I have been observing the LED lighting transition in buildings and homes for several years now and realized that there are a lot of subjects that pertain to engineering and in particular analog engineering. This first part is an introduction to the industry as it currently exists. I’m not set on future subjects however I will be discussing more on reliability and smart control. For now, I’ll introduce the initial subject.
If you took a snapshot of an isle at Home Depot since 1990, you would see incandescent lamps giving way to fluorescent and halogen technologies and finally the LED would be occupying the most real estate (along with people walking their dogs which I just don’t get about a home building supply store). The LED technology is expanding far beyond the home into buildings as well as mines, tunnels, and other areas that require lighting.
Along with the expansion is an industry dedicated to convincing others to transition to LEDs. The main arguments are the energy savings offered by LEDs and the added reliability.
The energy savings part is quite simple as LEDs tend to produce less heat when compared to other technologies. An entire energy audit industry has sprung up around this efficiency advantage. Companies from small consulting firms with a few people to new divisions in giants such as Sony are competing for the business. Typically, a firm will evaluate a building and then provide a cost savings analysis report on the advantages realized by switching to LEDs. This has led to all sorts of new software and certifications that are best left to a future blog.
The reliability part however remains in question (This article, The big lie about LED lighting, first appeared on EE Times' Planet Analog website.). Rather than address reliability in a blog this short, I’ll address how reliability is being used as a marketing tool. I’ll then dedicate another blog to reliability. As with the efficiency, cost is a major factor in the reliability sales angle.
I recall a story as a boy that ball point pens were originally forty dollars when first introduced. The advantage was the replacement of the ink well that stained so many white shirts of students. As with any new technology, advancements and wide scale sales brought down the price. LEDs are facing a similar price reduction as the technology advances. However the price differential has LEDs suffering when going up against the existing technologies that have a lower cost.
As a result of this price differential, cost savings is focused in part on installation labor. The pitch goes something like this. You will only have to pay a union wage once every fifteen years to replace all of the lights in your mine. Of course that remains to be seen as the technology has yet to be available for the projected time period. However to date, the predictions don’t seem to be as promised. Again, this will be addressed in a future blog.
What is interesting is that the innovation of the technology as it attempts to lower cost and increase reliability. One such reduced part count driver is the Microchip CL8800 Sequential Linear LED Driver.
This part essentially bypasses the traditional energy storage AC to DC converter and instead rides along the AC voltage wave while sequencing in LED strings and offset regulators. Of further interest is the fact that the circuit is void of energy storage components such as inductors and capacitors. The CL8800 is an analog solution in this world of mixed signal control. It even accommodates triac dimming while remaining analog. Maybe there is increasing value in analog engineers after all of the software hype.
There are much more interesting aspects to this technology. I’m researching the trends in solutions as well as businesses that are springing up. Stay tuned for more as I discover how and where the Planet Analog audience fits in the effort to create a brighter world.
- The big lie about LED lighting, December 31, 2014 By Scott Elder
- “Microchip CL8800 Sequential Linear LED Driver.”