As a veteran of the lighting industry with over 40 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of lighting trends come and go. Remember recessed fluorescent lighting in the kitchen or floor to ceiling pole lights? And now along comes LED lighting.
When LED lighting was first introduced several years ago it was scorned for being expensive, non-attractive, and not viable for the everyday home. In an amazingly short amount of time, however, LED technology has revolutionized the lighting industry; it’s influenced the look, shape, and profile of chandeliers, fixtures, and lamps; created new standards for energy efficiency; and introduced a whole new standard for the lifespan of bulbs. In short, the humble LED is changing both the look, and how we look, at lighting.
As LED technology has advanced, it has become the ideal choice for design professionals. In addition to the new range of aesthetic options LED enables, it can actually save your clients money on the backend. In order to understand this promise, however, there are a few technical things to know. Unlike incandescent light bulbs which use a filament to produce light, LED lighting uses a small semiconductor chip. These chips are not unlike the chips that run your smartphone. They’re compact and can be designed to output almost any color on the visible spectrum. And best of all, they can last a very long time—more than 20x longer than a standard incandescent bulb.
This long lifespan reduces the need to replace and discard bulbs, but the “greenest” thing about LED is its efficiency. The typical 75 watt incandescent bulb produces 1,100 lumens. To produce the same brightness, an LED light requires only 15 watts on average. That’s 1/5 the electricity! Just imagine the PR benefits when your clients boasts about how their interior designer reduced their monthly electrical bills by as much as 80 percent.
Fewer dead bulbs littering landfills. Less energy used. The environmental benefits of LED are self-evident. But will your clients be sold on the cost? In truth, they already should be.
A Time magazine article from April 2013 suggested that the advent of a $10 LED bulb would be the tipping point at which the long-term savings of LED decisively beats its upfront cost. Since then, the $10 bulb (and even lower) has become the norm. And the cost of integrated LED designs (those lights and fixtures that use a built-in LED array rather than bulbs) have followed suit.
Will the cost of LED continue to drop? No one knows for sure but with demand at an all-time high – even major cities like New York and Los Angeles are converting their streetlights to LED – it certainly makes financial sense for people and institutions looking to save money. As the specialists at our contract lighting division, Lamps Plus Hospitality, will attest, switching to LED can have a major impact on the bottom line of both a boutique inn and a 500 room hotel.
But the question every designer ultimately asks is how does LED look?
Let’s start with the quality of the light and whether it has a “warm” or “cool” appearance. As you may know, we refer to this appearance as the color temperature. The “warm” look we’ve come to love about incandescent bulbs has a color temperature of 2700K, give or take.
LED lighting also comes in the 2700K ballpark. Unlike incandescents, however, many LEDs offer variable color temperature settings. This means the same lamp that gives you 2700K by evening could double as an office lamp by day with the clear, “cooler” appearance of 5000K.
LED technology also enables a much wider variety of shapes than ever before. Product designers are embedding the small LED chips in designs that have been hitherto unimaginable—chandeliers with wavy, illuminated arms, curvy lamps that appear to glow from within, color-changing ambient lighting that can be controlled by an app—are hitting the market at a furious pace. And it’s not just all cutting-edge contemporary styles. Traditional lighting designs are also being outfitted with LEDs. In fact, our Lamps Plus Professionals trade program currently offers over 3,500 LED options and counting.
All of this innovation doesn’t relegate the benefits of LED to new products. LED bulbs are available to fit almost any existing base, from standard or medium base bulbs to MR- type halogen replacements. This makes virtually every lamp and fixture on the market a potential LED design.
For designers who know exactly what they want (with clients who wouldn’t mind saving money in the process), LED is no longer just a bright idea. It’s a no-brainer.
About the Author
President and CEO Dennis Swanson has built LAMPS PLUS into the nation’s largest specialty lighting retailer by creating a multi-channel strategy for in-store and online retail customers. He is a graduate of Rice University, where he studied architecture and design in addition to business, and holds an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. Swanson launched LampsPlus.com in 1998, which allowed the company to carry more lighting and home décor options than any brick and mortar store could offer.