September 13, 2010 – Anyone who’s attended DoE ENERGY STAR Solid State Lighting stakeholder meetings knows that the agency is committed to drive manufacturers to produce LED lights that will meet consumer expectations. It’s a huge effort to avoid the mistakes made in the early days of marketing CFL light bulbs (i.e. low light output, size issues, premature failure) which stifled the switch to the newer, more efficient lights.
So, it wasn’t a big surprise to me that a few days ago, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against a California light bulb manufacturer, alleging that the company overstated claims of light output (including how the brightness compared to incandescent lights) and life expectancy of their LED light bulbs on packaging and promotional brochures.
It’s important to note that a complaint is not a ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law and the company should be presumed innocent until the FTC can prove their claims. But my take on this action is that the
federal government appears to be very serious about ensuring an acceptable replacement to the terribly inefficient incandescent light bulb (being phased out by law in the US and many other countries over the coming years). Allowing inferior products on the market with misleading performance claims and early mortality rates could very well derail that effort. (As a side note, I’ve had my own less–than-acceptable experience with LED lighting. Last year, while remodeling my kitchen, I installed eight recessed ceiling LED lights. The lights were pricey (approximately $80 each) and were manufactured by a leading US LED lighting manufacturer. While the light output was exceptional, one fixture was dead on arrival and another simply stopped working 3 months later.)
The good news is that current technology can produce very high output LEDs with low degradation rates (long lifetimes). Plus, new driver technology (integrated LED light bulbs and luminaires need a power supply) makes it easier to make consistent, reliable and cost-effective products. There’s an industry consensus that LED technology is the right road to take to get to the “promised land” of highly energy-efficient lighting. Maybe government watchdog agencies can help smooth out any bumps along the way.
For a copy of the Commission’s complaint, go to: http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0923145/100908lightsamericacmpt.pdf
To get more information on the DoE’s LED program activities, go to: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl