Top 2012 Trend: LED Lighting

The ROI on LED lighting is becoming increasingly attractive, and energy efficiency and ambiance will drive the LED business in 2012.

Julie Jacobson · January 16, 2012

Lighting control is nothing new for most CE pros. But 2012 could bring a big boost to the category thanks to LEDs (light emitting diodes) - those long-lasting, energy-efficient and often colorful gems that are quickly replacing the disgraced incandescent.

The opportunities are two-fold: energy savings and ambiance.

First, the ROI on LED bulbs is well chronicled, and the return is becoming increasingly attractive as prices continue to drop. Ikea, for example, sells LED bulbs for $14 for a 45-watt replacement.

“I have successfully transitioned three homes to entirely LED - and I made a few bucks too,” an integrator named Matt posted on

He notes three key selling points: “Bulbs can last three to five years; the light looks natural; and there’s no ‘tinging’ when dimming down like with incandescent.”

He says the light-swap pays for itself in about two years.

The plain-old-LED business was so good for integrator Jim Sweeney that he launched an entire business around it. The new company, Eco-Tronics, has landed several six-figure commercial jobs simply by charting the ROI for facilities’ managers.

Sweeney says he can demonstrate a two-year ROI on LED replacement for most commercial facilities - in an environment that usually requires a five-year payback on such outlays.

“When you can show them 50 to 70 percent savings on electricity, you quickly become their friends,” Sweeney says.

In fact, Sweeney has landed major A/V jobs by getting his foot in the door with LEDs.

On the residential side, he encourages customers to “Call me to see how to save up to $20 per month on your electric bill.” That savings, he says, is like “getting your security monitoring for free.”

Beyond their energy-saving appeal, LEDs increasingly are being used for fun. Manufacturers of colored LED fixtures and controllers - even from such unlikely sources as Stewart Filmscreen - were seen in record numbers at the CEDIA Expo in September 2011.

Concurrent with that trend, we are seeing a greater demand in the U.S. for DMX-based control. DMX is a standard for lighting control that is most prevalent in Europe and in commercial venues. The technology is especially robust for managing complicated RGBW color schemes.

Dealers are creating some inventive lighting scenes these days for both ambiance and entertainment. A recent Electronic House Home of the Year Awards winner featured a dazzling exterior “light show” created by ForTech Solutions, of Granada Hills, Calif. In that job, the metal halide lights were replaced with energy-saving and long-lasting LED fixtures from Philips Color Kinetics. The 23 new LED fixtures used a total of 875 watts - just a fraction of the 11,000 watts used previously.

Translating Wattage to Lumens
On Jan. 1, 2012, new FTC-mandated labeling for LED lights went into effect. The new labels allow consumers to gauge a bulb’s brightness, longevity and efficiency.

image“Wattage was traditionally the best way to make your buying decisions when it came to selecting light bulbs in the past,” explains Martha Delgado, product marketing manager for Bulbrite. “However, now that more efficient bulbs can produce similar light levels while consuming less energy, the old theory that ‘The higher the wattage, the brighter the lamp’ isn’t true anymore,” she says.

When buying LED bulbs, shop lumens, not watts. An LED lamp that replaces a typical 60-watt incandescent, for example, might only use 12 to 13 watts, which makes it much more energy-efficient, but if you want to replace the brightness of a 60-watt incandescent, it will need to produce 800 to 850 lumens.

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

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