LED Lights Grow Smaller And Smarter

LED Lights Grow Smaller and Smarter

LED Carpet Rug

Grab a strand of hair from your head, and examine it.  Now imagine if that strand were 10,000 times thinner, and what you’ll be holding will be the equivalent size of future light emitting diode (LED) lights.  At the thickness of only three atoms, Scientists Xiaodong Xu and Jason Ross at the University of Washington have developed the thinnest possible LED lights.

LEDs have been around for many years, though only recently has their usage become widespread in exterior vehicle lighting, traffic lights, signs, seasonal and interior lighting.  LEDs create light by electroluminescence, which is the phenomenon of material emitting light when electricity passes through it.  Electroluminescence was discovered in 1907 independently by scientists H. J. Round and Oleg Losev. In addition to light-emitting applications, this technology could open doors for using light as “interconnects,” to run nano-scale computer chips instead of standard devices that operate off the movement of electrons, or electricity. The latter process creates a lot of heat and wastes power, whereas sending light through a chip to achieve the same purpose would be highly efficient.

As the size and price of LEDs decreases, new applications are arriving to the marketplace in the construction industry.  Lights can be more easily integrated directly into building materials such as paneling, moldings, ceiling tiles and even flexible carpets.  Some very interesting uses are being experimented with using portable rugs and carpets for children with neurological disorders such as autism. When affected children are experiencing extreme mood changes such as tantrums, multicolored LEDs can be activated within a carpet remotely to produce calming effects.  Cutting edge research is attempting to correlate the impact of light color and pulsation on brainwave activity.  Different patterns of light can also be used to evoke stimulating brain activity as well. One can only imagine what possibilities lay ahead in the medical arena.

In another more novel application, two global leaders in lighting and carpeting recently announced a partnership to develop “light transmissive carpets,” capable of turning floors into displays.  The key was to replace the traditional rubber carpet backing with something that could transmit light and stand up to the heavy wear and tear of foot traffic.  The result was a thin steel screen containing an array of ultrathin LEDs.

One of the first applications for the new floor covering will be for animated signage on the floors of airports, theaters, hotels and other public areas, not only to guide people to their destination but also to facilitate efficient evacuation in the case of an emergency.  From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the lighted carpet could not only enhance ambience but declutter busy areas making information visible only when it’s needed.  From there, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see it incorporated into interactive gaming technologies.

These new applications stretch the imagination and get us excited about the future but here at Thayer Corp we are integrating new LED features into buildings today. Unlike incandescent or fluorescent lights, LEDs have linear dimming characteristics, meaning that light levels and power consumption is directly proportional to the setting 0-100%.  Combined with Smart control features, we can program light levels to follow daylight patterns, time-of-day usage patterns, occupancy and security needs.  A wireless controller such as a smart phone, tablet or PC can be used to adjust programming.  In an occasionally used room, such as a conference room, light can be set at 5-10% levels yet immediately jump to 100% upon occupancy via integrated motion detection and return to the user selected unoccupied levels during normal working hours and completely off during unoccupied, non-working hours. The motion of forklifts in warehouses can immediately activate lighting without warm-up delays and return them to preprogrammed ambient light level minimums for life safety requirements once the activity passes.

We often forget the impact of after-hours housekeeping on energy consumption.  It’s quite normal for housekeeping to flip on all the lights for six to eight hours at night while a very small crew moves within large buildings cleaning. Smart controls could be programmed to allow the light to “follow” their movement, greatly reducing energy use without compromising their effectiveness or safety.

Parking lot lights can be dimmed to some preset level such as 30-40% after evening hours, yet immediately all come up to 100% the moment any motion is detected anywhere in the lot. Would-be vandals and burglars might be a bit startled!

Dimmability, smart controllability, and steadily declining prices are making LED lighting a more cost-effective choice while we wait for the more innovative and cutting-edge applications to become commercialized.  Ask our experts for an audit today and how you might qualify for incentives from Efficiency Maine.




Dan Thayer, P.E.


Light Up The Season With LEDs

Light Up the Season with LEDs

 LED holiday lights

While outfitting your home or business with LED seasonal string lights is a relatively simple task, effectively applying LED lighting for indoor or outdoor area lighting is very challenging.  Unlike string lights that are generally individual mini LEDs, area lighting bulbs and fixtures are groups of multiple tiny light sources.  The light emitted from these bulbs and fixtures tends to be very directional and does not diffuse like the nearly obsolete incandescent bulbs and now-popular CFL bulbs and fixtures.

Although these lights have significant benefits for longevity and energy usage, they haven’t been used widely due to this challenge.  As manufacturers improve the photometric qualities of the fixtures by applying innovative diffusers and reflective enclosures, their use has become more widespread leading to higher volumes produced and lower unit prices. Retrofit kits are also becoming more readily available.

When properly applied by specialists such as those at Thayer Corporation, LEDs are increasingly becoming the preferred lighting technology for both retrofit and new construction for many applications.  There are other characteristics of LED lights such as the Color Rendering Index (CRI) and Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) that can be chosen to give spaces markedly different appearances and utility as well.  Increasingly, clients are asking us more about the “non-flicker” properties of LEDs.

Older fluorescent lights flicker at a rate of 100-120 Hz, which isn’t noticeable to most, except those with light sensitivity.  Some building occupants with diseases such as autism, epilepsy, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease and vertigo are especially impacted by the flickering, sometimes called the “beat effect.”  Anecdotally, building managers tell us that even some healthier occupants also suffer from chronic headaches and irritation due to the flickering.  Fortunately, LEDs have no beat effect at all.

Aside from their excellent life, low energy consumption, selected health and productivity benefits, low environmental impact (mercury-free) and efficacy, occupants really like how well-applied lighting can transform the appearance of a space.  Yet another benefit to consider, Efficiency Maine has excellent incentives to help defray installation costs in both their Prescriptive Rebate Program and even more generous Custom Program.

Like the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”  We have found the effective application of LED lights really calls for the experience and expertise of lighting specialists.  Call us today and ask to talk to our professionals for an opinion about the use of LEDs in your building.

Dan Thayer, P. E., CEM