Although LED T8s have not been around long enough to produce a thick memoir, there are some interesting things to note about why they exist. A few years ago, there was concern that the rare earth metals used in fluorescent tube lamps might start getting significantly more expensive for the U.S. to purchase from China. Light bulb manufacturers began an arms race to develop an affordable and effective LED T8 replacement tube.
A while back I posted an entry called “What Is a Light Box?” In it, I explained how a light box backlights a photo or other visual image, and I showed several examples of DIY light boxes I found on the Web. The secret truth is that by explaining to you what a light box is, I was really teaching myself so that I could build one. Well, now I have built one! And it was easy, fun, and made a pretty excellent gift. Here’s a video I made documenting the process.
“Going green” has come to symbolize environmentalism in such a familiar way that most of us don’t think twice about who first coined the phrase.
I was curious about the origin of the term and wondered what made it take such strong hold in the English language. Speaking of curiosities, remember Heinz’s food flop several years ago when they decided to go green (literally) with ketchup? Glad that didn’t take hold.
Most people associate the beginning of the green movement and environmentalism with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the 1970’s.
Surprisingly, it dates back even further, to Henry David Thoreau’s writings in the 19th century. Thoreau spoke about living a “green” life in The Maine Woods in his call for conservation, forest preservation and respect for nature. You are probably familiar with several of Thoreau’s famous inspirational quotes (i.e., “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” or “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”). His greener remarks include:
What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?
This one’s my favorite (Thoreau, you were a funny guy!):
Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes.
Did you have any idea the U.S. “green movement” was rooted in early American philosophy?
Fluorescent light bulbs are all the rage. Today, the majority of households in the U.S. have begun to adapt their lighting, exchanging inefficient incandescent light bulbs for energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). These familiar spiral-shaped light bulbs hide under our lamp shades, within our ceiling lights, behind our wall sconces, and are quite pleasant to use. Often, you can’t even tell the difference between a classic incandescent and a CFL.
As incandescent lights become a thing of the past, and energy efficient lighting becomes more of a priority, the fluorescent lights have gained popularity.
Fluorescent lights use much less energy to produce the same light output as any incandescent lamp, and they last many times longer. Plus, improvements in fluorescent lighting technology have turned these lamps into a pleasant source to have around your home or work space. The cost upfront isn’t terribly more than an incandescent, either.
Presently, cost and technology make fluorescent lights and LEDs (light emitting diodes) rivals in the energy efficient lighting market. But it won’t stay that way for long. Lighting experts say that while fluorescent lighting technology has reached its peak, LEDs are still evolving and improving. Even now, manufacturers are coming out with new LED lights that surpass fluorescent technology in many different ways.
Let’s examine how fluorescent light bulbs compare with today’s LED light bulbs:
- Efficiency: While both light sources are considered efficient, LED lights have pulled ahead. A CFL produces 30-50 lumens or light per watt, while an LED on the market today can produce 60-100+ lumens per watt.
- Rated Life: LEDs and fluorescent lights also both have long rated lives, but again, LEDs win. A CFL can last between 6,000 and 15,000 hours. An LED can last between 25,000 and 60,000 hours.
- Mercury: Fluorescent lights contain mercury, and LEDs don’t. While operating fluorescent lights on a daily basis won’t put you in danger, a broken light bulb will expose you to a small amount of this toxic substance.
- Infrared and UV: LED light bulbs don’t emit infrared or UV radiation in the same direction they emit light, but fluorescent lights do. Thus, LEDs will not damage sensitive material, and they won’t attract bugs. (more…)
We’re diving deep to teach you how different light sources produce light. This information can help you when you’re choosing lights for a new lighting project or maintaining the lights you already have. If you’ve ever tried researching this information, you know it can get overwhelming and complicated. So, I’m going to simplify it for you. In this post we’re covering fluorescent light bulbs…
Though the various kinds of fluorescent light bulbs look very different, the way they function is fundamentally the same.
Fluorescent light bulbs contain the following:
- Mercury vapor
- Electrodes, wired to an electrical circuit
- A glass envelope with a white phosphor coating on the inside
Pretty simple, right? Now let’s look at how these elements work together to make light:
1. When you turn on the lamp, electrical current flows through the electrodes. Electrons pass back and forth in the tube.
2. The electrons excite the mercury vapor in the tube, bumping the atoms’ electrons to higher levels. This causes the mercury to emit UV photons, or UV light, invisible to the human eye.
3. The phosphor coating converts UV light into visible light. This happens when a UV photon collides with a phosphor atom, bumping one of the phosphor electrons to a higher energy level, and heating up the atom. When the electron falls back to its normal level, it releases energy as a visible photon – the light you see.
You look up. Movement. What is this? It looks like your fluorescent lights have come alive! They’re swirling and spiraling, like each one has an angry snake inside. This is no good. The light level in your room isn’t even. The fixtures flicker, annoyingly, and your eyes start to feel overworked and tired.
