LED Lighting Adoption – Lessons Learned

Incandescent lighting ruled the world for more than a century, but times have changed as the world looks to energy efficient alternatives to the incandescent bulb. In the 1970s, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) came along as the new alternative light source. Market penetration for CFL bulbs never rose above 1% of all units in the first 20 years following market introduction.

In the US, the US Department of Energy joined together with retailers and the lighting manufacturers to encourage consumer adoption of energy-efficient lighting including LEDs and CFLs. There has been careful consideration not to repeat the mistakes experienced with CFLs that led to that very slow adoption rate.

We’ve spoken a lot about the EISA phase-out of incandescent bulbs in Clearlysapphire.com. US legislators imposed strict energy efficient guidelines impacting incandescent light bulbs in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In a rolling phase-out through 2014, manufacturers stopped making 100-W, 75-W, 60-W and 40-W incandescent light bulbs. But that legislation is only part of today’s story.

Before the phase-out legislation, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, directing the DOE to “support research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities related to advanced solid‐state lighting technologies based on white light-emitting diodes.” This legislation was an important part in establishing the DOE’s leadership in the adoption of solid state lighting (SSL).

The US Department of Energy reviewed the CFL experience and developed a strategy for leading the industry and supporting their activities for SSL.  The DOE analyzed both CFL adoption and early SSL experiences since they’ve launched to determine a strategy for the initiative. You can find links to the reports below in Further Reading.

Some of the lessons learned were quite reasonable. First, coordination and collaboration between government and industry should take place at a national level. Secondly, they needed to establish standards and product testing for minimum performance and back-up of long-life claims with standard-based projections and/or guarantees.  Thirdly, they needed to introduce new lighting technology in applications where the benefits were clearly established before moving on to others. They also found they needed to respond to the market and resolve problems and issues quickly. Finally, they needed to know and acknowledge technology limitations, determine and address compatibility issues with conventional lighting, deal with technology failures aggressively, and not launch a new product until performance issues were ironed out.

The parties in the initiative analyzed LED technology itself and possible bumps in the road to mitigate for consumers. They knew that consumers would have to get used to new language of LEDs. For example, the different way of communicating light brightness in lumens rather than traditional watts might cause confusion. The DOE worked with manufacturers proactively to communicate the new language of LEDs through the introduction of new package labeling, LED Lighting Facts program. They also established CALiPER program, to test a wide array of new LED lighting products for the public interest using industry-approved metrics. With a myriad of new LED light bulb offerings, consumers can find LED light bulbs that are qualified using 20 standards and procedures by the familiar Energy Star program. These proactive efforts were designed to smooth the transition and advance consumer adoption.

How successful have these government and industry efforts been?

There has been a very big change in the installed base of light bulbs between 2010 and 2012.  This is mainly due to the government mandated light bulb phase-out. According to Navigant Research and the DOE, the installed base of incandescent A-type lamps (traditional light bulb shape) decreased from 65 percent to 55 percent, while CFLs increased from 34 percent in 2010 to 43 percent in 2012.  LED installations in A-type lamps remained at less than 1 percent in 2012.

But taking note of lessons learned, it was interesting to see increased adoption in applications where LEDs have clear benefits — directional lighting such as lighting used in recessed lighting. According to the DOE and Navigant, installations of directional LED lamps went from 0.1 million in 2009 to 11.4 million in 2012, with an estimated 4.6% of all directional sockets in 2012 using LEDs.

Adoption is looking up for other lighting applications. Analysts expect LED-based lighting to grow, and fast. According to research firm IHS, 2014 will be a big year for LED lamps, accounting for 32% of the entire global lamp revenue.

The biggest barrier to consumer adoption in traditional A-type lighting so far is price, but the prices are coming down to more palatable levels for consumers. You can read more about the adoption of LED-based general lighting and pricing in these previous posts, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb and Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton.

For Further Reading

DOE, Solid-State Lighting: Early Lessons Learned on the Way to Market, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/ssl_lessons-learned_2014.pdf

DOE, Compact Fluorescent Lighting in America: Lessons Learned on the Way to Market, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/cfl_lessons_learned_web.pdf

Navigant Research for DOE, Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/led-adoption-report_2013.pdf

Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Report: Lighting manufacturing leaders to shift, http://www.csemag.com/single-article/report-lighting-manufacturing-leaders-to-shift/7932342ed0c1f2c636596e85aa29d99f.html


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