A lighter greener touch

Lighting the way forward

The world’s lighting industry is constantly expanding, driven by new lighting technologies, global population growth, increasing urbanization, rising incomes and a desire to check power consumption. Work by IEC TC (Technical Committee) 34: Lamps and related equipment, and its SCs (Subcommittees) enables new types of energy-efficient light bulbs and compatible fixtures to be introduced across all sectors and domains of the lighting industry.

Energy-efficient CFLs can replace incandescent bulbs in many applications

A huge and dynamic market

The lighting industry has a major global economic impact. It is very fragmented and complex and extends across three main sectors: general lighting, automotive lighting and backlighting (for broadcasting, IT and multimedia equipment). It was estimated to have revenues of around EUR 69 billion in 2010; these are expected to rise to EUR 108 billion in 2020, making this sector comparable in size to the global TV market.

General lighting accounts for close to 75% of the lighting market, according to a 2011 McKinsey report. It covers many components and elements, not just the most obvious categories of lamps and fixtures, but also, increasingly, lighting control and management systems. It is the fastest growing segment of the lighting market and is forecast to increase by 69% over the period 2010-2020.

The automotive lighting market is growing steadily as the vehicle market expands strongly in emerging countries and LED-based lights increase their penetration. It represents approximately 20% of the total lighting market.

General lighting consumes huge quantities of electricity, nearly a fifth of the total global production of electricity. At a time of growing concern regarding rising energy costs and environmental issues, efforts to curb electricity consumption have become a priority for governments around the world, making the lighting sector a prime target for savings. The quest for energy-efficient lighting has driven the development of new types of light sources in what has been a stable industry for a very long time

How long does it take to change a light bulb…?

Lighting for residential, commercial and industrial use has relied on the incandescent light bulb for 130 years and also, from the 1930s onwards, on fluorescent tubes – the most common lamp in office lighting and many other commercial and industrial applications.

Incandescent bulbs are very inefficient as at most 5% of the power they consume is converted into visible light, while the rest is dissipated as heat. Fluorescent lights are more efficient, converting over 20% of the power input to visible white light.

In addition to being inefficient, incandescent light bulbs have a short rated lifespan of 750 to 1 000 hours. Fluorescent lights can last more than 15 000 hours.

New types of lights that promise to deliver more energy-efficient lighting have emerged only fairly recently.

Containing rising power consumption

Governments and businesses seeing the need to check rising energy consumption for economic, environmental and other reasons means they have turned their attention to the main energy consumers to see where savings could be achieved. Lighting, because it uses a significant share of world total electricity production, is an obvious choice.

Efforts to curb consumption of lighting installations have led governments to take measures to phase out incandescent lamps and support the introduction of more energy-efficient lamps. Decreasing production and retail costs of energy-efficient lights have also favoured their growing adoption by consumers in replacement of incandescent bulbs. They come in two main types: CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) and LED (light-emitting diode) lamps.

Different technologies, same purpose

CFLs are based on the same principle as conventional fluorescent lamps but the tubes are folded or shaped into a spiral to provide compact size and allow them to fit in fixtures and luminaires designed for incandescent bulbs. They also use electronic ballasts, devices that limit the amount of current to ensure the light starts and operates properly. Ballasts for CFLs that are used in fixtures designed for incandescent lights are built into the base of the bulb.

CFLs are much more energy-efficient than incandescent lights. To provide an equivalent amount of visible light they use only around 25% of the energy an incandescent bulb would need. Another advantage of CFLs over incandescent bulbs is their longer rated service life, between 6 000 and 15 000 hours.

The other significant recent breakthrough in lighting has been the introduction of LED-based solutions (also called SSL, solid-state lighting). They have been described as a disruptive technology and "the only fundamentally new lamp technology to enjoy commercial success in the last 100 years". LED lamps rely on a semiconductor light source. LEDs were first used as components in electronic devices in the early 1960s. Their main use was as indicators and in displays where their low power consumption and long lifetime represented significant advantages. These characteristics also made them suitable for lighting applications.

