LED Stage Lighting

A rock concert yesterday made me ponder on some of the differences between the old and the new ways of lighting a stage.

For some inexplicable reason, modern stage lighting seems not so much focused on illuminating the actual performers as on flashing harmfully bright and narrow coloured beams or flashes into the eyes of the unsuspecting audience at irregular intervals during the concert. How this practice can be even legal is probably a matter of ignorance on the part of lighting technicians and regulating authorities. Sometimes real laser beams are used.

20160709_222344

The new LED technology has both advantages and disadvantages.

+ LED uses less energy (if power factor is good) and lasts much longer (if drivers are of good quality and don’t get overheated).

+ LED floodlight does not emit heat in the beam direction as incandescent light does, so performers will not overheated from the lighting.

+ LED diodes are small and versatile and can be used for more creative effects if so desired (as exemplified at the London Olympics).

+ LED diodes are already coloured and directional and do not require coloured filters.

– LED light is much sharper and more laser-like than incandescent light. It’s a sort of digital light that is either on or off, with no softly glowing tungsten filament to ease the transition. It thereby lacks some of the charm of older types of stage lighting and gives a more high-tech effect that is less flattering to performers and much harder on the eyes.

– Cool white light it is horridly harsh, unflattering and a real mood-killer, compared to the warm sunny glow of traditional tungsten light.

– Blue, green and cool-white LED light can damage the retina if bright and beamed directly into the eyes.

My recommendation to stage lighting technicians:

• Rethink the practice of lighting up the audience at all. People come to watch the show, not to be illuminated themselves. Therefore lighting should be directed towards the stage, not be placed at the stage and directed at the audience. If lighting effects on or around the stage are desired, they should be only be decorative (e.g. non-directional, low-lumen dots or panes) and not illuminating.

• Avoid cool white light. Complement the coloured LEDs with halogen floodlights if you want performers to look good on stage. Just a few won’t add that much heat.

• Use blue light sparingly and don’t direct it into people’s eyes.

• Don’t use lasers. If you have to, don’t direct them at any living being.

• Don’t use strobe lights as this can cause epilepsy in susceptible people and is generally irritating.

For the audience I recommend bringing sunglasses as well as ear plugs in order to avoid eye damage until lighting designers have learned how the new technology can be used safely.

Good article about stage lighting with LED:

LED Stage Lighting – Why Buy RGB LED Stage Lights?

 

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.

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.)

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!

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.

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.

Consumer Tests

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

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

Light Impressions – LED

Here I want to share my personal impressions of various public lighting solutions. Took some snap shots to illustrate (photography is not my forte, but hopefully decent enough to give an idea).

Cool-white LED

I may have mentioned earlier my unpleasant experience of the Häggvik tunnel north of Stockholm, which has been fitted with cool-white LEDs. The light was so harsh and glaring that my first impulse was to keep my eyes shut until I got out, but that’s not so practical when driving…

Cool-white LED in tunnel, Häggvik, Stockholm

Cool-white LED in tunnel, Häggvik, Stockholm

Found a video of the installation, with better images of the finished results.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_P2aq-TyBw

These LED lamps have a promised life of 50.000 hours, although economic life is estimated to be shorter by a factor of 0.8 (not exactly sure what that means) which has to be balanced against initial high price while still requiring maintenance every 4 years like other road lamps.

It seems this is one of several experimental installations included in the Swedish Traffic Administration’s project called New Light, aiming to cut road electricity consumption in half by 2016, and funded by the EU-project ESOLi.

Another part of the project includes testing solar powered LED lamps at bus stops in the Kalmar region: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHb_U1xi61w

And rubber-covered luminaires for costal areas, making it too slippery for sea birds to land and poo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miofKbxLM7o

Warm-white LED

On a more positive note, I was visiting another Stockholm suburb recently where the old HPM street lights had been replaced by a ‘cobrahead’ with warm-white high-power LEDs. Probably one like this. This was much better than the cool-white LEDs in the tunnel! The light colour was a nice and balanced golden-white, not yellow, pinkish or greenish as the cheaper ‘warm-white’ LEDs often are. Not as glaring as the cool-white LEDs (unless you looked right up at it) and bright enough to light up the street well (at least now in the beginning).

