An Ohio-based company called Fiberstars has come up with a way to combine lamps with fiber-optics to create lighting systems that consume far less energy than traditional fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. A single 70-watt metal halide lamp combined with fiber optics can provide as much lighting as eight 50-watt incandescent bulbs. Fiber optics also do not contain mercury like fluorescents. The Declaration of Independence is lit by a Fiberstars system because the light source does not emit ultraviolet rays or heat. "We just did the Magna Carta a couple of months ago," John Davenport, CEO of Fiberstars said. To date, the company, which was founded in the late 1980s and has received around $16 million in federal research grants, has mostly sold its EFO (efficient fiber optics) lighting systems for use in niche applications, in part because fiber costs more. Las Vegas hotels have bought them to beam special effects onto ceilings and walls. Swimming-pool manufacturers have gravitated to the company's lights because all the electronics are located outside the water, thereby eliminating the threat of electrocution.
Rising electricity prices, combined with new regulations, however, could push EFO lighting closer toward the mainstream. The W Hotel in New York plans to install the lights in its notoriously murky hallways. Whole Foods Market has replaced incandescent lights in its seafood departments at various stores with EFO. Not only is electricity consumption down, the ambient temperature of the seafood departments has dropped.
Grocery chain Albertson's ran a trial showing that the lights can reduce energy consumption in freezers. It will now test EFO to light seafood, wine, vegetables and other products. Traditional lights melt ice and can change the flavor of wine. "There's a huge problem with potato greening," said Keith Tarver, an engineering manager at Albertson's. "It removes all of the heat out of the freezer case."
Residential EFO lighting may come next year, Davenport said.