Blue Diode Inventors Win Nobel Prize

Press release from the Nobel committee today:

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2014 to

Isamu Akasaki
Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan and Nagoya University, Japan

Hiroshi Amano
Nagoya University, Japan

Shuji Nakamura
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

“for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”

Congratulations to the winners!

Unfortunately, this also means increased support for LED lighting, despite the high price, mediocre light quality, technical safety issues, mediocre power factor, glare and blue light hazard to eyes, using up more resources to manufacture, and containing rare earth phosphors which cause much destruction to the environment in mining areas.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/press.html

U.S. Light Bulb Ban – Bad Idea!

Tomorrow the United States’ incandescent phase-out scheme bans incandescent halogen energy savers brighter than 43W (roughly equivalent to a 55W standard incandescent bulb).

The regulation has been found invalid, but the U.S. Government keeps acting as if this is not the case and keeps enforcing the scheme.

Despite most of the world falling for the same deceptive and easily refuted arguments from vested interests, this regulation is an extremely bad idea which will only lower light quality in everyone’s home, put health and the environment at risk and save almost nothing.

The only ones truly benefiting from the ban are lightbulb manufacturers who can sell new, lower quality, technically complicated patentable bulbs, costing up to several hundred times as much as the original lightbulb, and thereby make billions in profit.

Summary of why this regulation is such a bad idea:

Incandescent vs Luminescent Light (pdf)

Article showing how savings will be minuscule at best:

Light Bulb Regulation – President Fails Elementary Math

More  info:

Rik Gheysen’s website

Freedom Lightbulb: How bans are wrongly justified

The Lamp Guide (lightbulb and home lighting guide for the confused consumer)

(See left margin for more related websites, info and article links about the ban.)

Canadian Light Bulb Ban

To us Europeans, Canada has always seemed like the older and wiser sister to the United States. More reflecting and less quick to jump on the band wagon of every new idea adopted by the U.S. to please the largest corporations. That Canada delayed its earlier plans for an incandescent light bulb ban has enforced this impression.

But now Canada seems to be buckling under the pressure of vested interests. We can only hope law makers research the subject more thoroughly than other governments and federations have done before falling for all the blatant and easily refutable lies and exaggerations that made possible a near global ban of the only safe and environmentally friendly lamp ever made.

As always, Freedom Lightbulb has all the details on the ban: Canada to adopt more US Laws beginning with Light Bulbs: Losing Industry, Jobs and Choice, with Hardly any Savings

Light bulbs: Facts & Figures from Ottowa Citizen (The last two points are not correct. CFLs rarely last longer than a standard incandescent lamp, the latter can be made to last 20 000 hours and claimed emission figures are not based in reality).

Here are two well researched documents explaining why an incandescent ban is an extremely bad idea in general, and in Canada in particular.

1. Summary of relevant points by Freedom Lightbulb. Full document: Comment Contribution to the Canadian Light Bulb Regulation Proposal (pdf)

2. Shorter summary of similar points, with photos and diagrams:
Incandescent vs Luminescent Light (pdf)

 

EU Halogen Ban Review

As described in detail by Freedom Light Bulb, the planned halogen ban 2016 is up for review on Monday 25th.

The recommended regulatory changes include:

1. changing the entry into force of the stage 6 requirements to 1 September 2018, allowing LED technology to mature further and reach an optimal time point in terms of monetary and energy savings;

2. removing the current loophole by extending the stage 6 requirements to halogen lamps with G9 and R7s socket;

3. and introducing a provision that luminaires sold after 1 September 2015 should be compatible with LED technology to prevent future obstacles to efficient lighting.

Even the lamp manufacturers themselves find this a bit extreme, as there are no good replacements for some lamps.

The reason for extending the ban to these previously excempt lamp models is that a small number of adapter kits exist which can turn a G9 mini bulb into a frosted incandescent bulb, and an R7 mini tube into a screw-in bulb. The latter is absolutely ridiculous, as such a contraption would not fit in any normal luminaire. These tubes are needed for halogen floodlights and torchieres, for which there are no replacement tubes at all, not even poor quality ones.

Here are 12 good reasons to keep all models of Halogen.

Edit: Kevan Shaw reports from Brussels: The latest from Europe

 

U.S. Incandescent Regulation Found Invalid

Local researcher finds contradiction in incandescent light bulb laws

In 2007, congress passed the bi-partisan Energy Independence and Security Act (or EISA 2007) which included intentions to phase out incandescent light bulbs. According to the chart, 100 watt light bulbs would be phased out by Jan. 1, 2012, 75 watt light bulbs by Jan. 1, 2013 and by Jan. 1 of 2014, there will be no more 60 watt light bulbs available.

“To be perfectly honest, I hate fluorescent lights,” said Schulwitz. “So I looked up the law because they’re taking incandescent light bulbs away from me.”

While Schulwitz was able to find the bill where the impending regulation amendments were spelled out (Section 321(a) of EISA 2007), when he looked up 42 USC 6295(i), the corresponding section of the U.S. Code that deals with energy conservation standards for incandescent lamps, the amendments weren’t there.

“This was very confusing to me for the longest time,” said Schulwitz. “How could this happen? Lawmakers are not the type that are just going to make a mistake like this.”

So as his nature, he kept digging. He found that US Code 6295(i) was amended by Section 322(b) of EISA 2007, which struck out the first paragraph of section 325(i) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, or 42 USC 6995(i), and inserted a new paragraph which does not in fact regulate maximum wattage requirements.

“The very bill that passed wattage requirements, just a page or two later, repeals it,” noted Schulwitz. “They contradicted themselves, and since you can’t have a contradiction in law, the later section erased the contradiction and erased the maximum wattage regulations.”

Schulwitz said after he published his findings on Wikipedia, he believes some law makers noticed, because shortly after, a news article ran which claimed the ban had been overturned.

“But they never really corrected it,” Schulwitz said. “They just took away the funding to enforce the decision… You have a compartmentalized government structure where one end passes the bill that clearly says something, but another part has to compile coherent US code that can’t contradict itself and has to make all the pieces add up all while following the letter of the law.”

While he doubts his discovery will change anything, he still thinks it’s an interesting oversight and said he can’t help but wonder what other types of oversights exist.

How can it not change anything when the regulation cancels itself out??

