2013-05-01

Co.Exist

LEDs Are Here, Now Which One Do You Buy?

BulbTrip is a new site that gives you the information you need to help make a decision when you’re standing in the LED aisle trying to do the right thing.

So, you’ve heard that LED lights use less energy, last longer, and are cheaper overall. But what now? Which one do you get?

There are 7,000 LED products on the market, according to Lightingfacts.com, a site kept by the Department of Energy. So, choosing isn’t easy—especially if you want to know what sort of glow you’re going to get in the bathroom. LEDs can be inconsistent. How models look and feel in the home will vary.

That’s where BulbTrip comes in. It aims to take some of the mystery out of LEDs, providing nine metrics to assess which bulb is for you. Look up prices, brightness, and efficiency, and find out what return on investment you’ll get compared to a conventional light. You even get "perceived watts" ratings (sort of like a weather forecast that gives "feels like" numbers as well as actual temperatures).

BulbTrip recently won a $6,000 first prize at a hackathon organized by the Boston chapter of Cleanweb, a rapidly expanding group dedicated to "applying information technology to resource constraints." Bringing order to the LED market was one of the challenges put forward, and one that Adam Siemiginowski, and three collaborators, decided to run with. They built most of the site over a single weekend, stripping out data from Lighting Facts and Amazon, and crunching it into new forms.

"If we’re going to nudge people to buy high efficiency bulbs that have a higher lifetime reading, we need metrics people can use to make that decision," Siemiginowski says.

"We want to create a more objective measure of what you can expect when you order an LED. Our incentive is that we don’t want people to buy something and return it. We want them to buy it and be happy first time, and use it in their homes. That will reduce the lightbulbs going to waste, and reduce the energy people are using."

One of the first principles of Cleanweb, which is now in 20 cities worldwide, is to convince people that green investments are smart ones. Siemiginowski says there has been too much onus on creating cleaner technology, and not enough on getting people to use it. "VCs have put a lot of money in, but the problem is people are not making investments themselves."

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