One of the more intriguing features about light-emitting diodes is that they come in a variety of colors, effectively giving architects and designers a tool for creating visual effects or shaping interior spaces.
Unfortunately, most of them right now don't come in what you'd call decorator colors: hazardous waste yellow, nuclear meltdown red, Incredible Hulk green.
Osram Sylvania next year will try to thread that gap with a pendant light that will include both white light LEDs as well as colored ones. The trick will be that the color effects and tones will be subtle said Phil Rioux, general manager of the consumer lighting LED group at Osram, one of the largest LED makers in the world.
The light – which should be released in mid 2010 – will also fit into normal pendant light fixtures to make installation easier.
"People tend to be nervous about electricity and re-fixturing," he said. Osram won't give a picture of it just yet.
Osram will also release a white LED bulb to replace 60-watt incandescent in the middle of next year. The company currently sells a 40-watt equivalent for $35.
Expect to see a greater emphasis on designer lights like these over the next few years. Australia, the EU, Canada and the U.S. among other nations have passed efficiency regulations that will lead to the demise of the 130-year old incandescent between 2010 and 2014, still the most popular light bulb in U.S homes. In the U.S. for instance, 100-watt incandescents will vanish in 2012, followed by 75-watts a year later and 60-watts a year after that.
While compact fluorescent bulbs have grown in popularity, most large manufacturers tend to believe the future will be defined by LEDs, which don't have mercury, emit a higher quality of light, and only have to be replaced every decade or two. As incandescent factories go dim, LED production lines will ramp up. (Fun facts time: Lighting consumes 22 percent of the electricity in the U.S., according to the DOE, and lighting is a $37 billion market in the U.S. The average U.S. home has 52 sockets.)
The high price and long lifetime of LEDs, however, creates two problems for bulb makers. First, consumers typically don't like to pay a lot for bulbs and LED bulbs cost $40 to $80. Those $40 bulbs from large manufacturers like Sharp and Panasonic, in fact, are just coming out now. Although LED bulbs consume only about one-tenth of the power, payoff can take years. Second, because the bulbs last for years, the replacement market is dismal.
Osram's multicolored pendant light, potentially, can steer around both of those obstacles. By mixing in designer features that you can't get in regular bulbs, the price possibly can become less of an issue. If anything, it makes direct comparisons more difficult. The light is also more of a fixture than a bulb. Similarly, OLED manufacturers (Osram included) have also pushed the designer aspects.
Although bulb makers will begin to emphasize LEDs to consumers in the next few years, the commercial market will adopt them quicker because the payoff can be measured in lower power consumption and lower maintenance.
"There will be a lot more traction on the commercial side of the business," he said.