Lightbulbs were invented 130 years ago and we have come a long way since the original Edison lightbulbs. GE announced this week that this year, it will cease production of its coiled compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs) lightbulbs for the U.S. market and instead focus its consumer lighting efforts on LED lamps.
Compared with CFLs and incandescent light bulbs, LED lamps are the most efficient and gave the best light, but at first they were prohibitively expensive, costing $40-$50 in 2012. GE reports that the reason they can make the shift from CFLs to LEDs today is because LED prices have dramatically declined.
In 2012, U.S. regulations demanded that incandescent light bulbs – the kind that Edison invented – needed to use 30 percent less energy to meet minimum efficiency standards. That ruling instantly made incandescent lights almost obsolete. The bulbs briefly accounted for about 30 percent of U.S. light bulb sales. But the bulbs, which heat gas rather than a filament, were never really beloved, and last year accounted for just 15 percent of sales. Consumers complained CFL light was too harsh, didn’t work with dimmers, flickered and took too long to warm up and light a room.
By next year, many CFLs will no longer qualify for the coveted ENERGY STAR rating, which introduced a new lighting specification in January. “These LED lightbulbs are starting to replicate what the electrical filament has done for over 100 years — providing that look and warm ambience that people are used to,” says GE Lighting chief operating officer John Strainic. “The time for LED is now.”
LED lamps use solid-state parts that use electroluminescence from tiny light-emitting diodes. When electricity is applied to an LED, light is emitted from the interface between two different semiconducting materials. LEDs already illuminate everything from gas station signs to flat-screen TVs to retina screens on iPads. With a 22-year life span, a single LED bulb can light a child’s bedroom desk lamp from birth through college graduation.
“We are seeing a complete transformation of the lighting business as we move to intelligent-lighting solutions for cities, offices, hospitals and schools,” Strainic says. “LED is a platform that can replace every other light source that we have developed over 130 years.”
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