Just like the EU lightbulb regulation is invalid due to not fulfilling its own requirements.

That is two major federations enforcing regulations that are invalid!

UN Mercury Treaty Phases Out CFLs!

Now CFLs are included on the list of items to be phased out by 2020 due to mercury content!

Wow! Isn’t that rather remarkable for a lamp which all the world has heralded as greener than green? What does Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Project Porchlight and all the other pro-CFL-activists have to say about this?

Rik Gheysens has just made an excellent summary of the whole conference and all that was agreed upon in the treaty: UNEP and CFLs

He also describes the 50 million US$ UN-en.lighten Project that I’ve mentioned earlier, in which Philips & Osram will get paid to flood developing countries with toxic CFLs for another 7 years! (As I hardly think they’re going to hand out free LEDs…) How about some PET solar or LED gravity lamps to replace kerosene, which is one of the stated objectives of the Project? As long as it’s with something truly green and not with toxic CFLs, I’m all for it. But I’m not for replacing safe incandescent lamps with toxic CFLs.

Don’t buy any more CFLs! 

Buy halogen lamps instead and wait for LEDs get better (the LEDs sold now are mostly a ripoff, for which you get very little light of very mediocre quality and untested life span).

CFLs for private use should be banned with no delay.

If incandescent lamps could be banned much quicker than that for no good reason at all, why not make a more decisive effort to get the toxic lamps off the market a s a p?

And the incandescent ban should be lifted immediately, as the incandescent bulb is by far the safest & most environmentally friendly lamp ever made! 

Update Feb 19th: Unfortunately, it seems that the UN treaty limits are set at 5 mg mercury, so that most CFLs will slip through the net anyway:

The wording is not final yet however the draft of the convention recently signed by 140 UN countries proposes a complete ban on manufacture, import and export lamps containing more than 5mg of Mercury from 2020.

International Mercury Convention Picks Wrong Lighting Target

:(

GravityLight!

Gravity light can replace kerosene lamps

Here is a copy of the of the original article by the inventors. Please visit the website for video presentation and more information.

GravityLight: lighting for developing countries

GravityLight is a revolutionary new approach to storing energy and creating illumination. It takes only 3 seconds to lift the weight which powers GravityLight, creating 30 minutes of light on its descent. For free.

Following the initial inspiration of using gravity, and years of perspiration, we have refined the design and it is now ready for production. We need your help to fund the tooling, manufacture and distribution of at least 1000 gravity powered lights. We will gift them to villagers in both Africa and India to use regularly. The follow-up research will tell us how well the lights met their needs, and enable us to refine the design for a more efficient MK2 version. Once we have proved the design, we will be looking to link with NGOs and partners to distribute it as widely as possible. When mass produced the target cost for this light is less than $5.

Why GravityLight?

Did you know that there are currently over 1.5 billion people in the World who have no reliable access to mains electricity? These people rely, instead, on biomass fuels (mostly kerosene) for lighting once the sun goes down.

Lift the weight and let gravity do the rest.

Lift the weight and let gravity do the rest.

The World Bank estimates that, as a result, 780 million women and children inhale smoke which is equivalent to smoking 2 packets of cigarettes every day. 60% of adult, female lung-cancer victims in developing nations are non-smokers. The fumes also cause eye infections and cataracts, but burning kerosene is also more immediately dangerous: 2.5 million people a year, in India alone, suffer severe burns from overturned kerosene lamps. Burning Kerosene also comes with a financial burden: kerosene for lighting ALONE can consume 10 to 20% of a household’s income. This burden traps people in a permanent state of subsistence living, buying cupfuls of fuel for their daily needs, as and when they can.

The burning of Kerosene for lighting also produces 244 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide annually.

Our final prototype with ballast bag and bits. 

GravityLight vs Solar powered lighting.

A commonly held view is that solar powered lighting is the answer to these problems in the developing world. However a number of conflicting factors combine to complicate matters. Solar panels produce electricity only when the sun shines, so the energy needs to be stored in a battery to produce the light when it becomes dark. The amount of energy stored is dependant on the size of the panel, the size of the battery, and how much (if any) sun has shone.

However batteries, panels and lights are expensive, and beyond the reach of people with no savings. Solar lighting projects continue to provide lighting for thousands of people in the developing world, but the spread is slow because the cost is too high for individuals, so they need to be bought and installed by communities instead.

LED bulbs do not attract mosquitos like conventional bulbs.

Lower cost self-contained lamps are becoming more widely available, but batteries are the weak link, because they are expensive and deteriorate through use and over time. Very often, when buying a low cost solar lamp with an inbuilt rechargeable battery, a full third of what you’re paying for is the battery, and you will need to replace it every few years. Assuming you can get a new battery… The capacity is often reduced to save money which limits the use time, after which there is no light.

With GravityLight, however, it only takes a few seconds to lift the weight, which creates enough energy for half an an hour of light, whenever it is needed. It has no batteries to run out, replace or dispose of. It is completely clean and green.

Because there are no running costs after the initial low cost purchase, it has the potential to lift people out of poverty, allowing them to use the money they have saved to buy more powerful solar lighting systems in the future.

Credentials

We are Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, London based designers who have spent 4 years developing GravityLight as an off-line project. We work fortherefore.com, which has over 20 years of experience in designing and developing hand held computing and communication products for a host of pioneers including Psion, Toshiba, NEC, TomTom, Inmarsat, ICO, Sepura, Racal Acoustics, Voller Energy, FreePlay and SolarAid.

We’re using a tried and tested manufacturer who has the right expertise to make GravityLight. We have some links to partner organisations in Africa and need to do the same for India. If you’re part of an organisation and would like to get involved then please contact us. We are particularly looking for contacts in South America.

Visit our skunk-works website here www.deciwatt.org.

Our movie soundtrack kindly created by Belinda from the bush the tree and me.

Check out John Keane’s great Solar For Africa blog.

CFL Fire Risk?

Happened to stumble upon this entertainingly written blog article, about a very serious issue:

Build a home, work on it day and night, stick a Walmart CFL in it and burn it down

“We are in the finishing stages of a way too long project of building our own home and everything is up to current code or better and has been inspected by the county. So yesterday morning when we smelled what seemed to be an electrical fire we started to do some fast investigating. We went to the breaker panel first then the outlets and switch locations in the dinning room where the smell was the strongest. I then went outside to check the crawlspace vents to see if something was on fire under the house, and nothing.

