Bright Lights (in the) Big City

If Lightfair International was all about LEDs, then this year’s bulb category was about color, communication, and ease of replacement. LEDs are now providing better color options and control for a variety of applications, going far beyond merely creating a mood or scene.

However, make no mistake; not every development in bulbs is LED. There are exceptions, as CFLs and metal halides are still being specified – and improved – for particular installations.

Perhaps the most obvious stand-out from the LED pack was Plumen, the British company that has given CFL a new look and “twist” on life with the decorative turns of its award-winning Plumen 001. The new Plumen 002 design mimics the A19 from one angle, but shows a daring split down the middle from another view. According to Founder and Managing Director Michael-George Hemus, Plumen is launching an LED version in fall. The company ships from a distribution center in Illinois.

Not to be outdone by fixture makers, Plumen has also introduced its own line of drop cap pendants in Chrome, Black, Copper, Brass, and White finishes with color-coordinated cords. They are joined by blown glass shades in amber, white, and black, as well as a Drop Hat model – a flat, color-coordinated disc that is an add-on to the pendant.

LEDs in Disguise

As the phase-out of inefficient incandescent bulbs took hold, a funny thing happened to the consumer public: They became enamored with old-fashioned Edison bulbs that showed the glowing filament. These vintage bulbs aren’t
energy-saving, but they have become all the rage.

As a remedy, bulb manufacturers have created LED versions of this Early Electric look. Once a niche business for specialty bulb suppliers, the antique style is now being offered by mainstream companies. For example, Ushio, the Cypress, Calif.-based supplier of general illumination, industrial, and specialty bulbs, has added LED antique filament models in four styles of candelabra and globes, plus two versions with an amber coating to emphasize the antique look. Part of the U-LED line, they are dimmable and shatterproof.

At Brooklyn-based Sunshine Lighting, the Sunlite brand now encompasses a full array of LED filament designs that recreate a vintage look from traditional A bulbs to candelabras plus tubular and globe shapes. They are dimmable and low wattage, in clear, smoke, or gold flake glass. And speaking of nostalgia, the company also offers an LED UV black light (a specially designed ’60s-inspired poster in its Lightfair booth reinforced the appeal). The company has expanded its collection of fixtures, adding decorative art glass and industrial-style pendants, antique-style bronze, copper, and iron fixtures, tube and cage fixtures, plus antique glass models.

Earthtronics’ Candle EarthBulb LED is designed to replace 40- and 60-watt incandescents with 4.7 and 7-watt versions that produce 315 and 500 lumens respectively. It has a color temperature of 2700K with an 80 CRI, but an optional 90+ CRI bulb is offered to the restaurant and hotel market. Choose either blunt or bent tip styles.

Intentional Color Shift

The conundrum of dimming LED hasn’t been about the dimming process per se, but rather how the LED light didn’t change color (getting warmer) as it dimmed like an incandescent does. That challenge has been solved, thankfully, as manufacturers ably demonstrated at Lightfair.

For example, Sunlite’s color-shifting LED retrofit bulb for restaurants and hospitality applications dims down from daylight to a warm tone, shifting from 3000K to 1600K. And TCP’s Color Shift LED product dims from the traditional 3000K to a warm 2000K on a standard dimmer with no delay or flicker. Its ColorSpree™ bulbs in an A-lamp configuration can be changed to any color in the RGB family or programmed to music or rhythm syncing via Bluetooth.

Earthtronics’ Color Shift LED imitates the dimming ability of typical halogen, dimming from 3000K to 2000K. Its LED A-lamp line includes A19 and A21 high-lumen, omni-directional models with Energy Star ratings. Both provide smooth dimming down to 5 percent in soft white or 5000K daylight versions. Its LED decorative candle (replacing 40- and 60-watt incandescents) and its Globe EarthBulb (replacing the 60-watt incandescent) provide similar capabilities.

Earthtronics still partners with many utility companies and supplies CFLs for promotions. “The CFL category remains about 40 percent of company sales,” notes Kevin Youngquist, Earthtronics’ Executive Vice President/North America, adding that the company also provides store displays and light boxes to demonstrate color temperature comparisons.

Viribright, a subsidiary of Matrix Lighting, displayed its high CRI family of bulbs at Lightfair, including an A19 model and an E12 candle version offering a CRI of 90 with 90 lumens per watt efficacy. Also offering the ViriTrue™ White technology are PAR, BR, MR, and GU models that have a 90 CRI and 80 lumens per watt. The company’s proprietary phosphor technology offers freedom from binning concerns while delivering red-enhanced color temperatures.

The Next Frontier

One category that is enjoying renewed attention is horticultural illumination. At Indoor Grow Science’s Lightfair booth, Product Manager Greg Alaura endured plenty of cannabis jokes. “I have heard a hundred puns; there’s nothing I haven’t heard,” he says, adding that horticulture lighting is not solely about marijuana. “We are getting a lot of requests from restaurants that are growing fresh herbs for their menus and urban farms,” he explains. “Grow lights are not all about LEDs either; some growers prefer metal halide and HID. And in colder areas, any heat that is produced is a benefit.” Indoor Grow Science is a division of Barron Lighting Group.   

While some growers are standing by traditional fixtures, studies continue on how specially color-tuned LEDs can improve yields of specific species. Just as in the commercial, residential, and hospitality worlds, the cost versus benefit analyses is paramount.

There is another category for LEDs that does not immediately come to mind: dairy farms.  According to Joel Slavis, Founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based LEDwaves, LEDs are having a big impact in this sector. He reports inquiries from dairy farmers who are seeking high-lumen output, high-bay luminaires for barns. “We are talking about 50,000 to 80,000-lumen fixtures,” Slavis remarks.

Milk production is apparently very light-sensitive, and cows under 16- to 18-hour daylighting and 6- to 8-hour darkness – called “long-day” lighting – significantly increase yields. “It appears that certain color-corrected LED luminaires increase milk production more than 40 percent over more traditional lighting,” Slavis notes, adding that LEDwaves’ custom capabilities can accommodate the demand with its LED bay fixtures. Increasing yields without hormones may prove another big market for lighting.

Over the next few years, there are bound to be additional benefits provided by emerging lighting technology that are just in the beginning stages of research and development. 

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