August 21, 2015
IKEA, the world’s largest furniture company, plans to sell nothing but LED - light emitting diode – bulbs and lights by Sept. 1.
In fact, the South Philadelphia retail store had nothing but LEDs in stock during a recent visit.
The retailer, which announced the move to sell LEDs exclusively two weeks ago, couched its move away from CFL – compact fluorescent lamps – as an eco move, saving energy.
That’s true. An incandescent bulb over the cost of an average year would cost about $4.80 and burn for only 1,000 hours. But an LED would cost just $1 to light and last as many as 25,000 hours. The issue was the initial cost differences.
IKEA's decision means the overall lighting industry will shift faster to LED technology and there will be pressure to further reduce the cost of LED bulbs.
Trends endorsed by IKEA have the power to move markets. The Dutch company with Swedish roots is the largest furnishing retailer in America.
IKEA has more than 100,000 employees in more than 44 countries and revenues of more than $27 billion euros and will have 500 stores by 2020. (Locally, it has another store in Conshohocken.)
By switching to LEDs, IKEA is picking a winner out of the various technologies that have replaced incandescent light bulbs.
In Europe, the sale of incandescent bulbs also stops on Sept. 1. Relatedly, European bureaucrats appear poised to soon come down exclusively on the side of LED bulbs for the future.
The manufacturing of most incandescent bulbs in America has already been phased out. That created a backlash. Some consumers have hoarded the old-fashioned bulbs.
"IKEA saw a big opportunity to help more Americans live a more sustainable life at home," according to spokeswoman Mona Liss. "In 2012, only 49 percent of Americans purchased LED light bulbs for their household. That number has grown to 64 percent just in the last three years, and we believe it will continue to increase as consumer understanding of the benefits of LEDs grows."
Since 2013, IKEA has sold 7.6 million LED bulbs, and is on track to sell 5 million LED bulbs this fiscal year, Liss said.
Customer purchases of 7.6 million LED bulbs have reduced energy consumption by 233,831,392 kilowatt hours, equal to the annual energy consumption of nearly 7,000 households.
Until now, alternatives to power-wasting incandescent bulbs have included halogen lights, CFLs and LEDs.
IKEA’s decision to only sell LEDs, announced first in 2012, shows where the market will head.
The change has already caused an annoyed reaction in Britain, when halogen bulbs are commonplace.
Explaining the move, Steve Howard, IKEA’s sustainability officer in America, said LEDs uses 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 20 years.
Until recently, the knock on LEDs has been that they did not always work on dimmer switches and they are costlier than other lighting alternatives.
But in announcing the switch, IKEA has announced lower cost bulbs – $4.49 for a two-pack that provide the equivalent of 40 watts – and a wider choice of dimmable bulbs.
Howard said LEDs are the “next best thing” to natural light.
Lia Ferrell, 23, has not paid much attention to either price or energy savings when she has shopped for lighting for her home in Philadelphia.
But last week at the South Philly IKEA, she was happy to see so many LED bulbs and fixtures available for lighting the hair salon where she works.
Ferrell checked out with an armload of LED bulbs and a light.