While this problem sounds pretty bizarre, it’s not uncommon for fluorescent tube lights to have swirls, spirals, or striations. Check out this YouTube video featuring a swirling fluorescent:
Surprisingly, this is just an undesirable visual condition – it rarely indicates anything terribly wrong with your lights, and often times it will go away on it’s own. To make your lights calm down and stop swirling, here are a few things you can try:
1. If your lights are new, and they just started acting this way, give them some time to adjust. Try turning them on and off a few times at 30 minute intervals. If the swirling persists, keep the lights on continuously for 24-48 hours, allowing them to season properly in their new surroundings.
2. Monitor the temperature around the lights, because excessive cold can also cause fluorescent lights to behave this way. For indoor lights, make sure your air conditioning and fans aren’t blowing cold air directly on them. For outdoor lights exposed to cold air, verify your ballast is rated for conditions below 50°F. If it’s not, upgrade to one that is. (more…)
Replacing old fluorescent ballasts? Adding new ones? The array of fluorescent ballasts is more diverse than ever before, so you’ve got to know exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you want to reduce the noise and flickering of your lights, prolong their rated lives, or save as much energy as you can, there’s a ballast out there for you.
But first, some fundamentals:
What is a fluorescent ballast?
It’s an electrical device used to power many kinds of fluorescent lights. The ballast supplies the right voltage to start and run the lights, and controls the current during operation. The right ballast should allow your lights to turn on quickly, and prevent annoying flickering or humming.
Which is the right ballast? (Magnetic vs. Electronic)
There’s an easy answer to this one. The U.S. Department of Energy phased out most magnetic fluorescent ballasts back in 2010. Electronic ballasts are more efficient and function in a more reliable way.
Magnetic ballasts: These use a core made of laminated steel plates, wrapped in a copper coil to regulate the lamp’s voltage by magnetic inductance. While magnetic ballasts are less expensive, they’re also less efficient, noisier, and heavier than electronic ballasts. Magnetic ballasts also don’t alter the frequency of electricity supplied to the lamps, so you can expect the lights they control to flicker.
Electronic ballasts: To function, these replace the older magnetic core with electronic components that increase the standard operating frequency of electricity from 60 cycles per second to about 20,000, or 20+ kHz. This reduces that pesky flickering that causes headaches and eyestrain. Compared to magnetic ballasts, electronic ones are lighter, quieter, more efficient, and they produce less heat. (more…)
We’ve spent the last several weeks figuring out all the ways LEDs and CFLs are different. We’ve learned practical facts about each light source, like LEDs have longer rated lives, CFLs contain mercury, LEDs are more durable, and CFLs emit omnidirectional light (to name a few). All this makes for an excellent understanding of the current state of lighting technology.
Today, LEDs and CFLs are still rivals on the market. But will it always be like this?
The development and improvement of LED technology is still taking place, while the CFL’s technological development has reached an endpoint. It’s really thanks to LEDs that we’re in the midst of a very dynamic lighting revolution.
Since CFLs are already completely developed as a viable lighting technology, many lighting specialists think of them as the bridge between old incandescent lights and innovative LED lights. They’re an effective, efficient bridge, but a bridge nonetheless. We don’t expect CFLs to be popular forever. (more…)
We all know incandescent light bulbs are delicate. You break that filament, and it’s lights out (literally). It’s easy to understand why our basic incandescent lights are so fragile – we can see and understand the simple internal structure at a glance. But, when it comes to understanding the capabilities of LEDs and CFLs, the answers aren’t as straightforward. Both light sources use more complex systems to generate light, but does this make them any less breakable?
It’s time to dive a little deeper.
Since LEDs don’t use a filament, they can easily withstand almost any kind of jarring vibration. When you’re rough on LEDs, transporting them from place to place while in use, or keeping them in jolt-prone spots (like in and around elevators), you don’t have to worry about easily breaking or damaging them. (more…)
If you’re deciding which light source to use for your next project, look no further! In this blog series, we’re going in-depth to explore the differences between LEDs and CFLs, so you can make the best decision. In this post, we’re talking about structure…
LEDs and CFLs are built very differently.
LED light bulbs use glass or plastic envelopes of almost any thickness. They’re built to last, even in the most demanding circumstances. CFLs, on the other hand, have a daintier construction. If you drop one, the thinner glass envelope could easily break. This can be a problem, especially because CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury that will be released when the light bulb shatters.
To prevent CFLs from cracking so easily, some manufacturers have begun encasing CFLs in silicone coatings, so even if the glass breaks the shards and mercury will stay within the silicone, not allowed to get into your environment. The CFL’s traditional spiral is covered by a more conventionally shaped envelope like this: (more…)