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AT THE JUST concluded Lightfair International (LFI) 2013 trade show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the operative word was "BRIGHT."
"We're in a lumens [brightness level] race," several exhibitors explained. All to prove that their new-generation fixtures - most fired up by a mess of small, energy-efficient LEDs - put out a glow that beats older products using incandescent, halogen or flourescent bulbs.
There's also a big push on by LED lightbulb makers to make their new-gen bulbs glow like warm incandescent bulbs.
"Until recently, we had trouble selling LED fixtures and bulbs because they just weren't bright enough, and people didn't find the illumination flattering," said Michael Kurland, of Arch Street Lighting. "Now that's changing."
As the cost of raw LED components comes down and quality goes up, product makers can pack extra and more powerful LEDs on a fixture or inside a bulb. One bulb maker, Switch, even offers a rare three-way LED, a 30/60/75-watt equivalent.
And while we winced a couple years ago at the thought of spending $100 for one energy-efficient LED lightbulb, we're now seeing better, brighter, longer-life and dimmable bulbs at as little as $9 for a 40-watt equivalent and about $13 for a 60-watt replacement that offers the same illumination level (800 lumens) but only consumes 7.5 to 13 watts.
A $5 LED bulb that likewise lasts for up to 25,000 hours is a "near future goal" for GE, said the company's consumer lighting division manager John Strainic.
Just in the nick of time, too. Tightening federal regulations on the maximum allowable energy consumption per lumen of light output on bulbs has already pushed inefficient, 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs off the shelves. Production of 75-watt energy gobblers was banned in the U.S. in January. (Retailers can still sell off inventory.)
By mid-2014, even old-school 40- and 60-watt bulbs (though not pricier, more efficient, new-tech incandescents) "will be hard to find at Lowes," predicted Stainic. And looming limitations on contaminants may also doom the cold flourescent bulb species which contain mercury.
Lighting execs at the GE and Philips boothstouted the efficacy of replacing conventional street lamps with LED-fired variants. GE Capitol is jumping in, financing cities' swap-outs.
For Lightfair, Philips put out an impressive map of Philly spots illuminated with the company's new-age lighting, including the East Falls, South Street and Ben Franklin bridges, the exteriors of Boathouse Row and JFK Park.