LED Update

Over the last couple of years there has been a very rapid development of LEDs. Some problems still remain, others have been mitigated in innovative ways. Summary from some of the latest studies, reviews and consumer tests (links below):

1. Prices have gone down, from shockingly overpriced to reasonably affordable (≈ 4-40€) (1, 2, 3).

2. Brightness. More higher lumen models (600-800 lm have been introduced, and even a few 1100+ lm), but most LEDs are still low-lumen  (≈ 400 lm) – which make the least economic and environmental sense to replace and make dimmable.

3. Efficacy (lumen/watt) has improved (≈ 80 to 96 lm/w). (My comment: But as always, only if not including poor power factor and heat replacement effect in colder regions.) Both watts and efficacy were found to be overstated in many of the lamps tested, sometimes understated. Usually just by a few per cent, but some lamps gave up to 39% less light than claimed on the box (1, 2, 3).

4. Colour rendering index has technically improved (CRI over 80 for most LEDs, a few even over 90). This, however, does not mean that the spectral power distribution is as even or full-spectrum as incandescent and sunlight, only that it has been tweaked to reproduce the required 8 colour samples more accurately when testing.

5. Light colour has improved for many warm-white LEDs. Only a few years ago most LEDs were a ghastly cool-white and the few marketed as “warm-white” could be anything from yellow, orange, greenish, blueish, or pinkish to a dull grey-white. Now, many LEDs have reached a similar decently warm-white emulation as CFLs finally did after 20 years, but the light colour may still vary between models and correlated colour temperature is often somewhat colder than the stated 2700K, according to the latest Swedish consumer tests (2, 3).

6. Colour consistency over time seems to have improved. A multilateral (pro-LED) European study found that only a few lamps exceeded the 6 MacAdam step tolerance limits after 100 and 1 000 h testing (1).

7. Power Factor can still be a problem and may vary greatly between different brands and models – without obvious connection to price. In the last U.S. DoE tests 2011  PF varied from 0.58-0.98 (6). The 2015 European study found all tested samples “to comply with EU requirements” (1). (But the EU requirements for home LED lamps under 25 W is only 0.5 – which means that those with poor PF may still use up to twice their rated energy!)

8. Dimmability. More LEDs are dimmable – but many are still not compatible with all dimmers, so read the specifications carefully. Some of the dimmable samples tested by Testfakta started humming, flickering or shut off completely when dimmed (2). The European study found similar problems (1).

“Five of the LED lamps purchased for this study were marketed as ‘dimmable’. Of these, two of those lamps were able to be dimmed on both types of dimmers (#6 IKEA, #13 Star Trading). The other three lamps had issues with one of the dimmers. Lamp #5 from LED Connection was not compatible with the leading edge dimmer and Lamps #14 from OSRAM and #15 from Philips were not compatible with the trailing edge dimmer.”

9. Warm-dim LEDs. A new generation of LEDs which turn warmer when dimmed have been introduced, thereby better mimicking natural filament lamps – one of the complaints of earlier LEDs and CFLs. These are more expensive, of course (≈ 15-20 €.) (Will test and post review later.) From the Osram press-release:

“In the evenings, and especially when evenings become longer, many people love the snug, warm glow of a burning candle or open fire. Incandescent and halogen lamps create similarly cozy light by simple dimming, but with modern LED lamps this is technically not quite as simple. To create the popular light effect with 2,000 Kelvin here as well, Osram has integrated state-of-the-art LED technology into its new Glow-Dim models.”

(My comment: Funny that that warm romantic glow, priced by so many, was completely ignored by the lighting industry and legislators both, when it was produced by incandescent lamps. But now that there is a synthetic, heavily overpriced, replacement this quality is used to sell a fake copy of the real thing which we all used to love.)

Osram Glow-Dim
Philips Warm Glow
Airam Dim-to-warm

10. Flicker can still be a problem in some lamps. Last summer Hillevi Hemphälä at the Lund Technical Institute started testing LEDs for flicker. She says it’s hard to for the consumer to know which lamps are good or not, as this is not always reflected in the price. There are LEDs powered by a pulsed current, which is a cheaper construction and facilitates dimming, but it can also increase subliminal flicker.  “Problem med flimmer från LED-lampor” Final test results are yet to be published. Testfakta found the flicker index to vary between 0.01 (virtually no flicker) to 0.11 – but no correlation with the price (2). The multilateral European study said, “The flicker index and percent flicker of the lamps were measured and many lamps had no flicker” (1) – which is a roundabout way of saying that the rest of the lamps did have flicker.

11. Life span appears more reliable than for CFLs. LEDs don’t seem to be sensitive to rapid switching on/off, only to overheating which may make some LEDs expire prematurely.

2014, customers were not so impressed (4):

“We lit up your frustrations when we last spoke about LED light bulbs. More than 300 comments were made, most of them about their poor performance and your dissatisfaction with them not living up to their lifespan claims.”

