Imagine never having to change your light bulbs. Researchers are testing a new LED bulb that they jokingly say could be written into your will. It could last that long.
The first things you see when you walk in the Lumen Maintenance Test Facility are what look like two giant aluminum ovens.
They’re actually two “mini rooms” at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Researchers have plugged in 200 LED light bulbs to test the bulbs’ light quality and how long they run.
“They’ve been operating for 22,000 hours continuously without a single failure,” said Jeff McCullough, the lead researcher for the project.
In that same amount of time, you would need 25 incandescent bulbs for one LED. The Philips 60-watt replacement LED will be the most tested light bulb in history, McCullough said.
There’s a display being developed at the Smithsonian, basically, alongside the Edison lamp,” he said. “That’s ground breaking,”
A U.S. Department of Energy competition intended to jump-start LED innovation. LEDs are also known as light-emitting diodes. They look more like traditional incandescent bulbs but many have cooling “fins” on the side.
Marc Ledbetter, the manager of the lab’s emerging technologies program, said the new LED bulb they’re testing gives off the same warm light as an incandescent bulb, while using much less energy.
“Across the United States, lighting is responsible for about 20 percent of our total energy use, so it’s a big chunk of national energy use. And this technology has the potential for greatly reducing that energy use. When you compare it to incandescent technology, it can reduce energy use by about 90 percent,” Ledbetter said.
The Department of Energy wants to cut electric lighting consumption in half by 2030. The energy saved would power 24 million homes.
Lab researchers have tested the Philips 60-watt replacement bulb as a part of a Department of Energy competition designed to speed up LED innovation.
The facility tests the lamps in an automated fashion. It relies on a “robotic integrating sphere” that moves from lamp to lamp, temporarily encasing each bulb and measuring the color and light output.
LED technology is rapidly changing. Ledbetter said if you bought an LED bulb six months ago, it’s now out-of-date.
“We are basically on a rocket ship here. We are watching this technology change constantly. And it’s getting better and better and better,” Ledbetter said.
Mostly cities and retail stores are using the Philips 60-watt replacement bulb in things light street lamps. Right now this bulb will set you back about $50. But, in the next five years, researchers expect it drop to about $10.
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