Newsbrief Archive

Electric Currents News - March 2016

LED Lighting is on the Rise

There was a time in the recent past when light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were used almost exclusively for traffic signals and tiny lamps in electronic devices. Although this type of lighting technology was highly efficient, offering 90 percent energy savings compared to incandescent bulbs, LEDs were expensive and provided limited applications.

Just 15 years ago, the use of white LED light for general lighting was in the experimental stage while compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) were slowly taking over the market. The first generation of LEDs was simply not conducive for general lighting; it produced a directional beam that was narrow and focused.

Advanced manufacturing technologies have made it possible to reduce LED prices dramatically. The cost of running an LED, with the energy savings included in the final calculation, has become more practical. And new design techniques–which cluster the LEDs and use diffuser lenses–enable the light to be dispersed over a wider area.

Thus the lighting landscape is once again undergoing major changes. LEDs are now cost-competitive and can be used in virtually any application. Newly enacted energy standards have also contributed to this shift, triggering a phase-out of incandescent lighting.

As a result, the market for LEDs is booming. According to a 2014 Dept. of Energy report, Energy Savings Forecast of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications, the market share of LED lighting sales (based on lumen-hours) is expected to increase to 48 percent in 2020 and 84 percent in 2030. In 2013, the market share was 3 percent.

An 84 percent market share translates into a 40 percent reduction in the amount of electricity used for lighting. That would save 261 terawatt-hours and more than $26 billion in electricity costs, based on today’s rates.


Why have LEDs become so popular so quickly? Simple. They are more efficient, more reliable, last much longer, can be miniaturized more easily and have many other benefits that outweigh the higher price. LEDs also offer more options for dimming and light color.

The LED equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb is about 90 percent more efficient than the incandescent and uses about one-third the electricity of a comparable CFL. In addition, it is rated to last 50,000 hours, 5-10 times longer than the CFL and more than 40 times longer than an incandescent bulb. In addition, LEDs …

  • Do not contain mercury (CFLs do)
  • Are not sensitive to low temperatures (CFLs are)
  • Are not sensitive to humidity (CFLs are)
  • Are not affected by on/off cycling (this can have drastic effects on CFL performance)
  • Turn on instantly (CFLs need to warm up)
  • Emit much less heat (about 90 percent less than CFLs)
  • Are available for all existing decorative lamp shapes (CFLs are limited in this area)


Lighting Markets

According to the DOE report, the street and roadway submarket is projected to be a leading adopter of LED lighting. Already familiar with the technology through LED traffic signals, this sector is expected to reach 83 percent market share by 2020.

LEDs are particularly valuable on streets and highways because they are excellent directional light sources, durable and exhibit long lifetimes. This means fewer replacements, markedly lower maintenance costs and greater safety.

The DOE study predicts that LED lamps will have 83 percent market share in the commercial sector and 77 percent share in the industrial sector by 2020.

Market share in the residential sector is another story, however. Although residential lighting represents the largest number of lamps (5.8 billion in 2013), the lights are in use for far fewer hours, compared to other sectors. Low lamp usage means the cost of electricity per household can be relatively insignificant to residents.

Limited education about the benefits of efficient lighting is also expected to reduce the LED uptake in the residential sector. The DOE study predicts a 47 percent market share for residential lighting in 2020. Nonetheless, LED lighting is on the rise and presents a significant opportunity for utilities and their customers to use electricity more efficiently and make an impact on overall demand.

For more ways to educate your customers about energy efficiency and LED lighting, review our online catalog (select the Energy Conservation & Sustainability tab). Also, call us 800-428-5837 or email