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.

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.)

DEFRA CFL FAQ

Time for more Q&As from some typical pro-ban sites. These sites can be divided into categories:

a) Lighting industry representatives and lobby organisations
b) Energy saving lobby organisations
c) Energy labelling organisations
d) Utilites
e) Environmental organisations, websites & blogs
f) Government agencies trying their best to explain and justify the ban of their federal masters and/or plug CFLs as the greatest thing since sliced bread (now with LEDs as close runner-up).

None of the latter ever seem to double check the PR information they receive from the former. So, let’s have a closer look at one of these constantly issued Q&As and CFL ‘Myth-busting’ pages. I will comment with the most truthful and updated information at my disposal.

DEFRA

First up is UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, on their energy savers info page. Even if a bit dated now (created at the first step of the phase-out) it gives such good examples of how the ban was spun then and keeps being spun now. The arguments have not changed much, as will be shown in subsequent posts.

The government has been working with all major retailers who sell light bulbs and UK energy suppliers to phase out traditional energy guzzling bulbs, replacing them with energy efficient light bulbs such as Compact Fluorescent Lamps  (CFLs). This is in advance of a EU-wide mandatory phase out of incandescent bulbs that began on 1 September 2009 and which was agreed by EU Member States in December 2008.

My comment: Auccumbinging to lighting industry lobby to get a national ban ahead of schedule is nothing to brag about… And “energy guzzling” (which the EU commission also uses to describe incandescent bulbs, despite them using less than 3% of home energy) is a juvenile phrase no doubt picked up from some ‘green image’ blog. It has no place in what tries to present itself as a respectable government information page.

The traditional light bulb has not changed for over a hundred years since Edison and Swan – the time of Queen Victoria – and these bulbs waste 95% of electricity as heat.

Cheap rhetoric trying to make them sound outdated when they are not. They haven’t changed much because they are already perfect! (If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!)

And the heat is not ‘wasted’. While giving top quality light at home, it helps the house the same time. A 2003 study by DEFRA’s own Market Transformation Programme, found that throughout the year in a typical British house, about 60% of the energy from lighting turns into useful heat. (Same thing again as with the Swedish Energy Agency in my last post…)

Why have this initiative?

Climate change is the biggest threat facing our planet today. It is happening and it is happening now. Everyone – governments, businesses and individuals – needs to work together to tackle climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes of course. But if the EU Commission was truly serious about that, they would ban things that could actually make a difference, such as SUVs, junk food, soft drinks and bottled water, and start developing those alternative energy sources promised for decades. But that’s not going to happen, because they are not serious about it.

By phasing out the traditional light bulbs, we will all be using less energy so will need less electricity. CFLs are up to 80% more efficient then incandescent lamps.

First of all: no they are not. For a CFL to save 80% compared to an equivalent incandescent lamp, an 11 watt CFL would need to have an initial light flow of at least 730 lumen in Europe and 800 lumen in North America and lose no more than 6% over its lifetime. As both manufacturer catalogues even with their nominal lumen values show and consumer tests confirm, this is not the case. A scant few of the most effective top brand spiral CFLs now, over 30 years later, reach that number initially, but they still lose much more light over their life, even under optimal lab conditions. See also Equivalence Charts. With this + poor power factor + the heat replacement effect, they save not even half that.

Secondly, the percentage they claim to save is not the fictitious 80% (or more realistic percentages) of your entire electricity bill – it’s just made to sound that way – but of the small portion that lighting uses. And lighting uses on average less than 3% of total home energy consumption in the EU (3.85% in the UK) according to EU Energy Statistics, it can never be more than some percentage of those 3-4%.

What are compact fluorescent lamps?

They are small fluorescent lamps which fit into standard light sockets, usually referred to as CFLs or energy saving light bulbs.

They last longer and use less energy than traditional (or incandescent) light bulbs, because they are much more efficient at changing electricity into light.

CFLs are also cost effective. Advice from the Energy Saving Trust suggests that as they will last up to 10 times longer than a traditional bulb, just one energy saving bulb could save up to £3-6 a year and, depending on the length of time lights are in use every day, could save around £40 before it needs replacing.  Fit all the lights in your house with energy saving bulbs and you could save around £37 a year and £590 over the lifetime of all of the bulbs.

Funny how a government agency is so concerned with everyone’s private economy and doesn’t hesitate to forwards the inflated life rate & savings advertisement straight from the lobby organisation. Exactly in the same astounding way supposedly neutral agencies have acted in so many other countries. But perhaps not so surprising when the sources given at the bottom of their page are all lighting industry and their lobby organisations.

What other alternatives are there to incandescent lamps?

CFLs are the most energy efficient alternative technology, however halogen lamps are now available to fit into standard light sockets and emit light not dissimilar to incandescent lamps, but with only a 25-40% energy saving.

Not even 25% it turned out…

In the longer term, lamps based on Light-Emitting Diode (LED) technology promise to be highly-efficient alternatives even to CFLs.

The Energy Saving Trust’s website provide useful information on alternatives.

Already paving the ground for the even more profitable alternaties (profitable for the lighting industry, that is) and referral to one of the lobby organisations itself.

Are CFLs bad for my health?

Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public.

Like many household products, they must be disposed of sensibly and there are suitable facilities available for this purpose. Although they contain mercury, limited at 5mg per lamp, it cannot escape from a lamp that is intact. In any case, the very small amount contained in an energy efficient bulb is unlikely to cause harm even if the lamp should be broken.

True that it probably can’t escape unless the lamp is broken, but they cite no studies showing that it is harmless if broken. In July, 2011, a study showed that:

Once broken, a compact fluorescent light bulb continuously releases mercury vapor into the air for weeks to months, and the total amount can exceed safe human exposure levels in a poorly ventilated room, according to study results reported in Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed online only journal published monthly by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

The amount of liquid mercury (Hg) that leaches from a broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) is lower than the level allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so CFLs are not considered hazardous waste. However, Yadong Li and Li Jin, Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) report that the total amount of Hg vapor released from a broken CFL over time can be higher than the amount considered safe for human exposure. They document their findings in the article “Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps.”

As people can readily inhale vapor-phase mercury, the authors suggest rapid removal of broken CFLs and adequate ventilation, as well as suitable packaging to minimize the risk of breakage of CFLs and to retain Hg vapor if they do break, thereby limiting human exposure.

Tests of eight different brands of CFLs and four different wattages revealed that Hg content varies significantly from brand to brand. To determine the amount of Hg released by a broken CFL, Li and Jin used standard procedures developed by the EPA to measure leaching of mercury in liquids and used an emission monitoring system to detect Hg vapor.

“This paper is a very nice holistic analysis of potential risks associated with mercury release from broken CFLs and points to potential human health threats that have not always been considered,” according to Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate College, University of Vermont (Burlington).

Mercury Vapor Released from Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Can Exceed Safe Exposure Levels for Humans, Study Finds

See also my earlier post: Mercury Problem Worse Than Suspected

Do CFLs contain mercury?

Yes, they need mercury to generate light efficiently. The mercury is used to produce ultraviolet light, which is then changed into light we can see by a special coating in the lamp. The coating is inert and poses no health risk.

Nowadays, the typical amount is 3 – 4 milligrams per lamp (and limited at 5mg per lamp) – just enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen and just enough to last the expected life-time of the lamp.

This reply immediately sets off my lobby alarm. That “ball-point pen” counter-argument is just one more in a long line of desperate attempts to downplay the still embarrassing and rather alarming fact that a supposed ‘green’ lamp contains mercury. I’ve seen it a thousand times on the internet. It seems to originate from – surprise! – Harry Verhaar, Philips Lighting, 2007 and was posted on Nils Borg’s energy lobby organisation eceee’s website:

However a number of concerns still exist regarding CFLs. These lamps contain minute amounts of mercury, which is needed to create light in an efficient way. Despite the fact that the mercury used would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen, there is a justified worry about this mercury being disposed of in the ground. CFL’s fall under the EU WEEE recycling laws and it is expected that in the future the great majority will be recycled.

Why would a government agency with the stated mission “to protect the environment for future generations” try to downplay mercury contamination risks with minising statements like “the size of a ball point pen” – which may still be over the ‘safe’ limit when that evaporates and spreads in a room. Quoting an article I’ve cited earlier, Mercury in CFLs – special investigation (emphases added):

“First off, the often-cited claim that bulbs contain only 5mg of mercury was clarified: it’s an average. (..) The average amount of mercury in a CFL is 5 mg with a range of 0.9 to 18 mg. Obviously, the smaller (in watts) the bulb, the less mercury. Higher power (brighter) bulbs generally have more, although there can be fluctuations between brands as well.”

“‘Mercury concentration in the study room air often exceeds the Maine Ambient Air Guideline (MAAG) of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for some period of time, with short excursions over 25,000 ng/m3, sometimes over 50,000 ng/m3, and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single compact fluorescent lamp,’ the report confirms.

“That’s up to 300 times higher than the recommended safe level of inhalable mercury vapour. From just one light bulb. According to the DEP scientific study, while the 300 ng/m3 limit is the maximum allowable daily dose of mercury for the sake of legislation, there is in fact no known safe level for mercury exposure.”

Shouldn’t DEFRA know this? Isn’t that part of their job?

Will the mercury in CFLs cause damage to the environment?

Over the life time of both lamp types, energy efficient bulbs produce less mercury. This is due to the fact that mercury is emitted from power stations during electricity generation and energy saving bulbs are more energy efficient – therefore saving on the amount of electricity that needs to be generated.

Ah, here we got the next tired old PR argument that has been recycled over and over since early 1990s. This too is rehashed by Harry Verhaar via eceee:

However, mercury is also omitted in the atmosphere from the power system, and the mercury contained in lamps need to be weighed against that emitted from power plants. Studies show that indirectly the additional energy usage of incandescent bulbs is responsible for more mercury entering the environment than that is contained in a CFL.

This argument was invalid when it was created in 1991, and is even more so today. I believe was done on behalf of the Danish Market Transformation Programme, and spread via Nils Borg’s other energy lobby organisation IAEEL through other Market Transformation Programmes such as the Swedish one by STEM (see CFL Analysis – Mercury for more details, references and a pdf copy of the Danish ‘study’).

It was based on a fantasy calculation exercise at a Danish university in 1991, with an imaginary scenario of a CFL containing only 0.69 mg mercury (impossible to attain at that time, and still is), while electricity production from coal was assumed at a whopping 95% (as was the case in Denmark at that time but nowhere close to true for the rest of EU then, and even less so today). 

Of course, we’ve done a lot to reduce mercury emissions in the UK in recent years. Total emissions have fallen by 80% since 1990 and stand at 7.6 tonnes a year (2005 NAEI figures – see www.airquality.co.uk); power generation accounts for about 31% of this total.

Amusingly, DEFRA is clearly unaware that they just confirmed the invalidity of the first paragraph with the information in the second, (stating coal production is now only 31%) and the earlier point above (mercury content being 3-4, max 5 mg)!

This is what happens when you only repeat the arguments that the lobby organisations feed you, without doing your homework and actually understanding what you’re saying.

Does the mercury in a CFL pose a risk?

The mercury cannot escape from an intact lamp and, even if the lamp should be broken, the very small amount of mercury contained in a single, modern CFL is most unlikely to cause any harm.

But it makes sense to avoid unnecessary contact with mercury; and any light bulb – broken or intact – should be dealt with sensibly.

Again downplaying the risk, instead of warning of use around children, pregnant women and the elderly and sick!

‘Sensitive populations are of particular concern with mercury exposures for a number of reasons.’ ‘Elderly and unhealthy individuals may already be at comprised health and be more susceptible to mercury effects than a healthy individual. For example, mercury does kidney damage which could exacerbate an already existing kidney disease’.

‘Infants and toddlers have much more vulnerable brains.’ ‘Mercury exposures have serious impacts on fetal and infant brain development. Elemental mercury can cross the placenta from a mother to fetus.’ ‘It is well established that the developing organism may be much more sensitive than the adult to neurotoxic agents,’ reports Maine’s DEP study. ‘For example, methylmercury exposure can produce devastating effects in the fetus, including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, and even death, while producing no or minimal effects in the mother‘.

Source: Mercury in CFLs – Special Investigation See also Mercury in Fluorescent Lighting

Is a bulb likely to break?

Like all household products energy efficient bulbs can break, but they are actually harder to break than traditional bulbs: they are often coated with plastic as a protector and as they’re of a smaller diameter than traditional bulbs they’d have higher stress limits. According to trade figures, breakage rates are less than 1%.

Only some of the CFLs with outer bulb have an extra protective coating. Naked U- and spiral tubes do not. (Especially the spiral tubes seem particularly thin and vulnerable to breakage, but I’m not going to test that.)

An even if the 1% breakage rate reported by the industry reflected reality – which I doubt – that’s still a lot of broken CFLs! According to this Oxford report, “LIF (Lighting Industry Federation) estimate that 7 million CFLs were sold into the domestic [UK] market in 1999.” That makes 70 000 broken bulbs per year in the UK alone! (Can’t find fresher numbers but sales have probably more than doubled by now.)

How should I deal with a broken CFL?

Although the accidental breakage of a lamp is most unlikely to cause any health problems, it’s good practice to minimise any unnecessary exposure to mercury, as well as risk of cuts from glass fragments.

Revised advice issued by the Health Protection Agency is to:

  • Ventilate the room
  • Wipe the area with a damp cloth, place that in the plastic bag and seal it
  • Sticky tape (e.g. duct tape or similar) can be used to pick up small residual pieces or powder from soft furnishings and then placed in a sealed plastic bag. The plastic bag doesn’t need to be air tight, but should be reasonably sturdy.
  • Place it in another, similar bag and seal that one as well (this minimises cuts from broken glass).

The public should contact the local authority for advice on where to dispose of broken or intact CFLs as they should be treated as hazardous waste and should not be disposed of in the bin. All local councils have an obligation to make arrangements for the disposal of household hazardous waste at a civic amenity site or household waste recycling centre. The National Household Hazardous Waste Forum runs a website with details of these centres for chemicals, but which also applies to other hazardous wastes (www.chem-away.org.uk/). Alternatively contact your local council direct.

Mercury in CFLs – Special Investigation found this advice quite insufficient:

But the most up to date safety study available says plastic bags are next to useless for containing a broken CFL bulb.

