LED lighting is improving in comparison to other technologies. When we consider light output, color temperature, and color rendering, the LED lights are an equal or better choice (if you don't know these terms, here's a link to my article on lighting technology). It is well past the time where this is really newsworthy, but I would like to share some of the latest ways we have successfully incorporated LEDs into our projects.
Given that the technology is relatively recent, you still want to be careful -- especially if you are investing a lot of money. For example, many of the new lamps are rated for 40,000 to 50,000 hours of life, but even the prototypes of those lamps have not existed that long, so the manufacturers are estimating these life spans. Some claims will be accurate, but some may not be. To guard against this (and to allow for newer technology to be incorporated as it developes) most of our LED installs have been based on incandescent fixture types using retrofit lamps. Because there are so many existing incandescent fixtures, the manufacturers will continue to create lamps to fit the older fixtures for a long time.
(See above picture)
In this project, we were looking for a warm but bright light and dimming for this residential kitchen. We used standard incandescent can light fixtures, but used Cree CR-6 inserts in the cans. The color is great and the dimming is smooth; most people do not even notice that they are not incandescent until we tell them. I use these every day -- dimming in the morning for my wife and children's bleary eyes -- and could not be happier with them.
Spot Lighting (Salon Lighting)
In this project, we wanted to have a lot of track fixtures so the lighting can be aimed to where it is needed (the tracks have not been completly aimed in this picture). However, we had budget constraints. We wanted to have fixtures that were as cost-effective as possible, but we also had to meet the Energy Budget of the 2009 International Energy Code. LED track heads allowed us to have a much lower wattage rating for the track circuit, meeting both requirements. The client was also looking for bright white light with good color rendering, as the stylists need to have accurate color lighting at the chairs when they are doing hair coloring, which made LEDs a better choice than fluorescent bulbs. Here, we have used inexpensive standard tracks and heads and inserted LED lamps (bought at Costco). On an interesting note, to save additonal money, the client chose to use some compact fluorescent lamps where color was less important.
Here we have used a Phillips screw-in LED lamp (bought at Home Depot). The light quality is great and the Lutron dimmers are working fine. However, you do need to be careful with LEDs and dimmers. The load factors for LED lamps is different from that of incandescent (not just lower), and some dimmers hace trouble. In another location in this house, we had a Lutron occupancy sensor that has a ramp up feature, and a similar fixture with only two heads did not have enough load for the dimmer to work, though a three headed fixture did. Be sure you coordinate loads and dimmers and test them out.
In closing, do not be afraid to try the new LED technology, but do be cautious. With the regulations that increase the effiency requirements of lamps continuing to make the inefficient incandescent lamps a less attractive option, new technology is pouring into the market. Try a couple, get your feet wet, and then jump on in!
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