“We’ve tested 410 LED light bulb samples for 10,000 hours or more, and 75 of those (18%) failed within 10,000 hours, even though they all claim to last much longer. And 69 out of the 185 bulbs (37%) we examined at the 15,000 hour mark had failed by that point. Again, almost all of them claim to last longer than this. So, although there are advances, there’s still room for improvement.”

Swedish consumer test magazine Råd&Rön says all their earlier tested LEDs have lasted longer than 5 000 hours so they discontinued durability tests for LEDs, as the models involved would be replaced in the market by the time the long-term test was done (3).

Philips famous L-prize LED has now passed 40 000 hours with no failures and 93.7- 97.5% lumen maintenance, which is very good compared with CFLs (5). (Its 70€ European cousin is still burning nicely in my outdoor luminaire after 3.5 years.)

In the European study, a few LEDs were non-functional right out of the box ().

“Three of the 170 LED lamps tested were defective and did not operate out of the box (and thus could have been returned for a refund / replacement) – thus these lamps were not used in our testing and those models simply had smaller test samples studied. Two individual LED lamps sold by ccLED (both sample #11) failed during the burn-in. Lamp #12 had one unit fail during measurements, but all the other LED lamps so far have not have problems after 1000 hours of testing.”

12. Light distribution has improved. Spreading the light equally in all directions has been a challenge as diodes are naturally directional with quite a narrow beam angle. To get around that problem, diodes were first just placed around a central stick – with mediocre results. Some brands have now solved this by adding a diffusing lens over a single power-LED die – which also markedly increases the price but gives a light distribution more like that of a traditional bulb (though never with the same sparkling clarity, sunny feeling, or beautiful glow, of course).

LED A prism, Osram (lysman.com)

13. Filament LEDs. A new type of filament LED has also been introduced, both to give a better 360° light, and to replace the old Edison-type decorative carbon filament bulbs (which is probably why the EU commission is now removing the exception for those in the latest Directive amendment). It consists of tiny diodes packed closely together on 2 to 8 filaments inside the bulb. This also reduces internal heat and the need for a heavy and cumbersome heat sink, so this type of lamp can be made neater, more light-weight and closer to the original incandescent bulb. (Again, interesting how so much effort is put into trying to emulate all the quality and design advantages of the banned bulb if it was so bad.) 

LED Filament 2200K (E27)

I tested a filament LED with CRI 90 (= improved colour rendition) from Star Trading.  For me it was still not close enough to want to replace a real incandescent bulb in my living room, but OK for outdoors. Others might find it acceptable.

LED decorative c

Filament LED

14. Temperature-tolerance. LED lamps are ideal for outdoors, even in the winter, as they are not sensitive to cold like CFLs (which can take forever to light up in cold temperatures). Outdoor lamps are also the most worthwhile replacing if left on for many hours per day, or night. However, LEDs are still sensitive to heat and cannot be used for example in a sauna. Only incandescent/halogen lamps tolerate heat well.

15. Health risks risks may still be an issue. This LEDs Magazine summary is from 2010 but LED light has not changed substantially, other than glare often being less of an issue than with early lamps. But they still contain more blue light which can irritate the eye, disrupt circadian rhythm and be harmful to people with blue-light sensitive eye conditions. Flicker can also be disrupting (and for epileptics even dangerous). Others experience a various symptoms, e.g. migraines, vertigo, nausea, inexplicable visual distortions that make it impossible to see in LED lighting and much more. An anecdotal example sent to Incandescent Anna:

“I am extremely sensitive to LED lighting both indoor and outdoor. They have been erected outside my home and now I can’t even step in to my own front garden without symptoms of severe eye pain, migraine, nausea, vomiting, aura, vertigo, increased heart rate and ringing in my ears. It hits me immediately and the severity and length of symptoms depend on the length of time I’m exposed. 
I have known for 7 or 8 years of this extreme intolerance to LED when I first got a DS Lite, back-lit with LED and I couldn’t bare to look at it. I can’t use any LED backlit phones or monitors. I don’t think that my symptoms are getting worse but my recovery period is now non existent because LED is everywhere. If I am round CFL for a prolonged period I develop headache and agitation but nothing like the symptoms I have around LED.”

16. LED li-fi. LED lamps can now be used for delivering ultra fast wi-fi. Considering how many have experienced severe symptoms from smart meters, does this sound like a good idea?

Tests & Reviews

1. Test Report – Clear, Non-Directional LED Lamps (Swedish Energy Agency, Belgian government, CLASP’s European Programme, eceee, 2014-2015)
eceee – summary of above test
2.Testfakta – test table (Sweden 2015, partly in English)
“LED närmar sig glödlampans ljuskvalitet” (test article in Swedish)
3. Råd & Rön – LED test (Sweden, 2015-2016, 25 SEK to read)
4.“A Nobel Prize for LED bulbs but do they get your vote?” (UK, Oct 2014)
5. “DOE Testing of L Prize LED lamp passes 40 000 hours” (USA, Aug 2015)
6. U.S. DoE – CALiPER SSL tests (USA, 2007-2016, detailed but not very updated)
Stiftung Warentest – Lampen im Test Das beste Licht für Sie (Germany, 2015, 3€)
Consumentengids – Test Ledlampen.pdf (Netherlands, 2015)
CNet – Best LED Light Bulbs (2016)
Best LED Light Bulb Reviews and Comparisons
 (2016)

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

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.

