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Environment-friendly lighting

Environment-friendly lighting

What will the implications of the new CFL, LED and OLED bulbs be?

The traditional incandescent light bulb was invented 130 years ago and, after more than a century, its life seems destined to be put to an end.

The new European guidelines aim at, by 2020, saving as much energy as the energy consumed by 11 million families a year, and at reducing by 15 tons a year the emissions of CO2. These are the figures provided by the European Commission and on which this green initiative is based. It is going to be a gradual but necessary process, most of all for the sake of our planet, in which, we must not forget it, we live as guests and not as mean landlords.

Several are the available alternatives for brands and consumers of lighting products, and this is encouraging, both from the purchasing and the lighting efficiency point of view.

CFL, the energy saving alternative

One alternative will be for example the new CFL light bulbs, where CFL stands for "Compact Fluorescent Lamp", and which are the traditional spiral bulbs which consume 65-80% less energy than the standard bulbs, and last from 8 to 10 years, much more than what we were used to with incandescent light bulbs.

CFL light bulbs turn into light much more than the 5-10% of the energy they consume, and this allows a better control of the heat dissipation. According to the European Commission estimations, with this kind of light bulbs in every lamp of the house, a family would save around 50 Euros per year.

Obviously, CFL light bulbs are not a bed of roses: they contain a small amount of mercury, which needs to be disposed of in a specific way. We are talking about 5 milligrams of mercury, which may be dangerous for our health and which are as small as the top of a pencil. They cannot be trashed as simple rubbish but as 'dangerous waste material' and taken, once finished, to the recycling areas available in every city or where they have been purchased.

LED, a lighting opportunity more than a simple alternative

Another great alternative to incandescent light bulbs are LEDs (light emitting diodes), now more than ever the top alternative. I like to define them as a lighting opportunity instead of a simple choice at anyone's disposal. This lighting technology combines an energy saving of the 85% and an impressive durability of around 15-17 years, all in one product.

LEDs start working as soon as they are turned on, without having to wait the traditional 60-90 seconds necessary for the CFL technology to work, and they do not contain mercury. Is this it? Of course not!

Even if they do not contain mercury  they must be disposed of as RAEE, in other words, as waste material belonging to electric and electronic devices. However, considering their incredible durability, we can conclude that it is not a problematic issue or a difficult task to perform.

Speaking of lighting performances, we cannot forget that LED technology is UV and IR free, which guarantees a comfortable vision and the respect of all kinds of surface, material or product that may come into direct contact with the light produced by these light bulbs. A UV and IR free light also guarantees that designers can count on a high level technology which can be used in many specific contexts, such as museums or displays of delicate materials.

OLED, the matter is brought to life to produce light

OLED stands for 'Organic Light-Emitting Diode', exactly the same as LED technology but with an added 'O'. It is precisely the word 'Organic' what makes the difference in this interesting lighting technology. OLEDs contain a layer of an organic compound instead of the inorganic semiconductors of LEDs, which are less efficient and more polluting. The light produced by OLEDs is very soft, does not have shadows and is more efficient.

In comparison with every other lighting solution available, OLEDs have the great advantage of being a lighting surface and not a point source as are CFL, LEDs and other similar technologies. We are talking about a temperature of 30 degrees at the top of the heating, and this allows a great efficiency from the energy conservation point of view. OLED does not need an external source and for this reason it allows the use of thinner displays, with a lesser waste of energy.

We must not forget that it is a rather recent lighting technology, even if it has a revolutionary potential as far as design is concerned. 100% mercury, UV and IR free, just as LEDs, OLEDs allow designers to think about light as an organic thing and not just as a function.

The integration of the new CFL, LED and OLED light bulbs into design

The introduction of CFL light bulbs in the field of the creation of lighting devices has certainly been the most smooth, as far as the creation of new shapes is concerned as well as the idea of restructuring the 'old' collections of lamps and ceiling lamps. On the other hand, LEDs and OLEDs present different characteristics.

In the last few years the most important brands have thrown themselves into the creation of new lighting concepts based on the LED technology. They were sure that the rapid evolution of this technology would allow a greater lighting efficiency and an even greater availability of raw materials. In conclusion, there is no brand that has not changed or increased its commercial offer with the introduction of LED lamps.

In comparison with the beginning, both in the case of stand-alone lamps or integrated LED cable products, LED lamps provide such a complete and wide offer that they can meet the needs even of the most demanding designers. The innate ability of LEDs to adjust to small shapes and sizes allow lamp manufacturers to fully exploit their designer's imagination or to experiment more and more original shapes, without jeopardizing the lighting efficiency. The various colour shades that can be obtained even with monochromatic white LEDs make them suitable for many applications, both for classic and the most modern design projects.

Until recent times, light sources were a part of the design object, while today the design object has the ability to become the light source. The OLED technology paves the way to a new lighting concept. The possibility of achieving a light producing matter is something which subverts the old conception according to which the matter was the source to light and not the opposite.

This means that we will be able to achieve bright curtains, mirrors, ceilings and walls, chairs and tables which are brought to life and produce light. OLED technology will allow to interact with light in real time both in public and private contexts, and will give lamp manufacturers the opportunity to think about lamps not as mere decorative objects but as a real architectural element. 

Written by Andrea Meini, Blog Idealight