“Double re-sealable polyethylene bags…did not appear to retard the migration of mercury adequately to maintain room air concentrations below the MAAG… The significance of this issue is that cleanup material may remain in the home for some period of time and/or be transported inside a closed vehicle, exposing occupants to avoidable mercury vapors when improperly contained,” report the Maine scientists. The best method of containing bulb waste is inside a glass jar with a hermetically sealed lid.

Surprisingly, plastic jars, like large peanut butter containers with screw top lids were little better than plastic bags, also failing to prevent mercury vapour from leaking into the house.

The scientific experiments proved that debris “sealed inside two polyethylene plastic bags and then placed in a clean room”, sent atmospheric mercury levels up to more than three times the maximum allowable limit, for more than eight hours – the mercury vapour simply leached out of the bags into the air.

“Of the 12 different types of containers tested during the 23 different tests, the plastic bag was found to be the worst choice for containing mercury emissions. Based upon this study, the DEP now suggests that a glass container with metal screw lid with a gum seal be used to contain debris.”

All of which means the current disposal advice given by New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment is dangerously faulty, based on the most recent scientific studies. If a bulb breaks, disposing of it in two plastic bags will not prevent it from poisoning your house. Only a glass jar with a hermetically sealed screw-top lid is safe enough to hold the debris.

Clearly, many agencies around the globe have received – and posted – the same useless information on best clean-up procedures, thereby putting millions at risk.

How should I dispose of unwanted CFLs, e.g. at the end of their life?

From 1st July 2007, waste CFLs have been subject to the requirements of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations. Those who sell items such as energy efficient bulbs must provide information to the public about where they can take waste bulbs and other WEEE. Some retailers will also take them back in store. However, most retailers have funded Designated Collection Facilities, in the main at local authority civic amenity sites. From this point, producers of the equipment fund the transport, treatment and recycling, where most of the mercury can be recovered.

This is a good and necessary step, but not everyone has the time, energy and opportunity to get their burned out CFLs to the right place for recycling, so the easiest thing would have been to simply ban the mercury-containing CFLs for home use in line with the RoHS directive:

  1. Lead (Pb)
  2. Mercury (Hg)
  3. Cadmium (Cd)
  4. Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
  5. Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
  6. Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Amazingly, CFLs are exempt from this hazardous substances ban due to their false claims of saving so much energy.

How does this amount compare to other articles that contain mercury?

A typical mercury thermometer may contain 0.5 to 3 grams of mercury, whilst a typical mercury barometer may contain 100 to 600 grams of mercury, around 25,000 to 150,000 times more than an energy saving bulb.

Again trying to downplay the significance of the mercury content in CFLs with another of the popular propaganda retorts handed out by lobby organisation for government agencies, environmental organisations and a gazillions of ‘green’ bloggers and commentating trolls to repeat ad nauseum, despite being totally meaningless:

What a typical thermometer contains is irrelevant since they are banned for that mercury content. According to this Canadian news site, 5 mg of mercury is “enough to make 6,000 gallons of water toxic“. (That’s why Canada decided against an incandescent ban.)

(The third popular retort is the one comparing with dental amalgam. DEFRA very wisely skipped opening that can of worms…)

Is the light from CFLs bad for my skin?

In October 2008 the Health Protection Agency issued precautionary advice regarding the use of certain types of CFLs in close range for periods of time over one hour. Their advice is that that open (single envelope) CFLs should not be used where people are in close proximity – closer than 30 cm or 1 ft – to the bare light bulb for over 1 hour a day. At these distances CFLs might emit Ultra Violet (UV) light at a level less than equivalent to being outside on a sunny summer’s day.

If bulbs are required at these distances then an encapsulated (double envelope) CFL should be used. These are cost around the same as open CFLs and offer similar levels of energy savings.

All CFLs are safe for normal usage and the HPA does not advise removing CFLs from your home.  More information can be found on the HPA website.

Through EU legislation, mandatory limits will ensure that all CFLs will not emit UV light above safe levels from September 2009. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks also published a report into this issue recently and this can be found on the EC website.

Good, but I don’t think they’ve actually done much to enforce such a needed supervision. SCENIHR seems to accept most of the industry claims that their lamps are perfectly safe. See these posts on Health issues for more details.

What about those with light-sensitive conditions?

The Government has been in discussion with groups representing a small number of individuals for whom the use of CFLs can aggravate pre-existing light-sensitive conditions. The Government was successful in pressing the European Commission to introduce mandatory standards for UV emissions.

The Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks published a report into this issue recently and this can be found on the EC website.

As an alternative to CFLs, halogen lamps (like the one pictured) are now available for use in standard sockets which operate in a similar way to incandescent bulbs, however these offer only relatively small energy savings.

That “small number of people” are estimated by SCENIHR to be around 250 000 in the EU. And asking the affected themselves, it seems to be rather 2 million in the UK alone! Ban on incandescent bulb in U.K raising concerns on health issue of two million people

Don’t efficient bulbs take a while to warm up?

Modern, good quality, efficient bulbs should take little more than a couple seconds to warm up to full brightness, the short delay is due to the way they work.

The best CFLs have generally gotten a bit faster, but according to the latest CFL consumer tests, there are still big variations in start-up time between various CFL models. They are generally not (even by the EU Commission) recommended for bathrooms, closets, stairways and other spaces you only visit briefly and need full light instantly.

But aren’t efficient bulbs too big for most fittings? And don’t they give off  ‘gloomy’ light?

The technology of energy efficient light bulbs has improved massively in recent years. Manufacturers have now developed “look-alike” bulbs for the majority of light fittings and they give the same standard and quality of light as existing bulbs and in the same shapes.

At the moment, many efficient bulbs are not compatible with dimmer switches. However dimmable bulbs are on the market and will be made increasingly available in the UK during the phase out period. As an alternative to CFLs, halogen-based lamps are now available for use in standard lamps sockets, though these only offer relatively small savings.

In the past, the variety of colours available from CFLs was limited and they usually came as a ‘cold blue’ colour. Energy efficient bulbs now come in a range of colours from the original ‘cold blue’ to the traditional ‘warm white’ that you get from incandescent lights. Look for the Energy Saving Trust’s ‘Energy Saving Recommended’ logo as these have to emit the same warm light level as old fashioned bulbs.

True that the best CFLs look decently incandescent-like now. But they still only have limited colour rendering capacity (CRI 81-83).

True that there are more models now to fit a wider variety of luminaires (light fittings). But there are still many home luminaires where the replacement lamps don’t fit well or are unsuitable for other reasons.

True that there are now a few dimmable CFLs, but they are very expensive and don’t dim very nicely. But at least they may not fry existing dimming circuits like standard CFLs.

True that there are halogen energy savers, and that these dim beautifully. But only clear ones are permitted which can be quite glaring at full power. [Edit: And only  to 2018, after which most halogen lamps will be banned to.]

Aren’t these bulbs more expensive?

Whilst the upfront cost of efficient bulbs can be greater than traditional bulbs, according to the Energy Saving Trust efficient bulbs last up to ten times longer than a normal bulb and can up to £3-6 a year each in energy bills (for a 100W bulb), saving consumers up to £60 over the lifetime of the bulb in reduced energy bills and replacement costs.

Retailers are now selling efficient light bulbs at prices well under £1, and in some cases prices are not much more than traditional bulbs.

If the CFL is ‘cheap’ it is often either poor quality, and/or subsidised with (your) tax money (see CFL Subsidies).

Life rate varies widely between models, individual lamps and how they are used. Many either burn out prematurely or get so dim with age they have to  be replaced before they burn out. In such cases, savings are not what those ideal numbers promise. But quality has been improved somewhat over the last years since this FAQ was written.

Doesn’t switching the lights on and off use more energy than leaving them running?

No. Switching on an energy efficient bulb only uses the same amount of power as leaving it on for a minute or two. Turning the bulb on and off repeatedly may shorten a bulb’s life but normal use should not do this.

The recommendation from Osram is to leave them on for at least 15 minutes before switching off again. More frequent switching than that may dramatically shorten life.

A study published in 1998 examined CFL performance with five different operating cycles. It found that when the length of time the lamps were on was reduced from 3 hours to 1 hour, the lamp lasted for 80 percent of its rated life. When reduced to 15 min and 5 min, the lamp lasted for 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of its rated life.

Even the pro-CFL Energy Saving Trust confirms that frequent switching may reduce CFL life:

Regularly flicking a bulb on for a brief moment and then off again is not recommended as it can shorten the lifetime of the bulb.

See my post CFL Analysis – Life Span for more details and sources.

Does the law require me to replace all my traditional light bulbs immediately?

No; while the intention of both  the UK’s retailer-led voluntary initiative is to phase out the sale of inefficient bulbs in participated retailes, the EU’s mandatory measures under the Energy-using Products Directive will phase out the manufacture and import of inefficient bulbs and retailers will be able to sell on existing stock if they so wish.

So what is the timetable for these bulbs being phased out across the EU?

  • 1 September 2009 – From this date, manufacturers will not be able to place on the market clear lamps equivalent to 100W incandescent lamps, or above, must be minimum C class energy rating (leaving only halogen retrofit halogen lamps). Non-clear (frosted / pearl) lamps must be minimum Energy Label A-class.
  • 1 September 2010 – From this date, manufacturers will not be able to place on the market 75 W clear incandescent lamps.
  • 1 September 2011 – From this date, manufacturers will not be able to place on the market 60 W clear incandescent lamps.
  • 1 September 2012 – From this date, manufacturers will not be able to place on the market all remaining clear incandescent lamps (i.e. 40W and 25W).
  • 1 September 2016 – Raising the minimum level to B class for clear retrofit lamps (i.e. phasing out C-class retrofit halogen lamps).

Where can I find out more?

Page last modified: 29 October 2009
Page published: 11 January 2008

Heat Replacement Effect Again

Friday evening, something rare happened in conformist Sweden (where no article may be published without praising the politically correct lamps):

On prime-time national news, a representative of the Swedish Energy Agency (one of the strongest anti-lightbulb forces in Sweden*) was caught blatantly lying about the incandescent lightbulb. Can be viewed here for another 5 days (at 9:55 in the clip): Rapport 31 Aug, 19:30 My description, transcription and translation to English, reporter in green, his narrative in citation marks:

News anchor: From tomorrow the lightbulbs will be gone. The Energy Agency thinks this is an important measure for the climate and claims this will save energy comparable to the heating of 80 000 houses. But it turns out that the Agency uses exaggerated and outright erroneous numbers.

Cue Energy Agency representative Peter Bennich, turning on a an incandescent bulb:

– Well, this is a very nice light source, but unfortunately it uses a lot of electricity. So therefore it will be phased out. 

Then an elderly man in a lamp shop is interviewed while buying incandescent lamps:

– You’re stockpiling?

– Yes, absolutely! These modern lamps are so horrible, strange colours and… 

Clip new picture of lawn mowing.

“Environmental bombs like old lawn mowers and two-stroke engines are allowed but lightbulbs are banned.”

Back to Peter Bennich again (filmed at the Agency in front of a huge flat screen TV):

– They waste so much. It’s like buying 10 liters of milk and throwing away 9 liters every day.

“Only 1/10 of the electricity is of any use in a light bulb, the rest is pure waste. This is what the Energy Agency says.” (Document of the statement is shown.) “And this way we will save 2 TWh, 10% of the electricity in Sweden. This is the equivalent of 80 000 [electricity-heated] private homes they claim.”

– It saves at least 80% compared with the other lamp, says Peter Bennich again (likely referring to the CFL or LED).

“But something has been forgotten….”

Back to the man in the lamp shop:

– I have electric heating at home. The radiators turn on less frequently when I have the lamps lit.

“Lasse is quite right. If a lot of the of the electricity used for lamps is turned into heat, it logically follows that one can just turn down radiators a little instead. Most Swedish houses need heading, during most of the year anyway.”

Back to the Energy Agency and Peter Bennich again to check:

– Is it true that 90 % is pure waste? 

– Yes, that is my opinion. 

“In the Energy Agency propaganda incandescent bulbs are presented as only wasteful.” (A leaflet is shown.) “But the Agency has made their own calculations that show that throughout a whole year, not all but about 50% of the heat from the lightbulb is useful.”

Presented with this undeniable fact, Peter Bennich tries to spin it the other way:

– Well, it turns out then that max 50% of the heat from incandescent lamps are of any use… 

“Oops, earlier it was 10% that was useful. The truth was 50%! Which means that then the 2 TWh savings are not true, and not the other numbers in the information either. For those who want to save energy at home, there are much worse climate villains than the little lightbulb.”

Then the reporter presents Bennich with an infrared heater and a lightbulb, and turns up the heat in his questions:

– If I use this [lightbulb] as a reading lamp for half an hour every day for a whole year except June, or use this [infrared heater] for one evening, which uses most electricity?

Without even a second’s hesitation Bennich replies:

– The incandescent bulb! 

– No.

– Yes, Bennich insists.

“Wrong again. My reading lamp uses 2.7 KWh per year in my example. The patio heater uses 3.6 KWh after only 3 hours!” 

“But”, the reporter seems compelled to add (probably to not get in trouble with his superiors), “if you look at all of Sweden, the ban can still save energy.”

He then lets Bennich get the last word (despite just having proven what that word is worth):

– Lighting uses a very large part of electricity use in Sweden. 

– It sounds as if we are not very good at turning the lights off when not in use?

– Yes! We Swedes are extra poor at turning lights off. 

***  The End  ***

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Note how the Energy Agency representative is extremely careful to use the word ‘electricity’ rather than ‘energy’. That is a very deliberate  and well-coordinated strategy in order to make lighting part sound more than it is, as electricity itself is only a smaller part of total energy consumption.

It’s not a lie but it’s not telling the whole truth either. The largest part of most households’ total energy consumption is space heating (or cooling in warmer areas) followed by water heating. Lighting is only a small fraction of the remaining household electricity. EU average according to official statistics, is less than 3% of total household energy use – of which an estimated 46% was already fluorescent or halogen at the time of the ban (!) according to the preparatory study that was used as foundation for the ban (see my post EU Energy Statistics for details and references).

What is also deceptively concealed is the fact that the largest lighting part of national electricity use is in the commercial, industrial, public building and road illumination sectors, which use the most number of lamps, the highest wattages, and keep them turned on for most of the day or night. And most lamps in these sectors is already fluorescent or gas discharge! Some of them can still be optimised with newer and more efficient lamps of the same or similar lamp groups, better control systems etc, and by being turned off when not in use. That’s where the real savings on lighting can and are being made!

