 fluorescent fixtures.

Monroe Elementary School in Everett, Washington, made the complete change to LED lighting for nearly every lighting application in January 2012.  After successfully trying out LED lighting in one of their middle schools, the staff recently installed nearly 450 LED fixtures by Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), making it the first predominately LED-lit school in the Everett Public Schools district.

In addition to saving money on energy and maintenance costs, LED lighting reduces student disruptions from replacement and maintenance as well as improving lighting quality at Monroe Elementary School.  Local TV news station King5 shows off the improvements at the school in this report.

“Proper illumination is essential for academic settings,” said Al Safarikas, marketing director, Cree lighting in a news release. “Using Cree’s LED lighting solutions is a win-win for educational institutions. Not only do the students get to work under much higher quality light than the previous fluorescent fixtures, but schools can also save significantly on maintenance and energy costs, allowing administrators to invest in other academic priorities.”

In 2010, the Springfield City School District in Springfield, Ohio, retrofitted their lighting to reduce lighting costs without compromising quality. The district spent $332,400 on retrofit lighting fixtures and labor and expects to save $104,240 per year in electricity costs, recouping the cost of the upgrade in a little more than three years.

There are cost savings to be had beyond replacing the typical fluorescent bulb.  LED-based exit signs can save a lot of money over traditional incandescent exit signs.  According to Michael Fickes in School Planning & Management, a school district with 1,000 exit signs in more than 60 school buildings and administrative offices and maintenance facilities can switch incandescent exit signs for LED exit signs and reduce electricity costs from $535,200 to $76,500 over 10 years and from $53,520 to $7,650 per year.

Finally, LED lighting is more flexible and brings advantages for multi-use rooms. For example, the lighting in an elementary school cafeteria can have multiple settings that make it suitable for use as an auditorium with dimming, multiple colors and spotlight features.

For Further Reading

NJ.com, Schools offered funds to replace fluorescents, http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2012/07/schools_offered_funds_to_repla.html

King5.com, Everett elementary school leads LED revolution (video), http://www.king5.com/news/environment/Everett-school-is-nations-LED-leader-136771243.html#

Cree, Cree Lights Remodeled Everett, Wash. Public School, http://www.cree.com/news-and-events/cree-news/press-releases/2012/february/120229-everett-school

LEDs Magazine, Virginia Beach school system finds LED lighting pays for itself…and more, http://ledsmagazine.com/casestudies/18378

EC&M, LED Lighting to Save Dallas County Schools Big Bucks, http://ecmweb.com/content/led-lighting-save-dallas-county-schools-big-bucks

School Planning & Management, K-12 Energy-Lite Lighting, http://www.peterli.com/spm/resources/articles/archive.php?article_id=2788

Clearlysapphire.com, Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=247


Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton

Last weekend, the world marked the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day and the world continues to look for ways to save energy and live a little bit greener every day.  LED lighting has been capturing a lot of mindshare as the next best energy-saving light source on the horizon since mercury-containing CFLs have lost favor. While the LED lighting market continues to build slowly, industry observers are keeping a keen eye on when it will explode.  Alexander Hamilton may have the answer.

In 2007, US legislators imposed strict energy efficient guidelines impacting 100W incandescent light bulbs.  The first set of regulations were set to hit in 2012, in effect banning traditional 100W light bulbs.  The “ban” was thought to help the LED lighting industry.  But, the 100W light bulb got a reprieve in December 2011 from Congress. In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, there was a little agreement inside of the massive 1,200-page spending package that took the teeth out of enforcing the incandescent light bulb ban. Incandescent bulbs were off the hook, temporarily.

Without the US government regulations spurring LED lighting adoption, it is anyone’s guess as to when consumer LED lighting will take off.   IMS analyst Jamie Fox recently wrote a post about LED lighting and the tipping point for consumer LED lighting adoption.  According to Fox, the residential market LED lighting is not quite ready to explode in 2012, but it is starting to get tantalizingly close.  Fox noted that residential LED lighting is the “holy grail” for LED manufacturers “who once saw it merely as a speck on the far horizon, but now can finally enjoy it coming squarely into view. If this market starts to suddenly move, then the whole market for LED general lighting, indeed the whole LED market, will really start to see growth rates increase, even surge.”

