Saturday, 25 June 2011

No LEDs on display, but what is on display is being lit by LED...

We went to a few showrooms the other day to look at stuff for the house. We're interested in LEDs, for reasons explained here. One problem is knowing how bright the LEDs will actually be. Everybody used to know what a 60 Watt bulb was like, but to compare incandescents, fluorescents and LEDs, wattage has little meaning, and it's not so helpful to compare different LEDs. Light manufacturers have now started putting lumen values on their products, rather than just wattage, so there is some way of comparing, but the angle at which the light comes out can also be an issue in terms of how bright it is. 

We saw lots of LEDs in the Bathroom shop, Takara, where they have recently changed all their display lights into 60-watt halogen-style bulbs (around 7 watts) in lighting rails for the displays. They even have extra LED spotlights inside the bathrooms on display, to supplement the standard light fittings inside their bathrooms, which puts aside previous concerns that LEDs aren't bright enough.

We asked them to switch off the fitted lights in one bathroom, and just switch on the two LED spotlights to get an idea of how bright they were. They were certainly bright enough, especially under the relatively large area under the spot, but it was definitely less bright on the ceiling and higher up on the walls. Not very good, for example, if we invite a vampire round for a bath, and they turn into a bat and hang from the ceiling. Or perhaps they would prefer to be in the dark, and even for our vampire friends LEDs may be better. Anyway, as a whole the room seemed less bright, as it contained darkness, but it was bright enough where needed.

They are putting LEDs in one of their display bathrooms next week, and the bathroom we're getting has LED downlights as an option to the standard bracket-lights. This will cost us 39,000 yen extra. Obviously they're charging over the odds for this, but the design is superior, with down-lights rather than bracket lights, and it will claw back some of the cost in electricity bills in the next few decades, and should reduce some extra heat in the summer. It's best to write it off as an early adopter tax. 

In the tile shop they had several larger LED display units on the ceiling, like these from Toshiba. Much bigger units.

We asked about LEDs in the home fittings showroom of Panasonic, the electrical manufacturer, and got a rather blank look. They were using some for lighting their own displays of other fixed furnishings, but it obviously hasn't seriously crossed their minds to try to get people to put them in new houses. 

It seems in these, and many other shops that putting LEDs in makes a great deal of financial sense as they can get the same light output for a lower running cost, both in terms of electricity and bulb replacement. There seems to be much less effort getting them into new builds, although they are probably still working on the loss-leader concept that Gillette developed with their razor blades. Buy an LED fitting and you will have light for the rest of your life.  Buy a normal fitting and you'll be buying light bulbs for the rest of your life. Why get people to buy one thing when you can get them to buy two?