Whereas the private sector lighting use is such a microscopic slice of the total energy pie that it can easily be saved without banning any lamps.

I am sadly becoming more and more convinced that this whole lamp issue is just a diversion to keep us all believing that both we and politicians have really made a difference now by switching a few lamps. The planet is saved and we can all go back to sleep and keep consuming as usual. While the multi-billion-dollar CFL and LED industry is laughing all the way to the bank.

When the truth is that no one wants to rock the boat and start restricting the things that really pollute and deplete resources. Such as petrol-fueled cars & airplanes and the gazillions of electrical gadgets, clothes, trinkets and junk food we’re continuously being prodded to buy more and more of. No restrictions there.

__________________________

* The Swedish Energy Agency (STEM) has been leading the Swedish part of the global Market Transformation Programme (away from incandescent lamps) all through the 1990s until now. As I reported in The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign post, Kalle Hashmi, Executive Officer of Technology & Market Unit at the Swedish Energy Agency, in his Market Transformation Programme paper from 2006 admitted that:

STEM does not necessarily enjoy a commanding or trusted position vis-à-vis the consumers due to previous campaigns launched by STEM during the 90s. These campaigns may be summed as:

STEM engaged in ill conceived, inconsistent and ad-hoc promotions.
STEM did not take into account the consumer perspective but rather concentrated exclusively on energy efficiency and technical issues.
STEM relied indiscriminately on the information provided by the vendors.
STEM was very passive about dealing with CFL technology failures that affected main benefit claims.
STEM did not study, did not know or admit technology limitations.
STEM did not demand or work to establish minimum performance requirements.
STEM never questioned why long life claims were not backed by a guarantee.

And it seems that they’re still at it…

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

 

 

Blue Light Hazard?

The blue light issue has several aspects. First one needs to separate between the tiny bright blue diods used on some electronic devices, the blue-white light from white LEDs, CFLs and xenon arc car headlight lamps, and the (more or less) warm-white light from incandescent-mimicking CFL and LED.

This blog is primarily about replacement lamps for general illumination, not signal lights, monitor backlighting and the like, but the information on bright blue light may still be relevant for the cool-white light as well.

Blue light

Let’s start with the bright blue lamps. From the Wikipedia LED page:

Blue hazard: There is a concern that blue LEDs and cool-white LEDs are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1–05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems.

This web article Blue LEDs: A health hazard? explains the problems with bright blue light in detail:

Blue appears brighter at night

Firstly, blue light appears much brighter to us at night, or indoors where ambient light is low – an effect known as the Purkinje shift. This is because the rods – the sensitive monochromatic rod light detectors which our retinas rely on more at night – are most sensitive to greenish-blue light. (Some hypothesize that animals evolved the rods in underwater and jungle environments, hence the bias to blue or green – later we developed separate full color vision on top of that system, but the sensitive rods remained).

A practical example of the Purkinje Shift: a cool blue power LED on a TV might catch your eye and even attract you to buy it in a well-lit store. But after you take it home, the same LED appears distractingly bright when you watch the TV in a darkened room.

And blue is brighter in peripheral vision

The Purkinje shift also noticeably brightens blue or green lights in our peripheral vision under medium to low light conditions, because there are comparatively more rods towards the edge of the retina – hence complaints that blue LEDs are distracting even when they’re not the focus of attention.

“Glaring LEDs on displays that you need to see at night… that’s poor design,” says Brandon Eash. Remarkably though, it is a mistake that manufacturers continue to make.

Blue does not help you see clearly

We tend to associate blue with coolness, accuracy and clarity. But paradoxically, our eyes cannot focus blue sharply. We actually see a distracting halo around bright blue lights.

“It’s well recognized that blue light is not as sharply focused on the retina as the longer wavelengths. It tends to be focused in front of the retina, so it’s a little out of focus,” explains Dr. David Sliney, a US Army expert on the physiological effects of LEDs, lasers, and other bright light sources.

The various wavelengths of light focus differently because they refract at slightly different angles as they pass through the lens of the eye – an effect known as chromatic aberration.

For similar reasons, blue scatters more widely inside the eyeball, says Dr. Sliney, who answered questions by phone last year from his office at the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in Maryland.

We’re half blind in blue

The modern human eye evolved to see fine detail primarily with green or red light. In fact, because we are poor at distinguishing sharp detail in blue, our eyes don’t really try. The most sensitive spot on the retina, the fovea centralis, has no blue light-detecting cones. That’s right: we’re all color blind in the most sensitive part of our eyes.

In addition, the central area of the retina, the macula, actually filters out some blue light in an effort to sharpen our vision. Snipers and marksmen sometimes improve on nature by wearing yellow-tinted ‘shooters glasses’, which block the distracting blue light.

“You throw away a little bit of color information in order to have a sharper view of things,” explains Dr. Sliney.

Blue glare interferes with vision

The twin effects of fuzzy focus and blue scatter both make intense blue light from a point source, like an LED, spread out across the retina, obscuring a much wider part of our visual field.

Although our retinas simply don’t handle blue very well, nobody told the rest of the eye that. If blue is the strongest color available and we want to see fine detail, then we strain our eye muscles and squint trying to pull the blue into shaper focus. Try to do this for too long and you’ll probably develop a nauseating headache. This won’t happen in a normally lit scene, because the other colors provide the sharp detail we naturally desire.

A dazzling pain in the eye

By the way, the physical pain some people feel from high intensity discharge (HID) car headlights and particularly intense blue LEDs seems to be a combination of these focus and scatter effects, together with a third. We have a particularly strong aversion reaction to bright blue light sources, including bluish-white light. “Pupilary reflex is down in the blue [part of the spectrum]. The strongest signal to the muscles in the iris to close down comes from the blue,” says Dr. Sliney.

Intense blue light can cause long-term photochemical damage to the retina. Now, nobody is claiming that you’re likely to suffer this kind of injury from a normal blue LED (unless you stare fixedly at it from a few millimetres for an hour). However, it is theorized that this may be the evolutionary driving force behind the immediate feeling of pain we get from bright light with a very strong blue component.

Our body’s instinctive reaction is to reduce blue light entering the eye by closing down the pupil. This means that blue light spoils night vision. After a brief flash of blue, you can’t see other colors so well for a while.

White light

When it comes to lamps for general illumination, the issue gets more complex. Cool-white or daylight-mimicking indoor illumination may not be as good for vision as previously assumed. But can it be harmful?

CELMA-ELC-GLA (lighting industry):

In June, PLDA Greenpages blog reported on new studies that “have concluded that LEDs present no greater optical hazard than other common artificial lighting sources”. The link required business and registration to be accessed, but the abstract appears to be the same as in this March 2012 white paper of the Global Lighting Association on The Optical & Photobiological Effects of LED, CFLs and Other High Efficiency General Lighting Sources, which in turn appears to be fairly identical to the July 2011 position statement from CELMA and ELC (European luminare and lamp manufacturers, respectively): Optical safety of LED lighting.

If it is the same document, I wouldn’t exactly call it a study as it only gives technical explanations of why LEDs and CFLs belong to risk groups 0 or 1, which may be correct, but cites no studies on actual health effects; it’s all just extrapolation of their own data. Quoting some relevant parts of the document (not all in original order):

Potential effects on the eye
Commonly discussed hazards affecting the eye are blue light hazard (BLH) and age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) which can be induced or aggravated by high intensity blue light. Furthermore, UV (ultraviolet) may affect the eye, causing cataract or photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea); IR (infrared) radiation can induce IR cataract (also known as glassblower’s cataract); and, radiation of all wavelengths can lead to retinal thermal injuries at extreme intensities.

Potential effects on the skin
Optical radiation, particularly UV can be harmful to the skin. By far the most hazardous source to consider is the sun. Sunburns (UV erythema) and skin cancers due to long‐term exposure to the sun are well‐known problems caused by radiation. Moreover, patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or photodermatoses can be highly sensitive to UV radiation, and sometimes also blue light. There is concern among some patients who suffer from such sensitivities that phasing out of the known incandescent lamps will leave them without lamps for indoor use that are low in radiation of UV and blue light. 

4.1 Conclusions on blue light emission
Evaluation at a distance producing 500 Lux: Taking the 500 Lux criterion as the measurement basis, none of the LED products belongs to risk group 2. This was also confirmed by a study of the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health & safety (ANSES) in 2010 which found that even high‐output discrete LEDs are classified into risk groups 0 or 1 if the 500 Lux criterion is applied.

Precautionary measures with regard to children
The lens of a child’s eye filters blue light less efficiently than an adult’s lens. Children are thus more sensitive to blue light hazard. Therefore, at places frequented by children particular care must be taken to ensure that lamps and luminaires are chosen and installed in such a way as to avoid people looking directly into the light source. It is not necessary that LEDs (or blue light in general) are avoided in an environment with children present, for the reasons stated above. If used across a broad surface or area, in a way which does not produce glare, even “pure” blue light is completely harmless; regardless of whether it is the blue in daylight or produced by LEDs or other light sources.

Guidance for people with high sensitivity for blue light
The above statements are valid for healthy people in the general public. People with highly sensitive skin or eyes for blue light may be wise to investigate alternative light sources that operate on a more specific radiation band not covered by the applied action curves that cover a broad range of radiations. The comparative data given in the annexes of this paper serve to give guidance in selecting the best available type of light source for a given sensitivity.

The biological importance of blue light
It needs to be mentioned that blue light exposure is important to human beings. Blue light with a peak around 460‐480nm regulates the biological clock, alertness and metabolic processes. CELMA‐ELC has installed a special working group to translate these findings into practical application norms and standards. In natural conditions, outdoor daylight fulfils this function. Yet, people spend most of the day indoors (offices etc.) and are often lacking the necessary blue light exposure. Blue and cool white light sources can be used to create lighting conditions such that people will receive their daily portion of blue light to keep their physiology in tune with the natural day‐night rhythm. Due to the highly flexible application possibilities, LED based light sources are particularly well suited for that purpose. 

Annex 3: Blue light radiation data of light sources
When evaluating the risk of blue light hazard posed by LED (and other) light sources, two fundamentally different cases need to be considered:

Case A: Looking at an illuminated scene
[…] Case A can generally be considered safe. To give an example, looking at the scattered blue sky (high blue irradiance but low radiance) is completely safe, and so are artificial light sources, containing way less blue irradiance than daylight.

Case B: Looking at a light source
[…] Looking straight at a light source (case B) is also in general safe for diffuse and warm white light sources, like frosted or white diffusing lamps. Yet, caution is advisable for cool white or blue, bright (high intensity), point‐like light source, for instance an incandescent filament, electric arc or an LED die, even an LED die behind the lens of a directional lamp.  Such point‐like sources are projected on the retina as a concentrated light spot and can damage that spot on the retina when the intensity is high enough and the spectrum contains blue light in congruence with the blue light hazard action spectrum curve.

4.2 Conclusions on ultraviolet radiation (UV) 
LED based light sources do not emit any UV radiation (unless specifically designed for that particular purpose). Therefore, they are not harmful to people with a specific sensitivity for certain UV radiation and can bring relief to certain groups of patients. In this respect, LED based light sources provide advantages over traditional incandescent, halogen and Compact Fluorescent lamps. For more details see Annex 2.

4.3 Conclusions on infrared radiation (IR)
In contrast to most other light sources, e.g. halogen and incandescent lamps, LEDs hardly emit IR light (unless specifically designed to emit a certain type of IR). For available types of indoor light sources the IR radiation is not powerful enough to pose any risks to human.

To summarize the key findings, LED sources (lamps or systems) and luminaires are safe to the consumer when used as intended.

Which is: Don’t sit too close to a UV-emitting light source. Don’t look straight into cool-white or bright light sources (risk increases with proximity, brightness and time). Always use low-voltage halogen mini bulbs and halogen mini tubes on luminaires with glass cover (regular glass filters out the UVC which the quartz glass lets through). Use warm-white LED, CFL or halogen in frosted outer bulb if UV-sensitive.

In terms of their level of photo biological safety, LED lamps are no different from traditional technologies such as incandescent lamps and fluorescent tubes. The portion of blue in LED is not different from the portion of blue in lamps using other technologies at the same colour temperature.

The last sentence seems a bit tautologous as otherwise it would not have the same colour temperature. How the blue portion can be “the same” for same colour temperature LED and incandescent despite their different spectral power distribution is given an explanation:

White LEDs typically show a peak in the blue (at around 450 nm when a royal blue LED is used) and more broadband emission in the green/yellow part of the spectrum. Next to the blue peak, a dip is visible at around 490nm that also falls under the BLH action curve (…). The blue peak of the LED lamps is “compensated” by the dip, therefore the total blue output (…) of LED of 2700K is comparable to an incandescent lamp of 2700K.

This still does not make the spectrum exactly the same, even if the net result is a similar blueness. And most LEDs available on the home market is very much bluer than the 2700 K of the very best (and most unaffordable) warm-white LEDs. 

Nevertheless, looking straight into bright, point‐like sources (LEDs, but also other strong point‐like light sources, like clear filament or discharge lamps and including the sun) should be prevented. However, when people happen to look into a bright light source accidentally, a natural protective reflex occurs (people instinctively close their eyes or look away from the source).

True enough.

A comparison of LED retrofit products to the traditional products they are intended to replace reveals that the risk levels are very similar and well within the uncritical range.

But that was for the 6 watt warm-white LED in a frosted outer bulb included in the comparison. White 4000 K LEDs and directional high power LEDs, as well as other bright point light sources, including clear tungsten filament lamps, fall into risk group 1.

The bar chart included in the document shows that the higher the CCT, the higher the blue light hazard, regardless of light source (as would be expected);

(Two other bar charts (fig. 5 & 6) quite strangely compared frosted warm-white LED lamps with clear incandescent lamps, in order to make incandescent light appear to to have more blue light, rather than to compare it with the other point-like sources. In those charts, the frosted incandescent lamp seemed to be the safest.)

SCENIHR (EU):

In 2011, the European Commissions Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (one of the independent scientific committees of the European Commission, which provide scientific advice to the Commission on consumer products) issued an updated report on Health Effects of Artificial Light which seems partly based on the information given by European Lamp Companies Federation, ELC (extracts, emphases added):

Abstract

A: Potential health impacts on the general public caused by artificial light

In general, the probability is low that artificial lighting for visibility purposes induces acute pathologic conditions, since expected exposure levels are much lower than those at which effects normally occur, and are also much lower than typical daylight exposures. Certain lamp types (quartz halogen lamps, single- and double-capped fluorescent lamps as well as incandescent light bulbs) may emit UV radiation, although at low levels. However, according to a worst case scenario the highest measured UV emissions from lamps used typically in offices and schools [usually fluorescent tubes] could add to the number of squamous cell carcinomas in the EU population.

