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the next big thing
Story By Susan O'Connor

LED lighting is the wave of the future. From residential applications to streetlights, new technology has rendered LEDs the most efficient and environmentally sound way to light up our lives.

Although LED lights have been around since the 1960s, it wasn’t until June 2007 that developers got the “color right” and products started becoming available, according to TEC President Keith Felkins.

LED stands for light emitting diode, a semi-conductor device that converts electricity into light.

Because of the directional quality of LED light, unique design possibilities abound. LED light strips can be installed under counters, in hallways and in staircases.

Also, because properly installed LEDs produce virtually no heat or UV rays, they are used to highlight valuable art and artifacts in museum settings because they don’t inflict damage.

Most importantly, LED lamps are more energy efficient. They use less energy, are more durable and have a longer service life than either incandescent or fluorescent lighting. They also aren’t a landfill hazard, as is the case with traditional lighting forms.

Federal energy legislation that was signed into law in December will phase out the manufacturing of most incandescent bulbs by 2012. And although compact fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient than their predecessors, they contain a small amount of highly poisonous mercury, a hazardous waste. To put the efficiency of LEDs into perspective, Felkins explained that a LED streetlight would burn 70,000 continuous hours, or approximately 17 years versus 10,000 hours with traditional lighting. Repair costs are lower since LEDs lack ballasts or bulbs, which utility crews typically charge $30 to $85 an hour to replace every two years.

According to a recent Arkansas Democrat Gazette article, North Little Rock is considering using LED lamps for streetlights, which could cut in half the $1.2 million the city pays annually for about 12,000 outdoor lights.

The initial cost at this point, however, could be prohibitive for some. Halogen bulbs used in canister lighting cost about $8, versus $85 for the Enlux brand longer life LED. But, a halogen bulb uses 65 watts of electricity, versus 12 watts in the Enlux LED.

“I figure that the $85 lamp at some point in the future will be down to $25,” Felkins noted.

He calculated the savings in his own kitchen. “It will take 5.3 years for them to pay for themselves, but the next 10 years is free,” he said.

Felkins is a pioneer in the field of LED lighting in Northeast Arkansas. His forward thinking should pay off.

“When I first started talking about this, people thought I was crazy,” he said.
The trend, however, seems destined to grow for a variety of reasons.

“This lighting is beautiful,” he said. “It is just gorgeous.”