I've heard a number of people say that retrofiting existing lighting fixtures with LED bulbs is not going to be satisfactory. Yet I see a lot on companies beginning to offer LED bulbs with bases that are designed to fit existing sockets designed for incandescent bulbs. Frankly, I have both types of lighting solutions, and it seems that both work. Do you think retrofit is a dead end, or they way most incandescent replacements will be done?
many light fixtures (ceiling) are insulated and enclosed, additionally, their sockets are designed to not conduct heat from the bulb. This traps the excessive heat of the incadescent bulb. The poor LED incadescent look-alikes will have a very difficult time surviving this self heating environment. Some open air light fixtures will do okay, but I think enough people will put them in untenable fixtures and then complain bitterly when their very expensive bulbs do not live up to their advertised long life expectancy, and the bad press will suppress the LED look-alike's market. I believe the only viable solution is to have new heat dissapating (artsy?) fixtures that require a new standard of bulb socket design for LED bulbs. You see this now on some small track lighting halogen lights.
LEDs are an easier path to problem solutions than AC circuit incandescents or flourescents, Take antique cars as an example. By the time I bought my 30-year old Jeep CJ-7, all the ground straps had been scraped off or corroded away. Wiring was the old-style cloth-wrapped, and any insulation has gone the way of the dodo. Light sockets were full of mud and sand, those that were not were so rusted they'd not transmit current.
In repairing critical gauges, I choose digital smart boards (Arduino) displaying data from digital output temperature ICs or Analog-to-Digital (ADC) converters to convert small resistance changes to readable information. LED displays that mimic the vertical tapes from the 1960's and 70's on F-106 and F-105 fighters will replace round-dial gauges driven by LM3914 ICs are my design choice. 12V DC is readily available just about anywhere as a result of rewiring and a new ground system.
This wouldn't do for someone determined to preserve an automobile in its original condition with original parts. I just don't want to have to rework the instrument panel again in my lifetime, and believe LEDs and digital circuitry will facilitate that aim.
DHugg, I guess you'd say its better to replace the entire lighting system that try to use plug-compatible lights. Suppose the sockets were useable -- what would you have done then?
iamamp, I've found insulated and enclosed ceiling lighting fixtures to generally be death on any light source. When I first naively installed CFLs in a fixture of that type, they failed in a short period. I've even found that incandescents seem to fail more often in enclosed ceiling fixtures tan in, say, a gooseneck lamp. But you're absolutely correct when you say people will "complain bitterly when their very expensive bulbs do not live up to their advertised long life expectancy," even if manufacturers put disclaimers on the packaging. GE Lighting has a very explicit faq on the use of CFLs, but I wonder how many people will read it.
I plan to experiment with using some of the new LED bulbs, the ones with big external heat sinks, in enclosed fixtures and see what happens.
One more thing, iamamp, in this economy, whose going to want to replace an entire fixture rather than change the bulb? Of course, it's a matter of $; I just bought a small LED task lighting fixture from IKEA for 10 bucks. So if the cost of a complete LED fixture is cheap enough, I guess people will spring for it. On the other hand, I'm not going to play around with my Tiffany ceiling fixture or toss it just so I can have an LED solution.
I find very little wrong with incandescent bulbs. Their light is a good relaxing color, they're very inexpensive, and they're not deadly to the environment when discarded. Their fixtures evolved to fit their function that had no problem with running hot. I think pushing (legislating) the public to replace them with expensive, ugly, piggly-wiggly mercury filled CFLs is filled with unintended consequenses. I purchased a bunch of them and began replacing the incandescents as they wore out. My family began complaining of the glarish quality of light and increased headaches. They also wore out almost as fast as the incandescents (apparently they don't like being turned on and off repeatedly); and as previously discussed I don't think their embedded electronic ballasts were up to the temperatures they endured in enclosed environments. Sometimes when they burn out, they break at the junction of the bulb and base, exposing their mecury interiors. Now I have to find special hazardous waste locations to take their carcasses. We are migrating back to incandescents; and I strongly oppose any misguided environmentalist who attempts to sidestep the free market to mandate CFL use. Fluorescent lights work well and sell well in fluorescent light fixtures. You won't see an attempt to squeeze an incandescent bulb into a fluroescent tube. Why try to squeeze a fluorescent tube into a bulb; it cannot be fit without compromises that make it uncompetitive in many ways.
In spades, the same argument holds for LED lighting. Look at the differences! Incandescents emit light in a 360 deg sphere, LEDs emit in a relatively narrow beam. Incandescents by nature run hot, don't require electronics, and run well on battery or 115VAC. LEDs put out cold light, and run on 3 to 5 volts DC. LEDs require a substantial amount of electronics to maintain their efficiency at 115VAC; and the electronics and the LED absolutly cannot tolerate heat build up without loss of life. Bulbs were developed for incandescents because that shape best utilized their packaging requirements and light output. LED lights best fit in their own best packaging. The only way you're going to get the public to buy LED bulbs is to force it down their throats by legislatively outlawing incandescents. This is not the free market country our founding fathers gave us.
Why not concentrate on developing LED light sources (fixtures) that utilize the advantages of LEDs. If they're viable, the public will migrate to them to save money, feel green, and bath in the luxury of adjustable mood lighting, or starlight ceilings, or backlit mirrors, modern track lights, etc. Tiffany will showcase their LED ceiling fixture, and you'll be able to continue to buy incandescent bulbs for your antique Tiffany fixture until the market for incandescent bulbs dry up on its own accord.