Trendy light fix­tures pop­u­lar­ize LED bulbs

Pop­u­lar Edi­son bulbs give a soft in­can­des­cent glow and are eco-friendly op­tion

Toronto Star - - MARKETPLACE - JESS SHANKLE­MAN BLOOMBERG

The an­tique-style lamps that are fast be­com­ing a de­sign ne­ces­sity for retro bars, hip restau­rants and chic homes from New York to Lon­don are help­ing save the Earth — and keep peo­ple buy­ing.

The old-fash­ioned bulbs, which look like the in­ef­fi­cient in­can­des­cent tech­nol­ogy patented by Thomas Edi­son in 1878, could en­cour­age-peo­ple to change their light­bulbs more than once a decade, even as the world moves to greener lamps.

By re­ar­rang­ing LED chips onto a strip in­side the bulb in­stead of in a clump, bulb mak­ers found they can sat­isfy the in­nate hu­man de­sire for warmer, nat­u­ral light, which the first gen­er­a­tion of LED bulbs failed to of­fer. “Peo­ple are look­ing for that sparkle and the cosy and warm ef­fect that you see in in­can­des­cent bulbs,” said Kristof Ver­meer­sch, head of global prod­uct man­age­ment of LED spots at Philips Light­ing NV.

Shift­ing fash­ions in light­ing could help drive sales of LED bulbs that­would oth­er­wise need to be re­placed ev­ery 10 to 15 years, be­cause they’re so much more ef­fi­cient than in­can­des­cent bulbs that need to be re­placed a few times a year.

“The real prob­lem of LED light­ing is that the bulbs last for ages, so they don’t have th­ese re­place­ment cy­cles where the mar­ket just car­ries on mak­ing money,” said Tom Row­lands-Rees, an an­a­lyst at Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance. Now, the in­dus­try has found a way to make peo­ple pay more for light­ing be­cause it’s cool, “not be­cause they need it,” he said.

When fil­a­ment LED tech­nol­ogy was first demon­strated by Ja­panese com­pany Ushio Inc. in 2008, it wasn’t an im­me­di­ate hit. Sales started to take off in the past two years, how­ever, as the de­sign was im­proved, prices fell and larger man­u­fac­tur­ers from Philips to GE Light­ing started mak­ing them, too. “When LED first came out, it looked like alien ma­te­rial,” said Jus- tin Wang, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of AXP Tech­nol­ogy Inc., the Cal­i­for­nia com­pany that in­tro­duced fil­a­ment LED in the U.S. “But when fil­a­ment LED came out, it looked like a fa­mil­iar in­can­des­cent bulb.”

Just four years ago, the mar­ket for fil­a­ment LED was tiny and mainly fo­cused in a few north­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. Now, ship­ments are grow­ing rapidly, and the mar­ket could be valued at $20 bil­lion (U.S.) glob­ally by 2020, cal­cu­lated Wang, using LEDin­side and TrendForce Corp. ship­ment and pric­ing fore­casts.

Fil­a­ment LEDs could also solve a prob­lem for pol­icy-mak­ers who have long de­sired to ban in­ef­fi­cient in­can­des­cent bulbs, over the ob­jec­tions of con­sumers who pre­fer the old-style look.

Al­most a third of Bri­tish peo­ple who voted to leave the Euro­pean Union in 2016 said they wanted to see the re­turn of the old bulbs that were banned by Brus­sels bu­reau­crats, ac­cord­ing to a YouGov poll.

With bet­ter aes­thet­ics, fil­a­ment LEDs could help speed the switch from the 7 bil­lion in­can­des­cent lamps still light­ing the planet.

It’s still dif­fi­cult for con­sumers to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween an in­can­des­cent bulb and a fil­a­ment LED, and man­u­fac­tur­ers like GE say they need to do more to pro­mote the ben­e­fits.

“LED has been a tricky sell be­cause you have to teach con­sumers and re­tail­ers about the tech­nol­ogy,” said Matt Som­mers, con­sumer in­no­va­tion manager at GE Light­ing. “We can’t just as­sume that they can look at it and know what it is.”

DREAMSTIME PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION

Fil­a­ment LED lights give warm light while re­main­ing en­ergy ef­fi­cient.

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