LEDs are the latest, greatest and most confusing lighting technology
Shortly after patenting his version of the incandescent lightbulb, Thomas Edison developed the electricity meter.
Ticking and whirring away dollars and cents, this meter might be Edison’s most lasting contribution to the lighting industry. For while the incandescent bulb is falling out of favor, the humble electric meter continues to be the dynamo driving manufacturers to make more efficient bulbs, fixtures and appliances.
Hunt Electric Supply knows about this drive for efficiency. An electrical supplier in North Carolina profiled in an upcoming Winter III edition of US Builders Review, it’s seen the rise and ebb of lighting technologies that include halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs and fixtures, and most recently, LEDs.
Unlike Edison’s lightbulbs, which used bamboo and cotton filaments, LEDs don’t use filaments at all. They use semiconductors—materials that, due to their dissimilar electrical characteristics and arrangement, give off light when electrons are pumped through them.
If you’re still confused how they work, or want more detail, this primer by explainethatstuff.com is helpful.
“In our industry, we have never seen a product line like LED. There are so many LED products that are used for the same application, but have been built in a different way.” – Sam Hunt IV, president of Hunt Electric Supply
LEDs have been around for a while, but they’ve taken off the past decade, growing more efficient, cheaper and varied due to a perfect storm of federally funded research, higher benchmarks for lightbulb efficiency, and demand for efficient appliances.
“In our industry, we have never seen a product line like LED,” says Sam Hunt IV, president of Hunt Electric Supply. “There are so many LED products that are used for the same application, but have been built in a different way.”
For Hunt, responding to the hodgepodge of products, especially those of uncertain quality, merits a cautious approach.
“As a distributor, we want to embrace the changes [of our industry] by having the lighting products our customers want and need, but we want to make sure that we sell a product from a reputable manufacturer that will stand behind their product,” he says.
As a digital publication, the response of US Builders is to write more stories on stakeholders such as Hunt Electric Supply, and get a firmer grasp on LEDs, rather than simply repeating the same lines that LEDs are brighter, cleaner and, ultimately, cheaper.
And perhaps US Builders Review should take a cautious approach, too.
After all, MIT researchers recently announced they found a way to make incandescent bulbs vastly more efficient, potentially—potentially—saving the old bulbs from extinction through federal regulations that prohibit the manufacture of inefficient light bulbs for most applications.
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