Household lighting involves an illumination level which is so low that exposure to potentially problematic radiation is considered negligible. There is no consistent evidence that long-term exposure to sunlight (specifically the blue component) may contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Whether exposure from artificial light could have effects related to AMD is uncertain.

No evidence was found indicating that blue light from artificial lighting belonging to Risk Group 0 (“exempt from risk”) would have any impact on the retina graver than that of sunlight. Blue light from improperly used lamps belonging to Risk Groups 1, 2, or 3 could, in principle, induce photochemical retinal damage in certain circumstances. There is however no evidence about the extent to which this is actually occurring in practical situations.

There is mounting evidence suggesting that ill-timed exposure to light (light-at-night) may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and can also cause sleep disorders, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular disorders, and possibly affective states. Importantly, these effects are directly or indirectly due to light itself, without any specific correlation to a given lighting technology.

But bluer light (such as from cool-white or daylight LEDs and CFLs) has a greater effect on melatonin, even at very low intensities if used at night (see Circadian Rhythms below).

B: Aggravation of the symptoms of pathological condition

The SCENIHR opinion on Light Sensitivity identified that some pre-existing conditions (epilepsy, migraine, retinal diseases, chronic actinic dermatitis, and solar urticaria) could be exacerbated by flicker and/or UV/blue light. At that time there was no reliable evidence to suggest that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) could be a significant contributor. More recent studies indicate a negative role for certain CFLs and other artificial light sources (sometimes including incandescent bulbs) in photosensitive disease activity.

UV, and in some patients, visible light can induce skin lesions of true photodermatoses. Although sunlight is reported by most patients as the main source of disease activity, artificial lighting is reported to play a role in some cases. The blue or UV components of light tend to be more effective than red components in aggravating skin disease symptoms related to pre-existing conditions such as lupus erythematosus, chronic actinic dermatitis and solar urticaria. UV and/or blue light could also possibly aggravate the systemic form of lupus erythematosus. It is recommended that all patients with retinal dystrophy should be protected from light by wearing special protective eyeware that filters the shorter and intermediate wavelengths.

3.3.3. Lamp emissions

Based on emissions from the lamp, the Standard EN 62471 (and also IEC 62471 and CIE S009, since they are all identical in this sense) categorizes the lamps according to the photo-biological hazard that they might pose. The different hazards are:

1. Actinic UV-hazard for eye and skin (see section 3.4.3.2);
2. UVA-hazard for the eye (section 3.4.3.2);
3. Blue-light hazard for the retina (section 3.5.2.3);
4. Thermal retina hazard (section 3.4.3.1) and
5. IR-hazard for the eye (sections 3.4.3.1 and 3.4.3.2).

According to the standards, measurements should be performed according to two approaches; viz. at a distance where a light intensity of 500 lx is obtained and also at a distance of 20 cm (…). Based on these measurements, lamps are then classified according to the “Risk Group” (RG) to which they belong. RG0 (exempt from risk) and RG1 (minor risk) lamps do not pose any hazards during normal circumstances. RG2 (medium risk) lamps also do not pose hazards because of our aversion responses to very bright light sources, or due to the fact that we would experience thermal discomfort. RG3 (high risk) include only lamps where a short-term exposure poses a hazard. This classification is based on acute exposure responses (a single day, up to 8 hours) and applies only to individuals of normal sensitivity.

The contribution from the European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC) included six lamp types from eight manufacturers, considered by ELC to be “representative lamp types”.

3.5.2.3. Assessment of effects on the healthy eye

Glare

Discomfort glare does not impair visibility but causes an uncomfortable sensation that causes the observer to look away from the glaring source. It increases when the light source is facing the observer.

Disability glare is due to the light scattering within the ocular media which creates a veil that lowers any contrast and renders viewing impossible.

The luminance of the sky is rather stable at about 5,000 cd/m2. This value can be exceeded on bright surfaces on clear days when luminance can reach several tens of thousands cd/m2. The sun is never viewed directly except when it is at sunrise or at sunset when its luminance is about the same as the sky and its colour temperature low or moderate. 

It is when both the luminance and the colour temperature of the light are high that the blue light hazard increases.

The UV/blue light risk on the healthy majority is considered by ELC to be very low and SCENIHR accepts this, but with some questions regarding high power LEDs, wrong use and “non-representative lamps” (= lamps other than the “representative lamps” submitted to SCENIHR by the ELC):

The results presented in the ELC report suggest to SCENIHR that there is little or no risk to individuals of normal sensitivity from the UV, IR or blue light optical radiation emission from lamps which are considered to be “representative” of the type of lamps selected to replace incandescent lamps. SCENIHR however considers that “non-representative” lamps may emit levels that are much higher than those included in the report; however quality control limits applied by lamp manufacturers were not reported. Further consideration should also be given to the “intended” vs. “reasonable foreseeable” use of lamps. Further consideration also needs to be given to the risk classification of high power LEDs. Also, halogen lamps that are intended to be used with an external glass filter must not be used without the filter because of the risk of exposure to UV radiation.

3.5.3.1. Circadian rhythms

Recent studies indicate that ill-timed exposures to even low levels of light in house-hold settings may be sufficient for circadian disruptions in humans.

A comparison between the effects of living room light (less than 200 lx) and dim light (<3 lx) before bedtime showed that exposure to room light suppressed melatonin levels and shortened the duration of melatonin production in healthy volunteers (18-30 years) (Gooley et al. 2011).

Cajochen et al. (2011) compared the effects of a white LED-backlit screen with more than twice the level of blue light (462 nm) emission to a non-LED screen on male volunteers. Exposure to the LED-screen significantly lowered evening melatonin levels and suppressed sleepiness.

In another study from the same group (Chellappa et al. 2011) 16 healthy male volunteers were exposed to cold white CFLs (40 lx at 6,500 K) and incandescent lamps (40 lx at 3,000 K) for two hours in the evening. The melatonin suppression was significantly greater after exposure to the 6,500 K light, suggesting that our circadian system is especially sensitive to blue light even at low light levels (40 lx)

However, no study has investigated whether the impact of warm white CFLs and LEDs (2,700-3,000 K) on melatonin suppression is in any way different from that of incandescent lamps.

Conclusions

There is a moderate overall weight of evidence that ill-timed exposure to light (light-at-night), possibly through circadian disruption, may increase the risk of breast cancer. 

There is furthermore moderate overall weight of evidence that exposure to light-at-night, possibly through circadian disruption, is associated with sleep disorders, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders, and with affective disorders

The overall evidence for other diseases is weak due to the lack of epidemiological studies.

It seems that bright white light in the daytime can be helpful in keeping one alert for work (though preferably the real thing rather than a daylight-mimicking copy). But at night – very bad idea! Unless you’re doing shift work and really need to stay awake.

I have started noticing the effect of bright white light at night. My macbook has a LED screen and the cool-white background on most pages tends to be a very bright. Great in the daytime, not so great at night… So I’ve installed the f.lux app that adjusts the screen light temperature to follow the sunset at one’s particular location, and a similar app for my OLED screen Android.

I also try and make sure to get enough real daylight in the daytime and then I dim indoor lights more and more as the evening progresses. With these simple measures, my very easily disrupted circadian rhythm has gotten markedly more normal, almost miraculously so.

ANSES (France):

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety have issued official warnings about selling white LED lamps to the general public due to the toxic effect of blue light.

The principal characteristic of diodes sold for lighting purposes is the high proportion of blue in the white light emitted and their very high luminance (“brightness”). The issues of most concern identified by the Agency concern the eye due to the toxic effect of blue light and the risk of glare.

The blue light necessary to obtain white LEDs causes toxic stress to the retina. Children are particularly sensitive to this risk, as their crystalline lens is still developing and is unable to filter the light efficiently.

These new lighting systems can produce “intensities of light” up to 1000 times higher than traditional lighting systems, thus creating a risk of glare. The strongly directed light they produce, as well as the quality of the light emitted, can also cause visual discomfort.

Blue pollution

From the Wikipedia LED page:

Blue pollution: Because cool-white LEDs with high color temperature emit proportionally more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LEDs can cause more light pollution than other light sources. The International Dark-Sky Association discourages using white light sources with correlated color temperature above 3,000 K.

So, no cool-white LED or metal halide streetlights please!

More on LED

Light Colour

I recently had a look at some of the currently available LED bulbs in my local hardware store. The majority were more or less appalling in light colour. Two clear bulbs (with little light dots stuck on a stick) were green-white. Seven of the frosted LED bulbs were an odd sort of cool purple-blue-white despite being marked as “warm-white”. Only a few were even remotely warm-white for real. Many of the LED bulbs were also very dim, and useful for absolutely nothing.

But I have to say that the 12 W Philips Master LED-series MyAmbiance bulb (Swedish consumer test winner 2011 and predecessor of the improved U.S. L-Prize test winner) looked very incandescent-like from just looking at the lit bulb there in the store, and it was nice and bright without being glaring.

But as I didn’t feel like spending €70 (!) on a lamp I’m not sure I’ll like at home, or how long it will last or retain its original colour and brightness, I have yet to see how it looks in a home environment without all the lit surrounding lights. Maybe I’ll buy one later anyway just to satisfy my curiosity.

It was very heavy though… Probably because of all the electronics inside and the amount of metal needed for heat sink.

Philips online catalogue specifies it as Warm White, CCT 2700K, CRI 80, approx 825 Lm, and 25 000 hr rated average life.

Left: an unlit Philips 12 W Master LED
Right: a lit Philips 10 W L-Prize winner
Source: youtube screenshot

As can be seen in the latest CALiPER test by U.S. Department of Energy on Home LED Replacement Lamp 2011 (Table 1.), very few of the 38 different lamps had a CCT (correlated colour temperature) under 3000 K. I think in replacement lamps it needs to be actually a bit under the ~2700 K of incandescent lamps to look as warm – if that is the aim.

Colour rendition

In photography and cinematography, the colour rendering capacity of the light source is of essence. Here is an example from a highly informative ScreenLight & Grip newsletter:

 

CRI hi&lo (ScreenLight & Grip)

The newsletter author comments:

I also wouldn’t try to light a table-top food/product shot with LEDs either. As is readily apparent in the shots above, because of their limited color rendering capability, food presentation that will look vibrant and colorful to eye, under LEDs will tend to look a little dull on camera. By comparison a full spectrum daylight source such as HMI or LEP will capture the vibrant colors. Likewise, I wouldn’t try to mix LEDs with a uniform continuous light source, such as a studio lit with tungsten fixtures. If caught in isolation, their color deficiencies will be quite noticeable and unacceptable in comparison to the tungsten.

Colour shift

Even the unusually good looking warm-white colour of Philips’ next best LEDs may not last, as the light is not produced by RGB (mixing of red-green-blue light to produce white, which is also an option in LED) but by blue diods behind a yellow phosphor mix coating on the inside of the yellow parts of the bulb.

It is common for phosphor-based light sources that the phosphors that produce the red part of the spectrum get consumed first, turning the light more and more blue or green as it ages, and LED phosphors are no exception.

LED colour shift
(image from SceenLight & Grip)

There is an electronics store in Stockholm (Kjell & Co) where the counters are lit from above with rows of LED reflector lamps, of which some have been replaced. The result is exactly like the example in the top right photo above. Not very attractive. And the whole atmosphere of the store feels more like a morgue than someplace I love to go shopping, even though I like their products.

In ‘cheaper’ (well, comparatively speaking) LEDs, such as those mentioned above, this colour shift can be seen fairly soon.

Possibly, this may be avoided in the L-Prize bulb which has some red diodes inside and not just blue, so it will not be dependent on the red-producing phosphors to stay warm-white?

And if you have wondered why colour uniformity even in new warm-white LEDs seems so hard to achieve, it depends not only on the phosphor mix but also, apparently, on the diods themselves. The ScreenLight & Grip e-newsletter explains it well:

Given the irregularities inherent in the manufacture of the semiconductor wafers from which White Phosphor LEDs are stamped, the LEDs in a production batch are all slightly different. In a mechanized testing procedure, they are sorted and grouped together into bins according to their flux and color. Binning has been refined over the years, and these days the tolerance of the best binning systems allow barely perceptible differences between LEDS from a selected bin. The difference in color between two sources is quantified using what is called the “MacAdams ellipse.” A MacAdams ellipse defines the distance at which two colors that are very close to one another first become distinguishable to the human eye as different colors. As illustrated below, for a given point of color on the chromaticity diagram, the MacAdams ellipse defines the contour around it, where the colors that surround the point are no longer indistinguishable from that of the point.

Unfortunately, even the L-Prize testing committee finds colour variations acceptable for home lighting LEDs, as can be seen in the Technical Review document [credit to Freedom Lightbulb for finding a copy of it!] under the point Color maintenance (emphasis added):

Variation among submitted samples are well within the allowed limit. However, Philips asks for less tight tolerance for the production lamp, proposing a 0.006 variation limit. Although there are some concerns about users perceiving a slight difference in color appearance between lamps, Philips indicates that a ∆u’v’ of 0.006 is the maximum boundary and 90% of the production lamps will fall within a 0.004 ∆u’v’boundary. Given that an absolute tighter tolerance is a trade-off with cost, the TSC believes this tolerance to be acceptable. 

In the latest CALiPER test by U.S. Department of Energy on Home LED Replacement Lamp 2011 with samples of A19 bulbs, G25 globes and MR16 and PAR20 reflector lamps, colour variations were between 0.0010 and 0.0100! Not that I’m quite sure what such numbers translate to visually, but if Philips and the prize committee sees a variation of 0.004 or 0.006 something to haggle over, then it certainly sounds significant.

Dimming

The ScreenLight & Grip e-newsletter also explains the difficulty in getting LEDs to dim as easily and beautifully along the Planck curve as incandescents do.

