New Life-Cycle Comparisons of LED, CFL, Incandescent

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The Department of Energy just published a new report comparing the life-cycle of LED, compact fluorescent, and incandescent lamps.

According to the report, CFLs and LED lamps are very comparable in terms of average energy consumption. They both use about one-fourth of the energy that incandescent lamps do.

However, the energy used to manufacture an LED lamp is expected to fall significantly in the next several years (see the purple pie charts).

What do you think … Is this what you would’ve expected to see? I was surprised to find that LED and CFL were neck and neck; I would’ve expected LED to win out in low energy consumption.

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The End of the Road for T12s

It’s only five months away. T12 fluorescent lamps used to be the standard for commercial lighting systems, but they will soon be totally off the market.

It started back in July 2010, when the U.S. Department of Energy introduced a fluorescent lighting mandate that stopped the production of the magnetic ballasts most commonly used for T12 lamps. And on July 14, 2012, the manufacture and import of most T12 lamps in the U.S. will be halted. After that date, suppliers may sell their remaining inventory, but there will be no more production once the existing stock is depleted.

Now, keep in mind that T12 fluorescent technology is 70 years old. John Philip Bachner of the National Lighting Bureau wrote a fantastic article recently about why they’re being phased out. He challenges facility managers to think of the change as an opportunity rather than a nuisance, and relates a T12 fluorescent lamp to a ’38 Chevy: Both were technological marvels of their eras. You’d think it were strange if someone used a ’38 Chevy for their daily commute, yet millions of T12 fluorescent lamps light U.S. buildings every day.

T12 fluorescent lamps are simply fluorescent tubular light fixtures that are 12/8ths of an inch in diameter. Since the technology of T12 lamps was developed so long ago, it’s leaps and bounds behind in terms of efficiency. T12 lamps can now be replaced by T5 lamps (5/8ths of an inch in diameter) and T8 lamps (8/8ths of an inch in diameter), and building owners will see energy savings as high as 45% per year. Also, there’s a simple payback of just one to three years. Finally, the lighting upgrade will ensure reduced maintenance costs and concerns. (more…)

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Protesters of the Incandescent Light Bulb

There has been some public resistance to EISA 2007 (also known as the “incandescent phase out”) and what it means for light bulbs.

This is arguably the first monumental shift in the way people will light their homes since the early 1900’s, when Edison’s invention replaced gas lamps. It got me to thinking – what was it like when Edison’s incandescent light bulb first hit the market?

I came across an interesting article in Bloomberg and found out that 100 years ago the general public was very reluctant to start using those new fangled incandescent light bulbs in their homes.

In 1910, thirty years after the incandescent light bulb became available, 90 percent of American households were still using gas lamps – and it wasn’t because electrical contractors weren’t available.

The main protests from consumers in the early 20th century were safety, aesthetics, and cost.

The safety concerns in Edison’s time revolved around electricity. An Italian scientist named Luigi Galvani studying muscle contraction in the late 18th century had concluded that “animal electricity” stored in the muscles was the same as the electricity used to power a lamp. Therefore, he claimed adding artificial electricity to your home would have detrimental physical effects. Women wondered if the lights would bring on freckles. There was an idea that the spirit had electrical properties, so people thought that ghosts, hypnotism, and telepathy were all the result of electricity outside of the body. (more…)

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10 Years of Lighting in the U.S. – What’s Changed, and Why Fluorescent Lighting is Making a Difference

Ten years ago, the Department of Energy released a report on the state of the U.S. lighting market. This week, they published the follow-up report. The numbers reveal how far the lighting industry has come in ten years, and they indicate a few interesting trends:

We’re becoming more efficient. This one’s no surprise. Technological advancements improve energy-efficient lighting in terms of performance and efficacy month by month, so ten years certainly showed strides toward sustainability. Most notably, fluorescent light fixtures made a big impact. In the residential sector, the shift was from incandescent to compact fluorescent lamps; in the commercial sector, it was from T12 to T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps. As you can see in the chart below, linear fluorescent light fixtures now make up the largest portion of the commercial sector as well as the largest portion of the total.

