Where Have All The CFL’s Gone?

Last week CREE announced that their advances with LED technology will soon replace the popular energy wasting halogen sources. While incandescent lamps, including halogen, are easier targets for the LED’s, it’s the CFL’s that need to rethink their place in the lamp food chain. My partner, Mark Sills, brought up an interesting point during the review of an LED mock up for a project. In the history of lamps the modern day CFL will end up being just a short blip in the overall timeline.
CREE’s brilliant “Lighting The LED revolution campaign”, was the trigger for this Lighting Blog. CREE is a lighting manufacturer that has proven they can walk the talk on LED’s. The thought of a revolution, a battle or skirmish between lamps is far more appealing than someone talking about lamp replacements. The use of the word revolution clearly sets the stage for a takeover, not just another lamp option.
While this revolution won’t be covered by CNN, I predict that there will be lamp casualties. While most of the talk and concern, when we look at lamp (light bulb) sources, is focused on the demise of the incandescent, I think once the smoke clears, the CFL, not the incandescent will be a lamp that might not continue to be a viable source.
When you compare Incandescent vs CFL, the CFL is far more energy efficient, and the lamp life is superior. No argument when a CFL can give you up to 5 times the light output for the same wattage. A CFL’s rated lamp life is roughly 12 times that of an incandescent. Energy efficiency and cost are very important yet there are CFL shortcomings. Most modern day CFL’s are not dimmable, or if they are dimmable they don’t provide full range dimming. The disposal of CFL’s is also a challenge due to the mercury content of the lamp.
The biggest downside to the CFL is that the CFL is not related to Edison. The CFL is never going to visually look like an incandescent. Like the SUV’s that we drive, and the other comforts we enjoy, we are not willing to completely give up the warm dimmable glow put out there by the incandescent lamp. We may reduce the reliance a bit more on incandescent if given a visually pleasing, hard to distinguish, alternate to the incandescent.
The advances in LED technology will continue to move in directions that will eventually give us the best of both the CFL (high lumens, long life) and the incandescent (warm color, dimming). Even with the advances in LED technology, we will always have specialized uses, and an infinity for a true dimmable incandescent lamp. No amount of regulation or high energy costs will ever completely wipe out the incandescent.
The advances in LED’s will not be as kind to the CFL. As the LED continues to improve, say like the advances we have seen in music players like Apple’s Ipod, the unsold CFL’s will be found at the swap meet sitting alongside all the unwanted eight track cassettes.

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