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

 

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.

 

Warm-White LED Review

This week I bought two LED lamps. I picked the ones that looked best in each store, to see how they would look in a home environment.

First up is the less famous cousin of L Prize lamp (previously reviewed by SaveTheBulb):

12W Philips ‘MyAmbiance’ GLS Bulb

MyAmbiance in package

Info: 12W (12.5 really, but it’s marked 12W), E27 socket, 806 lumen (about 200 lumen more than most 60 W-replacement CFLs!), dimmable, 25 000 hour life rate, “Made in China”.

Price: Almost €70!

Colour: 2700 Kelvin, and truly warm-white.

Impression: First impression is how heavy it is! Almost 200 grams when I weighed it. A standard incandescent A-bulb weighs 25 grams. (Edit: grams, not kilograms.)

Brightest LED for home use that I’ve seen so far. Even quite glaring, so best used with a lamp shade.

While it looks very incandescent-like when you look at the lamp itself, the light from it is visibly not quite the same quality as that from incandescent lamps. Comparing it with the crystal clear halogen light it renders colours somewhat greyer. And when using it as the only light in the room, the whole ambiance turns a bit gloomy and dull, though more subtly so than lower quality LEDs and CFLs. And still the best I’ve seen so far.

Next I tried to dim it and got the similar unpleasant surprises as Kevan Shaw in his review above. 1) It immediately started buzzing! 2) Light colour got colder. 3) I was not able to dim it very far before it cut out altogether. But at least it didn’t fry my dimmer…

Edit: It also got very hot after I’d left it in for a while and tried to remove it again. Not as burning hot as a halogen lamp of course, but still enough to require gloves or leaving it to cool for a while.

I think I’ll use it as replacement for my 53W halogen porch lamp. Then I can leave it on when leaving home during the dark season.

Update: This is how it looked when I put it in. Good enough for outdoors, but the light is not quite as clear as that from the halogen lamp, and still has that ever-so-slight pink-white tint of all phosphor-coated light sources, though too subtle to catch on camera.

Update 9 Oct: I could no longer stand the unnatural fluorescent-looking pinkish light, so today this expensive LED got switched to one of the 60W carbon filament incandescents I’ve hoarded and now my porch looks nice and cosy again.

3W Rusta LED Candle Lamp

3W LED candle in package

Info: 3W, E14 socket, 1-diod, 100 lumen, 140 degree beam angle, non-dimmable, 25 000 hour life rate.

Price: About €9.

Colour: 2700 K and fairly warm-white.

Impression: This one caught my eye in the store as the lit demonstration lamp looked different than other LEDs I’ve seen in that it was somewhere inbetween clear and frosted, with a thick, semi-transparent, very cleverly designed inner glass that focuses the light and makes it look almost like a decent bright point replacement for a chandelier incandescent candle lamp.

3W LED candle

However, it disappointingly looked better in the shop (and in the above picture) than in real life at home. Light colour not quite as warm as such a low-watt lamp should be, more pinkish-white than in my photo. It also had a duller light and created a gloomier ambiance than my original incandescent lamp.

Funny thing happened when I put it in… As I held it by the painted metal base, it started glowing faintly blue at skin contact, even though the light switch for that particular luminaire was turned off.

*****

I think this will be all for a while. If these are the best lamps I could find on the household market today, I see no use in reviewing any of the lamps that looked inferior already in the store.

(If anyone thinks they have a lamp that is better than these, feel free to send me a sample. My mail address can be found on the About page.)

Incandescent Light Quality

Bye Bye Light Bulb – Do NOT Rest In Peace!

Now the last standard incandescent bulbs (15W, 25W, 40W) are banned from production and import in the EU. Remaining stocks may still be sold. Small special lamps, some decorative and rough service lamps will still be available (see Freedom Lightbulb for details). Reflector lamps will be restricted from next year and most incandescent halogen lamps from 2016.

This is truly sad because there is NO replacement for incandescent light quality, because the alternatives do no not produce light by incandescence (glow) but by technical, electronic and chemical processes which create radically different light properties, besides containing both more electronics and more potentially toxic, environmentally destroying or rare and expensive substances.

Here I’ve made a rough overview of lamp types family tree:

Whereas standard incandescent lamps and halogen incandescent lamps can be said to be ‘siblings’, all other lamp types have nothing more in common with incandescent lamps than being powered by electricity.

So, no matter how much effort is put into creating a phosphor mix that will superficially look more or less incandescent-like, it will just never be the same because it is a chemical composite light, a sort of digital soul-less light, totally lacking the warm natural glow of incandescence.

Banning a top quality product in favour of totally different and quality-wise inferior products is like banning wine with the argument that “wine-lovers can just as well drink cider, practically the same thing” because both are mildly alcoholic beverages with a superficial similarity. Or banning silk because there are micro-fibre materials with a silk-like look – everyone knows it’s not the same thing! Both have their respective uses and both should naturally be available on the market unless harmful.

