LED Lighting

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LED Lighting is a hot topic these days. Many of our clients inquire about LED for their kitchen remodel and new construction projects.  Anne Kustner Haser of AKLD in Evanston, IL is considered one of the preeminent lighting designers in the US. I interviewed Anne recently on the state of LED today…

DM
Many people have  can lighting (in the ceiling) in their kitchens now, what options are there for transitioning to LED lamps without changing the fixture (housing) itself?

AK
There are replacement LED lamps (light bulb) for downlights now in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Make sure you check to see if they are dimmable or not and with what type of dimmer.  Dimming LEDs is the trickiest dilemma in our industry right now (flickering or flashing, shifting colors at the low-end to grey/green/blue, not dimming to a low light level, etc.).

DM
How do you evaluate these from a color temperature, foot-candle (light output), cost savings standpoint? i.e. compared to the more common lamps  (lightbulbs) we’re accustomed to. I’ve seen some that look very antiseptic.

AK
We consider successful LEDs as ones that you cannot tell if they are LED or not.  One of the signs of a good LED product is when the packaging includes a “Lighting Facts” label.  This label is the equivalent to a nutritional label found on food.  This says the number of Lumens, or light output, the Watts, how efficient it is, the Color Temperature (how cool or warm looking the source is) and how well it renders colors (will the colors look natural or not).  As a lighting designer, it means that the manufacturer has a quality product and is confident enough to get that product labeled.

DM
For those people who are remodeling or building, how do you advise homeowners with modest budgets on ceiling can selection? I hear that the LED specific cans are very expensive and are still cost prohibitive (even with future energy savings assumed).

AK
For residences, there is not a return on investment (ROI) or payback story yet.  With the average downlight on for 3 hours or so a day, there is a 50+ year payback.  Although we use LED downlights on commercial projects, we are hesitant to use LED specific downlights in residences.  There is still very little standardization in the bases (like a medium or a bi-pin base) and lumen packages are changing constantly – sometime twice a year or more.  What you put in today might not be available when you want to add-on or if you have a water problem and need to change out a fixture or two and want to match the existing downlights.  What we do recommend for residences is still using a standard type of downlight and use an LED retrofit lamp.  The one thing we know for sure is that the retrofit lamps are only going to get better and less expensive over time.

DM
Are there govt or code requirements in place now in IL that limit energy consumption that the consumer should know about?

AK
Not for residential homes in Illinois, as they have in California.

DM
In five years, for the average kitchen remodel, what type of  fixture and lamp do you predict will be the most commonly specified? Will the market have shifted to predominantly LED?

AK
In the next 5 years there will be standardization in LEDs and, yes, LEDs are here to stay.  I think the form factors, though, may change a bit due to the unique characteristics of the LED.  That being said, I foresee that we will still have LED “downlights”, but they might be more shallow or have a smaller aperture.

DM
What role do Fluorescent play kitchen ceiling cans right now? Is there any good use for them and why?

AK
We will see Compact Fluorescents (CFLs) phased out over time.  A major lamp manufacturer is not putting any money into research and development (R&D) for that type of lamp and other manufacturers agree that the LED will replace that source over time.

DM
Do you have any favorite LED under cabinet fixture choices?

AK
I have two; Tech Lighting’s Unilume LED Undercabinet light that is a direct-wire fixture, and Luimenpulse’s Lumentask  that has a remote driver.  Both have good color rendering and, when mounted to the front of the undercabinet, light not only the counter, but also the back splash, which is equally as important.

Unilume

Lumentask

Anne Kustner Haser, LC, IES, IALD, LEED AP

Anne is the President and Design Principal of Anne Kustner Lighting Design (AKLD). As Principal, she establishes the design direction and ensures the high quality design standards by overseeing all of AKLD’s projects.

With both Fine Art and Interior Design degrees, Anne Kustner Haser has a passion for lighting architecture. She combines aesthetics with technical expertise from her years of designing at a consulting engineering firm. In 1994, Anne founded Anne Kustner Lighting Design. Since then, AKLD has successfully completed numerous architectural lighting and control system designs in a wide range of applications and environments throughout the United States. Completed projects include lighting for municipalities, corporate offices, retail, high-end residences, museums, galleries, restaurants, houses of worship, libraries, schools, exterior facades, and landmark lighting. Anne’s projects have received awards from the IES and the International GE Award of Excellence for Residential Lighting