My only objection would be a lack of softness, as the light comes straight down in a rather distinct and harsh way, unlike fluorescent and HID light which diffuses more softly to the sides, and incandescent light (including halogen) which also has a nice glow. Astronomers might appreciate this straight down quality, as it probably causes less light pollution. You could also clearly see the rows of individual light dots that made up the construction, which was not so attractive to look at. (I tried to photograph it but that didn’t come out well.)

If LED light last as long as claimed without losing too much output over time, this might be an option at least for highways where stopping traffic to replace lamps is an extremely costly affair. Better color rendition also gives better vision, which helps keep accidents down.

Then I went to Arlanda airport to check out the warm-white LED lamps in Terminal 2. Huge tubular luminaires, specially designed for maximum reflection, combined with large boat shaped skylights to let daylight in. Quite incandescent-like light colour.Here I managed to capture in the glass reflection all the little light dots inside, which in real life are quite visible to the naked eye. But the depth of the barrel-like luminaires gives a decent enough shield against glare unless one looks straight up at them.

Warm-white LED, Arlanda

Warm-white LED, Terminal 2, Arlanda

But despite there being a great many of these LED barrels, the light was not as bright as the fluorescent-lit Terminal 4.

Warm white LED, Arlanda

Warm white LED, Terminal 2, Arlanda

Warm white FL tubes, Terminal 4, Arlanda

Warm white FL tubes and skylights, Terminal 4, Arlanda

In fact, without the skylights and the additional lighting from Compact Fluorescent downlights and Metal Halide floodlights, it would have been even more gloomy. The ceiling height probably requires a more potent light source. This ad lit by only two Metal Halide floodlights was the brightest thing in Terminal 2:

Warm white Metal Halide floodlight, Terminal 2, Arlanda

Warm white Metal Halide floodlight, Terminal 2, Arlanda

Colorured LED

Two winters ago I was at a Light Event in Djurgården, Stockholm, arranged by Quist AB, that had around 20 different installations with coloured LED light. Really creative and fun! They have also arranged Light Events in other cities, using coloured LED to illuminate everyday spaces in an exciting new way.

Light Event, Djurgården, Stockholm, 2010

Light Event, Djurgården, Stockholm, 2010

Light Event, Djurgården, Stockholm, 2010

Light Event, Djurgården, Stockholm, 2010

Light Event, Stockholm, 2010 (photo: Quist AB)

Light Event, Djurgården, Stockholm, 2010 (photo: Quist AB)

Light Event, Linköping (photo: Quist AB)

Light Event, Linköping (photo: Quist AB)

Light Event, Uppsala (photo: Quist AB)

Light Event, Uppsala (photo: Quist AB)

This is how LED light is best used, in my opinion. For decorative purposes, it seems LED light has infinite potential.

LED Drawbacks

Time to write a little summary about solid state lighting a.k.a. LED and what has transpired over the last couple of years.

Coloured LED

As I’ve written before, I’m all for the use of coloured LEDs as replacement for holiday light strings, night lights, exit signs and traffic lights that are used for so many hours per day.

Warm-white LED

I have yet to see a warm-white LED that looks like a decent incandescent replacement. I went to the Nordic Light Fair again last year too but the warm-white LED lamps had not much improved. (I’ll keep checking.)

Update Aug 2012: This summer I’ve seen some good-looking warm-white LEDs, first at the Arlanda Airport and as streetlights in a Stockholm suburb, and then yesterday I got a look at Philips MyAmbiance LED bulb in a Swedish hardware store. So, it seems it can be done. However, these examples are from the very top end of the market – at the beginning of their life. The majority of LED bulbs for the consumer market still look absolutely horrid.

Cool-white LED

The glaring cool-white LEDs I find hard on the eyes and not at all suitable for Scandinavia, where we are used to the warm glow of incandescent light in the winter time. Two years ago they tried replacing the lamps by the creak in one of Sweden’s most picturesque little towns to cool-white LED, but had to remove them quickly as the result was ghastly and people complained. Now that town is lit by incandescent-looking ceramic metal halide and warm-white good quality CFLs, which is ok even though quite not as pretty and romantic as when it had real incandescent lamps along the waterside.

