Home & Garden

New lighting is efficient, artsy, high-tech

LED light fixtures float and glow with sculptural charm.
LED light fixtures float and glow with sculptural charm. TNS

With lots of regulatory goading to cut energy use, lightbulbs today have become a smarter species.

All sorts of sage bulbs blinked and twinkled at the recent and vast Lightfair International trade show in New York.

Pressed by the official U.S. phaseout last year of the most common 60- to 100-watt incandescent bulbs and with rivals battling, replacement light emitting diode-based bulbs, or LEDs, are now taking over the market.

Willing to splurge $15 to $30 a bulb? That now buys you an LED bulb with super powers – a microprocessor and a radio receiver to make it “wirelessly addressable” from a tablet or smartphone app. Beside hitting on and off, the app will let you custom adjust each bulb’s brightness and color, now possibly a way to improve users’ “circadian rhythms” affecting mental and physical health.

Philips Hue, Connected Cree, GE’s Link Connected LED, and Osram Sylvania’s Lightify Connected are all big players in this smart-bulb world, which also demands home installation of a small, companion “hub” with wireless Internet links.

Best of shows: Attended by architects, interior designers, and electrical contractors, Lightfair was equally about decorative and useful light fixtures emancipated by those tiny LED light sources.

Osram Sylvania’s OmniPoint, “best of show” at the fair’s Innovation Awards, looks like a conventional, ceiling-mounted downlight. But it contains 60 individually addressable LEDs that can be remotely controlled by a tablet to point light at multiple objects or areas in a room. Osram showed one OmniPoint at work in a faux retail shop, another pointing to art hanging in a gallery. Both are scenarios where guys might have to climb ladders to refocus spotlights. Only now they won’t have to, though they may cost about $2,000 apiece.

Also super smart: GE streetlights remotely controllable from City Hall (or wherever) to glow extra bright during an emergency. In the “near future,” said GE Lighting CEO Maryrose Sylvester, such “industrial Internet”-linked streetlamps also will be able to be fitted with proximity sensors and cameras to brighten automatically (or send an alert) when people are running underneath or parking.

Decorative charms: There were images of ultramodern “luminaire” mobiles – sculptural swirls, cylinders, zigzags and stripes of white light, shaped inside brushed aluminum frames and hanging from the ceiling, at $400 and up, from high-end makers such as Reggiani, Lumen Art, and 2nd Avenue Lighting.

All are now possible because LED bulbs come in thin strips, akin to undercounter lighting or (maybe better) those button candies on a paper roll we used to love as kids. They don’t put out all that much light, but sure are pretty.

Retro-ready: Working LED bulbs into “nostalgic” fixtures is another big trend. Mod LED lights glowing inside antique jelly jars and nautical-style luminaires ruled at the booths. And we spotted lots of exhibitors (Satco, Bulbrite, Lite-Way, Sunlite, Keyart, Archipelago) showcasing clear or tinted lightbulbs aglow with spidery LED filament tentacles.

These vintage lookers evoke the birth of electrical lights, especially when screwed into a bare, chromed, or brass socket. Should look great in your drawing room or saloon.