LED street lights: The fuel of the future?

In less than 150 years, cars have transformed from clunky gas-guzzlers into sleek energy-efficient machines.

Gas GuzzlerTesla

According to new information from the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, the global market for electric vehicles (EVs) is expanding at a growth rate of 76 percent, reaching 740,000 units earlier this year.

In consideration of this rapid increase of Teslas and other pure-battery powered vehicles on the road, debates are emerging over the best way to implement charging stations.

A team at Mini proposes the solution lies within existing urban landscape infrastructure.

During Low Carbon Oxford Week 2015, the British automotive brand demonstrated its “Light and Charge system”, a new technology that would allow EV drivers to charge their vehicles from LED street lights.


Given street lights run along the sides of most roads and are already connected to main sources of electricity, Mini’s approach has the potential to make more charging points available to drivers than there are fuel pumps currently available. The Light and Charge points could be set up at any location where there is a street light and safe parking is available.

The Light and Charge units would employ amodular LED design, proving the global widespread conversion to LED street lights could have even greater benefits for cities than just energy savings. Presuming street lights along busy main streets would be accessed most frequently, Mini says they would likely require four LED modules while street lights along quieter residential streets would suffice with only one or two.

Ease of use may be the best benefit of the Light and Charge points, however. EV drivers need only connect their vehicle using a standard charging cable then swipe a credit card to begin charging.

As the number of EVs on the road continues to grow, Mini’s showcase piece could very well become reality. Although the Light and Charge system has yet to be adopted widely, this technological breakthrough shows LED street lights could play a role in ushering in a future filled with electric vehicles.

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

Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL?

The second phase of the US light bulb phase-out hit a major milestone on Jan. 1, 2014, the deadline to end production of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs. The deadline passed by with not much notice from consumers.  But, the end of incandescent light bulbs sets up a new battle: LED light bulbs vs. CFLs.

Consumer Sentiments

A recent consumer survey by Osram Sylvania, a light bulb manufacturer, measured public attitudes about energy-efficient lighting and awareness in the US.  Here are some of the results:

  • 4 in 10 consumers are aware of the January 2014 phase out of 60W and 40W bulbs
  • More than half (59%) of consumers are excited about the phase out, as it will help Americans use more energy efficient light bulbs.
  • 46 percent of consumers plan to switch to CFLs,
  • 24 percent will opt for LEDs, and
  • 13 percent say that they will choose halogens.
  • This year, 30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of traditional light bulbs where still available and will continue using them.
  • This is a sharp increase from the 2012 Socket Survey which showed just 16 percent said that they plan to stockpile bulbs.

Light Bulb Wars

Consumers still have time to make up their minds about their next light bulb because retailers still have supplies of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs on the shelves.  Retailers like Home Depot and Lowes have enough stock on the incandescent bulbs for consumers through the spring at least.  However, once the supplies dwindle, what should you buy? LED or CFL?  Let’s compare.


A descendant of traditional fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain argon and mercury vapor housed within that spiral-shaped tube. The bulbs rely on an integrated ballast to produce an electric current that passes through the mixture of gasses, exciting the gas molecules that produce the light.  The time for the ballast to produce the electrical current causes that typical CFL delay when it is turned on.  CFLs use 20-30% less energy than the typical incandescent and last about 9.1 years.  Of course, they do contain mercury, so cleaning up after breaking them and disposing of CFLs after they burn out becomes problematic.  Here’s a link to how to dispose of CFLs safely for you and the environment.

LED light bulbs

Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, LED light bulbs generate light using a small “package” of several LEDs in a light bulb.  LED light bulbs are more efficient since they use a semiconductor to emit light or photons when electricity is passed through it.  LED light bulbs give off more than 80% of the energy used as light. The good news is that LED light bulbs can cut household energy use by as much as 80% and have a lifetime of as much as 22.8 years, about 2.5 times longer than CFLs.

So what do you choose?

Here’s a quick look at some of the LED and CFL light bulbs available on Homedepot.com (pricing as of 1/8/2014).  While Cree and Philips LED bulbs are a bit more expensive for a single bulb, they do produce a soft white light comparable to CFLS and traditional incandescent, but they last much longer.  If you are looking to save energy, you’ll want to know how efficient they are.  You’ll see this in the chart in the column lumens per watt.  This is a measure of how well the light source produces light.  The higher the number, the better your light bulb is at producing light.  Visit your local retailer to see how they look in person, since tastes vary.  For an explanation of the Color Rendition Index, read this previous post.

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

For Further Reading

Fox Business, Retailers Brace for Change Ahead of Incandescent Bulb Ban, http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2013/12/31/retailers-brace-for-change-ahead-incandescent-bulb-ban/

Osram, Sylvania Socket Survey, http://www.sylvania.com/en-us/tools-and-resources/surveys/Pages/socket-survey.aspx

NBC News, Majority of Americans still in the dark about incandescent light bulb phase-out, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/majority-americans-still-dark-about-incandescent-light-bulb-phase-out-2D11805991

NBC News, With incandescents dead, smart bulbs step into the light, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/incandescents-dead-smart-bulbs-step-light-2D11869426

Buildings, Incandescent Bulb Phase-Out Myths Debunked, http://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/16806/title/incandescent-bulb-phase-out-myths-debunked.aspx

Newsday, Light bulb shopping choices under new ban, http://www.newsday.com/business/lightbulb-shopping-choices-under-new-ban-1.6706464

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

Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs

Philips Luxeon LED

Philips Luxeon LED

Recently, the Department of Energy published a list of the Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs. We’d like to share the list, and add one more for our Clearlysapphire blog post this week.