I also recently checked out an LED-lit tunnel in Stockholm and found the bright cool-white light dangerously glaring. Much more so than the standard linear fluorescent or sodium HID lamps usually used in tunnels (and I’m not crazy about those either). Shops lit with LEDs tend to look cold and sterile, rather than warm and inviting. Could be that I’m female, many men seem to love the cold harsh light. Here is a similar opinion from another woman (emphasis added):

Whenever I try to study in Meriam Library I feel like I’m on an examination table in a surgery room. Either that or in a jail cell or a mental institution. The lights are overly bright and they make a buzzing noise that interferes with my ability to concentrate. I’ve stopped going. /…/

Now, whenever I walk up the Esplanade to get home at night, I notice that the LED bulbs cast a sharp bluish-white light that brightens the whole street. I understand that peripheral visibility will greatly increase for drivers, but they are just too bright.

They remind me of Meriam Library but on greater scale.

If these energy-efficient bulbs take over streets and even in-house lighting, you have to ask yourself – do I want everything around me to feel like a night game of football or baseball?

What’s worse is that these lights will affect space observatories in cities across America, causing an effect that doesn’t seem be taken as serious as when smog from cars damages air quality. That effect is called light pollution.

LEDs are actually more dangerous than the old incandescent bulbs because they cause a glare for drivers and create more shadows, said Kris Koenig, director of the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory.

“Cities are going to want to open light again where they’ve been restricting light for decades,” Koenig said, in a phone interview. “There are even studies that show that light at night causes sleep problems for humans and animals.”

LEDs trade comfort for brightness

Toxic LED?

And last year scientists found that LEDs – like most electronic products, surprise surprise – contain some toxins too (my emphasis).

“LEDs are touted as the next generation of lighting. But as we try to find better products that do not deplete energy resources or contribute to global warming, we have to be vigilant about the toxicity hazards of those marketed as replacements,” said Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention.

He 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. 

“We find the low-intensity red LEDs exhibit significant cancer and noncancer potentials due to the high content of arsenic and lead,” the team wrote in the January 2011 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, referring to the holiday lights. Results from the larger lighting products will be published later, but according to Ogunseitan, “it’s more of the same.”

Lead, arsenic and many additional metals discovered in the bulbs or their related parts have been linked in hundreds of studies to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses. The copper used in some LEDs also poses an ecological threat to fish, rivers and lakes.

Ogunseitan said that breaking a single light and breathing fumes would not automatically cause cancer, but could be a tipping point on top of chronic exposure to another carcinogen. And – noting that lead tastes sweet – he warned that small children could be harmed if they mistake the bright lights for candy.

LED products billed as eco-friendly contain toxic metals, study finds

I must say that I find that risk a lot smaller than accidentally breaking a CFL at home and breathing the mercury vapour. Breaking an LED is not so easy (although I managed to drop one and broke the outer bulb) and you normally don’t pulverise them (“don’t try this at home!”). But they should absolutely be recycled as electronic waste and not thrown in out with household garbage.

(As an aside: In connection with this article being quoted around the web I’ve also seen some erroneous claims that incandescent lamps contain mercury – which is not true at all – and lead, which used to be true but not after 2006.)

Long-life LED?

Promised longevity may also not be what one expected:

When it’s said that a standard light bulb will last 1,000 hours, that is the mean time to failure: half the bulbs will fail by that point. And because lamp manufacturing has become so routine, most of the rest will fail within 100 hours or so of that point.

But LED lamps don’t “burn out.” Rather, like old generals, they just fade away.

When a manufacturer says that an LED lamp will last 25,000 or 50,000 hours, what the company actually means is that at that point, the light emanating from that product will be at 70 percent the level it was when new.

Why 70 percent? Turns out, it’s fairly arbitrary. Lighting industry engineers believe that at that point, most people can sense that the brightness isn’t what it was when the product was new. So they decided to make that the standard.

Of course, brightness is subject to the old frog in the boiling water syndrome. I’m sure that most people won’t even notice the lower level then, if they’ve lived with the same bulb for its entire life.

How Long Did You Say That Bulb Would Last?

Philips & Color Kinetics explains it more in detail:

This 70% of the level of original output is called L70 by the lighting industry. ASSIST recommends defining useful life as the length of time it takes an LED light source to reach 70% of its initial light output (L70). For decorative and accent applications, ASSIST recommends defining useful life as the length of time it takes an LED light source to reach 50% of its initial output (L50).

