Acceptance of LED lighting begins to grow, focusing sellers' attention
Objections to compact fluorescent lights are circumvented or mooted.
January 23, 2013Published: January 23, 2013
By Steven T. Corneliussen
The 22 January New York Times business section front page carried the article "LEDs emerge as a popular 'green' lighting." That headlined assertion about energy-efficient LED technology has backing in a blog posting from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
This morning, the Swedish home furnishings giant [IKEA] announced its intent to sell only LED lighting in its stores by 2016. "No more halogen. No more Sparsam low-energy bulbs. No more fluorescent lights. We're putting all our development and design efforts behind LEDs because we think everyone should be able to afford to illuminate their lives with the most sustainable lighting available."
Forbes.com recently posted a similar statement:
The LED market has more than doubled in size in the last 5 years from $5 billion in 2006 to around $12.5 billion in 2011. We estimate the market to...reach approximately $24 billion by 2019. While LEDs currently account for only 10% of the total lighting market, the percentage contribution is estimated to increase to as high as 60% by 2020.
The Times piece begins by alluding obliquely to several years of public misgivings and even consternation about changes in lighting technology: "The lighting industry has finally come up with an energy-efficient replacement for the standard incandescent bulb that people actually seem to like: the LED bulb." The Times says that despite initial capital costs many times those of incandescent bulbs, prices for the LEDs "are falling steadily as retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's sell them aggressively and manufacturers improve the technology." The article quotes Brad Paulsen, a Home Depot merchant: "You're seeing all of your growth in the LED category. We absolutely expect LED technology in four or five years to be the most popular lighting technology that's out there."
Some have objected to an earlier replacement for incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, on grounds of harsh light, slow warmup, and toxic materials. The longevity of LEDs means sales of fewer bulbs, albeit for higher prices, and therefore also means marketing challenges for sellers, including a scramble to claim market share for popular brands.
The Times never mentions objections to government-mandated improvements in the energy efficiency of lighting. But those objections and mandates obviously constitute part of the context for this news—especially since, not so indirectly, they reflect much about the culture wars over climate.
Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA's history program, and is a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.