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LED lights restore flagging house value

In a US government-sponsored test of fixtures from Cree and Philips, ten out of twelve builders said LED downlights would increase house price.

More than three-quarters of builders asked in a recent US Department of Energy trial said that replacing traditional downlights with LED fixtures improved a house's value.

Cree LR6 downlights and eW Profile Powercore under-cabinet lights from Philips Solid State Lighting Solutions were deployed in two new houses in Eugene, Oregon, during August 2008.

The US Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) performed quantitative and qualitative tests on replacing an incandescent downlight and halogen undercabinet light in one, and a halogen downlight in another.

Qualitative responses from twelve local builders on how this affected visibility, home appearance and value all saw a majority preferring the LED lights.

"They gave the LED downlight high marks for brightness and most felt the LEDs were the same as or an improvement over the halogen and incandescent lamps in terms of shadows and glare," the report said.

Ten of the twelve said that the Cree LED downlights made a home more valuable, and nine said that Philips' undercabinet lights did the same.

The LED fixtures achieved this while also cutting energy consumption significantly. The downlights reduced energy use by 82 percent compared to the 65 W incandescent and 84 percent compared to the 75 W halogen bulbs.

The replaced halogen undercabinet light had high- and low-power settings, but the LED replacement drew less power than each of these by 90 percent and 83 percent respectively.

However the LR6 costs $95 and the eW Profile Powercore costs $140, making the 29 total downlights and four under-cabinet lights used a hefty investment.

To work out how long this would take to pay back, PNNL assumed three hours of daily use for the downlights and two hours for under-cabinet lights.

Given the measured energy efficiency savings for each lamp and assuming that electricity costs 5 cents per kWh, it would take 13.5 years for the LR6 to pay for itself. The eW Profile Powercore would take 7.6 years.

Notably these fixtures were not compared with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that lead the current commercial effort for energy efficiency.

The LED fixtures were assessed with dimmer switches however, where they are expected to perform similarly to incandescents, but with which CFLs are incompatible.

That said, PNNL found that the types of dimmers used by Philips and Cree are difficult to find. When the fixtures were tested with a different dimmer, they behaved inconsistently when set to below 50 percent of output.

"The lamps either didn't dim enough or turned off, and they did not operate in unison," the report said. "LED dimmer compatibility is an area for further manufacturer support and industry action."

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