Another problem is that, while it is relatively easy to put a dimmer on an LED, and blend two different color LED chips to achieve variable color mixing, as we saw above it is quite a different matter to track the color so that it remains on the black body locus at every point from daylight balance to tungsten balance. Maintaining a specific color temperature at a high CRI while dimming is made even more difficult by virtue of the fact that temperature in the LED changes when they are dimmed. Change in temperature shifts output wavelength as well as efficiency, and different LED chips change efficiency at different rates and at different temperatures. For these reasons, a more complex approach to dimming is required in order to control all these factors.

And as noticed by Save The Bulb, even the best LED replacement bulb available on the market today, Philips Master LED (same family as the L-Prize LED bulb) doesn’t dim very well (emphases added):

The [LED lamp] got cooler in appearance and the perceived colour rendering became much worse casting a gloomy grey in the space.

[T]he lamp also suddenly went out about half way through the travel of the dimmer’s slider, the GE lamp dimmed right down to the minimum setting. What was really alarming was that the [LED] lamp would not switch on at dimmer settings below about 70%. This was a serious problem in this location where three way switching was installed.

Really I am somewhat disappointed in a product that cost me $19.75 and does not work reliably at less than full power even when it claims to be dimable. Solutions such as this must be made fully compatible with existing wiring infrastructure.

Dimming incandescent

GE Reveal fulll on and dimmed
(photo: Save The Bulb)

Dimming LED

Philips LED fulll on and dimmed
(photo: Save The Bulb)

My comments:

1. Note how the LED, even when turned on fully, is not quite as warm as the blue-enriched GE Reveal incandescent lamp.

2. Note also how the LED (being a directional light forced into an omnidirectional bulb) mainly illuminates the ceiling area and leaves much of the corridor in the dark, whereas the incandescent lights up the whole space more evenly.

3. And finally, how the incandescent dims nicely along the Planck curve and gets warmer without losing light quality, as the light from all natural light sources always behaves. Whereas the LED light indeed turns into a gloomy blueish grey.

The L-Prize committee technical review says:

Capable to at least 20% dimming of maximum output without flicker.

Although the initial dimmers designated by Philips did not appear to be widely available and testing conducted by PNNL with a wide variety of dimmers showed several issues with the subnitted lamps, Philips redesign of the driver for the production lamps will meet these criteria. Philips has also stated that they will reveal any known incompatibilities in their product literature and on their website. 

That doesn’t sound overly reassuring…

Instead of searching Philips already hard-to-navigate website for info on which dimmers may be incompatible, I think I’ll just avoid putting any Philips LED bulb in any of my dimmable fixtures (I’ve already fried one dimmer when I thoughtlessly tested a CFL). I believe the reason some CFLs and LEDs are made dimmable is primarily to make them work with existing installed dimmers without blowing the circuits, not to actually be dimmed.

Power Factor

According to the CALiPER test mentioned earlier, Home LED Replacement Lamp 2011, Power Factor on tested lamps ranged between 0.38 (!) and 0.99.

And the L-Prize testing committee found it perfectly acceptable with 0.70 PF even for the best LED lamp, when used at home:

…and explains why (my emphasis):

Power Factor for submitted lamps meets both criteria. However, the production lamp design does not meet the L Prize criteria for commercial applications, but all lamps will be greater than 0.7. The TSC finds this acceptable as it understands the lower power factor is a trade off with more universal dimming performance and that an important early market for the L Prize lamp is the residential market. 

But this bulb is absolutely useless for dimming! So what’s the point in trading away better PF for a desired function that it flatly fails on?

Flicker

The excellent German site Argumente für die Glühbirne [thanks again to Freedom Lightbulb for the link] reports that consumer magazine Ökotest (‘Eco-test’) issue 11/2011, found LEDs to flicker! How much varied between brands. Flicker in the 11 test specimens was:

2 LEDs extremely pronounced
5 LEDs pronounced, but also on higher radiofrequency
1 LED pronounced
3 LEDs weak, but also at higher frequencies

Rare elements

From another page on the Glühbirne site (translated by google):

The 17 rare earth metals include cerium, dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, holmium, lanthanum, lutetium, neodymium, praseodymium, promethium, samarium, scandium, terbium, thulium, ytterbium, yttrium.

Rare-earth metals are not rare. The name comes from the fact that they originally found in rare minerals were. Some of the rare earth metals are more common in the earth’s crust than other elements, but larger deposits of suitable minerals are rare indeed.

China dominates the market for rare earths.

2010 was the share of world market at 97 percent.

2011 China has reduced the export volumes for the umpteenth time.

For some metals (yttrium, thulium and terbium which are required for CFLs) there is a complete export ban.

Following referenced links to Send Your Light Bulbs To Washington, which in turn quotes a Light Bulb Choice blog post, quoting
renewableenergyworld.com and conexiones.com):

Huge Price Increases Underway from Lamp Manufacturers: The impact of rare earth metals shortages

There is a rapid, emerging shortage of rare earth metals, a primary component used in the manufacture of fluorescent lamps – principally phosphors. Phosphors are transition metal compounds or rare earth compounds of various types. The most common uses of phosphors are prevalent in green technologies such as batteries, magnets, computer hard drives, TV screens, smart phones, and energy-saving light sources – and fluorescent lamps.

The problem with the supply of rare earth elements is that demand has skyrocketed over the last decade from 40,000 tons to 120,000 tons. Meanwhile, China, who owns the monopoly of rare earth minerals has been cutting its exports. Today, it only exports about 30,000 tons a year – only one-fourth of the world’s demand.

In a U.S. Department of Energy report dated December 14, 2010, it was noted that ”it is likely to take 15 years for the U.S. to mine enough rare earth minerals to shake its dependence on China.”

With China currently controlling up to 97% of the world supply of rare earth metals, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve been imposing tariffs and severe export restrictions.

More from Journal of Energy SecurityThe Battle Over Rare Earth Metals

Also, as reported in a 2-page article in New York Times: Earth-Friendly Elements, Mined Destructively with sad pictures of ruined landscape, there is nothing environmentally friendly about how rare earth metals are mined in China (emphasis added):

Here in Guyun Village, a small community in southeastern China fringed by lush bamboo groves and banana trees, the environmental damage can be seen in the red-brown scars of barren clay that run down narrow valleys and the dead lands below, where emerald rice fields once grew.

Miners scrape off the topsoil and shovel golden-flecked clay into dirt pits, using acids to extract the rare earths. The acids ultimately wash into streams and rivers, destroying rice paddies and fish farms and tainting water supplies.

On a recent rainy afternoon, Zeng Guohui, a 41-year-old laborer, walked to an abandoned mine where he used to shovel ore, and pointed out still-barren expanses of dirt and mud. The mine exhausted the local deposit of heavy rare earths in three years, but a decade after the mine closed, no one has tried to revive the downstream rice fields.

Small mines producing heavy rare earths like dysprosium and terbium still operate on nearby hills. “There are constant protests because it damages the farmland — people are always demanding compensation,” Mr. Zeng said.

“In many places, the mining is abused,” said Wang Caifeng, the top rare-earths industry regulator at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China. 

“This has caused great harm to the ecology and environment.”

Many mining operations are even run by gangsters:

Half the heavy rare earth mines have licenses and the other half are illegal, industry executives said. But even the legal mines, like the one where Mr. Zeng worked, often pose environmental hazards.

A close-knit group of mainland Chinese gangs with a capacity for murder dominates much of the mining and has ties to local officials, said Stephen G. Vickers, the former head of criminal intelligence for the Hong Kong police who is now the chief executive of International Risk, a global security company. 

Telling illegal ore from legal does not seem possible:

Western users of heavy rare earths say that they have no way of figuring out what proportion of the minerals they buy from China comes from responsibly operated mines. Licensed and illegal mines alike sell to itinerant traders. They buy the valuable material with sacks of cash, then sell it to processing centers in and around Guangzhou that separate the rare earths from each other.

Companies that buy these rare earths, including a few in Japan and the West, turn them into refined metal powders.

Besides these rare earth metals and a stunning amount of electronic components (commented on by FreedomLightbulb), LEDs also contain, depending on colour, other elements, such as indium, gallium, aluminium or zinc.

Plus arsenic, lead, nickel “and many other metals”, as reported earlier (emphasis added):

Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention [] and fellow scientists at UCI and UC Davis crunched, leached and measured the tiny, multicolored lightbulbs sold in Christmas strands; red, yellow and green traffic lights; and automobile headlights and brake lights. Their findings? Low-intensity red lights contained up to eight times the amount of lead allowed under California law, but in general, high-intensity, brighter bulbs had more contaminants than lower ones. White bulbs contained the least lead, but had high levels of nickel. 

With incandescent lamps, it was just a glass bulb, a tungsten filament and an aluminium base…

…that produced an easily & beautifully dimmable, naturally warm light of the highest quality, power factor and all the rest. 

More on LED issues from ABC: Are LED lightbulbs worth the extra money?

CFL Health Issues Update

Nothing new here for those of you who follow similar sites, just posting this to have it included on this site too.

UV radiation confirmed

Last month, Save The Bulb covered a Daily Mail article on the latest research on UV from CFLs. Here is abstract from the original U.S. study (emphasis added):

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can provide the same amount of lumens as incandescent light bulbs, using one quarter of the energy. Recently, CFL exposure was found to exacerbate existing skin conditions; however, the effects of CFL exposure on healthy skin tissue have not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, we studied the effects of exposure to CFL illumination on healthy human skin tissue cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Cells exposed to CFLs exhibited a decrease in the proliferation rate, a significant increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, and a decrease in their ability to contract collagen. Measurements of UV emissions from these bulbs found significant levels of UVC and UVA (mercury [Hg] emission lines), which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all bulbs studied. The response of the cells to the CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation, which was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs), normally used for UV absorption, were added prior to exposure. No effect on cells, with or without TiO2 NPs, was observed when they were exposed to incandescent light of the same intensity.

(Note how not even a scientific study about light can now be published without the mandatory mention of how much CFLs ‘save’! What do savings have to do with health issues?) Anyway, Kevan comments:

Double envelope CFLs do reduce UV emissions considerably and should be used in any situation where lamps are at all close to people like task lighting, table lamps and bedside lights, particularly for the very young and very old whose skin tends to be more sensitive.

Which are less efficient and durable than naked CLF tubes. I’d recommend a frosted incandescent bulb for those tasks instead, if you have any hoarded. Or try a halogen PAR floodlight if directional lamps are suitable for the luminaire (light fitting). Or a warmwhite LED of highest quality if you can afford it.

Update Jan 2013:

UV leakage from CFLs confirmed again

Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells.

“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a Professor of Dermatology.

Exposure to the bulbs could lead to premature aging and skin cancer, according to doctors.

“It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest form, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung.

In every bulb that researchers tested they found that the protective coating around the light creating ‘phosphor’ was cracked, allowing dangerous ultraviolet rays to escape.

Homeowners expressed concern over the effect that the bulbs could have on children.

“That’s very unfortunate because the kids are getting exposed to so many different things at a younger age,” said Vicky Cobb.

Study: Some Eco-Friendly Light Bulbs May Put Health At Risk

Carcinogenic chemicals?

Last year The Telegraph reported on cancer causing chemicals in CFLs.

Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin’s Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”

The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year.

But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenolnaphthalene and styrene.

(Click on each word for Wikipedia info on health effects.)

“Andreas Kirchner, of the Federation of German Engineers, said: “Electrical smog develops around these lamps. I, therefore, use them only very economically. They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head. 

Electro-smog is a different issue altogether, but good advice anyway.

British experts insisted that more research was needed and urged consumers not to panic.

Dr Michelle Bloor, senior lecturer in Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, told the Daily Express: “Further independent studies would need to be undertaken to back up the presented German research.”

The Department for the Environment insists the bulbs are safe, despite the fact that they contain small amounts of mercury which would leak out if the glass was broken.

Advice on its website states: “Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public.

“Although they contain mercury, limited at 5mg per lamp, it cannot escape from a lamp that is intact.

“In any case, the very small amount contained in an energy efficient bulb is unlikely to cause harm even if the lamp should be broken.”

To my knowledge, no such independent studies have been made, and the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) still has no cautionary warnings on their website CFL page (last updated 29 October 2009). And the issue was not about mercury but about phenol, naphtalene and styrene.

For more CFL risks, see New Electric Politics

Lighting industry on LED issues

For those who still believe LED bulbs to be the perfect incandescent replacement, be advised that leading lighting industry representatives don’t seem very convinced themselves. Here are some of their views ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ in 2009 and 2012.

2009

In May 2009, EDN’s Designing with LEDs seminar invited Francis Nguyen, senior product marketing manager at OSRAM, Willem Sillevis-Smitt, director of strategic marketing at Philips Lumileds, and Paul Scheidt, product manager at Cree Components, to discuss LED issues and the future of LEDs. Quoting part of the article LED lighting: panel debates quality versus cost here (emphases added).

Conference chair and EDN editor Margery Conner opened the discussion with a simple question—why can’t we just use banks of ordinary 5mm industrial white LEDs for lighting?

The answer turned out to be less than simple. For one thing, Scheidt said, a typical 5mm LED produces about 6 lumens. So a big commercial fixture would require thousands of LEDs, creating interesting problems for driver designers, and in the end consuming about the same power as a florescent fixture of the same output. “The big advantage for LEDs in lighting applications comes when you design the LEDs for that purpose,” Scheidt said. “Then you can achieve output efficiency, directability of the beam, and reliability that you can’t get any other way.”

Nguyen offered a cautionary tale. “I walk through a neighborhood that has lots of those solar-powered LED yard lights,” he said. “And I started noticing recently that more and more of them are burned out. Well, those fixtures actually do use standard 5mm white LEDs. What happens—you can see this if you take one apart—is that the blue light from the LED is intense enough, especially if you overdrive it, to degrade the epoxy encapsulant. The epoxy turns yellow, and then it starts to crack. Once you get a crack, the LED will fail. So this is not a good use of these LEDs.”

The next question was more challenging. How will LED lighting avoid the same sort of problems that compact florescent lamps (CFLs) experienced early in their market life? Sillevis-Smitt weighed in first, explaining that like LEDs, CFLs had started out as high-priced lamps designed for long life. But the lure of the incandescent-bulb replacement market, coupled with the entry of low-cost producers from Asia, quickly drove vendors to trade away the long life in exchange for lower cost. This led to a complex situation in which consumers often don’t understand the characteristics of the lamp they are buying. In fact in many applications, inexpensive CFLs aren’t really direct replacements for ordinary light bulbs at all. But not knowing this, consumers buy the wrong bulb for their purpose and get frustrated when it doesn’t work. That is exactly the situation regulators are now trying to prevent with new standards, Sillevis-Smitt said.