“So looking up I could see one of the CFL bulbs was no longer lit in a ceiling light and we could see a hint of smoke coming out of it. We flipped the light off and got our tall ladder out. Normally CFL’s are cool enough to unscrew even after they’ve been on for a while. Not this Chinese hunks of shit, it was hot as hell and was developing a zit in the transformer housing of the bulb. If it had been left unchecked there’s a pretty good chance it would have caught on fire. So a word to the wise IF YOU BOUGHT ANY GREAT VALUE CFL BULBS TAKE THEM BACK!”

“I’m really starting to believe that the Chinese are doing this on purpose, what a better way to fight a war than to have you enemy buy the weapons of mass destruction from you, and use them on themselves.”

The CFL ‘zit’ 

A CFL in recessed can starting to burn

A CFL in recessed can starting to burn

So, would the house really have caught fire or was this just the normal way for the CFL to expire?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (which welcomes product safety complaints) reports on 124 000 recalled CFLs due to fire hazard. And another case of 158 000 3-way CFLs.

CFL burn-out

CFL burn-out (image via Mail Online)

The Consumer Reports 2011 article, Bulbs pose fire hazard reports on another recall for the same reason:

“More than 300,000 compact fluorescent lightbulbs from Telstar Products have been recalled because they can overheat and possibly cause a fire, according to the company and federal authorities.”

And gives an explanation as to how this may happen:

“When a CFL can no longer light, its electronics still try to turn on the bulb, which could eventually overheat and cause the smoke and discoloration.”

However, government agencies and pro-CFL activists such as Project Porchlight, try to reassure us that this is no cause for concern, that actual fires started are rare, and that the foul smoke from dying CFLs is perfectly normal for this product:

It is normal for some CFL bulbs to smoke a little and even show signs of melted plastic on the ballast (the plastic base of the lamp) at the end of their lives. When CFL bulbs burn out, heat builds up in the ballast and the lamp’s safety feature kicks in: the Voltage Dependent Resistor (VDR) – an electronic component that cuts the circuit (like a circuit breaker).

I’m sure it’s not very healthy breathing in fumes from a smoldering or smoking CFL, even if it doesn’t catch fire!!

To minimise CFL fire risk, this is what the San Fransisco Fire Department advices:

The first and most important recommendation from the San Francisco Fire Marshal regarding any product with a
potential fire hazard is to read the instructions for installation, limitations and warnings that are provided with the
product.

Other important safety information (sometimes printed on the bulb itself) related to CFLs that, if overlooked, can
translate into a fire hazard are outlined below:

• CFLs should not be used in track, recessed or inverted fixtures
• CFLs should not be used with a dimmer switch unless clearly marked otherwise
• CFLs should not be used in place of a 3-way bulb, unless clearly marked otherwise
• CFLs being used outdoors must be enclosed
• CFLs should not be used in emergency exit fixtures or lights

I’d also recommend replacing CFLs before they burn out (literally) by themselves, something which you need to do anyway as they tend to get so much dimmer over time.

Do a little test and remove a CFL you’ve had for more than a year (if it has lasted that long) and put in an equivalent incandescent (like the one that you had there before) or a halogen energy saver just to compare the brightness and light quality. You may be surprised!

And never leave any CFLs (or halogen lamps) burning when you’re not home.

Swedish Consumer Tests Autumn 2012

There were two major Swedish tests made during fall 2012. Råd & Rön and Testfakta. The former is issued by Sweden’s leading consumer organisation, Sveriges Konsumenter, and the latter is a privately owned consumer testing company supplying independent testing of consumer products for major newspapers in Scandinavia.

Råd & Rön

Compact Fluorescent Lamps

I won’t bother making translated tables of the CFL data as they still have the same inherent problems as reported from earlier tests, so nothing new there. Instead I’ll let a translation of the CFL part of the Råd & Rön article summarise their test results:

The quality is more varying among the fluorescent lamps than in LEDs. Our test shows that there are many bad CFLs. Durability is a sensitive subject. Sure, only some lamps had gone out after 2000 hours. (We tested five samples of each lamp.) But many of the poorer quality fluorescent bulbs cannot withstand many on-and-off cycles. Philips Softone 20W can handle just a little over 5 000 on-and-off cycles. Manufacturers indicate lifetimes of 6 000 to 12 000 hours, resulting in a life expectancy of 10 years. This is hardly true for the worst lamps in the test. Sylvania Mini-Lynx Fast Start is a really bad lamp. As all lamps had gone out before 2 000 hours, we could not do the remaining tests.

Not for outdoor lighting

The fluorescent lamps have been on the market for a long time. Many have complained that they take time before reaching full brightness, and this is still the case. This is particularly true in low temperatures. There is a clear disadvantage if you want them in outdoor lighting, or for example in bathrooms and closets where you are anxious to reach full brightness quickly. Philips Softone Candle 8W for example, reached only 2 percent of its light output after 10 seconds when it was lit at plus 5 degrees and 1 percent of its light output at minus 10 degrees [Celcius]. The fluorescent lamps have also consistently slightly worse color accuracy than the old bulbs.

Well, lo and behold! This is the first time Råd & Rön have totally dissed the precious CFLs, even though these problems have been found in every one of their previous tests, and usually a lot worse too – as CFL quality has improved slightly over the last few years compared with the really really bad earlier specimens – which previous Råd & Rön articles have still insisted were mostly great, despite their own test results showing a different story.

So why this sudden change of tune? Ah, because now there is a new, even more politically correct lamp on the market, which makes manufacturers even more billions.

LED bulbs

From September 1st 2012, incandescent bulbs are no longer manufactured in the EU. They are very inefficient, only 10 percent of the energy becomes light, the rest is heat. They have been phased over several years and now the last models are gone.

Interesting that a supposedly independent and neutral consumer test article feels a need to insert the PR line about the alleged – but disproven - energy inefficiency of the now banned incandescent lamp. They don’t seem to realise that this is the equivalent of adding that one of the soda pops in a test “gives you wings” or “because your’re worth it!” when testing face creams.

