LED Modules and the Residential Market
September 17, 2012 - 9:33am
LED modules could be the key to mainstreaming solid-state lighting in the residential market.
LED Downlight Module
Cooper Industries' ML56

Ask any industry professional ”what’s next” for lighting and all will agree that LEDs are the future. But aside from LED replacement bulbs and a smattering of light fixtures here and there, how exactly will LED lighting be mainstreamed into residential fixtures in the coming years?
The answer may lie in a new technology that’s already used in commercial lighting applications: the LED module. Also known as a light engine, an LED module integrates all the necessary engineering components — such as the chips, drivers, heat sinks and optics — into one turnkey unit.
“Cooper Lighting defines LED modules as complete lighting units that comprise an integral LED driver, a heat sink and LED array, and a trim,” says Glenn Siegel, Director of Marketing and Product Management for Cooper Lighting.
Cree LED Components Product Marketing Manager Paul Scheidt says an LED module is the closest equivalent to an LED bulb (or lamp). “But it’s not a one-to-one correlation because you’re not plugging it into sockets,” Scheidt adds. “Luminaires or fixtures that may have a handful of bulbs in them today could be replaced by one LED module.”
Brian Brandes, Vice President of Product Development for Satco, also compares the LED module to a lamp. “It’s no different than a light bulb,” Brandes says. “It’s just that the light bulb has now taken a different form factor.”
Multiple Applications
What makes the LED module revolutionary? The fact that this technology is now available means that more lighting manufacturers will be able to easily integrate LED technology into their residential fixtures, resulting in a much broader array of LED luminaires to recommend to customers.
“With the simplified solution of the module, luminaire makers can continue to manufacture fixtures the way they always have, but instead of including a halogen, CFL or incandescent lamp, they’re going to put the module in there,” Brandes says.
LED modules can perform all the necessary functions and applications of existing light sources, Siegel says. “LED modules allow for retrofit, remodel and new construction capability,” Siegel explains. “Halo provides LED modules that can be used for general lighting, task, accent and wall washing. There are even modules that are wet-location-rated, allowing for use in showers, or that can be installed in protected soffits, porches and canopies.”
Streamlined Design
What are the advantages of incorporating LED modules into fixture designs? Aside from the benefits of LED technology we already know — much greater energy efficiency, better quality of light, a longer lifetime, etc. — modules simplify the design of a luminaire, circumventing potential problems with individual components.

“With typical lighting fixtures, there’s not much that can be salvaged out of the fixture or saved because there are all kinds of integrated parts,” Brandes says. “Typically it’s costly and you have to hire an electrician. It’s just much more complicated for something that doesn’t have a modular situation to go in there and manage it.”

Scheidt points out that LED modules use about 20 percent of the power normally required, plus they’re self-contained units that don’t require as much servicing. “LED modules package all the best of LED technology in a really easy-to-use form factor,” Scheidt adds.

Siegel agrees. “LED modules provide end users with an energy-efficient, long-lasting lighting technology that is now affordable, easy to install, replicates the look
of incandescent and is now readily available.”

Cost Considerations

Although LED lighting has become mainstream in commercial applications, homeowners and consumers have been slower to embrace LED technology, largely because of the initial investment required.

“It is a more expensive solution than an incandescent light bulb,” Brandes admits. “But the ROI is so fast. With a lot of applications, you can make your money back in 16 months. And you continue to save money after that. You have to look beyond the price tag to see this is really the better investment.”

And Scheidt notes that LED prices and technology have improved so much in the last couple of years that’s it’s become cost-effective for residential applications.

“Right now, LED technology is at the point where we’re at or below cost compared to a CFL downlight, for instance,” Scheidt says. “On a new build, it’s actually cheaper to install a new LED downlight than a CFL downlight. You don’t even have to talk about paybacks or anything like that — it’s just a cheaper and better option. The wave that’s coming with this is that everybody will be able to use LEDs.”

What’s Next

While it’s true that LED modules were initially designed for commercial applications and even stemmed from the semiconductor industry, they may offer the next wave of incorporating LED technology into residential designs.

“Any new lighting technology typically finds its way through the commercial applications first,” Brandes says. “They’re going to be faster to accept it because there is more justification for the investment. It hasn’t mainstreamed yet in the decorative lighting market. But there’s not doubt in my mind that it will.”

Brandes admits that it will take time — perhaps as many as five years — for this to happen.

“Over the next several years, the percentage of products in stores will increasingly become more LED-based,” Brandes says. “Within five years, I think they will become center stage. It really wasn’t until this last year that LED fixtures started showing up on showroom floors and people were selling them on a regular basis. But in the decorative markets, I think that modular-based, simple, plug-and-play solutions are what we’re going to see more of.”


Pictured: The Energy Star®-qualified Halo ML56 features an LED downlight module available in multiple wattages/lumen packages and color temperatures that are interchangeable with 5-inch and 6-inch downlight and directional trims. Color temperatures include 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4000K. Lumen packages include the 600 Series (9.4W/80 CRI and 10.3W/90 CRI) and 900 Series (13.6W/80 CRI or 90 CRI). www.cooperindustries.com

The new Motivation LED module from Satco’s Kolourone brand is completely self-contained, with no external wiring, and is as easy to change as a conventional bulb. The self-contained, plug-and-play design offers an integrated power supply and eliminates complex wiring. www.kolourone.com

  • LED Downlight Module
    LED Downlight Module
    Cooper Industries' ML56
  • Kolourone LED module
    Kolourone LED module
    Satco’s Kolourone LED module

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