What’s so special about incandescent light then?

Incandescent light (along with sunlight) is the ‘gold standard’ against which all other types of light is measured (even according the Global Lighting Association, p. 10 in this document). This is why so much effort has been put into trying to copy its light colour, colour rendering capacity, dimmability, heat- & cold resistance, perfect power factor and other unique qualities – without ever having hope of succeeding on more than the most superficial levels, because:

• Unlike other artificial light sources, incandescent and halogen lamps are tungsten black-body radiators, a safely contained and electrically amplified version of the same fire-light which humanity has evolved with since fire was first discovered. Lighting designer Ed Cansino in a highly informative interview:

“…if I were forced to choose the best lighting for residential overall, it would have to be incandescent. I feel that we as humans have had a deep connection to flame for many thousands of years. It’s almost like it’s in our DNA. It’s interesting that as time moves on, people are still drawn to sitting around the camp fire, a fireplace, even a barbecue. Think of a Yule log. It’s just that this particular quality of light is ingrained in us. You can even get a screen saver of log flames. Incandescents with their glowing filaments are a form of flame and are thus an extension of this inborn affinity that we have for fire.”

(photo: ALAMY, source: www.telegraph.co.uk)

• Incandescent light colour follows the Planck curve so that when dimmed or used at lower wattages, the light colour gets proportionally warmer and more candle like. Increase brightness or use a higher watt lamp, and it gets whiter again. This is how a natural light source behaves. Whereas LED and CFL gets more blue, green or grey, even if they were reasonably warm-white at full power. Example of how an incandescent (left) and an LED (right) looks before and after dimming in a Consumer Reports test lab video from KOMO News (click on link to see full video, these are only snapshots):

Incandescent & LED full power
(source: http://www.komonews.com)

Incandescent & LED dimmed(source: www.komonews.com)

Incandescent & LED dimmed
(source: http://www.komonews.com)

• Like natural daylight, incandescent light has the highest possible colour rendering (CRI 100) due to naturally continuous spectrum, and a warm-white, human-friendly light which radiates and makes colours come alive (unlike the duller light from CFLs and LEDs with CRI just over 80).

Strawberries (source: http://www.cielux.com)

Ron Rosenbaum describes it more poetically:

I’ve tried the new CFLs, and they are a genuine improvement—they don’t flicker perceptibly, or buzz, or make your skin look green. There is a difference, and I’d be in favor of replacing all current fluorescent bulbs with CFLs. But even CFLs glare and blare—they don’t have that inimitable incandescent glow. So don’t let them take lamplight away. Don’t let them ban beauty.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a plea for Ye Olde Times, for gaslight and quill pens. It’s just a plea not to take for granted the way we illuminate our world. Not all change is improvement. Why do I put such a premium on incandescence? For one thing, I am a bit romantic about it. A lamp fitted with an incandescent bulb and dim translucent shades casts a lovely, painterly glow on human faces, while the light of fluorescents recalls a meat locker.

Why do you think there is such artistry to so many lampshades? They are the lingerie of light.

But the appeal of incandescence is not just a matter of romance. I suspect there are also answers to be found in the physics and linguistics of incandescence.

I’d speculate that it has something to do with the different ways light is created by incandescents and fluorescents. Incandescent light is created by heat, by the way an electric current turns a thin metal filament (usually tungsten) red then white hot in a transparent or translucent globe filled with an inert gas that prevents the filament from burning up, allowing it to give off a steady glow. (That explains the warmth: The fact that incandescence emanates from heat creates warmth, distinguishes it from the cold creepiness of fluorescence.)

Fluorescent light bulbs, on the other hand, are coated inside with chemical material that lights up as energy reaches the tubes. (It’s a bit more complicated than this, but that’s the general idea.) Fluorescents sometimes appear to flicker because alternating current brings that energy to the bulbs in pulses, rather than steadily. In incandescents, the hot filament stays hot—and therefore bright—despite alternations in current; it can’t cool fast enough to dim or flicker.

The new CFLs pulse faster than their ancestors, so the flickering is less perceptible, but at some level, it’s still there. CFL manufacturers may be right that the new bulbs are an improvement, but there is still something discontinuous, digital, something chillingly one-and-zero about fluorescence, while incandescent lights offer the reassurance of continuity rather than an alternation of being and nothingness.

Who wants to have a romantic dinner in the dull gloomy light of a CFL or LED? I’ve been to such restaurants and it was just awful!

Halogen-lit restaurant in Waikiki
(source: http://www.chefmavro.com)

And why do lighting designers or business owners often choose soft warm incandescent lamps or bright glittering halogen spotlights in hotels, spas, reception areas, high-end boutiques etc? Because they are well aware of the fact that no other light can create such attractive, intimate, relaxing or luxurious-looking environments.

