Fox Business Article

December 21st, 2007

Coming soon to hardware stores near you: lights that last more than 20 years and use 90% less energy.

NEW YORK: Called LEDs‚ or light emitting diodes‚ this form of lighting is typically used for things like dashboards and blinker indicators‚ but advances in technology are making them useful for everything from overhead lighting to desk lamps. Even the New Years Eve’s ball in Times Square in New York will be lighted with LEDs this year.

LEDs‚ while more pricey than compact fluorescent lights‚ are growing in popularity‚ in part because advanced semiconductor technology has made them much brighter than in the past and because they are viewed by some as greener than other lighting on the market. LEDs are semiconductors that convert electricity into light.

“Lighting is one of the simplest ways we can lower energy consumption‚’’ said Andrew Huang‚ an analyst at American Technology Research. “Globally lighting accounts for 20% of the electricity consumed worldwide.”

While compact fluorescent lighting also has a longer life span then traditional light bulbs‚ they typically aren’t recycled properly and contain mercury which is linked to cancer‚ leukemia and autism‚ Huang said.

“LEDs last about 20 to 50 times longer than regular light bulbs‚’’ said Huang. “CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) contain mercury and don’t have a disposable program in place.”  Huang said in the coming months consumers will start to see LED lamps‚ overhead lighting and even bulbs in hardware stores.

Still they will come at a price.  One industry player‚ Dov Sassoon  sales coordinator of  MaxximaStyle‚ the unit of Panor Corp. which makes Led lighting‚ estimates that in the beginning‚ a LED-light equivalent to a 60-watt light bulb will cost $75 to $100.  Sure‚ you will save money over the life of the LED lighting‚ but it could be a hard sell for consumers upfront. 

According to Huang‚ LEDs only make up 1% of the market‚ presenting an opportunity for companies playing in the market. And‚ as with most burgeoning industries‚ there are a slew of start-ups trying to capitalize in addition to the big players‚ which include General Electric (GE)‚ Philips and Sylvania.  

Take d.Light Designs‚ a Mountain View‚ Calif.- based start-up. d.Light is using LEDs to bring electricity to people living in India and South East Asia who rely on kerosene for their lighting needs.

“There’s 1.6 billion people worldview using Kerosene exclusively for light‚’’ said Nedjip Tozun‚ president of d.Light. “LEDs provide an affordable alternative to kerosene light.”

Tozun noted that people using kerosene light spend 10% to 30% of their income on the kerosene.

d.Light is coming out with a couple of LED-based lighting products for emerging markets. One is powered by solar‚ while another has a rechargeable docking station that can power the light for several days‚ depending on how bright the customer wants the light to be.  Tozun noted d.Light will go after the camping market with its products as well.

Meanwhile‚ MaxximaStyle  is expanding from using LEDs for brake lights and turn signals to making consumer products like night lights and flash lights.  Sassoon of MaxximaStyle said the company has a few LED bulbs but that the market is limited because of the cost of the LED bulbs today.

“The cost for white LEDs is extremely high‚’’ said Sassoon‚ noting that the price for white LEDs has started to come down and will continue to fall. He likened it to the DVD-player market‚ where the players started out at around $800 and now go for as cheap as $25.  Sasson said the ideal price point for LED bulbs is $9.95.  While red or blue LED lights can be bought on the cheap‚ the manufacturing process for white LEDs is much more complex‚ thus making them pricier‚ said Sassoon

MaxximaStyle has been seeing strong demand for its LED night light‚ largely because the bulbs never need to be replaced. There’s also strong demand for MaxximaStyle’s motion sensor LED-based lights‚ said the executive.

“The response has been overwhelming‚’’ said Sassoon. “A lot has to do with the green movement. Consumers are becoming more educated about the benefits of using LED technology.”