And then the unabashed PR for their new pet lamp, the LED, just goes on and on:

Now even the LED are entering the market in a big way. They are even more durable and efficient than the fluorescent lamps. Previously, there has not really been models adapted for the fixtures we have in our homes. LEDs have also been very expensive. Now, there are LED lamps in a form that fits into standard fixtures. The prices are also coming down, LED – lights in our test cost from SEK 400 down to 100 each.

Oh hooray! Aren’t we lucky now that we can get a 400 lumen bulb (less than the equivalent of a 40W incandescent) for ‘only’ 10 to 40 €! Old bulbs were 5 SEK (half a euro) and gave a much better light. The lamp industry must be laughing their socks off all the way to the bank: “There’s one born every minute.”

Said to last for 25 years

LEDs are incredibly durable. We have in this test so far let them burn for 2000 hours, and only one copy of all the lights (we tested five samples of each lamp) went out during that time. Since previous tests, we know that LED bulbs can burn longer than that, 5,000 hours. We will let them burn as long this time and will be back with updates of the results. Manufacturers usually specify lifetimes for LED lamps of 15 000 – 25 000 hours, that is, a life expectancy of 15-25 years. There are values ​​that we obviously have not been able to verify.

So, how can Råd & Rön state as a fact that they are “incredibly durable”? Sounds more like a “probably the best lamp in the world” slogan to me. And why not actually test them for the full stated life? Or at least half? Then we would see how little light comes out of them by then, and how durable they really are.

LEDs are also very effective. They consume less energy than fluorescent lamps and much less than halogen lamps. Not to mention the old incandescent light bulbs – an LED bulb uses 80 percent less energy than an old bulb.

For this to be true, they would have to give 5 times more light per lumen than an incandescent, and consistently over time. From their own numbers I get a mean of 4.6 initially and this will decrease over time. Taking the heat replacement effect into account, this number should be cut in half. IKEA, Philips and other lamp producers often claim as much as 85% more effective to make it sound more worthwhile buying these hilariously expensive lamps instead of the CFLs that have now become less profitable.

Lights up at once

LEDs provide plenty of light as soon as you turn the switch, unlike fluorescent lamps. Another advantage is that LED lamps also work well at cold temperatures, the lamps actually work even better then. And even at cold temperatures, the tested bulbs light up immediately. Suitable for outdoor lighting in other words.

Well, not all of them: the Verbatim lamp took longer to light up, according to test data. But yes, LEDs are often a better choice for outdoor fixtures than CFLs in countries with cold winters.

One disadvantage is that the LEDs can have a well cold, almost bluish white light. They also reproduces colors slightly worse than halogen and incandescent bulbs.

But technology advances and the number of lights in the test have received a warmer light, and also a better color reproduction. Osram LED Parathom ClasA60, Ikea Conductors 8, 1W and Philips Led MyVision have received the best results for color among LEDs.

Yes, they are getting better. But they will still never be able to reach the same light quality as incandescent and halogen incandescent lamps because the light is still a composite light, from a mixture of phosphors trying to emulate the real thing.

If in doubt, ask to see how the LED lights in the store before you buy it.

This piece of advice is only partially helpful since the store is not dark. It helps you weed out the clearly blue-white, green-white or violet-white lamps. But as can be seen in my previous LED reviews, a warm-white lamp can look great in the shop. But then when you switch it on at home you’ll find that the colour is a bit off, that it produces a duller ambiance and generally doesn’t feel as good as more natural light sources such as sunlight and incandescent lamps.

Here are the test data put into my own table for easier comparison with old incandescent lamps (click to enlarge):

R&R 2012b LED

I will also add a copy to the Consumer Tests LED page to keep them all together.

Halogen bulbs

The Råd & Rön article continues:

Halogen lamps, on the other hand, have good colour properties. They reproduce colors accurately, just like the old bulbs did. They are also considerably less expensive than both LED lamps and fluorescent lamps, and cost SEK 15-30 each. But they are far less energy efficient and have a shorter lifespan. Ikea 70W Halogen was the only lamp in our tests where all samples still burned after 2000 hours. This means a life of about two years and more promises nor manufacturers.

The table actually shows quite poor results for all the tested halogen lamps. All top quality when it comes to colour rendition and light quality, of course – except one IKEA lamp which also had a higher colour temperature, so they must have done something to it. But quantity-wise, these halogen energy savers appear only marginally more effective than the original equivalent incandescent lamps.

When this happens year after year, despite the fact that it is quite possible to produce halogen lamps with both higher efficacy and durability, I’m starting to suspect that this is by design so as to help these last incandescent-family low-profit lamps out of the market when up for review by the EU Commission in 2014. This is not acceptable!

2012b Halogen

Testfakta

LED bulbs

This test doesn’t measure durability over time but some other interesting features such as flicker and how the light spreads. It also adds an incandescent lamp for reference. Translation of the test article [emphases added]:

Testfakta have investigated eight omnidirectional LED bulbs and compared them with their glowing predecessor. The lamps test correspond to about a 40-watt incandescent bulb in brightness and color temperature.

- One major difference lies in how LEDs spread the light. But what surprised me most was the time it took to light a couple of lamps, and some gave excessive flicker, says Håkan Skoogh, test manager at the Swedish Technical Research Testing.

Together with fluorescent lamps, LED technology is the incandescent-replacing alternative that provides the greatest energy savings.

The Testfakta test also shows that LEDs provide between five and seven times as much light per watt as incandescent lamp. While it differs as much as 30 percent between the most efficient lamp from Jula and the least efficient from Ikea.

- In this context, Ikea’s energy efficiency is on the low side. On the other hand, it has the good color rendering and these things usually go together – if you want good color, you often get poorer efficiency, says Håkan Skoogh.

But it is possible to have both high efficiency and high color rendering. It shows the overall test winner V-Light from Clas Ohlson, which is also among the least expensive lamps in the test. V-Light is the only lamp that comes close to the incandescent bulb’s ability to reproduce colors. Osram, Megaman and Cosna on the other hand, fall just below the limit of what is recommended for home environments.

- Unfortunately, this is a problem that we have to live with for a while in terms of LED technology. If you want the perfect color in the bathroom or above the hall mirror, for example, to see how the clothes match, you may unfortunately put up a halogen lamp instead, says Håkan Skoogh.

Another challenge for the LED industry is that the light from small LEDs is so directional. It is ideal for spotlights, but worse when you want to replace the incandescent bulb’s omni-directional effect. Laboratory measurements clearly show how most of the LEDs spread the light at an angle forward and not so much to the sides.

