While LEDs, particular color-changing LED products, are hot today-in some cases to the detriment of the projects they are used on-I do believe that they have the potential to become a major force in our industry. In just the last several years, we have seen this technology go from a curiosity to a standard tool in every lighting designer's toolbox. As the technology develops over the next several years, I anticipate that creative minds will find more and more uses for them.
We must keep in mind that LEDs are a highbred of a lighting product and a silicon chip. This combination of worlds brings the mindset and product expectations of the tech sector to a lighting product. It does not seem unreasonable to expect that LEDs will follow their own version of Moore's Law, increasing in brightness and whiteness at a rapid pace.
It is the challenge of a white LED, combined with price, that is keeping them out of general-purpose applications. Once an acceptable white LED is achieved, one of the major barriers holding back LEDs will fall. We have already seen LEDs displacing other light sources in the automotive industry, as well as some niche light sources in the architectural market. This trend will only accelerate once a reliable, stable and consistent white LED is manufactured. As for price, that is an issue that we have already seen begin to resolve itself over the last several years, as the price of some color-changing products has come down by 50 percent over their initial cost. This process should only accelerate as the products improve and demand increases.
Lastly, LEDs have energy efficiency working in their favor. As the cost of producing and delivering energy continues to rise, the push for more energy-efficient technologies will accelerate. With their long life (although not as long as originally advertised) and minimal energy consumption, LEDs have the potential to be integral to a designer's energy-efficient design responsibilities.
It is only a matter of time before LEDs displace more traditional, less energy-efficient and more maintenance-intensive sources.