Halogen-lit jewellry store
(source: http://www.pdmurphyjewellers.com)

Leaving many in the dark

There are both visible and measurable differences in quality between incandescent light and the light from even the best CFLs and LEDs on the market, well known to the lighting industry and documented in their own technical specifications.

If there is a more efficient product within the same group, that has exactly the same properties and not just similar (including spectral power distribution, colour rendition, power factor, glare safety, price, fit, availability, functionality etc) a ban might be tolerable if not acceptable. But you cannot reasonably replace a product from one group with a product of a completely different technology without getting something altogether different. Some may not mind the difference, but for those who do, the original, higher quality product must remain available.

Also, there are many sensitive people in general and light sensitive people in particular who experience everything from discomfort or dislike to severe symtoms from the recommended alternatives. There are also the elderly to consider. Even the extremely pro-ban Swedish Energy Agency (STEM) representative Kalle Hashmi earlier pointed out that:

When you get older, 60+, you need more light to be able to see, and our ability to distinguish colours and contrasts diminishes. Then we need to choose a light that solves all three problems. When in a situation where colour rendition is very important, where you need to match colours, then it is very important to use a mains voltage halogen lamp because it has much better colour rendering capacity. It can be a situation like cooking, where all colours seem matte to the eyes. So what an elderly person perceives as ‘brown’ may actually be burnt. With halogen you see better.

In other words, incandescent light. The banning of frosted incandescent and halogen replacement lamps already creates a lot more glare – something the ageing eye is also more sensitive to. So what will the elderly or vision impaired do when halogen incandescent lamps are also banned? And all those of us who simply enjoy beauty and warmth and who prefer to save by dimming or switching lights off when not in use, rather than compromise on quality?

Not to mention artists, photographers, designers and many other groups dependent on perfect colour rendition to be able to do their job.

Update: This song perfectly captures how many of us feel:

FL/CFL or LED light may have its use where lamps are left on all day and quantity matters more than quality, e.g. at work, in public building corridors etc, but not necessarily in all retail, hospitality or domestic environments where consumers expect a more attractive and/or relaxing light. There is certainly no, even remotely similar, replacement for the romantic glow of the ‘carbon-filament’ type decorative bulb often used in restaurants, for example.

Light is like air, food and water – it is essential to our well-being. And quality matters!

In the words of lighting designer Howard Brandston:

Human beings evolved with and in response to light—sunlight, moonlight, the incandescence of fire. Our physical mechanism, the neuroscience that makes us who we are, is exquisitely attuned to light’s qualities and rhythms. The light that envelops us steers our very existence. To impose limitations on how we choose to illuminate our world carries profound biological implications.

Lighting is one of the most powerful mood-enhancers, can markedly affect how environments are perceived, as well as both comfort, well-being and health.

This is why many lighting designers are upset over being robbed of one of the many tools of their craft. It is their job to create the most optimal lighting environments where energy use, cost, quality, quantity, desired functionality, mood etc are all factors to weigh against each other for each unique situation, which they, unlike politicians, are well educated to do.

Lighting designers against the incandescent ban

IALD – International Association of Lighting Designers
IALD Statement

Jeff Miller, President-elect IALD, Director of Pivotal Lighting, statement

PLDA – Professional Lighting Designers’ Association
PLDA Statement

Kevan Shaw Lighting Design, PLDA Director for Sustainability
Summary of points against the CFL Save The Bulb blog

Michael Gehring, Principal of KGM Architectural Lighting
Gehring statement

Scott Yu, Principal, Chief Creative Officer of Vode Lighting
Yu statement

Howard M Brandston, FIES, Hon. FCIBSE & SLL, FIALD, LC
Brandston Statement

SaveTheBulb also lists Artists against the incandescent lamp ban

 

 

Consumer Tests

Update Aug 9: The Swedish consumer tests in this post have been moved to separate pages, with tables updated and 2012 test info added:

Incandescent (1997, 2004)
Halogen (2010, 2011, 2012)
CFL (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
LED (2011, 2012)

Solar Lighting Solutions

To focus on something other than the bulb issue for a bit, here are some great solar lighting solutions.

1. Hybrid Solar Lighting

Never mind the inflated numbers for lighting at the beginning. All this fiber optic lighting installation needs to operate is one 9V battery per week. A standard flourescent tube takes over when it starts getting dark outside. This type of installation is probably most suited for offices and shops, in buildings that are not too tall.

Fiber-optically transmitted light was all the rage in the 90s, but now we rarely hear much about it. For museums especially it is ideal, as one can get the light without the IR and UV components that bleach or damage sensitive objects. The light source does not have to be solar even though solar makes it a more energy saving technology. Fibre optics can be used with any light source of choice.

Fiber Optic Lighting

2. Solar Tubes

Another, simpler, technology to get sunlight is to use solar tubes for leading the sunlight into one’s house.

3. Solar Bottle Bulbs

An even more low-tech version for sunny countries if you have no electricity:

Of course, 2 and 3 two only work in the daytime, but that’s still quite a few hours per day when no use of stinking polluting kerosene or other alternative light sources are needed, for example solar powered light.

