The global market for LED light bulbs has expanded rapidly and looks set to continue growing over the next two years, despite the high cost of bulbs and confusion over their energy rating.
The "Global and China LED Industry Report 2009-2010" released on July 29 revealed that the global LED market has grown from $7 billion in 2009 to $10.7 billion in 2010 and is expected to reach $20.4 billion by 2012.
LEDs or light emitting diodes are highly energy efficient, contain no mercury and have a longer life span than their incandescent lightbulb counterparts. The United States Department of Energy estimates that the adoption of LED lighting across the US would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 246 metric tons, reduce electric consumption by 25 percent and save energy equivalent to 24 large power plants.
The increasing availability of LED for use in household lighting is leading to a change in how the performance of the bulb is evaluated. In their information about LED bulbs, the European Union states that wattage, the traditional means of measuring a bulb's power is no longer meaningful. Instead the EU measures the performance of the lamp in lumens, 1300-1400 lumens are equivalent to a 100Watt (W) incandescent bulb, 920-970 for 75W, 700-750 for a 60W, 410-430 lumens for a 40W and 220-230 lumens are equivalent to a 25W incandescent bulb.
LED lightbulbs can be expensive, the 220-230 lumen (25W) Normal cap white bulb from electronics manufacturer Philips retails for €29, Toshiba's E-Core 500 for around €40, LED lighting market leader Cree Inc sells several extremely high performance LED lights such as the LR6-230V for around €118 though currently this is only available in the US, as is the Philip's Endural €13.
Manufacturers argue that the high cost of an LED bulb is offset by its lifespan of several years and from the recent market growth it appears that consumers agree.
Despite their long life span when LED bulbs are exhausted they cannot be disposed of the same way as incandescent bulbs; the European Union recommends that the bulbs should be disposed of by returning them to the shop in which they were bought or by disposing of them in a dedicated collection bin for waste electronic equipment.
Energy inefficient bulbs began to be phased out in September 2009 in accordance with EU directives; by 2016 the EU plans to replace all incandescent bulbs with energy-saving LED alternatives.