LED Lighting: Where’s the Revolution?

LED LightingIt was only a few years ago when the LED lighting craze struck the construction industry. Pundits predicted an inevitable revolution in lighting that would engulf the industry, while specialty contractors and electricians learned how to install LED fixtures and booked suppliers. It’s now 2011, and the prophesied LED tidal wave could better be described as a faint current. Why has the industry been so slow to adopt a technology with proven and admitted benefits?

LED lighting’s benefits sound fantastic on paper. The devices have operational lives exceeding 100,000 hours, they enjoy reduced power consumption, they radiate practically no heat, and are durable to boot. With the recent craze in green technology, LED lighting should have been a key feature in any residential or commercial installation built with eco-friendliness in mind. Smart ballasts even means less design work has to be done on some installations. So why is LED lighting still standing next to candlelight on the loser’s podium?

The adoption rate of LED lighting has been hampered by two factors that might not surprise you: high initial cost and sluggish ROI. The eco-friendly benefits of LED lighting seems to have been trumped by the economic slump experienced over the past few years; clients have shied away because of high installation costs, and an ROI that takes years to turn positive.

Even worse, LED manufacturing is currently strained by several technologies that use them, including car headlights, LED backlighting for televisions, and LED usage in mobile devices. This large demand and relatively constrictive supply has driven the price of LEDs up, making them less likely to be used in new construction.

It all looks pretty dim for a technology that was supposed to replace the incandescent bulb, but does this spell the demise of the LED revolution? Not quite.  LED manufacturers are responding to the high demand of the devices by creating new fabrication facilities and increasing the capacity at existing ones. Meanwhile, drop-in LED bulbs are providing an alternative for clients who like the benefits of LED lighting, but aren’t sold on a full installation.

Perhaps the largest driver of LED adoption will be energy costs. As the price of oil climbs to feverishly high prices, energy efficiency will once again take the spotlight with LED lighting alongside it.

While the LED revolution has been lethargic at best, the prospect of higher adoption means this technology might have a bright future ahead of it. Increasing production capacities, alternative installations, and rising energy costs means this little bulb could be coming to a light fixture near you.

Authored By:  Samuel Knight
Samuel is a regularly contributing author to the blog of JetStream Technologies, makers of a web-based estimating and construction management solution.