4. Solar Powered Light

Earth Techling has many great articles on how solar light is used over the globe, from quake aid to landing strips.

Here is an example of how you can make solar powered garden lights work indoors (ugly blue-white LED light in my opinion, but some may not mind it):

There are also solar powered street lights.

So, why not use sun light more?


Vu1 – A New One

After CFL and LEDs, now a completely new lamp technology from an independent company is finally about to enter the market!

Quoting part of the October 2010 introduction from the C|Net  article “Vu1 readies efficient lightbulb Edison would love“:

Vu1 (pronounced “View one”) today said that it received UL certification for its first lightbulb which it says matches the light quality of incandescent bulbs but uses a fraction of the energy and costs less than current LEDs.

Its technology, which the company calls electronically stimulated luminescence (ESL), is derived from cathode ray tubes used in televisions, said president and CEO Philip Styles. Electrons are fired at a bulb coated in phosphors which are excited and emit light. The effect is a “natural light,” which is the same as a traditional incandescent, Styles said.

“It’s basically old technology that everybody just gave up on some years ago because it’s based on the TV side, not lighting,” he said.

Because of the phosphors Vu1 is using, it can better match the light spectrum of incandescent light than competing technologies, Styles said.

Its first product, which Vu1 intends to start making early next year, is an R30 floodlight for recessed cans which produces as much light as a 65-watt incandescent at 870 lumens while consuming 19 watts. An Energy Star-compliant compact fluorescent light with similar output consumes about 13 watts. But unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, Vu1 bulbs will not have mercury. The cost is projected to be under $20, said Styles.

And now the day has come!

Well, almost… Last Friday, ahead of official launch date, Lowe’s started selling the long-awaited Vu1 lamps online (for a lower price than projected, $14.98) but only a few lucky buyers were able to place an order. Yesterday, the Vu1 corporation CEO issued a letter explaining why. It seems Lowe’s need to revamp their website to create a new product category since the Vu1 will not fit into existing lamp categories. Once that’s taken care of, online order should work again.

Early reports from those who received their bulbs are mostly positive regarding light quality. (I’ll be back with a review if I can get hold of one myself.) Update: seems that may be several years down the line as they are not yet produced for European mains voltage.

Update Aug 2012: The Vu1 lamp has received much positive attention but the company seems to still have problems delivering the lamps to U.S. retail stores, so eager consumers have to be very patient.

LED Luminaire Review

After seeing it on the Northern Light Fair I wanted to test one of Lampkonsulenten‘s floor reflector luminaires with warm-white high-quality LED in a home setting, as a reading/bed light.

Info: Price around €150. Expected lamp life around 50 000 hrs.

Impression: Compared with an equivalent halogen floor spot of similar model, it actually lit up the pages of a book better and enhanced the contrast. LED light is very directional and this was no exception so it really focused all light on the book. However, when trying it for mood lighting it did not sparkle and spread the light around the room like the halogen lamp; the light sort of faded mid-air. When used as sole illumination, it made the room look a bit cool, dead and gloomy.

From these observations I draw the following conclusions:

1. A bit of incandescent/halogen light is clearly needed in order to create a warm and alive feel to the room. LEDs should thus be used as complementary light for specific tasks, or for decoration, not as primary light source.

2. LED is by nature a directional light source and should be used as such. Trying to get it to spread light in all directions like a standard bulb will just scatter the light so that the bulb illuminates little more than itself.

3. LED light is best utilised at fairly close range when using it for illumination.

4. Warm-white LEDs may need to have an even lower correlated colour temperature than incandescent lamps in order to appear as warm.

Northern Light Fair

Yesterday I was at the Northern Light Fair in Stockholm to check out the latest lamps.

CFLs

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by most CFLs displayed. Both Osram, Megaman and italian Leuci had CFLs in good incandescent-like colour, looking decently bright too.

One of Osram’s displays. The lamps left and middle are CFLs, and the 5 to the right are decorative incandescent (which looked brighter in real life).

LEDs

While the LEDs certainly have improved since my last visit to the Light Fair two years ago, there are still huge quality differences between different types of LEDs.

First I checked out the holiday lights; strings, icicles, candelabras etc.

As usual, coloured ones were great, the cool-white horrid, and the warm-white ones of varying quality. Some were pink-white, others ugly yellow, but a few were actually very incandescent-looking, so clearly they are improving. However, only in light colour, not in light output.

In this picture the difference between the somewhat pale LEDs (to the left) and the glowing traditional incandescent strings (to the right) is clearly visible, even though it is clearer in real life.

Strings with many little light points still work as decorative lights, but in the candelabras there wasn’t enough light to radiate outwards, just a dull and gloomy glow inside the little bulbs, clearly not nearly as bright as the incandescent candelabra next to it and not at all giving that warm Christmas feel that you want from an electric candelabra.

In this picture the real incandescent candelabra is the glowing one in the lower left corner. The duller ones that don’t radiate are LED.