Nguyen added that first of all, designers needed to understand that LED lamps required conductive cooling, while incandescents are designed to survive with only radiative cooling. So LEDs physically could not be screw-in replacements for incandescent bulbs in all applications. And today, he said, the cost per Lumen of LEDs is very much too high to replace incandescents or even CFLs. “Fixtures must exploit the long life of properly-designed LED lighting to have a competitive position,” he said.

Scheidt agreed with both statements. “The EnergyStar standards will be critical to the development of this market,” he said. Also, he underlined that the strength of LED lighting is not its cost, or even its efficiency, but the features that it can offer beyond just illumination. “We have to break people away from the expectation of a screw-in light bulb for very low cost, he said.

A series of questions asked about what the maximum light output of the lamps really was, and whether it was a function of lifetime. Sillevis-Smitt answered that getting the best lifetime out of the lamps meant reading the datasheet, where output-vs.-life data was available. “In general, higher junction temperature and higher current will mean lower life,” he warned. “There are several failure modes on LEDs, but which one is most likely depends on the architecture of the particular lamp.

Doesn’t sound at all as reassuring as when the same lighting technology is presented to the general public with statements like “lasts 25 years”.

The article author (rather astonishingly!) concluded:

“All in all, the panelists seemed confident in the future of LED lighting, but definitely not as a screw-in replacement for incandescent lamps.”

2012

So, how does the lighting industry feel about it now, three years later, when much progress actually has been made in the LED development?

Dr. Charles Hunt, director of the Vu1 Corporation, let us know in his Light-Source Symposium Update review of the 13th International Light-Source Symposium held in Troy, NY, in late June this year:

This is THE scientific conference on lighting sources (lamps) and is held every other year. This year, it was hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute (RPI) Lighting Research Center (LRC), and held at the RPI campus.  In recent years, this conference has focused heavily on LED and OLED — so-called “SSL” — sources with only a minimal amount of discussion centered on fluorescent, HID, halogen, and other light sources.

The chief technology officers of several important lighting companies (Osram, Philips, GE, Cree, Panasonic, and Toshiba) all spoke on the first day, and, surprisingly, I observed none of the hyperbole or excessive optimism about LED and SSL we’ve experienced in recent years.

In an ensuing panel discussion, one question from the audience was, “Can you list and prioritize the technical challenges with SSL, and can you tell us what the key issue to solve is?”

Without hesitation or disagreement, they listed cost, thermal management, reliability, color quality, electronics, and form factor.  Two of the CTOs agreed that the top two are extremely serious, and necessary to solve before SSL can make significant inroads into the residential lighting markets.  They all agreed that SSL is only relevant at the present for decorative and specialty lighting, especially backlighting. They also agreed that they feel major improvements may come about (ranging in opinion of 1 to 10 years.)

[leaving out part where everyone showed interest in the Vu1 bulb, as irrelevant for this particular article]

With regard to other conference highlights, the consensus is that OLED technology is far too dim, unreliable and too expensive for products at this time; but some years in the future, there should be a crossover in “cost per lumen” which could help them emerge as residential products.

The LED “Blue Light Hazard” is no longer viewed as unsubstantiated fodder for emotional hysteria: all of the LED community is now acceding to the existence of problems with circadian rhythms, melatonin and other hormone production, macular degeneration, disrupted sleep cycles, and other issues, as a result of exposure to LEDs – the potential to be a major worldwide issue.

OK, this description was from the producer of a competing lamp technology, but I have no reason to believe it inaccurate, especially not in view of the earlier panel discussion.

Ban The Ban – Sign The Petition!

EU incandescent ban

Now it has been three years since the first step of the incandescent phase-out was enforced in the European Union. In a few weeks, the last of the regular incandescent bulbs, 25 and 40 W, will be prohibited from production and import into the European Union. Remaining stocks may be sold until they run out. Next year reflector lamps are up for restrictions and 2016 most halogen lamps will be banned.

Was this a good idea?

Evidence is mounting that this was a very poor decision.

But CFLs are so great?

Since the ban, we have had a never ending flow of reports on CFL issues, from dimming problems, slow start-up time, poor performance at cold temperatures, lamps burning out prematurely, starting fires, emitting UV, radio frequencies and causing disturbances on the grid. Plus consumer tests showing much still to be desired when it comes to producing promised brightness etc.

And worst of all: Chinese workers and environment poisoned to produce ‘green’ lamps for us, risk for toxic contamination of your home, poor recycling rates, and recycling plant workers at risk from people throwing CFLs in glass recycling bins.

But incandescent lamps use more mercury than CFLs..? 

No, they don’t. This clever PR lie was invented in 1993 by the EU-funded anti-lightbulb lobby organisation IAEEL and based on a fantasy calculation exercise at a Danish university in 1991, with an imaginary scenario of a CFL containing only 0.69 mg mercury (impossible to attain at that time, and still is), while electricity production from coal was assumed at a whopping 95% (as was the case in Denmark at that time but nowhere close to true for the rest of EU then, and even less so today). 

So poof, the main argument that has gotten environmentalists, politicians, journalists and the general public alike to believe a mercury containing product is the best product for the environment, has no substance at all. 

See my Mercury posts for details and references on mercury issues above.

See also Good Greek Philosophy

But what about LEDs?

LEDs (and OLEDs) are great for TV and computer monitors, for coloured Christmas decoration, signal lights, possibly road illumination, stage lighting, spectacular lighting design (such as could be seen during the last Olympics) and many other creative purposes, just not as replacement bulbs for home illumination. Even industry leaders don’t seem to believe in that concept, as they know of the many challenges and that this is not the area in which LEDs perform best.

Most LED replacement bulbs available to consumers today are a joke when it comes to light colour, output and price. There are a few decent looking ones from top brands, but the prices on those are even more of a joke, and how long they last and give a useful light is still unknown. Many have electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues and may cause grid disturbances. Most are not dimmable, and the ones that are do not dim well.

But what about halogen energy savers?

Well, they give the same type of top quality light, can be dimmed nicely and have all the other advantages of incandescent light, plus longer life. But recent consumer tests disappointingly show that they don’t save as much as promised. They also contain bromine or iodine and can be quite glaring unless shaded or frosted.

Unfortunately, frosted bulbs were also banned by the EU in the first stage of the phase-out 2009, due to wanting to force the majority who likes frosted glare-free lamps at home to buy CFLs instead – that was the whole point of the ban. (Not that CFLs are always glare-free, but they can pass for ‘frosted’ by their phosphor coating.)

That the halogen energy saver is still permitted for a few more years was a temporary compromise, as there exists no clear bright point replacement for when such is desired. Its existence on the market – although at first, very hard to find – has been used by the Commission to stifle all the numerous complaints about CFL shortcomings: “But for those applications, you can use a halogen energy saver!” What the commission doesn’t tell the general public is that halogen lamps will also be banned – unless this regulation hysteria is put to a halt by EU citizens!

Time to ban the ban!

Freedom Lightbulb explains How bans are wrongly justified. Quoting from just one of the many excellent points:

CFLs are simply not suitable for all locations and uses: Hot or cold ambience, vibration, dampness, enclosed spaces, recesses, existing dimming circuits, timers, movement sensor switching, use in chandeliers and small and unusual lamps, aesthetical use if clear bulbs are preferred, rare usage when cheaper bulbs are preferred – and so on – apart from light quality differences, particularly noticeable when dimming. Usage in children’s rooms might be restricted on breakage and mercury release issues, see point 10 below.

LEDs offer an alternative choice especially for directional lighting – but otherwise, with several similar location and usage issues to CFLs, as well as having their own light quality issues in spiky emission spectra. LEDs also have even more light output problems than CFLs to achieve bright (75-100W and over) omnidirectional lighting equivalence, and at reasonable cost.

To put it bluntly:
Incandescent technology is optimal in BULB form,
Fluorescent technology is optimal in TUBE form,
LED technology is optimal in SHEET form.
Fluorescent and LED lighting technology advantages are compromised in trying to replace what incandescents can do.

You don’t make savings by regulating what products are on the market – unless they’re toxic, then you remove them for environmental and health reasons. You do it by using the appropriate lamp type and brightness for a particular environment and task, and by tuning it down or switching it off when not used. Lighting designer Kevan Shaw points out the obvious in Ecodesign Regulation Failure? (emphasis added):

As has been shown in previous studies the amount of lighting energy used in households is far more dependent on behavior than the type of lighting equipment used. Ultimately the length of time a light is left switched on has significantly more influence on total energy used than the wattage of the lamp. Another interesting point is that the proportion of electricity used in households for lighting is now being overtaken by that used for Audio Visual and Computers in the home. Despite this no one so far is proposing that plasma large screen tellys are banned in favour of LED types that use a fraction of the electricity!

Also, you can make an incandescent or halogen incandescent both use less electricity and last longer by simply dimming it – something many are already doing! Jim on Light:

Dimmer maker Lutron says that by dimming a halogen lamp by 30% will give you many of the same benefits as using a compact fluorescent lamp.  Lutron also says that a 3,000 hour halogen lamp will last 12,000 hours when dimmed by that 30%.

As Freedom Lightbulb frequently points out: people are not stupid. If there was a better product that truly saves both money and the environment and last as long as promised, we would buy it without being forced. We gladly buy energy-star fridges and washing machines. We have willingly followed energy authorities’ advice on better insulation of our houses; taking a shower instead of a bath; switching appliances off instead of leaving them on stand-by; turning lights off when leaving the room; installing sensors, timers and dimmers. We recycle and try to be as green as we can manage and afford.

All EU authorities need to do is enforce the energy and performance information on the package label, make tests to check that it’s accurate, and leave us all free to make our own informed choices on what we want to spend our hard-earned money on.

The market failure of incandescent replacements is a product failure, and banning the original high quality product in order to force an unwilling public to pay more for a problematic and lower quality replacement is just too absurd for words!

Save the bulb – sign the petition!

Here is a German petition to revoke the ban. It’s not very well written, but please sign anyway – every vote counts:

-> Avaaz petition to repeal the EU ban

Edit: Two more German petitions to sign (thanks to Lighthouse for the links):

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/pro-gluhbirnen.html
https://www.openpetition.de/petition/online/aufhebung-des-gluehbirnenverbots

Update: The incandescent ban is actually illegal as the replacement lamps have not fulfilled criteria a, b and c in the Ecodesign Directive. Se my updated post New EU Ecodesign Directive

EU Light Regulations Expanded

Updated Aug 20

Translated and condensed from Swedish Energy Agency’s website.

Reflector lamps, LED and halogen

Now LED and reflector lamps will be included in the regulation and energy label reqirements.

On July 13, the Committee for Eco-design agreed on the regulation proposal for reflector lamps, LED lamps and related equipment. If accepted, the new requirements will take effect from September 1, 2013. With this new regulation virtually every light source is covered, as the requirements for omnidirectional, road and office lighting is already in place.

The new requirements are introduced in four stages so that manufacturers, importers, retailers and consumers will have time to convert:

Step 1: September 1, 2013 
Between Steps: March 1, 2014 
Step 2: September 1, 2014 
Step 3: September 1, 2016

The requirements set for reflector lamps such as halogen lamps (230 V and low voltage), discharge lamps and LEDs. Omni-directional LED bulbs, which previously only had the energy efficiency requirements, are now also included, as well as related equipment, i.g. the driver and controllers for lighting.

OLED lights are still excluded because this technique is still regarded as immature, but may be included in future revisions of the regulation. 

The regulation includes both energy efficiency and function. Typical performance criteria are longevity, number of ignition and extinction cycles, start time and color capabilities. In addition there are demands for expanded information about the light that should be on the lamps themselves, packaging, and specific sites. This makes it easier for both common and professional users and clients in the selection of lighting solutions.

It seems then, that the original time table for different lamps, as described in my 2009 ban summary, is being kept by the EU. Meaning that from 2016, all halogen lamps must be Energy Class B, which only the very expensive Philips halogen bulb with infrared coating and integrated transformer achieves. And that lamp is currently nowhere to be seen… (I managed to locate one in a small special lamps shop in Stockholm a couple of years ago and it was nice and bright but didn’t last very long.)

This may mean that all the mini halogen bulbs for low-voltage reflector lamps are also banned from that date! The industry wants to see all halogen lamps gone and replaced by much more profitable CFLs and LEDs, and EU politicians willingly oblige. Some of the more attractive metal halide lamps that have made many shops more brightly and beautifully lit since the 90’s may also be at risk. But no one is really sure exactly which lamps will be removed, even professional lighting designers are being kept in the dark! And possibly for quite appalling reasons:

From PLDA Greenpages (emphasis added):

The current draft legislation for reflector lamps, the final draft of which is dated January 2012, will result in the phasing out of several types of lamps, with mains, low voltage and metal halide reflector lamps most likely to be affected. The signals are clear that there will be significant reductions in the availability of these lamps from September 2013, with further reductions scheduled for 2016.

The concern is that specification of these lamp types could lead to a risk of Professional Indemnity Claims if said lamp types could not be provided for installation after September 2013.  Specification of products which then become unavailable from September 2013 would likely result in claims from clients regarding delays and mis-specification.

The main problem is that there is insufficient data available to determine exactly which lamps will be phased out, the specification of which should be avoided accordingly, as manufacturers and legislators have not, at the current time, provided the necessary information.

Changes in Reflector Lamps Legislation may prove problematic for Lighting Designers

This seems to be quite in line with EC behaviour openly on their website too. For the general public, one graph is provided that makes it seem like halogen energy savers (class C ‘improved incandescent bulbs’) will be permitted indefinitely, while the timeline in the information material for professionals tells another story.

