Is it really possible to have beautiful low energy lighting?


With the demise of the traditional incandescent light ‘bulb’, due to the government having signed up to an EU directive to encourage us to switch to energy saving fittings, what are the real alternatives to a product that has been around for 120 years?  Public opinion is typically that  low energy fittings give off  a rather poor alternative light source. However the problem is that what is available to the general public is not indicative of what is actually available to buy from specialist sources. What needs to happen is that good quality ‘energy efficient’ lamps need to be made available to the mainstream.  They are currently more expensive than your average light ‘bulb’ however as with anything once enough people start buting them the cost will reduce significantly…just look at plasma TV’s, personal computers and mobile phones…in fact anything electrical.

Working in the design industry we have more knowledge and access to a better quality of energy efficient lamp. The good news is they are getting better (and improving rapidly), however this all takes time to spill onto the high street. The electronics industry is working flat out and spending considerable sums to improve the light output of compact fluorescents and other sorts of low energy lamps. There is also a lot of work going on trying to improve the efficiency of the old incandescent bulb so it may not be totally a thing of the past. It is now very rare for us to specify a lighting scheme that uses old style incandescent fittings, although some light fittings such as chandeliers don’t tend to come with many other options.

In the past we have tended to use a lot of halogen lamps as these give off a very strong, warm light which are especially good as task lights…I would not be comfortable replacing my kitchen halogens with my utility compact fluorescents…I am sure I would lose a finger or two! At the moment there is no viable alternative to the halogen and there are no moves to discontinue these until the technology is in place for it’s replacement. In the mean time I will continue to watch the electric meter dial whizz around whilst these lights are on. We do however make good use of fluorescent tubes, contrary to popular belief the new better quality fluorescent tubes do not flicker and come in a range of ‘colour temperatures’ which means you can buy them to replicate daylight.

As mentioned above low energy fittings are getting much better in the quality and quantity of light they produce. It was only last year that we conducted an experiment (not particularly scientific) to observe a room using firstly halogens and then replacing these with compact fluorescents and then LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes).  They all gave off very different qualities of light and in fact replacing the fittings with LED lamps gave not a bad alternative. Once again the LED’s we used did not come from the local supermarket but it is planned, for 2009, for these types of lamps to become more mainstream. In a scheme we produced recently we used flood LED’s to great effect and they were certainly a vast improvement on the LED lamps we were using only the year before, the greatest downfall was that they were very expensive.

Once again it is to hope that all these top quality products become more mainstream which will significantly reduce their cost. The other problem being how will people know which lamp or ‘bulb’ to use in which situation? It has taken us years to understand how to create great lighting schemes and this knowledge needs to be available to the general public to give them an informed choice.

The next big thing in lighting is the OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode), already this technology is having millions spent on it by the electronics industry, most specifically relating to TV technology. In brief the manufacturing process for this is significantly different for that of the LED, meaning it can be produced in superfine sheets. The future could see a sheet of this material covering a whole wall and when it is switched on the whole wall will light up….let’s just hope that it is dimmable!

Leave a Reply