Next, I looked at non-decorative LEDs. Again I found great quality variations in the various attempts at producing bright warm-white light. I was not impressed with any of the LED retrofit bulbs from Osram, Megaman and Leuci. Bleak light, colour not quite right, still insisting on the less-than-great idea of putting LEDs in a retrofit bulb etc.

The best LEDs came integrated in luminaires from Norwegian luminaire company Lampkonsulenten. Their high power LEDs were of a completely different quality class and came in white and warm-white light which both looked decently incandescent-like and decently bright and radiating (as far as I was able to tell in this well-lit commercial setting; I’d have to try one at home to see if this impression holds). Compared to these quality LEDs, all others on the fair looked like a joke. But it made me a bit more optimistic regarding the options available for professional lighting designers even if their output is still limited and the quality not quite as high as real incandescent light. But I think they would do well compared with metal halide for example, at least quality-wise.

Halogen

Both Osram and Leuci had excellent halogen energy savers. The Osram representative said it is technically possible to make halogen lamps much more effective even without the integrated low-voltage transformer (which Philips use for their B-class halogen lamps) but it requires more R&D so they want to be sure there is enough market for it before investing and didn’t seem in a hurry to do so before EU bans C-class lamps in 2016.

So do let them know if you’re interested in even more effective halogen lamps now! If you like real incandescent light, this is the replacement to go for.

Luminaires

On the luminaire side, I found a great variety and much creativity. General trend seems to be softer shapes compared to the cold, hard designs that totally dominated the market just a couple of years ago, fewer black lamp shades (finally!) and much playfulness, e.g. integrating decorative LEDs in the design, using new materials in creative combinations, and making crystal chandeliers that truly look like something from this century.

Just a brief example.

White LED Reviews

Here I’ll review LEDs as I find them. The last two at the bottom are new for today. (Prices include 20% VAT and may vary between countries.)

1.2 W Anslut ‘warm-white’ GU10 20-point reflector lamp

Info: 20-diode spotlight. Price was decent for an LED, just over 6€.

Impression: Don’t quite know what to make of this one. On the one hand it’s impressive to get so much light – at least in one direction – out of what is only 1.2 watts!

I picked this particular lamp because the light looked more white than the markedly green-white or blue-white I’d seen previously. It seems to have decent colour rendering too, both to the naked eye and in my DVD-test where I could see the full spectrum reflected without any large visible gaps.

Colour: Still slightly green-white (which is not surprising as ‘warm-white’ LEDs usually consist of blue diodes with yellow filters). Some may like this slightly cooler light (around 3000K, but gets a little warmer over time) but for my personal taste it still looks too much like FL light and gives my kitchen an industrial feel which does not complement the warm colours and traditional design in a good way. It did however, throw the light down onto my freezer in a very distinct way.

I have to say I was disappointed as I prefer mercury-free LED before CFL and would love to find a good enough LED to recommend instead. For commercial purposes fine, but not for home lighting unless that industrial feel is what you prefer. I’ll keep looking.

 1.8 W Kjell & Co ‘warm-white’ frosted E27 mini globe

Info: Price around 12€.

Impression: This lamp is a joke. It’s not even remotely warm-white, it’s cool-white like a moon-beam, and about as dim. It gives only 65 lumen, less than a 10W incandescent, which is good for absolutely nothing. You certainly can’t read in it and it’s not warm enough to be used as mood-lighting (except at a Halloween party perahps). And this was the brightest LED globe light I could find in Stockholm retail stores!

Looking at the small print on the back of the package it says this lamp type is recommended “for decoration” or “for dark spaces like the cellar stairs, the attic passage-way, the garage or storage area”. But it is not decorative, just dim and generally gloomy, now why would anyone want to put such a light in their cellar stairs and risk breaking their neck, or in spaces that are usually already creepy enough without adding a dim ghost light to it?

The only reasonable application would be as night light, but as this bulb requires a real luminaire with a full E27-socket, which makes it useless as night light too. (Instead, see my Coloured LED Reviews for a really great LED plug-in nightlight that costs only slightly more.)

4 W clear ‘warm-white’ SMD E27 mini globe

Info: Price around 19€. Rated life 50 000 hours. 350 lumen or “about as much light as a 40W incandescent but using 1/10th the energy”. Will not get warm, light up 100% in half a second.

Impression: Yes, like all LEDs it lights up instantly and is luke-warm enough to touch even after being on for a while.

Colour: Warm-pink-white that looks similar to ‘warm-white’ fluorescent light rather than to golden-white incandescent light.

Brightness: Nowhere near that of a 40W incandescent. The 350 lm may be correct but a 40W incandescent gives 410-505 lumen and visual comparison between an incandescent 40W lamp seems to confirm it, so this seems to be another case of consumer fraud.

At the same time it is too glaring to the naked eye and must be used in a lamp with a thick shade so that the glaring little dots don’t shine through. Which reduces its brightness even more as it is designed to throw light to the sides rather than downwards. Tried it in different luminaires. In modern table- & floor luminaires it doesn’t work very well: what little light that finds its way out of the shade is very dim and gloomy indeed, and of no use whatsoever. A classic architect luminaire seems to be the only one it works with. The wide shade spreads the light much better than the very directional GU10 spotlight. In this luminaire it works for reading if you can ignore the faint light dots reflected on the page.

