LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting

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.

Although priced at around 20 times more than the old-fashioned incandescents, bulbs based on LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, last much longer and use far less electricity, a saving that homeowners are beginning to recognize. Prices for the bulbs are falling steadily as retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s sell them aggressively and manufacturers improve the technology.

And because the light in LED bulbs comes from chips, companies have been able to develop software applications that let users control the bulbs, even change the color of the light, with tablets and smartphones. Apple sells a three-pack of such bulbs, made by Philips, with the hardware to operate them for about $200.

“You’re seeing all of your growth in the LED category,” said Brad Paulsen, a Home Depot merchant. “We absolutely expect LED technology in four or five years to be the most popular lighting technology that’s out there.”

Last year, LED sales, though small at about 3 percent of the residential market by some estimates, grew faster than those of any other lighting technology, according to retailers and analysts.

Among A-type bulbs, the most common, LEDs will outsell incandescents in North America in 2014, according to projections by IMS Research, an electronics research firm that is now part of IHS Inc. And LEDs will become the most popular A-type technology by 2016, with North American shipments reaching almost 370 million, a more than tenfold increase from the roughly 33 million shipped last year, the firm estimates.

Already at Philips, LEDs were responsible for 20 percent of lighting sales last year, according to Ed Crawford, general manager of the lamps division.

Incandescent bulbs, while cheap, are very inefficient, wasting most of their energy as heat as they pump electricity into filaments to make them glow. The government has been pushing consumers to other technologies for several years, in part by phasing out the manufacture or import of the least efficient bulbs.

The first big alternative to emerge, compact fluorescent bulbs, has left many consumers dissatisfied. The light quality is seen as harsher, the bulbs can be slow to warm up and difficult to dim, and they contain toxic materials.

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