LED lamps use up to a tenth of the energy needed by an incandescent bulb to give an equivalent amount of light. They have a very long service life: it can exceed 30 000 hours, cutting maintenance costs drastically for many applications such as industrial, street, public or airfield lighting. Initially their high cost limited their use to architectural, commercial and industrial environments, but falling prices mean they are now entering the residential market in significant volumes.

Benefits far outweigh drawbacks

In spite of their significant advantages over incandescent bulbs, CFLs present certain shortcomings, but these are being addressed and they keep improving.

Many users complain that they do not give the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs. This is often the result of manufacturers making exaggerated claims based on the equivalent output in watts of CFLs and incandescent bulbs and is also a result of their different, warmer colour temperature. Another criticism of CFLs is that, unlike their incandescent equivalents, they take longer to reach full brightness – up to a minute or slightly more. While some CFLs are now "instantly on", not all are dimmable and their use in applications where they must be switched on and off frequently can shorten their service life significantly.

Environmental concerns have been expressed as CFLs, like all fluorescent lights, contain mercury. However, these claims are vastly exaggerated as the quantities of mercury in CFLs are minute: 3-5 mg per bulb with some eco-friendly categories containing as little as 1 mg. Countries that have introduced CFLs have also launched recycling schemes for the bulbs.

To put things in perspective, it is worth mentioning a 2008 study by Yale University which estimated that if the US switched to CFLs the energy savings at power stations would lead to cuts in mercury emissions of 25 000 tonnes a year. Furthermore, compared to an incandescent bulb, each CFL is expected to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by about 590 kg over its lifetime.

LEDing the way into the future

As for LED lamps, they are very energy efficient and flexible: they can be used in lighting management solutions with dimmers and sensors for commercial, industrial or public lighting solutions and, increasingly, in homes. Their main drawback is their cost, which is still significantly higher than that of incandescent lamps or even CFLs as their production process is complex. However, their price is predicted to drop by nearly 38% between 2012 and 2015, and a further 10-15% by 2020. Furthermore, given their extremely long lifetime they are an interesting solution. Manufacturers' claims regarding the lifetime, lumen maintenance and chromaticity change of LED-based lights is often questioned given the expected duration of the tests (2-3 years).

However, results of a DoE (US Department of Energy) competition for 60 W LED replacement lights seems to vindicate these claims. Published in July 2013 they showed that after 25 000 hours of testing not a single of the 200 LED-based bulbs submitted by Philips Lighting North America had failed, and that all had exceeded the expected lumen maintenance and chromaticity change requirements set in the test.

There are constant improvements in the performance and efficiency of LED lights. Being relatively new products, their performance is often difficult to assess. To help with this problem, IEC SC 34A: Lamps, has issued several PAS (publicly available specifications) covering the performance and measurement of lamps, luminaires and LED modules. The use of PAS in this area has helped unify the way performance claims are being made by manufacturers and tests are being conducted to back these up.

A major economic stake and a cleaner solution

The ban on sales of incandescent lights in dozens of countries across the world, and their limited lifespan, mean that a huge market for replacement energy-efficient bulbs has emerged. The global market for lamps alone is forecast to reach USD 40,4 billion by 2017, according to a November 2011 GIA (Global Industry Analysts) report.

The latest Country Lighting Assessments for 150 countries released by UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) and its partners in June 2012 gives details of the economic and environmental benefits of a switch to energy-efficient lights.

The yearly savings in electricity for a global phase-out of inefficient lights would amount to around 5% of global electricity consumption. The construction of 252 large power plants (500 MW each) could be avoided, resulting in savings on unnecessary investments of approximately USD 210 billion. Additionally, 490 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year would be prevented.

The work done by TC 34 and its SCs in preparing International Standards regarding specifications for lamps, luminaires and all related equipment has been instrumental in helping the industry introduce reliable energy-efficient lights and in bringing countless economic, energy and environmental benefits to the world.

cfl_org Energy-efficient CFLs can replace incandescent bulbs in many applications
philips_led_bulb 200 Philips LED-based bulbs completed 25 000 hours of testing without failure (Photo: Philips)
osram_led_outdoor_org LED lamps are also used outdoor, like as in this petrol station in Portugal (Photo: OSRAM).