It’s no secret that the crew here at Reef Builders are huge fans of LED lighting. Seems like not a day goes by when we’re not breaking something new on this evolving technology. It’s a fact- LED technology is not a passing fad or a novel trend- it’s viable, efficient, and here to stay (and take over). Recently, the lighting world held its biggest annual shindig- Lightfair 2010, which brings together lighting manufacturers, engineers, architects and designers to show off the latest and greatest developments in the industry. This year, over 20,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors were there, and the dominant feature of the show was-you guessed it- LED lighting!
The LED revolution that is occurring in the reef hobby and the same trend within the lighting industry itself is almost uncannily similar. The change has been sudden, and the impact great. According to one Lightfair 2010 attendee, back at the 2005 show, you had to look awfully hard to find LED lighting in a sea of “conventional” lighting technology. The reverse was true this year. A story was circulating about an LED manufacturer who was fruitlessly searching the massive show for a halogen equivalent to his LED light. Let’s face it- the revolution is underway, and it will change the way that we illuminate our homes, workplaces- and reefs.
As you know, acceptance of new technology that promises to re-shape the reef aquarium landscape does not always happen easily or quickly. It’s a slow process that evolves over time as the hobby is exposed to it more and more. As a group, we reef geeks are a skeptical bunch, and don’t easily switch direction without some proof of viability or positive experience reports from our peers.The lighting industry is much the same: Manufacturers want to create and market products that will sell, and you can’t just throw something out on the market and expect it to change the world overnight. Industry buyers and end users don’t want gimmicks. They need reliable, viable technology, and want to be confident that they are utilizing something that is worthwhile. LED lighting giant Cree has gone so far as to literally state that its mission is to “obsolete incandescent technology”.
There are a few factors that are driving the LED revolution, both in the reef hobby and the lighting industry as a whole. One of the most important factors is consumer education. Let’s face it- when a technology is new or unproven, it’s all too easy to picked apart by skeptical reef pundits. In the lighting industry, it’s somewhat similar: Many “old school” manufacturers and industry people saw LEDs as just a passing fad, with limited consumer appeal and commercial potential…A little side trip on the journey to better lighting technology. Once more and more manufacturers started making LED systems, it was was easier to gain experience with them, and the pool of knowledge began to grow. When you combine real-world experience with good marketing, and an educated consumer, a product has much better potential for success. End users in the lighting industry have created a demand for this technology, and their popularity has literally exploded worldwide.
As more hobbyists use LEDs as the primary illumination for their reef systems and share their results with other hobbyists, the body of knowledge within the hobby has increased dramatically. Confidence in the technology is growing- you can feel it. Long-term coral growth- the real “tale of the tape” for many reef hobbyists, is now being documented under LED lighting, and the potential appears unlimited. When LED lighting manufacturers help educate end users about their technology, the consumer can make an educated choice, rather than to be spoon-fed biased advice that may not tell the whole story.
Let’s face it- LED lighting technology is maturing very rapidly! Perhaps more rapidly than any other lighting format. As energy costs rise, consumer demand for energy efficient, highly effective lighting systems will continue to drive the technology “push”. Don’t believe me? Just look at the hobby developments of late. LED lighting is no longer exclusively used at “moonlight”. Many of the major aquarium product manufacturers have embraced this technology and have upped the ante with tons of new products. Just look at Reefstock 2010, and the massive show of force by LED lighting manufacturers, or Interzoo 2010, where new LED products debut on the industry’s biggest stage.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments within the scope of LED lighting both in the reef hobby and the lighting industry is the increasing affordability of LED lighting systems. Just like in the hobby, LED lighting was considered a “boutique” product by the lighting industry not all that long ago, with prices that would take your breath (and your savings) away. Sounds familiar, huh?
Oh sure, the price of designer LED lighting systems for your home or aquarium will continue to take your breath away! However, with a number of larger aquarium product manufacturers entering the LED game, more affordable products are debuting monthly, and the revolution can be more accessible to everyone than ever before! LED systems are available at price points that are similar to T5 and metal halide systems, creating a new and exciting option for hobbyists that never existed before. Isn’t it a great time to be a reefer?
To borrow a cliché- the future certainly looks bright for LED’s, the lighting industry as a whole, the reef hobby, and our long-suffering pocketbooks. With the synergy between the lighting industry and enthusiastic hardcore hobby manufacturers like Nano Customs, for example, there is no limit to what the future holds. Fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride.. The revolution is on!
Till next time.,