Public timeline from Changes – bulbs and packaging

Professional timeline from Frequently asked questions

Tighter standards & new labels

Looking at this last regulation installment, one thing that strikes me is the stunning amount of regulation and label info needed for CFLs and LEDs to cover all the technical issues they have, in order to produce just a little more light per watt:

(a) Nominal useful luminous flux displayed in a font at least twice as large as any display of the nominal lamp power;

(b) Nominal life time of the lamp in hours (not longer than the rated life time);

(c) Colour temperature, as a value in Kelvins and also expressed graphically or in words;

(d) Number of switching cycles before premature failure;

(e) Warm-up time up to 60% of the full light output (may be indicated as ‘instant full light’ if less than 1 second);

(f) A warning if the lamp cannot be dimmed or can be dimmed only on specific dimmers; in the latter case a list of compatible dimmers shall be also provided on the manufacturer’s website;

(g) If designed for optimum use in non-standard conditions (such as ambient temperature Ta ≠ 25°C or specific thermal management is necessary), information on those conditions;

(h) Lamp dimensions in millimetres (length and largest diameter);

(i) Nominal beam angle in degrees;

(j) If the lamp’s beam angle is ≥90° and its useful luminous flux as defined in point 1.1 of this Annex is to be measured in a 120° cone, a warning that the lamp is not suitable for accent lighting;

(k) If the lamp cap is a standardised type also used with filament lamps, but the lamp’s dimensions are different from the dimensions of the filament lamp(s) that the lamp is meant to replace, a drawing comparing the lamp’s dimensions to the dimensions of the filament lamp(s) it replaces;

(l) An indication that the lamp is of a type listed in the first column of Table 6 may be displayed only if the luminous flux of the lamp in a 90° cone (Φ90°) is not lower than the reference luminous flux indicated in Table 6 for the smallest wattage among the lamps of the type concerned. The reference luminous flux shall be multiplied by the correction factor in Table 7. For LED lamps, it shall be in addition multiplied by the correction factor in Table 8; 

(m) An equivalence claim involving the power of a replaced lamp type may be displayed only if the lamp type is listed in Table 6 and if the luminous flux of the lamp in a 90° cone (Φ90°) is not lower than the corresponding reference luminous flux in Table 6. The reference luminous flux shall be multiplied by EN 22 EN the correction factor in Table 7. For LED lamps, it shall be in addition multiplied by the correction factor in Table 8. The intermediate values of both the luminous flux and the claimed equivalent lamp power (rounded to the nearest 1 W) shall be calculated by linear interpolation between the two adjacent values.

If the lamp contains mercury:

(n) Lamp mercury content as X.X mg;

(o) Indication of which website to consult in case of accidental lamp breakage to find instructions on how to clean up the lamp debris.

So, 16 different parameters to learn and keep in mind, plus websites to consult for safety instructions, just to buy a simple lightbulb!!

When buying an incandescent bulb, all you needed to know was watts and type of base.

All incandesent bulbs switched on immediately; worked with timers, dimmers and sensors; dimmed beautifully; worked just as well in the oven as in the freezer; worked in any position; power factor was perfect; colour rendering was perfect; light colour adjusted itself perfectly along the Planck curve according to brightness; life span was predictable and was not shortened by switching it off within 15 minutes of use. You knew that if you wanted to save energy, you either dimmed the lamp or simply turned it off when not needed.

And when producing it, you stuck a piece of tungsten in a glass bulb, put a metal screw base on it, replaced the air with some inert gas and that was it. Easily done in a local factory.

You did’t have to go mine for toxic metals and phosphors, manufacture various components all over Asia and then ship them to China for assembly, then ship the finished lamps to Europe, then collect them again after use to recycle the toxic elements. Or keep tweaking it for 3o years to get it to only almost resemble incandescent light, almost give as much light as promised, and almost (but often not) last as long as promised, while still having all those issues that the EU Commission now finally sees fit to regulate and require on the label.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s excellent that this info is now required on the label! That’s what national and federal authorities should be there for, to keep the free market in check and make sure it delivers what it promises. These mandatory labels should have been required years ago, but then the Committee either didn’t know about all these issues or chose to ignore them. I only hope these requirements will be forecefully enforced, with regular tests and fines and sales bans on any lamp that doesn’t live up to its label info.

But legislating on product labels and doing quality controls is one thing. Banning safe and popular products is truly taking things to extremes.

Link to EC label guide for consumers: How to read the new information displayed on light bulb packaging

See also Freedom Light Bulbs post about the new labels.

Incandescent Home Lighting

In this post, I thought I’d share what kind of lights I use in my own home.

I use mainly incandescent light, but very little of it. As a principle, I only turn on as much as I need at any given moment. For maximum flexibility, I have many more light points than I generally use, so that there is always the right light for different moods, tasks, seasons and time of day. Here are some of them:

Ceiling spotlights with 3 x 40 W incandescent or halogen replacement reflector lamps. I have one of these in every room (3 sets in my L-shaped kitchen) but I only turn them on when cleaning, so they get used only a few minutes per week. They produce an excellent light for vacuuming, as they project the light down onto the floor.

2014-11-09 02.18.32

Around the living room, placed very low, I have several wall luminaires with 25 watt silver-top incandescent lamps for cosy ambiance without glare.

Over the sofa: a spotlight with flexible arm and 25 watt reflector lamp for reading.

In the Holiday season, I turn on the incandescent light strings I have fastened around the arched doorways.

2014-11-09 02.19.28

I also have a couple of salt lamps (made of real chunks of salt) with 15 watt mini bulbs inside. One in the living room and one in the TV room. Perfect for late at night when you want a dim, cosy and extra warm light in order to not suppress melatonin levels.

On the kitchen walls, I have 4 single spotlights, with 25 or 40 W incandescent or halogen reflector lamps. Some of them I’ve connected to a remote control for quick switch-on. These get used several times a day but only for short periods. (Lamp cables I’ve stapled to the wall with special U-staples designed for the purpose.)

Over the stove, sink and countertop I removed the ugly fluorescent tubes and put in 2 or 3 x 20 watt halogen under-cabinet luminaires. The one over the stove could not be screwed to the metal exhaust fan so I fastened it with self-adhesive velcro strips. These lamps get used only when cooking and washing up.

The bathroom already had 3 x 10 watt halogen downlights, which get nicely doubled by the large mirror. The only thing I miss here is a dimmer, as the light feels too bright late at night…

Edit: …so I bought a coloured LED strip that can be set to red in the evening (see Coloured LED review 2).

Red light (photo: Halogenica)

For safe navigation around the house during dark evening hours, I have window lights with 7 watt incandesent mini-bulbs in the most used rooms. Just enough light to see, and makes the rooms look cosy both from the inside and the outside. Here is the one in the kitchen.

For ambient room lighting in the study, I use a 35 watt halogen desk luminaire with built-in dimmer, adjusting the light level to suit mood, task and time of day.

If I need a brighter light, I turn on the other desk luminaire that takes up to 75 watts if needed. I currently use a clear 42 watt halogen energy saver, which gives a crystal clear, sunny bright white light. The wide shade spreads the light nicely over the whole desk and the construction is very flexible. (Used to have one of those asymmetrical desk luminaires popular in the 90s, but that was not half as useful despite its ridiculously high price.)

By the bed I have a similar but older model with narrower shade, onto which I mounted a dimmer when I rewired it. Not the most attractive contraption, but very practical. Can’t stand bright light right before bedtime so it’s perfect to be able to tune it way down to a soft, warm, almost candle-like light. When I want to read in bed, I just turn the 40 watt frosted incandescent bulb up a bit and adjust the flexible arm to just the right angle.


For safe navigation in the middle of the night I have a 1 watt orange LED nightlight (of the ‘golfball’ model described in my Coloured LED Review post). It has a built-in light sensor and turns itself off during the day.

Outdoors: Around the house I have wall lanterns with 60 watt decorative carbon filament lamps. These only get turned on when I’m outdoors at night, which is not that often.

For porch light I use a 53 watt halogen energy saver.

For driveway security light (connected to a light sensor) I use warm-white LED.

More LED Issues

Found some interesting LED articles at the Swedish National Electrical Safety Board’s website. Not all new, but still worth considering. (Quoting whole articles here, with some corrections to goole’s translation to English. Emphases added.)

LED tubes can be dangerous

May 20, 2010

To save energy, many industries, municipalities and other large consumers of traditional fluorescent lamps are switching to LED lamps. Tests show that LED tubes can compromise the security of the person replacing the lamp.

LED lampsThe new LED tubes are supplied with 230 V voltage to the luminaire lamp holder for the lamp ends. The risk is getting an electric shock when the lamp is replaced because it is easy to touch the shiny connectors at one end of the tube, while the other end is attached to the light fixture.

Can be mounted in standard fluorescent fixtures

The National Electrical Safety Board has been tested a number of LED tubes in the Swedish market. All products can be installed in conventional fluorescent fixtures. The results of the tests show such serious faults that the agency has decided to withdraw the products from end users. Importers are required to advertise alerts to reach all end users.

– The current LED tubes are sold primarily via the Internet and can be found both among consumers as that of bulk consumers, says Martin Gustafsson at the Safety Board. Those who have purchased the product should contact the place of purchase for warranty.

Safety Board has no data on how many of those LED lamps on the market, but there may be a thousand.

The corresponding study in Finland

The Finnish equivalent of the National Electrical Safety Board, Safety Tukes, has been tested a number of led tube. Test results have shown that the tested products did not comply with safety regulations, and there was a risk of electric shock when replacing the tubes. According Tukes there are in Finland several thousand LED tubes that can be dangerous. The Safety Board has contacted the LED tube suppliers in Sweden who have received the Finnish counterpart sales ban in Finland and asked them to take voluntary measures in accordance with the measures Tukes has demanded. The LED tubes tested by the Swedish Safeby board have not been tested in Finland.

LED-lysrör kan vara farliga

So, be careful out there! Turn the power off before mounting LED tubes. And don’t be sure they’ll fit your old fixtures:

LED lamps and fluorescent tube adaptors

July 14, 2009

One way to save energy is to replace existing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which are normally without problems.

But even for the traditional fluorescent tubes pops up options on the market. On the one hand, new types of fluorescent tubes that operate at higher frequencies, and also LED tubes. The idea is that you should be able to reuse existing light fittings and just replace the traditional fluorescent tube with one of these new alternative light sources. For this to work, usually you make changes to the original fixture, which can change the properties and affect the electrical safety and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

What does the regulatory framework say

A trader who places a product on the market is obliged to take responsibility for this product. A sign of this is that the product is CE marked. If a trader puts together two CE-marked products, he or she is considered the producer of a new third product that he or she is responsible for and which in turn must be CE marked. This reasoning also applies when replacing the lamp in an existing fluorescent light fixture with an option for which the fixture was not originally designed.

A fluorescent light fixture for so-called T8 fluorescent lamps are optimized for this type of light source and have quite different characteristics when mounting an alternate light source. Often you have to modify the existing fixture, remove or replace the starter or other components to work together with the new light source. When doing this, the original CE marking is no longer valid and you are considered the responsible producer of the new product consisting of the modified fixture with the new alternate light source. This applies to each new type of combination of fitting the new light sources.

CE marking and EC Insurance

If the new product meets all the essential requirements for electrical safety and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), it should again be submitted for CE marking and draw up an EG declaration and technical documentation. Read more in Elsäkerhetsverkets regulation ELSÄK-FS 2000:1 which is available at the website. For safety of the new product, one needs to ask a few questions:

first: If the thermal properties of the original fixture was negatively affected?

second: Is there a risk that the new light sources weighs so much that the lamp holders in the original fixture overload?

third: What characteristics of EMC, the new combination of original fixtures and new light bulbs? Will the new product requirements of the EMC Directive?

More problems

Other issues to consider are how the new product changes light qualities. Both brightness and light distribution can be affected in a way that the requirements for illumination of such a task are no longer are met. There are also other EU directives that you need to consider: WEEE and RoHS are two examples relating to the environmental characteristics. If you are looking to manufacture or import of alternative light sources for T8 fluorescent lamps to resell, you should consider on the liability issue and inform your customers about the responsibility they assume when installing new types of light bulbs in existing fixtures.

LED-lysrör och lysrörsadaptrar

(Again, the mandatory mention of CFLs and their energy saving potential, in an article that has nothing to do with CFLs whatsoever.) Anyways, don’t try this at home.

Banned LED bulbs

Dec 14, 2011

With the new energy conservation requirements, incandescent bulbs be phased out, increasing interest in alternative lighting. The National Electrical Safety Board has recently given a variety of LED lamps sales ban.

The most common reason is electrical grid disturbances, but they also interfere with radio frequencies.The lamps which the Safety Board has looked at are the incandescent bulb replacement LED bulbs. They are based on modern LED technology and all the lamps tested contains a small power pack, situated in the lamp socket.

List of products which have so far received sales ban: Lamp 1Lamp 2Lamp 3Lamp 4Lamp 5Lamp 6Lamp 7. [3 more but links required login]

Result of market supervision

More than half of the LED lights purchased through the market and tested have received sales bans. This is a remarkably high figure, which may be because most of the lights checked had built-in dimming, i.e. that they are dimmable. Dimmable LED lamps contain control electronics that often require specific measures to achieve acceptable properties to make electrical devices work together, known as electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). This is sometimes overlooked by the lamp manufacturers. It is important to you as a manufacturer or importer to ensure that the LEDs have been tested properly with EMC.

How does the disturbance manifest?

LEDs produce disturbances in the distribution system which, among other things, can cause radio interference. Radio interference caused by the conducted noise radiating from the connected wires. This is because the lines, e.g. to the luminaire, act as transmitting antennas for conducted interference. The disturbance may affect other electrical products in the local area, even those that are not connected to an outlet. It can also affect communication such as wireless broadband and telephony.

What rules apply for manufacturers?

The Electrical Safety Authority on electromagnetic compatibility (ELSÄK-FS 2007:1) has to be followed. Regulations based on the EMC Directive (2004/108/EC EMCD).

Cooperation within the EU about LED lights

There is currently a campaign in the EU where LED lighting examined. The aim is to investigate if the new LED lights on the market comply with applicable EMC requirements.

Förbjudna LED-lampor

A few months later, EU authorities found similar problems:

Disruptive LEDs are examined in the EU

Feb 10, 2012

The National Electrical Safety Board has in 2011 looked into LED lights, half of which got sales bans. The reason for the bans is that the lights did not meet the applicable requirements for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

Market of LED lamps 2011The lights disrupted other electrical products. Only one in five LED lamps passed the test without comment.

European survey

In parallel with the National Electrical Safety Board’s market surveillance of LED lights, the EU carried out an investigation. The EU surveillance is not strictly comparable to the Safety Boards’s market surveillance, but shows similar shortcomings. The results also show that manufacturers who use LED technology are very poor at complying with the Directive.

– The reason for this is that LED technology is so new and there have appeared many new manufacturers in the market that are simply not aware of the directive, said Ulf Johansson at the Safety Board.

Clearer rules

One of several measures aimed at improving the situation is that the European Commission gives the European Committee for Standardisation mandate to supplement and clarify standards in the field. The aim is to help traders in the market to more easily use the current rules.

