Why Long-life LED Light Bulbs Will Likely Boost Lighting Control Adoption

Light bulb manufacturers have created a dilemma. LEDs now last so long that replacement cycles could be as long as 68 years, so revenues will crash. That's why smart bulbs (and lighting control) might be their savior.

How bright is the future for LEDs?
Jason Knott · May 14, 2014

Light bulb makers are facing a self-created dilemma: they have made LEDs so efficient that replacement cycles for residences can be as long as 68 years apart. That means revenues are set to fall dramatically for manufacturers. According to one analyst, “smart bulbs” might just be the only viable solution for the industry.

That is good news for integrators because smart bulbs are likely to be linked to lighting control systems, or at least introduced the homeowner to the concept of lighting control. Smart bulbs include microprocessors that allow them to do things like blink when the phone rings or simulate a sunset to aid in going to sleep. These sorts of functions can also be done with lighting control systems and don’t require the homeowner to manipulate an app on their tablet or smartphone to initiate.

According to IHS Research, lighting manufacturers have “backed themselves into a corner” with 50,00-hour lifecycles for LED bulbs, or 20 years on average… up to 68 years in some instances depending on usage. IHS predicts the residential bulb industry will only grow 1.17 percent, so the industry needs to encourage homeowners to replace bulbs for different reasons than just waiting for them to burn out.

The research firm estimates there is a globally 38 billion to 40 billion residential light bulbs installed. With the new lifecycles, it means 550 million to 600 million fewer light bulbs will be purchased over the typical lifecycle. That is “significantly below” the current levels of shipments.

IHS Research shows bulb shipments will fall dramatically over the next seven years as the percentage of LEDs installed in homes rises.

Given a future average price of less than $5 a bulb, this could limit the residential lamp market to under $3 billion a year, says IHS. The firm even used lower lifecycle estaimtes for just 25,000 hours and came to a similar conclusion.

So, what should bulb makers do? IHS came to three conclusions:

  • Drastically reduce the price of bulbs so that more people will choose LED bulbs and hopefully begin to actively replace the bulbs (replace before burnout).
  • Decrease the lifetimes of the bulbs so that burnout and replacement happens more frequently (although companies would risk losing to competitors boasting the longer lifetimes).
  • Increase the functionality and features of LED lighting to warrant the higher prices and spur adoption – we have already begun to see this with the connected ‘smart’ lighting systems.

The first two options don’t seem viable for consumers. That means “smart lighting” will likely become a focus for bulb manufacturers, and over the long term should elevate the lighting control industry. In the meantime, integrators can continue to offer bulb replacement services to homeowners (and commercial clients).

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  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at

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  Article Topics

News · LED · Smart Bulb · All Topics
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