- If you have for example a decorative lamp with a side shade, then you want some of the light to come through it. But with lamps such as the Osram lamp, a large part of the light rather goes straight up to the ceiling.

The exception among the tested lamps is Connect from Jula. Here, the manufacturer uses another technology with a light guide that leads the light from the diodes and outward.

- It works quite well even if the light ahead will be somewhat weaker than in the bulb, says Håkan Skoogh.

There may also be advantages to different types of light scattering. Forward-facing light is preferable, for example, a desk lamp.

- It would be best if the producers had a light distribution curve on the package so that you as a consumer can see which bulb fits best.

The laboratory also examined how much flicker the lamps produce. Research suggests that flicker from screens and lamps can have adverse medical effects such as fatigue and stress. It was found that the lamps from Jula and Cosna flickered unnecessarily much.

- It shows very clearly and is not good. Flicker has primarily been a problem in old fluorescent and should not be in the LED lights. It must be about poor construction, says Håkan Skoogh.

Another thing that should not have to occur with LED technology is long ignition times. And yet the lamps from Osram and Star Trading clearly react slower later the rest.

- It is unnecessary and distracting, says Håkan Skoogh.

2012 LED Testfakta

Link to Testfakta test table

Article: Billig lampa ger bäst belysning

 

Darkness darkness

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hope your holidays have been good, with lots of love and beautiful lighting.

This post I’d like to dedicate to another, often forgotten, quality when discussing light: darkness. It seems fitting now during the darkest time of the year in my part of the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the summertime and have no wish to go back to living in a medieval darkness with only candles and fire light to read, socialise, travel and work by during the dark part of the day and year.

But our modern world has become almost insanely bright, at all hours of the day. Every last corner must be harshly and evenly illuminated with often cool bright light. We’re living in an era of literal enlightenment, and not all for the better. No room anymore for feeling, romance, mystery, subtlety or imagination.

And not so healthy either. Besides disrupting circadian rhythms in humans indoors, outdoor light pollution from over-illumination and poor beam control is also becoming a growing problem, not just for astronomers but for wild life as well: Ecological light pollution [Thanks to Peter Stenzel for the link.]

And is it not possible that some of us could work or learn just as well, or even better, in less over-illuminated classrooms, offices etc? Especially when sitting down, there is in my opinion no need for the whole room to be so extremely bright, as long as one’s desk or workspace has enough light. With computers, a bright ambience is even counter-productive. This is how offices could look, not just home offices like this one – and it wouldn’t cost more either!

Home office with halogen spots (image from: http://www.organize-utah.com)

Home office with halogen spots
(image from: http://www.organize-utah.com)

And why does public transportation need to be as harshly lit when one is just sitting there trying to relax to and from work, shopping or some social event, and not needing overly bright light to see every dandruff one’s your fellow passenger? A real mood-killer, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be nice if your local public transportation was lit more like this old gem?

Sprague first class (image from: http://www.discoverfrance.net)

Sprague-Thomson train for Paris Métro, first class
(image from: http://www.discoverfrance.net)

And if the stations were more like the magical Grand Central Station in New York?

Grand Centeral Station(image from: http://www.jazzhostels.com)

Grand Centeral Station, New York
(image from: http://www.jazzhostels.com)

Unfortunately, the abundance of mediocre quality lighting follows a historical pattern. In earlier centuries, light was the luxury. A quality commodity like silk or gold. But with the arrival of cheaper, poorer quality gas discharge lamps and fluorescent tubes, suddenly it was possible to flood the general public in bright light at all hours of the day, just like we have been flooded with high quantity but low quality of many other things, from junk food and polyester to cheap reality shows.

As I may have mentioned earlier, there are very clear rules and recommendations for lighting designers to use more quantity than quality for workers and cheap stores, and more quality than quantity for executives, high end boutiques, exclusive hotels, museums, spas, first class train cars, tourist buses, air planes etc, with more harsh, bright, flat and glaring fluorescent light for the former group and more dim, varied, warm, directional, and incandescent lighting for the latter.

Spa lobby, Bankok(image from: http://www.searchthai.net)

Spa lobby, Bankok
(image from: http://www.searchthai.net)

So, darkness, shadow and dimmer or more varied lighting has now become a scarcity, a rare luxury good like silence. Something the affluent few are made to pay premium prices for. But don’t we all actually need darkness just as much as we need light? Can we truly enjoy one without the contrast of the other?

I’ll let Jesse Colin Young & The Youngbloods end this little tribute to shadow and darkness:

CFL Mercury – Watch Your Feet!

I just stumbled on this link with the story of a man who dropped a too hot CFL globe lamp and could not avoid stepping on the mercury-contaminated glass as he stepped off the chair.

This “smaller than a ball point pen” amont of mercury, which CFL proponents try to dismiss as negligible and totally harmless, rotted away the man’s foot down to the bare bone!

(Warning! Very graphic pictures in the link so open at your own risk!)

Energy Saver Globe – Mercury Exposure

This could happen to you or your children or pets if a CFL was knocked over or dropped and accidentally stepped on.

New Philips-Apple LED Innovation

This new Philips RGB bulb can be set to almost any colour, just like other RGB lamps. But instead of a separate remote control, this one is controlled by an iPhone or iPad app, wich makes it a lot more flexible.

Specs given are: 8.5 watts, 600 lumens (equivalent of 50 watt incandescent) and not compatible with existing dimmers – although it seems that lamp brightness can be controlled via the app.

Here is a demonstration from Philips (the spoken text is in English so don’t be put off by the Swedish header):

It’s not available in my country (yet?) so I can’t review it (I also don’t have an iPhone or iPad and it won’t work on my Macbook or Android) so here is another video review instead:

The Apple store website has more reviews.

I’m glad to see new creative ideas being applied to LED technology, making use of what it does best: create coloured light, instead of trying to imitate incandescent lamps – which any non-incandescent light technology is predestined to fail at since you cannot reproduce the quality (glow, feel and colour rendition) of fire-based light without it containing the element of fire.

But very cool that light temperature can be set (and pre-set) to perfectly suit one’s mood and various activity levels during the day. How precisely that works in real life, and how well those settings reproduce existing colours, I’d like to see for myself, but I like the idea so far.