9.  Sapphire is the base material for more than 80% of LEDs, just like silicon is the base material for computer chips.

8. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. Today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.

7. Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more — meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than three years if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

6. Unlike incandescent bulbs — which release 90 percent of their energy as heat — LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat.

5. From traffic lights and vehicle brake lights to TVs and display cases, LEDs are used in a wide range of applications because of their unique characteristics, which include compact size, ease of maintenance, resistance to breakage, and the ability to focus the light in a single direction instead of having it go every which way.

4. LEDs contain no mercury, and a recent Energy Department study determined that LEDs have a much smaller environmental impact than incandescent bulbs. They also have an edge over compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that’s expected to grow over the next few years as LED technology continues its steady improvement.

3. Since the Energy Department started funding solid-state lighting R&D in 2000, these projects have received 58 patents. Some of the most successful projects include developing new ways to use materials, extract more light, and solve the underlying technical challenges. Most recently, the Energy Department announced five new projects that will focus on cutting costs by improving manufacturing equipment and processes.

2. The first visible-spectrum LED was invented by Nick Holonyak, Jr., while working for GE in 1962. Since then, the technology has rapidly advanced and costs have dropped tremendously, making LEDs a viable lighting solution. Between 2011 and 2012, global sales of LED replacement bulbs increased by 22 percent while the cost of a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb fell by nearly 40 percent. By 2030, it’s estimated that LEDs will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales.

1. In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. — saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

For Further Reading

Department of Energy, Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs, http://energy.gov/articles/top-8-things-you-didn-t-know-about-leds

Industrial LED Lighting Gains Momentum


LED lighting in an industrial location (source, Greenbiz.com, http://bit.ly/YZFMbE)

IDC Energy Insights reports that the industrial market for LEDs is picking up momentum as companies looking to build new “smart” facilities or retrofit old ones choose energy efficient LED lighting.  Adoption of LEDs for industrial lighting is good news for the commercial sapphire market and others in the LED supply chain. More LED lighting means more demand for sapphire.

First, let’s start with some background.  Warehouses are particularly fertile ground for LED lighting since instant-on LED lights provide virtually no cycle time compared to traditional industrial lighting sources like HID (high-intensity discharge lamps) along with lower lifetime costs (including maintenance), higher efficacy and local utility incentives among others.

For those who watched the recent Super Bowl in New Orleans, the HID lights may be familiar.   After the electricity loss during the second half, the lengthy delay in the game – more than 20 minutes — was partially due to the cycle time of the HID lighting for the interior of the stadium.  In a warehouse situation, HID cycle time becomes a big issue as no one wants to wait for the lights to cycle and as a result, many warehouses just keep the lights on, running up energy costs.

IDC Energy Insights research analyst Casey Talon commented in her clean energy blog that LED lighting and “smart building” will be the disruptive technology for energy efficiency over the next three years.

Talon highlighted two big announcements in early January 2013 that demonstrate the momentum of smart building with LED lighting.  First, lighting leader Acuity Brands acquired Adura Technologies.  Adura’s Zigbee wireless mesh architecture enables individual fixture controls for cost and energy savings.  Secondly, Digital Lumens, a leader in the industrial lighting solutions market, announced new growth numbers and funding, that demonstrates the viability of the emerging smart building technology segment.  The company secured a new round of $10 million in financing and reported a footprint of 500 ‘large-scale’ installations representing 150% growth.

She notes in the blog that “fundamentally this news demonstrates that end users are increasingly aware of the benefits of energy efficiency to both their bottom lines and corporate goals.  The activity in these markets illustrates a growing acceptance of upfront costs to achieve longer term benefits.”

LED lighting combined with lighting control and management software offers the ability to track and manage the benefits of LED lighting.  Wireless controls and analytics help building managers understand when to have lighting on or off when employees are present, measure “free” ambient light from outside to cut down reliance on lighting, and know when and where to adjust brightness in areas when high precision work is needed.

Using analytics already is paying off.  According to one case study from Digital Lumens, Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services North America, a worldwide leader in helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul for Sikorsky, Eurocopter, AgustaWestland and Boeing helicopters, saved more than 72% on their annual energy costs with a Digital Lumens retrofit.

According to Talon, “If these early announcements are a signal, then 2013 may mark a tipping point in the smart buildings marketplace as customer awareness and investment begin to converge for broader adoption of intelligent energy management solutions.”

Further Reading

IDC Energy Insights, Illuminating the Smart Building, https://idc-insights-community.com/energy/clean-energy/illuminatingthesmartbuilding

Greenbiz.com, LED lighting gaining traction in commercial retrofits, http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2013/02/05/led-lighting-gaining-traction-commercial-retrofits