Bright spark Jake Dyson has designed an LED light that lasts for 40 years
How many design engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? One: Jake Dyson, son of Sir James, who hasn’t just changed the lightbulb, but created a new kind of light entirely. In wanting to design a light that lasts a lifetime, Dyson and his company Jake Dyson Products have made Ariel, a sleek, suspended light which lasts 40 years before anything – even the bulb – needs replacing.
Designing lights since 2006, Dyson became frustrated with the stagnant state of lighting, where beautiful lamps are sold for a high price yet designed with little attention to the function. “LEDs have the ability to last for life – that’s why they were invented in the first place,” he says. “But companies sell LED lights that only last seven years so they can sell more in seven years’ time. I want my product to go into spaces where the interior doesn’t want to be changed for at least 25 years: airports or high-profile buildings, for example. What airport would want a light that only lasts seven years? Is there a light out there that answers their needs? Probably not.”
In the basement of their central London offices, “the dungeon” as he calls it, Dyson and his team have tested lights on the market to see if they live up to their claims of long-lasting brightness and efficiency. And – spoiler alert – they don’t. “In some cases you can buy an LED product and six months later it’s 30% less bright – but you won’t realise that because you’re living with it,” Dyson tells me, standing in front of several small mountains of cardboard boxes of his competitors’ products. In comparison, the Ariel will maintain its brightness for 180,000 hours, which if the light was on 12 hours a day, every day, at full brightness, is around 40 years.
Available in two models – as a downlight (for targeted lighting of a kitchen island, or a bank of office desks) and an uplight (for general illumination of a room) – and retailing at around 1,914.14€ when it will be released next May, Ariel certainly isn’t cheap. But it is clever. In the four years it took to design it, Dyson learned that to make an LED’s performance last as long as possible, it needs to be kept under 60 degrees centigrade. For the Ariel, they got the heat down to 55 degrees, using pipes that draw the heat away from the LED as quickly as it is released. “It’s like a big radiator,” Dyson explains. “The heat comes off the pipes, is transferred through the fins, and is then dispersed into the air, so you get a continual cycle of heat being removed.”
The light also has a unique lens to give greater illumination and, as Dyson and his team discovered: “You need three or four of our competitors’ fittings to do what one of ours is doing, and each one of their fittings is the same power as one of ours, so that’s four times more electricity, four times more installation cost, and four times the product purchased cost, so Ariel actually comes out cheaply in comparison.”
The Ariel is also ZigBee WiFi-enabled, so can be controlled via an app, allowing users to set timers, or to link up their Ariel(s) to external light sensors so the light is dimmer on a sunny day, and brighter when it gets darker.
It also records the light’s electricity consumption and converts that into the KW/hour cost in the country it’s installed in – something that, surprisingly, other apps haven’t yet caught onto at this energy-conscious time.
Innovative product design clearly runs in the family. But was the surname a help or a hindrance when Jake Dyson Products took off? “I’m not sure people took the product seriously when I first went out to sell my lights. Everyone in Britain’s got quite bitter about nepotism,” he says, matter-of-factly. In contrast, manufacturing the lights in Malaysia was a doddle: “Companies out there wouldn’t have touched a company [like mine], but because of the power of the Dyson name they bent over backwards to help me.” Ultimately he believes the quality of the product will speak for itself. “In Italy, where they make lights as beautiful objects, they looked at it and went…” Dyson kisses his fingertips: “Bellissimo.”