The LED Takeover

Long before Rubicon Technology was manufacturing sapphire for LEDs, it was the incandescent light bulb that illuminated our world. More than one-hundred years ago – in 1879 to be precise -Thomas Edison patented the first incandescent light bulb, igniting the lighting industry and paving the way for the ‘world after dark’ that we enjoy today.

Because of the steady warm glow they produce, incandescent bulbs were soon found to be fitting for most household applications. Fluorescent tube lights, on the other hand, were later developed to produce brighter neon light and be more efficient, making them suitable for commercial applications, such as offices, hospitals and stores.

An outgrowth of the Germans’ 19th century invention of the Geissler tube, the first real challenger to the incandescent bulb for home use, the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), hit the market in the mid-1980s. Although they were significantly more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, at a retail price of $25-$35, CFLs were also more expensive, deterring consumers at first from purchasing them.

Since the 1990s, however, improvements in CFL performance, price, efficiency and lifespan have led to a rise in their popularity – not to mention they became one of few lighting alternatives available after the phase out of the incandescent bulb began in 2014.

When it comes to which type of light bulb will reign as king in the 21st century, LEDs have undoubtedly stolen the spotlight from CFLs. In addition to being one of the fastest developing lighting technologies today, LEDs are currently the most efficient lighting source on the market.

The first visible-spectrum LEDs were invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak in the form of red diodes. These initial LEDs first became available to the public in the form of indicator lights and calculator displays in the 1970s. The invention of the blue diode in the 1990s by American Shuji Nakamura, along with Japan’s Isamu Akasaki and Horoshi Amano, quickly led to the development of white LEDs.

Ever since the invention of the white LEDs, we have seen their use explode in a variety of applications. They are now being used in major national and international landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Sydney Opera House, transforming these buildings into energy-efficient and eco-friendly locations. In addition, LEDs have made notable appearances at major events this year all across the globe, including Super Bowl XLIX in the U.S. and Chinese New Year celebrations in both China and Malaysia.


Aside from the more conventional lighting applications, LEDs are also being utilized in the beauty and health industry. NASA developed LED facial technology that is said to plump up aging skin, boost collagen and treat acne. In Iran, LEDs are being used in the treatment of cancerous and precancerous skin lesions and could be used in the treatment of skin cancer in the future.


LEDs have the potential to affect the modern world even more than the original incandescent bulb did in the 20th century. As costs continue to fall and more out-of-the-box applications are discovered, it is clear there is no stopping LEDs from taking over the world.

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 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:

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

GATEWAY Demonstrations:

LED Light as Art

SHY Light Bronze by Bec Brittain

SHY Light Bronze by Bec Brittain

Now that we have looked into the technology and markets for LED-based tube lighting, let’s take a few moments to admire the creative side of LED lighting – a very artistic approach to using LED tubes as a medium.  The collection of LED lighting from New York City-based Bec Brittain, The SHY Light, uses thin LED tubes to redefine LED lighting that’s very different from your standard T-12 fixture.

Inspired by crystalline structures and the way they grow, the LED light fixtures can take on the shape of a pyramid or polyhedron and are configured in modules so that they can be reconfigured in a myriad of different ways depending on the space from retail to high-end homes.  The SHY LED lighting has been featured in LUX, Dwell and Interior Design.

After first working with fluorescent tubes, Brittain told the blog “You have been here sometime” that she turned to LEDs due to simpler wiring, but also for advances in the quality of light.  Her first priority is to design things that can be passed on to future generations.

The New York Times Magazine recently focused on Brittain and her new role as LED lighting designer.  With degrees in architecture and philosophy, she worked in lighting design with lighting design specialist Lindsey Adelman while at the same time designing braided leather jewelry and bug sculptures. “I’d like to explore the possibility of bringing the materiality and femininity of my other projects into my design work,” Brittain said. “You can only do so many things at once.”

For Further Reading

Times Magazine (The New York Times), Seeing the Light,

You Have Been Here Sometime, A Conversation with Bec Brittain,, Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction,

Marriott HQ Greens Up with LED Make-Over from GE Lighting

Marriott’s new LED signage at their HQ in Bethesda, MD

Companies of all kinds and sizes are getting greener – to help the planet and to save money.  GE Lighting, founded by the father of the incandescent bulb, Thomas Edison, recently helped convert Marriott International headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland to LED lighting from top to bottom and inside out.  The famous lodging company had three goals for the project: enrich lighting quality, heighten employee security and improve energy efficiency. The retrofit project covered both the interior of the building and exterior. When the corporate campus-wide lighting is complete, Marriott anticipates that they will use 860,000 fewer kilowatt hours (kWhs) of electricity and save more than $120,000 in combined energy and maintenance costs a year.  You can view a video case study of the project here.

Marriott is not alone in retrofitting their corporate campus for the aesthetic, security and energy saving benefits. According to market research firm Strategies Unlimited, the commercial and industrial LED lighting segment was the largest LED in lighting segment in 2011.  Strategies Unlimited forecast revenues to grow to $1.2 billion in 2016, following a CAGR of 13%.

GE Lighting began the Marriott project with a comprehensive audit of Marriott’s existing lighting systems including photometric analysis with 3D renderings of the new system and forecast Marriott’s energy and maintenance savings.

