Let There Be LED

Let There Be LEDLED lighting looks like it’s here to stay

I n many ways, LED lighting is much like the Internet. It’s all around us, we use it every day, but we’re not really sure what it is or how exactly it performs its designated function. For most consumers it comes down to hitting the power switch and Googling “Kardashian divorce” — or seeing clearly enough to read. But LED technology has taken off in the last decade, and with all eyes on energy conservation and reducing waste, it has increasingly become part of daily life.

A quick scan of the show floor at the recent Hong Kong International Lighting Fair makes LED’s industry status clear. Few exhibitors didn’t have LED product to showcase and the ones that were lacking were also lacking crowds gathered around their booths. So first things first: What exactly is LED?

“LED is what they call a light emitting dial. It’s a dial, which is a semi-conductor product. When you pass electrical current through it, it gives you light,” explains Peter Chan, managing director of Optiled Lighting, one of the world’s leading LED suppliers and manufacturers. “In the good old days when the light output wasn’t as good, the application was on the backlight of mobile phone screens and other little bitty light areas.” As the technology improved, the light space got bigger — to video screens and then focused colour light areas. When the core chips were fully understood and a critical lumen output to kilowatt-hour of electricity was reached, general lighting applications were born. “The mentality of ‘changing the light bulb’ has changed. You don’t need to change it anymore,” states Chan. The relatively recent harmony between existing lamps, overheads and track lighting and new LED bulbs is at the root any potential growth for the technology.

The appeal of LED is easy to see. LED lights use less energy and have longer life spans, meaning climbing up ladders to awkward spots to change a hideous fluorescent tube is a less frequent chore. Because of that, LED has rapidly become the industry standard in institutional construction: hospitals, airports, office towers, hotels and retail outlets are among the large facilities that have adopted it. It’s been theorised the softer light has made offices less headache-inducing for staff as well. “There are other side attributes too. It’s got no UV so it’s not as harsh on the skin. In retail, for product on display like wine and beer it gives it a longer shelf life; the light won’t damage the goods. These things are heat and UV sensitive,” Chan notes. Those are also among the reasons it’s starting to be applied in the residential sector too, particularly new builds.

Optiled admittedly works at the ground level with big ticket clients for now, however, “Starting November 1, we’ll be in over 400 retail outlets in Hong Kong,” points out Chan, including 40 Pricerite stores and over 200 independent electrical shops. “We’re still focused on professional projects but we are putting a lot of effort into the retail side of the business.” Optiled is aware that making the switch to LED needs to be simple for consumers. “No one wants to get in a cab and go to Wanchai to get a bulb.” But familiar consumer manufacturer Megaman is also getting into the LED game for 2012 with a line of halogen and incandescent bulbs designed to fit most standard light fixtures. The widest selection can be found in the brand’s four concept stores around Hong Kong and if all goes your way, you’ll only have to visit it once this decade.