EDIT: Oh, now I saw that this “smart-lamp” was already invented by LIFX and launched in September. The presentation on kickstarter.com and the video on LIFX website shows the exact same features but also working with Android. Seems Philips ripped off the idea and made it an Apple exclusive. That’s not very creative.

And here was me starting to warm to Philips a bit. Ah well… 

Coloured LED Review 2

6W IKEA ‘Dioder’ RGB Lighting Strips

IKEA Dioder (photo: IKEA)

Info: 6W, 90 lumen, 20 000 hour life rate. Strips join together into either one long strip or at angles, e.g. around a small mirror.

Price: About €30.

Colour: All colours, easily picked with control panel. Can be set to monochrome, alternating or fading seamlessly through the spectrum.

Impression: Great product! Very flexible design. More decorative than for illumination but it worked perfectly for the purpose I bought it for, which was to give a soft coloured light from under the basin cabinet while brushing teeth at night (as my bathroom lamps are not dimmable and I can’t stand bright light right into my eyes just before bedtime). So then I use the red setting, which is the darkest and the least melatonin-suppressing.

Red light (photo: Halogenica)

When I have guests or just want a change, I can use other colours and make my bathroom look really festive and colourful with just a click on the control panel.

Green (photo: Halogenica)

Blue (photo: Halogenica)

Violet (photo: Halogenica)

Cool-white (photo: Halogenica)

Love it! Unlike the gloomy excuses for ‘warm-white’ LEDs at IKEA, the varying colours on this one really cheers one up! If I had kids, I’d make a magic room for them with several of these.

I do have my doubts about it lasting for 20 years, but let me get back on that one… ;)

Warm-White LED Review 2

3W Philips ‘MyAmbiance’ LED Candle Lamp

Info: 3W, E14 socket, clear, 136 lumen, 20 000 hour life rate.

Price: Over €10.

Colour: 2700 Kelvin, decently warm-white.

Impression: A similar design as the semi-opaque candle LED but clear. This one too looked nice enough in the shop that I had to try it at home. But alas, same thing again… Decorative design and decent light colour but the reflected light was just dull and gloomy, compared to the brilliant sunny warmth of incandescent light.

And I’m not trying to find fault with LEDs here. Quite the contrary. If someone could produce an LED that gave as nice a light as incandescent lamps, I’d be happy to give my incandescent advocacy a rest and leave well enough alone.

But it’s not good enough. At IKEAs the other week, a whole section of their lamp department was lit by LED lamps only, and the effect was sadly gloomy too. I can not imagine a future with only such poorer quality light available.

LED News Snippets

I’m starting to get really tired of all these LED articles and press-releases now replacing the over-optimistic CFL -pushing articles in the news stream, so sorry for starting out a bit grouchy. But I’ll report them anway.

1. First, this declaration from IKEA has been circulated widely over the last week:

IKEA Chief: We’re Leading America’s LED Lighting Revolution

In his dreams maybe. And our nightmare.

IKEA is setting out to change the way you light your home, one bulb at a time.

The Swedish retailer announced plans this week to become the first U.S. home furnishings chain to sell only LED (light emitting diode) bulbs and lamps by 2016 — a bold push for the widespread adoption of this energy-efficient light source in the American market. The world’s biggest home retailer will phase out its non-LED lighting over the next few years.

Which is none of its business! What happened to consumer choice?? I’m not sure if any promises were made to consumers by the U.S. Government, but the European Commission has promised continued availability of halogen lamps until 2016, so I don’t see how IKEA has a right to make them unavailable. But as the profit margin is now bigger for LEDs than for CFLs and halogen lamps, the decision makes perfect sense. IKEA has had nearly two decades to make huge profits on really crappy CFLs, and now they want to make even greater profits on to pushing crappy LEDs instead and removing all competing products.

Smart, from a business point of view, but not a consumer-friendly decision. As explained in previous posts, there are for example elderly and vision impaired who only see well in incandescent/halogen light. With LEDs there are dimming problems, higher price, poorer colour rendition and you get a gloomier ambiance in your home.

Integral to that plan is educating the U.S. consumer about the many benefits of LED lighting: LEDs are not only more eco-friendly than incandescent bulbs, but also use 85% less energy and are therefore less expensive over time, Mike Ward, president of IKEA USA, told DailyFinance.

Sigh… here we go again. For LEDs to use 85% less energy, they would have to produce about 100 lumen per watt. Even the best LEDs on the market don’t do that, and I very much doubt IKEAs LEDs counts among those, either in quality or quantity.

But selling the idea won’t be a slam dunk, as the initial cost outlay for LED bulbs far exceeds that of incandescent bulbs, Ward concedes. A 40-watt LED bulb costs about $12 at IKEA, whereas an incandescent bulb ranges from approximately 49 cents to 79 cents. But what most Americans (about 73%) don’t know is that LED bulbs last 20 years, according to Wakefield Research cited by IKEA. Incandescent bulbs, by contrast, last only about a year, Ward said.

Oh, I think they do know this since it’s being repeated with the same fervor as the earlier CFL PR slogans (which turned out to be totally false in real life). What consumers may not know, however, is that theirLED light will continue to get weaker and weaker with age, and be useless for illumination long before those 20 years are up. In which time much better lamps will probably have been invented and then you’re stuck with an outdated and increasingly poorly performing lamp for a decade or more.

2. Then Philips wants to blind us further with even more extremely cold and glaring LED car headlamps:

Philips Introduces New X-tremeVision LED Replacement Bulbs

These new X-tremeVision LED bulbs are available in two light color temperatures: 4,000 K and 6,000 K. The 4,000 K white light is much closer to daylight than a traditional incandescent interior bulb. The 6,000 K version takes it up a notch and delivers the bright white look of Xenon HID, yet consumes 13 times less energy, according to Philips.

Grrr. Why would anyone want daylight at night? That is totally unnatural. And trying to emulate Xenon HID is an extremely bad idea since they are the worst headlight lamps ever invented. See also my post Blue light hazard? for how blue light is more glaring and blinding than warmer colour temperatures, which is not exactly helpful in traffic! Extreme light is not what you want to meet on the road when driving at night. Is this a sort of empathy thing? Where the driver is meant to care only about his/her own visibility even if it blinds and endangers meeting traffic?

