There’s no doubt about it. LED’s have gone mainstream.
LED light bulbs and they now come in every shape and size and in a variety of color temperatures to meet your needs (from a warm white 2700 degrees Kelvin to a daylight 5000K). Most can also now be dimmed, although not quite as smoothly and fully as incandescent bulbs can.The shelves of Home Depot and Lowes are stacked to the ceiling with
LEDs are very appealing due to their low energy usage (of 1/8th that of a comparable incandescent bulb) and long life compared to incandescent lights, but two problems have held our business, eco+historical, from using them for every single recessed light in the home:
Why NOT LEDs?
- Recessed LED light fixtures cost more: typically 5X to 8X incandescent fixture cost
- While LEDs do come in warm white, when they’re dimmed, the color doesn’t change – the light just gets dimmer
- This is in contrast to incandescent lights which turn warm shades of yellow, orange and red as they dim
The ALMOST Holy Grail
So what would be the ideal LED fixture? I suppose that if we’re just wishing here, we’d say that it would be a fixture that gives off as much light and as atmospherically warm a light as an incandescent bulb or fixture, but with 8X the energy efficiency and 10X the product life, but at the same cost.
Well, that’s a lot to ask, but I think that many home owners and developers would be willing to pay more for an LED fixture that behaves like an incandescent light but offers significantly improved energy usage.
Two leading lighting manufacturers, Juno Lighting and USA Illumination, have recently announced new LED recessed fixtures where the light color and quality of the LED fixture almost exactly matches that of a comparable Incandescent fixture. Juno announced their Indy Chromacontrol Black Body Dimming LED fixtures (seen below) and USAI introduced their BeveLED 2.0 fixtures with Warm Glow Dimming.
Both of these fixtures are currently targeted at commercial vs. residential applications.
To see how these new fixtures are improving the emotional experience offered by LED lighting, just take a look at the chart below from the USAI brochure for their BeveLED 2.0 fixtures with Warm Glow Dimming(TM). The chart compares the light output of their fixture with a 100W incandescent lamp.
This is a B.I.G. deal. This means that a space lit with one of these dimmable LED recessed lights would enjoy BOTH the improved energy efficiency of LED lighting and the light quality that we’re used to for setting warm scenes in our homes via Incandescent lighting.
So why isn’t this the Holy Grail?
Well, as amazing as these new fixtures are, they have some constraints. The biggest, of course, is cost. If you’re a price-insensitive early adopter, these could be the answer to your efficient lighting prayers. If price is important to you, the fact that they’re almost 20X the cost of a comparable incandescent fixture might put a little damper on your enthusiasm.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is just the beginning of the era of LED lighting. Five years ago, there was just a single vendor for LED recessed lights. Now there are perhaps a dozen or more.
- Light output is increasing
- Costs are dropping
- Dimmability is improving
Cost aside, what’s wonderful about the USAI BeveLED 2.0 and Juno Indy Chromacontrol light fixtures is that these companies are investing in the innovative engineering work needed to make these products possible.
Over the coming couple of years, we’ll see more and more of these fixtures come on the market, with different trims for flood and spot lights, showers and wall washers and whatnot, and most of all, we’ll see the price work its way down. Not down to the price of the incandescent fixtures that we all know and love, but low enough that they’re worth adopting wholesale and giving our homes an energy efficiency boost that will come with few compromises.