So up to 30-50% is seen by the lighting industry as a perfectly acceptable level of light loss just because we get used to it over time??

Testing also seems difficult, making one wonder how the life span numbers given for LEDs are arrived at (emphasis added):

LM-80 requires testing of LED light sources for 6,000 hours, and recommends testing for 10,000 hours. It calls for testing LED sources at three junction temperatures — 55° C, 85° C, and a third temperature to be determined by the manufacturer — so that users can see the effects of temperature on light output, and it specifies additional test conditions to ensure consistent and comparable results.

Unfortunately, LM-80 provides no recommendations on how to extrapolate measured data to L70 or L50. Such a methodology, IES Technical Memorandum TM-21 is currently under development. Until TM-21 is published, the only way an LED source manufacturer can claim that their L70 and L50 figures conform to LM-80 is to measure their LED sources until they reach those thresholds. Since a typical L70 number is 50,000 hours, such a test would last longer than five years! Not only would this test be impractical, but LED technology evolves so quickly that a given product would be obsolete by the time the test was completed.

Philips & Color Kinetics: Useful Life Technical Brief

U.S. Incandescent ban – will it save the planet (and my economy)?

Possibly not as much as you may have been led to believe. But decide for yourself with the official government data from my newly updated Energy Statistics post:

A. The residential sector (private households) total energy consumption is 12% of total delivered U.S. energy.

B. Of total delivered energy to the residential sector, 58% comes from various fuels (oil, kerosene, natural gas, renewable etc) and most  is used for space heating. The remaining 42% comes from electricity and is split as follows (my own pie chart, from two different EIA ingredients):

C. Lighting uses around 15% of household electricity and 6% of total household energy consumption.

DIf all household lamps were incandescent, the replacement bulb might save (depending on what type and quality of lamps one replaces them with, how often and how long they are used, how long they last etc) 25 -75% =  1.5 to 4.5% (optimistically) of total household energy consumption.

E. But not all household lamps are incandescent since many have already switched to CFL or LED, and already had about 5% linear fluorescent lamps. According to a July 2011 Energy Star report, CFLs accounted for nearly 28 percent of all residential light bulb sales. This leaves 67% standard incandescent. Of which not all are suitable for replacement (e.g. in bathrooms, hallways, in small or antique luminaires or luminaires designed specifically for halogen or LED etc). So, say 50% left that could be switched = 0.75 to 2.25% potential savings savings of average total home energy use (could be more or less in any individual household).

This is not a lot, is it? True that every little bit counts, and any little bit that can be saved is for good of everyone. But at what cost?

I. The first cost is light quality.

CFLs have a Color Rendering Index of 82-85. This means you get a duller light and won’t be able to see colours as well. A simple trading of quality for quantity, just like in the office. If you don’t mind that in your home, that’s fine then.

LED quality can vary widely between manufacturers. LED lamps have CRI of 75-92. They often reflect more of the spectrum, but the light color can still be off and it will lack the vibrancy of incandescent light.

Halogen Energy Savers will save less (25-30%) but give top quality light with perfect color rendering capacity, as it is also a form of incandescent light.

II. The second trade-off is health & safety.

CFLs contain small amounts of highly toxic mercury vapor and should never be used around children, pets or pregnant women, in case they break. There are silicon-covered bulbs on the market that don’t shatter as easily, but most don’t have that protection. All CLFs must be recycled safely and never thrown in the trash. Some CFLs also emit some UV-radiation at close range. May not be enough to pose much of a risk to a healthy person unless used very close for prolonged periods of time, but persons with UV-sensitive conditions may have adverse reactions.

LEDs have been shown not to be quite as green and non-toxic as assumed either, but probably safer than CFLs.

•  Incandescent lamps, including halogen, contain no toxins and pose no known health risks.

So, why go after the tiny portion that is used for lightings pecifically, while we keep using more and more other electrical gadgets? A chart from the EIA page Share of energy used by appliances and consumer electronics increases in U.S. homes shows how the electronics pie slice has grown to almost twice its size since the 1970s:

Isn’t it interesting also that the total household energy use has hardly changed since 1978 (!) while the proportions of how that energy is spent has changed dramatically? This seems to me pretty solid proof of the often-scoffed-at Jevons paradox and may pose more risks when switching to energy saving lighting.

