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LED there be light

According to reports, there is a lot of buzz around LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting systems, but they seem to evoke very mixed reactions from users. While they are energy efficient and last much longer than incandescent and CFL lights, there is still a lot of hesitation among home as well as commercial building owners to switch completely to LEDs. This is perhaps because LEDs require some re-engineering of existing arrangements to work efficiently. There is also a need for a mindset change to accept these lights.

S.K. Vishal, a channel partner of Philips and the director of LightNEXT showroom in Ispahani Centre, Chennai, says, “Right lighting can enhance merchandise in a retail outlet. For homes, it can offer energy-efficient solutions. With LEDs you can play with shape, form and size of your light.”

LightNEXT is a digital lighting experiential zone that showcases award-winning lighting options in a manner that doesn’t overcrowd one’s senses. “From colour temperature to beam angles, anything can be altered to suit your needs with these lights,” explains Vishal, adding that in offices particularly LEDs are very useful. “You can light up a room partially and darken other areas while gaining 60-65 per cent savings on energy costs.”

Not just offices but homes too can benefit from LEDs. Says Jitender Bagmar, a lighting consultant who draws up plans for homes that are looking to either retrofit or start afresh with LEDs, “I have been in this space for eight years now and have noticed that LEDs have been increasingly becoming affordable over the years. Even in terms of sales, 25 per cent of lighting companies’ sales comes from LEDs now and I predict that it will go up to 75 per cent in the next four years.”

In the residential segment, Bagmar scours the market for LED lamps and draws up plans for clients’ homes and businesses based on their needs and budget. “Today, there are products across the spectrum; from high-end European ones to really affordable ones from the Chinese market,” he explains, “You can choose what you want for your home based on your specific needs.” Longevity, however, is not guaranteed with the cheaper lamps, he warns.

The role of a lighting consultant is an important one in the LED segment as the light falls differently compared to the lighing most people use now. This has led LightNEXT to diversify as well. “Initially, people were taking our lighting design and then buying cheaper lamps to execute it themselves. Now, we offer designing solutions too; at a cost of course, to those who are not looking to buy the lamps from us,” says Vishal. The store also offers energy audits.

Ramakrishnan V., managing director, Poseidon Lighting, is not only an LED manufacturer but also a user. “Today, fans are on the ceiling and lamps on walls. Thirty years ago, it was the opposite. For LEDs to work well we need to go back to our old methods as they are highly directional lights. They emit light via a cone and outside that cone, it is dark. Our eyes perceive these dark spots as contrasts. As a result, different people have different reactions to LEDs,” he explains.

While retrofitting your home, ensure that LEDs are fixed to the ceiling for best results. “CFL bulbs, which are mostly being used in offices now, suffer 30-40 per cent loss of energy because they are enclosed in a casing. With LED lamps you can avoid this loss. Once these lamps are placed on the ceiling, you can reduce the wattage by one third,” says Ramakrishnan.

However, there are some disadvantages as well. Ramakrishnan points out that “LED lamps contain a chip and these chips do not like heat. They need very good heat sinking and air flow. They must not be close to a wall either if you are using them as bulbs.” Ramakrishnan himself has gone the LED way for his entire home, keeping in mind these pointers. LED lamps are so efficient because unlike other lighting solutions that work on AC (alternating current) they work on DC (direct current). This, in turn, increases their life and prevents loss of energy in the form of heat.

Vignesh Gopal, Partner, Green Energy Systems, says, “What is preventing us from taking a leap in this segment is the fact that no one is manufacturing these lights in India. Only the assembling is done here. This is where Chinese technology beats ours. They have local manufacturers, thereby enabling businesses to offer really affordable lighting solutions for low-income households. I am certain, however, that once the demand increases the cost will come down. In 2006, a normal LED bulb cost us Rs. 800. Today, it costs only Rs. 300.”

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