3. At least LED bulbs for home illumination are getting brighter:

LEDnovation introduces 75W- and 100W-equivalent A-lamps, warm-on-dim BR30

Good.

4. And some of them cheaper, for some markets [translated from Swedish article from earlier this year]:

Ledlampan spränger drömgräns (“LED lamp passes dream limit”)

The Dutch Lemnis Lighting which started selling a joint lamp for $ 4.95. The goal is to attract consumers who are hesitating to buy led lamps as the price so far has been high, often several hundred pieces.

The lamp is relatively simple and can not be dimmed. It delivers 200 lumens, much like a 25 watt bulb, but the effect is only 5 watts. Color temperature is 2700, which gives a warm white light. Colour rendering index, CRI, is 85, and life is said to be 15,000 hours.

So far the lamp only on sale in Lemnis American online store that caters to clients in USA, Mexico and Canada.

Lemnis Lighting has by his own admission has sold more than 5 million LED lights since 2006. When New Technologies in June 2010 tested LED lights representing 40 watt bulbs so got Lemnis candidate best results of the three tested.

One of the founders is also Warner Philips, the great grandson of the founder of lighting giant Philips.

Clearly not in Europe though. Skipping the dimmability I think is a good idea since they don’t dim nicely anyway. I would still not pay even $5 for a 200 lumen LED, but for those who don’t mind the lower light quality it’s good they are making an effort to bring prices down.

5. And innovations can improve function [another Swedish article from September]:

Ledlampan som vänder upp och ner på tekniken (“The LED lamp that turns technology upside-down”)

3M has developed a LED lamp that is unlike any other. While other lamp manufacturers put the diodes in the bulb and the driver electronics in the socket 3M does the opposite.

In a ring in the socket, ten diodes are placed that send the light straight up. The light passes along the contour of the globe, thanks to a waveguide spreading the light over the entire surface to radiate in all directions. Everything to mimic the light from a frosted lightbulb.

The driver electronics are inside the bulb, a slick solution because it is more spacious and airy there, compared to the socket where the electronics usually sit. Many LEDs therefore have bulky heatsinks to prevent the diods from getting too hot and lose both intensity and longevity. In the 3M narrow slits in the bulb helps ventilate the heat.

3M launches two wattages. One of 13.5 watts which provides 800 lumens and can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb. The second is at 8.5 watts and provides 450 lumens, equivalent to a 40 watt bulb. Both are available in two versions for warm white and cold light. Life rate is said to be 25 years if you use the lamp three hours a day on average.

The new lights will be on sale in Walmart stores across the U.S. this fall. The price of the 13.5 watt lamp is as reported in the American press to be 25 US dollars.

 

Light Impressions Update

Last week I revisited the ‘Average Joe’ family to help them improve their lighting.

I came equipped with an assortment of different lamps from my well-supplied stash, including a few CFLs and LEDs, as those might be appropriate for some luminaires.

On closer inspection, it turned out they had replaced almost all their 60 watt incandescent lamps with 11 watt CFLs, like good and responsible citizens have been encouraged to do by their trusted authorities – despite the fact that you get visibly and measurably less light and poorer quality light from such an ill-advised switch. As described in my earlier post, the result was quite appalling.

Worst of all lamps was the one over the kitchen table, a dim yellowish CFL that made the whole kitchen very gloomy and hard to see in. The lovely elderly couple complained over the dimness but it never occurred to them to use another lamp because they had been told an 11 watt CFL should suffice and had missed that halogen replacements even existed. I put in a clear 53 watt halogen energy saver and it was like switching on the sun in their kitchen! The difference really surprised them. Now they could see!

I did the same in the 2 identical living room wall lamps. First I replaced only one of them to let them see the difference both in brightness and how the colour of their rusty red sofa looked more grey in the CFL corner. Also tried the Philips LED lamp and that too did not make colours as vivid as the halogen lamp.

Living room sofa – Halogen energy saver

The dining table already had a beautiful crystal chandelier with a halogen lamp in the middle so no need to do anything there.

A floor lamp with a dim 11 watt CFL got a 28 watt halogen energy saver. We tried different wattages but the family thought 28 W gave just the right cosy feel, with the light still clear enough to see well.

A table lamp that had a sad 7 watt CFL ball got a 15 watt clear incandescent ball. This corner was more grey and gloomy than it looks in this picture:

Table lamp – CFL

Here the difference in light clarity when it was replaced with an incandescent bulb shows very clearly:

Table lamp – Halogen

Then I replaced two frosted incandescent 15 watt ball bulbs in their window luminaires with clear ones. No reason to waste a frosted bulb behind a shade. This made only a slight difference of course, but I wanted to put the precious last specimens of the now extinct frosted bulbs to better use.

Living room window lamp 1 – Clear incandescent ball

The frosted ball got moved to the entrance window lamp (with the 7W CFL ball as backup for when it burned out) to replace a very unwelcoming blue-white clear 3W LED lamp with glaring little light dots seen through a partly clear glass shade.

Entrance window lamp – Frosted incandescent ball

Remember this rule of thumb, folks:

• Frosted or opaque lampshade where you don’t see the bulb – use a clear lamp.

• Clear lampshade, no shade or open shade where you see the bulb – use a frosted lamp.

The difference from these small changes was more striking in real life than shows in the pictures. Being very much an amateur photographer, I found it difficult to capture it on film as the camera keeps trying to compensate for what was lacking in the dimmer and poorer quality bulbs.

All in all, I added another 163 watts to their lighting use. If all those lamps are on an average of 5 hours a day all year, that would make about €9 per year, but as all lamps were indoors and about half the heat from the incandescent bulbs is estimated to help lower the energy bill, that makes about €4.5 per year. That’s about the price of one glossy magazine or two bottles of coke – to be able to both see well and have a nice ambiance in their own home for a whole year.

So do try for yourself and experiment with different lamps to see what type and wattage looks and feels best. It’s not going to cost you as much as you have been drilled to believe. Just turn the light out when leaving the room and it will cost you even less.

NRK CFL Test

Copy of an article posted yesterday on the Norway national television NRK website (translated from Norwegian):

LONG TERM TEST OF LIGHT BULBS:

These energy savers went out first

Nemko test of bulbs (Nemko)
10 of 50 bulbs has already gone out the long-term test. The picture was taken in the laboratory Nemko this week.