Project Highlights:

LED lighting at Marriott’s outdoor parking and parking deck areas

Parking areas: LEDs now illuminate Marriott’s outdoor lots using 230 Evolve LED Area Lights, while a combination of LED garage light fixtures, LED flood lights and T8 fluorescents provide light for the parking decks and walkways. Marriott estimates the savings to be 280-watts per outdoor lighting fixture reducing energy use by 580,000 kWhs a year, equating to $70,000 in utility cost savings. In addition, new dimming technology will help control and reduce light output to 40 percent while the parking deck is vacant and adjusts to 100 percent when motion is detected saving $11,000 in energy (88,000-kWh reduction) each year.

LED lighting in the foyer at Marriott’s HQ

Interior:  Marriott’s eight-floor, 900,000-square-foot headquarters is now a showplace for LED lighting.  GE replaced 1,000 65-watt bulbs with 7-watt LED lamps in all hallways. The 58-watt difference delivers nearly $18,000 savings (150,000-kWh savings) in electricity expense over 261 working days.  In the multi-story foyer, special scaffolding is required to reach fixtures. In the past, Marriott would change the lights just about one to two years on average at a cost close to $3,000.  GE replaced 12 90-watt bulbs with 20-watt LED lamps. Rated for 50,000 hours of life, GE’s LEDs could keep the scaffolding away for up to seven years.  Management found the halogen and CFL lighting in Marriott’s auditorium inadequate for Marriott’s advanced dimming system. While the halogen lights could be darkened, the CFLs could not. GE installed dimmable LED lamps producing a fully dimmable system with higher light levels and more light uniformity as well as $2,300 in energy savings.  The building’s lower level that includes a daycare and cafeteria got special LED light panels (troffers).  These 2’x2’ fixtures produce a perfectly even glow and while off appear completely free of a light source to blend in with the ceiling, enhancing the aesthetic of Marriott’s employee space.

Finally, the project will retrofit the ‘Marriott’ sign at the Bethesda headquarters entrance with Tetra® PowerStrip LED lighting, improving maintenance cycles from two to three times per year to once every five to 10 years.

For Further Reading:

GE Lighting Solutions, GE LED lighting brings new radiance, energy savings to Marriott headquarters,

Marriott – GE Lighting Solutions Case Study Video:

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, Schools offered funds to replace fluorescents,, Everett elementary school leads LED revolution (video),

Cree, Cree Lights Remodeled Everett, Wash. Public School,

LEDs Magazine, Virginia Beach school system finds LED lighting pays for itself…and more,

EC&M, LED Lighting to Save Dallas County Schools Big Bucks,

School Planning & Management, K-12 Energy-Lite Lighting,, Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction,


Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction

The EAGLE LED TUBE Series is the cornerstone of the INDEPENDENCE LED Product offerings

While the world waits for the LED lighting market to take off, one sector of the market is quietly gaining traction.  Increasingly, property owners are turning to LED tubes for lighting where they once used fluorescent tubes.  An LED tube can typically reduce the electricity by 50% or more over an incumbent T12 or T8 fluorescent tube.  In fact, the US Department of Energy recently reported that “most commercially-available T12 lamps are too inefficient to meet the amended standards and can no longer be manufactured for distribution in commerce after July 14, 2012.”

This new T12 fluorescent tube ban sets up a very robust market for LED-based tubes in office parks, retail and industrial environments as well as new construction.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy there are more than 2.3 billion fluorescent tubes in America and approximately 600 million fluorescent tubes burn out each year in America leading to maintenance and replacement costs.  The fluorescent tubes, like CFLs, also contain highly toxic mercury making bulb disposal and accidental breakage a potentially costly problem.

According to consultancy ElectroniCast, the LED tube subset of the overall LED market is forecast to increase at an annual growth rate of 22% from 2011 to 2016 before increasing the pace until 2021.  Further, ElectroniCast forecast that the global consumption of LED linear tube lamps, used in new construction, retrofitting and replacement applications for fluorescent linear tube lamps, will reach $2.89 billion in 2021.

One of the beneficiaries of the trend is Pennsylvania-based Independence LED Lighting, LLC.  The company recently announced that its 2011 LED Tube sales grew nearly 300% from 2010.  The increase was highlighted by a large order by national auto service chain in Q4 2011. Independence LED delivered LED tubes to retrofit the first 50 of more than 800 locations in the chain, and the project may stand as the largest retrofit to date with “US Made LED Tubes in American History.”

According to a press release about the above average industry increase in LED tube sales, Charlie Szoradi, Chairman and CEO of Independence LED Lighting said, “We knew that we were doing well, but we were surprised we were growing so much faster than the industry. We credit our growth and leadership position to five key factors: Our Shift in Manufacturing from China to America, Thermal Management, UL Classification, Reseller Support, and the overall Recession that has forced Owners and Managers to look harder at their operating costs.”

San Francisco-based NEXT Lighting took a different approach with their retrofit LED lighting.  According to a company news release, the NEXTLamp 4-foot replacement lamp is a mercury-free lighting solution that is dimmable, quiet, and flicker-free, delivering an overall more pleasing lighting experience.  LEDs Magazine recently featured the new lamps.  Unlike other replacement lamps according to LEDs Magazine, the design uses thermoplastics to injection mold the linear structure for the lamp leading to more efficient heat dissipation and a longer life (50,000 hours).  The LEDs mount along both sides of the centerline of the structure to reflect more efficiently.  The replacement lamps are due out in Q3 2012.

For Further Reading:

Impact of Amended Energy Conservation Standards on General Service Fluorescent Lamps: FACT SHEET,

LEDs Magazine, Linear SSL,, American Independence LED Benefits from LED Tubes Market Share over Chinese Imports News, LED Tube Light Trend Report: The High Performance LED Tube,