1. The first is that one may feels one has done so much for the environment that not much more needs to be done. This impression is enhanced by the fact that the switch may make a big change in a room’s apperance (and not always to the better) and by the fact that CFLs have been promoted by everyone, from gazillions of bloggers and journalists to state presidents as the one thing that will make a difference. (And they in turn have been targets of two decades of multi-million dollar lobbying to make them belive that.)

2. The second is that since one belives one is saving so much on the lights, one can leave them on for a bit longer. An article comment illustrates this sentiment well:

“My dad switched to CFLs, but now he just leaves the lights on all the time because he says ‘they use so little power, I can’t be bothered to turn them off’.”

3. Many CFLs are also supposed to be turned on for 15 minutes to 3 hours at a time in order not to shorten their life dramatically.

But if you still want to save a little, and if you opt for the least less energy saving but non-toxic, top quality halogen lamp, you can easily save the remaining 1.5% by turning the heating or cooling down a degree or two, taking shorter showers, skipping coffee & toast, using dimmers and turning lights off when you leave the room and still have a green conscience.

Q&A about the U.S. Incandescent ban

Q: Is it a ban or not?

A: Yes and no. It is not a ban per se (such as in EU and other countries) but a raising of the efficacy standards to a level which normal incandescent lamps cannot reach. The end result is still the same, as far as the original Edison bulb is concerned.

Q: What lamps are affected? 

A: In this first stage of the gradual ‘phase-out’, starting January 1st, 2012: incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more.

New edit: After debating whether 75 watts are also prohibited or not – which they officially are not until next year – Freedom Light Bulb discovered that the regulation is even more bizarre than we first thought:

US Regulation Absurdity: Dim 100W bulbs allowed, Bright 100W bulbs banned!

If you want incandescent you can still buy 72 watt tungsten halogen Energy Savers and get as much light as from a 100 watt lamp (see my Halogen Energy Savers review). If you can find them. Amazon sells them, Home Depot only have reflector lamps, Lowe’s have more flodlight reflector models, but they can be hard to find in regular stores (ask for them).

Q: So now 75 and 100 watt bulbs can’t be produced or imported?

A: Yes and no. In the words of Kevan Shaw: “The ban is still effectively in force in law however it cannot be enforced.”

Read the longer explanation of this confusing issue here: The American Ban Collapses

And here: After the Funding Amendment: Clear Explanation of American Light Bulb Regulations

Follow the progress state by state here: Progress Track of US Federal and State Ban Repeal Bills

NEMA:

The inability of DOE to enforce the standards would allow those who do not respect the rule of law to sell inefficient light bulbs in the U.S. without fear of enforcement, creating a competitive disadvantage for compliant manufacturers.

As standard incandescent lamps are no longer as profitable to make or sell, the risk of that happening is probably negligible. If you can find a higher watt bulb anywhere you’re still free to buy it, but people have been hoarding.

Leading manufacturers couldn’t wait to get rid of the bulb, so they started closing their North American bulb factories in 2009 and the last major U.S. bulb plant was closed in September 2010.

And just a few days ago IKEA proudly announced that they will not sell any incandescent lamps (spinning more-$$$-for-IKEA-from-new-$14-LEDs to sound like “IKEA-saving-the-planet”). More retailers may follow, regardless of how the dispute ends.

And California started the phase-out a year early.

So choices and availability for top quality incandescent light are shrinking, while choices for lower quality but somewhat more energy efficient CFL and LED lights have increased to a confusing profusion which can make finding the right lamp rather difficult.

Q: So, whose fault is this anyway? Who came up with the idea? Those pesky treehugging-commie Democrats, or the reactionary out-of-my-cold-dead-hands Republicans? 

A: Well, both. The original light bulb legislation was written by Fred Upton (R-MI) and Jane Harmon (D-CA) says CNS News.

“In 2007, Harman and Upton introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation–which became law as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act–that bans the famously inefficient 100-watt incandescent light bulb by 2012, phases out remaining inefficient light bulbs by 2014, and requires that light bulbs be at least three times as efficient as today’s 100-watt incandescent bulb by 2020,” explained a 2009 press release put out by the two House members.