Compact fluorescent lamps from Osram Luxram and have poor life in long-term test.

Published 09/15/2012 17:15.

Every fifth bulb has gone out after only half of the specified lifetime. Bulbs from Luxram and Osram had especially poor performance in NRK test.

At the request of NRK Consumer Inspectors, Nemko tested the life of ten different bulbs. Five copies of each lamp were tested.

Now this long-term test has been going on for 5200 hours, which equates to almost five years in consumption if the bulbs are turned on for 2.7 hours each day.

10 of the 50 CFL bulbs have already packed it in, even though most of them are claimed last for 10,000 hours or more, according to information on the packages.

Five of the bulbs had gone out after only 2500 hours.

Luxram and Osram

In Nemko laboratory the bulbs are turned on and off at regular intervals, according to the international test standard.

The result so far allows two lamps stand out as very durable.

All five Luxram bulbs (11 W Energy Saver) has now gone out.

Compact fluorescent lamps from Osram and Luxram
All Luxram bulbs and three Osram bulbs have gone out at mid-term.

Moreover, three of the five bulbs from Osram (Duluxstar Mini Ball) have called it a night.

Approx price for these two bulbs were respectively 29 and 80 kroner, and both have a specified life of 10,000 hours.

One of five bulbs from Energetic (Energy Saver Warm White Bulb Classic) and one lamp of the North Light model from Clas Ohlson has gone out.

Best at other qualities

Although life is so-so, the Osram lamp became test winner as Nemko and NRK tested other qualities of a half ago.

The Osram bulb had good efficacy after both 100 and 1000 hours, and it starts quickly. Osram is admittedly more expensive than many of the others, but uses the least power in return. Read more about the test here.

- We regret the outcome of course, but are surprised by the result, says CEO Arvid Furru in Osram AS.

He questions the fact that only five bulbs of each brand tested. – If they originated from a batch that had a weakness, it may be an explanation for life. In Europe, selling tens of millions Osram series without errors each year, says Furru to NRK.no. He adds that Osram bulbs have three years warranty in Norway. – Customers may experience problems of this type, you switch to a new bulb by contacting us or the store where it was purchased, he said.

- Realistic

Lifetime of bulbs (Photo: Tor Risberg / NRK)
That the package says 10,000 hours / 10 years, does not mean you can expect a long life. Photo: Tor Risberg / NRK

- Luxram doing so badly is not surprising at all. Early in the test, it became clear that these bulbs have poor light output, which is further reduced after 1000 hours. And one of the five Luxram bulbs went out after only 1160 hours, said Erlend Lillelien, head of the knowledge center [national lighting industry representative] Lyskultur. He is more surprised Osram results. – The manufacturer is known for good quality, and these bulbs came out best in the remaining portion of the test. I hope the explanation for poor life is that Osram bulbs stems from a bad batch.

Head of Erlend Lillelien, Lyskultur (Lyskultur)
Information about life can be misleading, says Head of Erlend Lillelien in Lyskultur. Photo: Lyskultur

- But the test is realistic in the sense that all the bulbs are picked straight off the shelves, says Lillelien to NRK.no. He believes many consumers get the wrong impression when labels informs about a ‘life of 10,000 hours.’ – The internationally agreed definition of life is that half of the savings bulbs continue to burn after the 10,000 hours. It is not possible to produce bulbs with a guarantee that all last that long.

- Therefore, the information on the packaging to be rather confusing for the public, says Erlend Lillelien.

- Inadequate

Already in May, three of five Luxram bulbs burned out. CEO Frode Eng at Lampe magazine, which sells Luxram bulbs, admitted then that result is too bad. He, too, was surprised at the poor life, even if he thought it’s a bit unfair to compare the 29-kroner bulbs with others that cost far more.

- But of course we are unhappy with the result. Life indicated on the package of course should be valid, said Eng NRK.no the last time we summarized the test results. Now all Luxram bulbs in the test have burned out.

These are the other bulbs in the test, which have not yet gone out:

  • Philips Softone (T60WW827)
  • IKEA Sparsames
  • Megaman Ultra Compact Classic (GA911i)
  • FIXIT saving bulb
  • Biltema 11 W
  • Europris Power 9 W warm white

The test is still in progress. CFLi have an effect equivalent of between 48 and 60 watts compared with the old incandescent bulbs.

***************************

Halogenica comments:

1. Isn’t it funny that when tests reveal CFL bulbs to not last as long as claimed, the lighting industry representative “hopes” that it was due to “a bad batch”. How about a bad product?

2. And then the representative goes on to state: “The internationally agreed definition of life is that half of the savings bulbs continue to burn after the 10,000 hours. It is not possible to produce bulbs with a guarantee that all last that long. Therefore, the information on the packaging to be rather confusing for the public”.

Confusing is right! But I think fraudulent would be the correct word here. Imagine if the food or pharmaceutical industry said: “Half the products in this line may actually have gone bad by the expiration date. We understand that this must be confusing to our consumers, but it is not possible to produce a product that will keep until the marked expiration date.”

3. And the Luxram retailer thinks the test is unfair? While it does follow a certain logic that cheaper lamps can’t be expected to have the same quality as top brand bulbs, how is it unfair to expect a lamp to last as long as it says on the package? Especially when long life is one of its two major selling points?

4. Interesting also how the article author feels compelled to point out that the Osram lamp still made Best in Test on other qualities. Such as quick startup time and good brightness both after 100 and 1000 hours.

Well, a 100 hours into its life happens to be the peak of any fluorescent lamp’s life according to manufacturers, and good output after 1000 is no insurance of how good it will be after 3000 hours, or 5000 hours – if it lasts that long – or that it even gave as much light as promised in the beginning. Qualities such as colour rendition, dimmability etc are not mentioned at all. (Incandescent and halogen incandescent lamps are far superior in that regard, and startup time is not only quick but instant.)

I’m not at all surprised by these results. The CFL bulb models tend to lose more light and have shorter life than bare tube models due to being enclosed in that outer bulb, trapping heat which affects both life and brightness. And while the very thin diffusing layer on the inside of a frosted incandescent bulb has virtually no effect whatsoever on its light flow, adding another frosted bulb over the already semi opaque tubes has a marked light diminishing effect in CFLs.

It is simply a product which should never have been made, since there are already other lamps that do the same job so much much better.

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