Light quality: Like the other LEDs, the spectrum of this one is continuous in the warm end of the spectrum but spiky in the blue end. Colour in the room look sort of dampend, as if seen through a grey filter. Whatever room I try it in, it turns all gloomy and depressing. No life.

3 W Cree ‘warm-white’ frosted E14 mini globe

Info: Price around 24€. 120 lumen or equivalent of a 25W incandescent. 50 000 hr life. Ceramic foot and chromed aluminium house.

Impression: The frosted glass makes this one easier on the eyes and works well enough to read in. The socket limits its usefulness as its long heat sink makes it stick out too far in all the various E14 reflector luminaires I have. Putting it in a luminaire with a shade will reduce light output too much. The best fit would probably be in a vanity light for those who want a non-glaring white.

Colour: Cool-pink-white. More like fluorescent light and even less incandescent-like than the Osram CFL tested above.

Brightness: Again erroneous equivalence info. An 25W incandescent lamp gives 215-235 lm so a 120 lm should not be enough to replace it. However, this one actually seems even brighter than a 25W incandescent, though the light itself has a duller quality.

Light quality: Continuous spectrum but with green, violet and magenta missing. Colours in the room tend to look a bit grey and faded and white surfaces look distinctly cool-pink, even though the bulb itself looks more neutral-white.

2 W Osram Parathom ‘warm-white’ clear E27 Classic A

No picture but it looks like a normal size version of the mini globe above (= diodes on a stick stuck in a clear bulb).

Info: Price around 16€. For in- and outdoor use. 25 years claimed life.

Impression: Another useless LED. Very dim light, good for nothing. What Osram calls ‘warm-white’ is green-white. Even putting a peach shade on it does not remove the green tint. Not pleasant or attractive! Complete waste of money if you ask me.

I hope we don’t have to wait another two decades before Osram gets their WLED phosphor mix right.

3 W Cree ‘warm-white’ GU10 1-point spotlight

Info: Price around 23€. 1-point spotlight with 60 degree beam angle.

Impression: Fairly bright for only 3 watts. This one had a dull-white light somewhere inbetween warm and cool. Not nearly good enough to replace my top quality GU10 halogen spot.

CFL Reviews

Splitting up my review of various energy saving retrofit lamps as I test them in a home environment. This post will focus on compact fluorescent lamps. The first lamp review is moved from my original post, the second is new for today. (Prices include 20% VAT and may vary between countries.)

* 7W Osram Duluxstar ‘warm-white’ E14 frosted CFL mini globe

Info: Appearance-wise, one of the most incandescent-like CFLs on the market, with a correlated colour temperature (CCT) at 2700K. CRI around 80 = standard (mediocre) colour rendering capacity. Price: about €10, but if you want a decent-looking (and decent-performing) CFL, be prepared to pay for it.

Impression: Visually, the light looked very soft and incandescent-like in the shop, but at home it still has a touch of that pink shade typical of flourescent light, though less markedly so than its early predecessors, more warm-pink than cool-pink, and admittedly an improvement compared with older CFLs and all the cheap budget lamps on the market.

Size-wise it only fit in one of my reflector luminaires.

As for colour rendering capacity, my do-it-yourself-spectral analysis with the back of a DVD shows the spectrum cut up into distinct bands with all the wavelenghts inbetween missing, as is normal for standard-quality FL light.

It does look bright enough to replace the promised 40W bulb (now in the beginning, will fade with age) though it took several minutes to reach full output. And the light was actually nicest before it did. Now it has turned a little more pink-white and makes the room look uniform and sterile. Many may not notice that much of a difference from an incandescent, or care if they did. But as I have a very well-developed sensitivty to such nuances, I could not relax in such a light and would never use it in my home.

* 8W Osram Duluxstar Mini Twist ‘warm-white’ E14 spiral CFL

Info: Correlated colour temperature (CCT) 2500K (“warm comfort light”). CRI around 80 = standard (mediocre) colour rendering capacity. Light flow: 470 lumen. Price: about €6. Made in China.

Impression: With even warmer light (= lower CCT) this one actually looks very much like incandescent light colour-wise = more golden than pink. Still a bit flat due to the lower CRI but definitely the best incandescent-copy I’ve seen so far.

Size-wise it is too big for all my different reflector luminaires, even though this is the most compact spiral CFL model I’ve seen. I can screw it in just fine but half of it sticks out. The part that is visible is very glaring. Calling my bf:s attention to the experiment, his first response was a loud “ouch” as the glare pierced his eye, and I got a dark afterimage in my visual field for several minutes afterwards from looking at it just briefly. I’d recommend it only in luminaires with shades.

Brightness seemed OK too. 470 lumen is even a bit more than the equivalent 40W incandescent (410 lm) with margin for the eventual light loss.

Nice job, Osram! Only took 2 decades to finally get it (almost) right.


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