BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When you get right down to it, the incandescent light bulb we use to light our homes has not changed much since Thomas Edison invented it in 1879. Now, couple of LSU students are re-imagining the light bulb, and may soon change the way you see everything in your home.
It all started almost five years ago. LSU student Bin Yu and Business student Leo Zhao came together with the dream of producing energy-saving light bulbs. They started small, with off-the-shelf technology to develop LED light strips – tiny lights linked in small flexible plastic strips – that can be strung together into ropes. Those original strip lights, in a rainbow of colors, now decorate the HITLights offices inside the LSU Business Incubator Program.
Yu and Zhao were one of the original 10 entrepreneurs to apply for help from the program. Back then, Yu says it was about learning how to run a business as much as it was about product development. And business the business was slow to start.
Last year, he partnered his passion for energy efficiency with his love of LSU football. "I'm a big tiger fan. And game day is such a big business in the U.S. We began thinking, 'Can we develop a game day color strip?'" What they came up with is a flexible, weatherproof adhesive strip that lights up purple and gold, perfect to separate a tiger fan from his hard-earned cash.
But that's only a part of what HITLight produces. Even more promising is the brand new, home-use LED light bulb. HITLight uses tiny LED tubes, much like the ones in those strip light, laid out like filaments to produce a bulb that uses 90 percent less energy and last 10 times longer that current light bulbs. And the company is already finding success in local businesses.
When Neighbor's Federal Credit Union C.O.O. Steve Webb remodeled his Perkins Road branch, he began replacing his old florescent lights with LED panels. Only a couple months in to the project, he says he's already seeing improvements. "We're seeing energy savings. We're seeing more effective lighting, and time management. I don't have to have staff running around changing light bulbs all the time." And he and his facilities manager are looking for ways to incorporate the new money-saving technology into the credit union's outdoor lighting.
It's a technology that is slowly getting catching on. Leo Zhao, Yu's business partner, says HITLight has seen its revenue increase 12-fold since 2011. "We believed we would be successful because we have this passion and capability, but to be honest, I never thought the day would come so fast." he said.
All from an LSU-themed strip light. But that original light is much more versatile now. With its new remote control, HITLight's Game Day strip can produce 4096 different color options. Which means Yu and Zhao can separate Alabama fans from their money as well. And that's an idea that make these two LSU graduates smile.
Currently, HITLights LED filament bulbs are only available online at www.hitlights.com. They cost about $9.00 each, but come with a three-year warranty. Yu expects that, like all things electronic, the price will drop as the technology develops.