Continued control

The National Electrical Safety Board will, in line with other market surveillance authorities in the EU, check the LEDs in 2012 as well. It also plans to follow up on last year’s surveillance with a campaign aimed at improving information about the LED lights.

Störande lampor granskas i EU

Final Report on the 4th Cross-Border EMC Market Surveillance Campaign – 2011 LED Lighting Products

No comments necessary, I think.

The Lightbulb Conspiracies

The 1st Conspiracy (1924-1939) – The Incandescent Bulb

The first conspiracy was presented earlier this year in the documentary The Lightbulb Conspiracy, about planned obsolescence. (Freedom Lightbulb has review, comments and links to the full movie.) Here is a summary of the lightbulb part of the film:

In the early 1900’s, the goal was to make the light bulb last as long as possible. Edison’s lamp lasted 1500 hours, and in the 1920’s, manufacturers advertised lamps sporting a 2500 hour life. Then leading lamp manufacturers came up with the idea that it might be more profitable if the bulbs were made less durable.

In 1924, the Phoebus cartel was created in order to control global lamp production, to which they tied manufacturers all over the world, dividing the various continents between them. In the documentary, historian Helmut High shows the original cartel document that states: “The average life of lamps may not be guaranteed, advertised or published as more than 1 000 hours.” The cartel pressured its members to develop a more fragile incandescent bulb, which would remain within the established 1000-hour rule. Osram tested life and all manufacturers that did not keep the lower standards were heavily fined. Bulb life was thereby reduced to the required 1000 hours.

The film claims that there are patents on incandescent light bulbs with 100 000 hours lifetime, but they never went into production – except Adolphe Chaillets bulb of Livermore Fire Department in California, which has burned continuously since 1901. In 1981, the East German company Narva created a lamp for a long life lamp and showed it at an international light fair. Nobody was interested. (It later became accepted as a special ‘long-life’ lamp but was never a commercial hit.)

Wikipedia states that the Phoebus cartel included Osram, Philips, Tungsram, Compagnie des Lampes, Associated Electrical Industries, ELIN, International General Electric, and the GE Overseas Group. “They owned shares in the Swiss corporation proportional to their lamp sales.”

“The Phoebus Cartel divided the world’s lamp markets into three categories:

  1. home territories, the home country of individual manufacturers
  2. British overseas territories, under control of Associated Electrical Industries, Osram, Philips, and Tungsram
  3. common territory, the rest of the world

In 1921 a precursor organisation was founded by Osram, the Internationale Glühlampen Preisvereinigung. When Philips and other manufacturers were entering the American market, General Electric reacted by setting up the International General Electric Company in Paris. Both organisations were involved in trading patents and adjusting market penetration. Increasing international competition led to negotiations between all major companies to control and restrict their respective activities in order not to interfere in each other’s spheres.”

According to the documentary, the cartel officially never existed (even though their memorandum remains in archives). Their strategy has been to rename all the time, but still exists in one form or another. The film mentions The International Energy cartel, but that seems to be more about controlling world energy production rather than light bulbs specifically.

See also: Freedom Lightbulb: Light Bulb Testimonial

Update: Ceolas.net found an Osram pdf (nicely spotted!) where the Pheobus is mentioned, though of course not called a cartel but “an agreement”. Quoting from pp. 31-33:

The world light bulb agreement (Phoebus agreement)

Soon after OSRAM was founded its chairman, Dr. William Meinhardt, made it his mission not only to unite the German light bulb industry but also to achieve international cooperation among similar companies. His aim was to build bridges and make connections to bring the world’s leading companies closer together. The conditions for such a move were favourable. Preparatory negotiations lasted many years until finally in 1924 Dr. Meinhardt’s initiative bore fruit in the form of the “General Patent and Development Agreement”. A company called Phoebus S.A. was founded under Swiss law. Its highest decisionmaking body was the general assembly. The chairman of the administrative board (supervisory board) was Dr. Meinhardt.

This “world light bulb agreement” was one of the most far-reaching international agreements. It included the most prominent manufacturing companies in the world, with the exception of those in the USA and Canada (through with their agreement) as direct members.

Representing Europe were OSRAM from Germany, Philips from Holland, G.E.C. from the UK, the Compagnie des Lampes from France, Kremenezky from Austria, Tungsram from Hungary, the Società Edison Clerici from Italy and companies from Spain. Swedish and Swiss companies provided a representative together with medium-size German light bulb manufacturers. The initial agreement was set to run for ten years but it was extended in view of its success. It was nullified in 1940 because of the war.

To maintain the effectiveness of the agreement it was necessary to set up a streamlined organisation. The arrangements were generously adapted to suit the purpose of the agreement. 

The agreement related to all electric light bulbs used for illumination, heating or medical purposes. Arc lamps, neon lamps, x-ray lamps and radio tubes were excluded. If, during the course of the agreement, new light sources of general importance were developed they could be included in the agreement. This applied later to fluorescent lamps.

The 2nd Conspiracy (1938 and onwards) – The FL Tube & HID Lamps

OK, this one is perhaps more of a Zeitgeist thing than an actual thought-out conspiracy since at the time it was generally thought that, after millennia of dim lighting, light quantity was always a blessing and quality of no importance at all. It was also an era of industrial optimism and a complete unawareness of environmental and health effects of various toxic chemicals found useful in everyday applications.

So, in the 1929s and 30s, along with functionalism in architecture, there was a great rush to find new and more efficient ways of illuminating work places and public areas. The fluorescent tube (FL) seemed to be the answer and the first tubes were marketed in 1938. But then came WWII.

The situation after the war was ideal: a clean slate upon which to build massive functionalistic buildings lit by overly bright fluorescent light everywhere. Again, likely by the coordinated effort of the lighting industry, the FL tube became the standard light in offices and residential building common areas, as well as in home owners’ kitchens and basements – despite the light quality being outright appalling.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps such as the Mercury Vapour lamps were used factories and cast a harsh eerie blue-green light on public streets; in the 60s joined by Sodium Vapour and Metal Halide lamps (which are Mercury Vapour lamps with halogens added for improved light colour and colour rendition). Not that there was a better alternative at the time: short-lived and ineffective incandescent lamps would not have been practical for road illumination (though there were combination lamps for a time, where the incandescent helped ignite the MV lamp). But some might have preferred to have more quality light than quantity indoors, e.g. in schools and offices, like in earlier decades.

Mercury-based FL/HID light continued through subsequent decades to be spread into every area of human life, eagerly pushed by lighting industry organisations (e.g like Belysningsbranschen in Sweden and their equivalents in other countries) who issue professional lighting standards for all public spaces.

By the 1980s, mainly private homes and some commercial areas such as restaurants, hotels and small shops remained incandescent. But even such romantic sanctuaries were not to be left alone.

The 3rd Lightbulb Conspiracy (1985 and ongoing) – The CFL

This self-confessed conspiracy by lamp companies and utilities and national energy agencies has already been outlined in The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign, and on the New Electric Politics site Shining a Light on Politics and Light Bulbs.

When I wrote that first post two years ago, I was not aware of the first lightbulb conspiracy, but the info about the Phoebus cartel provided the last pieces of the puzzle as to how lamp manufacturers were able to pull off the CFL scam and get a global ban of their by then unprofitable product (the incandescent bulb) in such a short time. One only has to check the ELC (European Lamp Companies Federation) website to see that lamp manufacturers are still extremely well organized, and now brag openly about their lobbying:

We represent the leading lamp manufacturers in Europe. 95% of total European production. 50 000 employees in Europe. 5 billion EURO European Turnover  – view lamp statisticsWe are an international non profit-making association under Belgian law with a secretariat in Brussels. We are a flexible, light & efficient decision-making lobby organisation. See our views on climate change & energy efficiencyRecent newsWe were created in 1985 – view our structure.

Interesting date 1985… right before the CFL was released on an unsuspecting public.

Utilities and national market transformation programmes now also brag openly about how they managed to increase public acceptance of substandard CFLs by addressing consumer concerns with blatant propaganda (see The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign for details).

As for utilities’ part of the scheme, see New Electric Politics

Then in 2009, the conspiracy moved up to United Nations level, with a chance for lamp manufacturers to get subsidies for dumping their unwanted CFLs on unsuspecting Asian and African countries – who a) won’t be informed of the mercury content and other issues and b) are very unlikely to have efficient recycling plans and facilities set up – while getting a green halo for their saintly ‘environmental’ efforts.

“There is growing momentum now, and a very aggressive timeline to address the emerging issues of climate change. We have learned a lot in Europe and the United States over the past few years, and need to apply that in the emerging marketplaces of developing countries,” said Kaj den Daas, CEO, Philips Lighting North America.

I suspect the “aggressive timeline” has more to do with a need to squeeze out as much remaining profit as possible from the CFL before environmentalists wake up to the scam and mercury-free alternatives take over the market. It’s not like they’re going to give away free LEDs or halogen lamps to poor people in developing countries…

The result of this UN – lighting industry cooperation was the en.lighten initiative. Wikipedia has a handy description of it:

“As part of global efforts to promote efficient lighting, United Nations Environment Programme with the support of the GEF Earth Fund, Philips Lighting and OSRAM GmbH has established the en.lighten initiative. The initiative seeks to accelerate global commercialization and market transformation of efficient lighting technologies by working at the global level and providing support to countries.”

See my post Global Ban Craze for details on the deceptive numbers used in the 2009 press release, now perpetuated on the new site.

“Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20 per cent of global power consumption and close to 6 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If a global transition to efficient lighting occurred, these emissions could be reduced by half.”

See also Freedom Lightbulb for info and comments on the en.lighten initiative.

Edit 1 aug: Yesterday, Freedom Lightbulb posted more proof of the bulb ban conspiracy with an article from 2010 by two dutchmen about the findings of journalist Syp Wynia on how the incandescent bulb ban was achieved through cooperation between Dutch Philips and Greenpeace. Original article:  The Unholy Alliance between Philips and the Greens

Philips, the company involved, started in 1891 with the mass production of Edison lamps, at its home base, Eindhoven, Netherlands. There existed no international court of justice at the time, so they could infringe on US patent law with impunity. In the past 120 years it has expanded continuously, to become the multinational electronics giant it is today. Because nostalgia seldom agrees with the aims of private enterprise, Philips started lobbying to phase out the very product on which its original success is based. They started this campaign around the turn of the century, ten years ago.

Their line of thought is clear: banning incandescent bulbs creates an interesting market for new kinds of home lighting, such as “energy savers” (CFL’s, compact fluorescent lamps) and LED’s (light emitting diodes). The mark-up on these new products is substantially higher than that on old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. The rapid expansion of the lighting industry in China makes the profit margin on ordinary bulbs from factories in Europe smaller yet.  (…) 

Multiple government campaigns, aimed at promoting the idea that energy savers contribute to the well-intentioned goal of reducing the energy consumption of households, failed to convince citizens. 

The spectre of catastrophic climate change offered a new opportunity for the strategists and marketing specialists at Philips headquarters. They changed their marketing concept and jumped on the Global Warming band wagon. From that moment on, energy-saving bulbs could be put on the market as icons of responsibility toward climate change. This would give Philips a head start in the CFL end LED business. The competition would be left far behind by aggressive use of European patent law. That strategy fitted like a glove with that of the environmental movement. For them, ordinary light bulbs had become the ultimate symbol of energy waste and excessive CO2 emissions. Seeing the opportunity, Greenpeace immediately made a forward pass with the ball thrown by Philips’ pitchers. The incandescent bulb would serve as an ideal vehicle for ramming Global Warming down people’s throats. No abstract discussions about CO2-emissions any more: a ban on bulbs would suffice.

The 4th Conspiracy (c. 2005 and ongoing) – The LED

Since at least 2005, the U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy department have had their main focus on solid state lighting (SSL), which is a fancier name for LED. Market Studies and Technical Reports

Naturally in cooperation with leading vested interests such as Philips, Cree, Lumileds Lighting Company, Dow Corning, General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Eastman Kodak (examples from this document: Energy Savings Potential of Solid State Lighting in General Illumination Applications) who made projections spanning 20 years, from 2007-2027, and seem to consider LED (and eventually OLED) to be the optimal replacement for pretty much all other  lamp types in all sectors, but especially for the “high CRI” (CFLs and T8 FL tubes) and “very CRI” (incandescent, halogen) groups in the residential and commercial sectors.

“In both the LED and OLED scenarios, SSL displaces light sources in all sectors by the end of the analysis period, but the significant energy savings are primarily from the displacement of incandescent lamps in commercial and residential applications.”

So, with the pesky incandescent bulb out of the way, and more and more people becoming aware of or experiencing first hand the many drawbacks of CFLs, now the whole circus starts over again with yet another hyped incandescent replacement. Again at ridiculous prices, with more or less appalling light colour, suboptimal colour rendition, dimming problems, heat sensitivity and a promised life that still remains to be seen.

Does this sound familiar? Story of the CFL, for which millions have paid hefty prices to get substandard lamps which only now, after 20 years, appear decently incandescent-looking, decently affordable (due to heavy sibsidies) but still have most of the other problems left. So, do we now have to wait another 20 years for the LED to become decent-looking, affordable and working as promised, while paying even more hefty prices for being consumer guinea pigs in the mean time?

Alas, the Lightbulb Conspiracy film maker didn’t see through this one. Instead a younger generation Philips got to present ‘his’ new generation bulb: the LED, as if he personally made the whole lighting industry suddenly wake up with a bad conscience and now truly wants home bulbs to last for 25 years, hahaha! I predict that future consumer tests will show LEDs lasting a lot less than 25 000 hours, or become dim enough to be useless long before that.

Epilogue

I also suspect that those of us who have spent years revealing all the dirty little secrets of CFLs, are probably in a way just helping to prepare the ground for the LED. (Like with pharmaceutical drugs… First they’re so great. No end to how great they are… Then, when patents start running out, suddenly there is a flood of articles, news snippets and anecdotal reports in less discriminating media revealing all the problems with them – which, of course, have been there all along. But, as it happens, the good news is always that there is now a new and better medicine for that particular health issue. Which is of course is really great… Until that patent starts running out, then it may turn out that the new drug had even more problems than the first one.)

Those of us who genuinely believe that natural, healthy, beautiful light is as basic a human need and right as clean water, food and air, are of course no willing participants in such a scheme, but something to be mindful of.

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