Fox and his associates at IMS calculate that LED light bulb prices need to fall to single digits before the market explodes.  Fox explained in his blog post, “It’s not just the psychological impact (i.e. $9.99 vs. $10.00); it also just happens that this is around the point where the payback arguments make sense. Factoring in energy costs, a $25 LED pays for itself relative to a $0.55 60W incandescent lamp in approximately 34 months assuming 4 hours of use per day and energy costs of $0.11 kWh.”  He continued that at $10 (Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 bill) or less, the payback period shrinks to a single year.

When this will happen is anyone’s guess, but Fox insists that the $10 mark will be good news for LED manufacturers.  He continued, “this translates into double digit growth for their whole LED business in 2013 and 2014.”

There is progress on pricing declines.  Market researchers at LEDinside indicate that they are seeing price drops in the vicinity of the $10 mark in South Korea, UK, Japan and United States due to competition and improvements in technology.  According to LEDinside, the 40W equivalent LED bulb’s prices in North America and the UK have been sliding toward US$10. The lowest prices in most areas are expected to fall below US$10 in 2H12.

Facts & Figures:

According to the US Department of Energy, artificial lighting consumes about 10% of a household’s electricity use.  The DOE says use of new lighting technologies can reduce lighting energy use in homes by 50%–75%. Upgrading 15 of the inefficient incandescent light bulbs in your home could save you about $50 per year. This could add up because the DoE says there is more lighting than ever in the US. The DoE attributes the vast majority of the growth to the residential sector, primarily due to the increase in number of households and the rise in the number of sockets per household, from 43 in 2001 to 51 in 2010.

For Further Reading …

IMS LED Blog, Doe LED Lighting Have a Tipping Point?, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/Does_LED_Lighting_Have_A_Tipping_Point_270

LEDinside.com, LED Bulb Price Dipped Sharply in 12’Jan, 40W Equivalent LED Bulb Price Dropped below US$10, http://www.ledinside.com/price_bulb_201201

USA Today, Congress’ bill may slow switch to efficient light bulbs, http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=11985

LEDs Magazine, US Congress is poised to weaken light-bulb efficiency legislation, http://www.ledsmagazine.com/news/8/12/18

The Washington Times, Congress overturns incandescent light bulb ban, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/dec/16/congress-overturns-incandescent-light-bulb-ban/

US DOE Reports on Efficiency and Environmental Impact of LED Lighting

LED lighting has been hyped as the next best thing in lighting because of its energy efficiency. As Earth Day 2012 approaches, we would like to share the results of a new report from the US DOE, Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products Part I: Review of the Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Lamps, February 2012.

Part 1 of the report focuses on a comparison of the energy consumption during the lifecycle of LEDs, CFLs, halogen and Incandescent light bulbs. The lifecycle is defined as the three major lifecycle phases: manufacturing, transportation and use.  The authors of the report took on a lot of work. The report is a comprehensive look at the energy consumption of the three light technologies based on ten existing studies from academia, manufacturers and independent researchers.

The results of the report were not surprising given the buzz about LEDs.  The use phase is the most energy intensive for all — incandescent, CFLs and LED lighting.  Transportation accounted for less than one percent of the lifecycle for all. The real differences occurred during the manufacturing phase with LEDs initially being higher due to the larger “packages” required to meet the equivalent lumens, or the amount of light.  These differences in the manufacturing phase will be eliminated by advances in LEDs over time.  For example, as LED technology improves with increases in yield, wafer size and automation in LED manufacturing, LEDs will become brighter requiring fewer, smaller “packages” to make the same amount of light, lumens.  Even given these initial differences in current LEDs, they all disappeared when totaling everything up throughout the lifecycle.

According to the authors of the report, “the key results of this analysis indicate that the average life-cycle energy consumption of LED lamps and CFLs are similar, at approximately 3,900 MJ per functional unit (20 million lumen-hours). This is about one quarter of the incandescent lamp energy consumption—15,100 MJ per functional unit.”  Further, the authors estimate that, “by 2015, if LED lamps meet their performance targets, their life-cycle energy use is expected to decrease by approximately one half.” This means that as LEDs become more efficient, they’ll outshine CFLs.

This all sounds like very good news for LEDs, but it still is very early. The report is the first report from a larger DOE project to assess the lifecycle environmental and resource costs to manufacture, use and dispose of LED lighting products versus comparable traditional lighting technologies.  Look for more from the DOE.

For Further Reading:

Clearlysapphire.com, LED Manufacturing, http://www.clearlysapphire.com/LED.html

US DOE, SSL Program, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/index.html