The bill was passed under the Republican Bush administration and signed by president G.W. Bush in 2007. President Obama and the Democratic party have embraced it. However, Upton later changed his mind, as did many other Republicans (and many didn’t think it was a good idea in the first place). And now this issue has been turned into a symbolic item for both parties to fight each other over.

Hope that cleared it up. 😉

Edit: Good article about the ban: Five Myths About the Federal Incandescent Light Bulb Ban

Northern Light Fair

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

CFLs

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

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

LEDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halogen

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

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

Luminaires

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

Just a brief example.

White LED Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Info: Price around 12€.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Various short stories

CFL-lit restaurants – ack!

This week I was invited to a Christmas dinner at fine country restaurant. Lovely old building, great company, delicious food, but the lighting put a bit of a damper on the otherwise enjoyable event. It consisted of CFL downlights only, exept for a few halogen wallwashers to illuminate the beautiful brick walls. The effect was dim and gloomy as the dimmed CFL light was too weak to reach the tables and floors – unlike halogen light which does this very effectively – and made the room look dull and grey instead of sparkling and lively. If it hadn’t been for the halogen wall-washers, it would have been even more gloomy. Dimming the CFLs also changed their colour to dim blue and dim rose, and made some of them flicker perceptibly!

New LED traffic lights can’t melt snow

Just as some of us have been warning about. How hard can it be to just use the right lamp in the right place? Incandescent (halogen) lamps for regions with cold and snowy winters, LEDs for warmer regions.

Energy Efficiency: How NOT To Do It

Utilities billing their customers for ‘free’ CFLs, and with a profit margin on top of it, much to the surprise and dismay of their customers when they found out. LOL! Do people think their utilities are Santa Claus or Mother Teresa? As I pointed out in an earlier post, if you get something for free, you usually end up paying for it one way or another.

New Lamps for Old – Light Changing and Burglary

CFL light exchange programs may also attract thieves and scammers seeing an opportunity to get into your home, as well as companies handing out free low-quality CFLs in order to lure you into buying something else. Beware!

Compact Fluorescent Lamps Could Nearly Halve Global Lighting Demand for Electricity

“Aggressively replacing the world’s incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) could reduce lighting energy demand by nearly 40 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions from day one, according to the latest Vital Signs Update released by the Worldwatch Institute.”

Obviously, World Watch Institute haven’t done their math right. As I clarified in the latter half of my Global Ban Craze post, incandescent lamps are used mainly in the Residential sector, which in turn uses only 15% of world energy (whereas the Industrial and Commercial sectors use 62.5%, the majority of which is already FL or HID). Of those 15% only a small part is used for lighting, and only some of the lamps in the Residential sector are still incandescent.

Stepping out, stepping lively

980 incandescent lamps to light up a slipper?! Ouch! What will happen to Las Vegas when incandescent lamps are phased out? The almost obscene overflow of high quality dazzling light is a huge part of Vegas’ special appeal, I wonder how casinos and hotels will manage without it? (Not that I’d be overly sorry if casino owners get one tool less to manipulate gullible people’s senses with, but I’m sure they will be.)

Ingo Maurer’s Euro Condom

For those EU residents who miss the now banned frosted incandescent bulb and forgot to stock up.

Holiday Lights

Everything seems to be about holiday lights now, with new LED light strings using a fraction of the usual energy, with almost no fire risk if installed correctly.

Do I recommend them? Yes and no. Depends on colour.

Coloured – yes! No reason whatsoever not to switch to LED.

Cool-whiteno. For the holidays you want to create a warm fuzzy feel, right? Using chilly ice-blue LEDs is not the way to do it. *brrrr*

Warm-whitemaybe. It depends on how keen you are on getting an exact incandescent replacement. If you are, there aren’t any. What is sold as “warm-white” tends to be either pink-white, yellow-white or greenish-yellow. How much they’re off from the brilliant golden-white of incandescent lights varies between models and brands. Some are close enough to be acceptable. Make sure to look and compare before you buy.

Maybe you don’t care as long as there is light? Then by all means, do buy them! Being left on perhaps all night and even all day for a whole month or two, it can be well worth the investment. Just get ones that look good enough for your standards.

Here are some tips from Gadget Guy on how to calculate savings: What Holiday Lights Are Best?

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