Overall, the efficacy of lighting improved by 29 percent – an increase from 45 lumens per watt in 2001 to 58 lumens per watt in 2010.


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The Future of Lighting Is Closer Than You Think

Imagine your lighting wall switch becoming obsolete.

Imagine controlling every single feature of your lighting from your Smartphone: dimming an individual light or a set of lights, turning them on/off, setting up a timer, and even tracking energy usage in real-time.

In Japan, that’s becoming a reality. Tokyo-based lighting tech startup Net LED Technology Corp has developed the first cloud-based LED lighting system.

It will go on sale in Japan February 20. The lights are 40W LED tubes with a 40,000 hour lifespan, and they come with built-in Wi-Fi. It’s possible to control the lights from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

For more information, see the feature in TechCrunch or view Net LED Technology Corp’s English site.

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Play A Game of Soccer, Power an LED Lamp

Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews first began thinking about the power of a soccer ball for a college project. Challenged to come up with a solution to a problem facing the world, they focused on the lack of access to electricity in developing countries. Their imaginary solution was a soccer ball that harnessed kinetic energy from play and transformed it to electrical energy to power an LED lamp.

Little did Silverman and Matthews know that 3,000 of those electricity-generating soccer balls would eventually be delivered to Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and South Africa. This is a pretty incredible story:

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Has Congress Put the Stop Sign on Incandescent Legislation?

Julie Muhlstein, a reporter for Washington’s The Herald, described the recent developments with the incandescent lighting legislation well: Political football.

Whether you think incandescent lighting should be phased out for inefficiency or you believe light bulbs are none of the U.S. government’s concern, you’ll agree that the aftermath of EISA 2007 has been heated.

First, a repeal bill called the Better Use of Bulbs Act attempted to eliminate the efficiency standards set to begin in 2012 altogether. The BULB Act did not pass, but it gathered support from a large group of people vehemently opposed to lighting legislation. In response, the Department of Energy launched a nationwide advertising campaign touting the benefits of efficient light bulbs. One of the ads depicted a couple throwing valuable items (a TV, a bike, an electric guitar, etc.) off the side of a cliff. The DOE drew a parallel to throwing away money on wasted electricity.

The final play in this game was last week’s bill that denied funding to implement the efficiency standards. Technically, come January 1, the  traditional 100-watt incandescent light bulb may no longer be manufactured or imported in the U.S. because it does not meet the efficiency standards put in place by EISA 2007.

However, the Department of Energy cannot enforce that law, as enforcement funding has been denied for the next nine months.

See what I mean? Political football. What do you think about the recent developments with EISA 2007?

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Dropping $98,000 A Year …

… From energy bills, that is. That’s how much the University of Oregon expects to save per year after their lighting retrofit, which is scheduled for early 2012.

Crews will replace 33,000 T12 fluorescent tubes on campus with more efficient T8 fluorescent tubes. The $681,000 project will be subsidized by the Eugene Water & Electric Board, and engineers expect the lights to pay for themselves in energy savings in three years time.

With budget cuts in state universities across the U.S., it’s an exciting opportunity for the University of Oregon to drastically reduce spending on energy and allocate those funds elsewhere.

The campus is also installing new lighting controls and occupancy sensors.

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Losing Sleep? (Some) Indoor Lighting May Be To Blame

Artificial indoor lighting has been around for quite some time, but it seems that our biological clocks haven’t quite caught up yet. A new study at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre revealed tactics for minimizing the sleep deprivation caused by exposure to artificial indoor light in evening hours.

You didn’t read that incorrectly: Multiple studies have shown keeping the lights on after the sun goes down has a significant effect on sleep patterns. The hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle is called melatonin, and it is suppressed when we are exposed to artificial indoor light before bedtime.

The study at the University of Surrey attempted to determine if a particular type of lighting might allow melatonin to work naturally. It seems that a blue-sensitive photoreceptor targets the biological clock, so lighting on the yellow end of the color spectrum (with minimal blue content) minimizes the effect on biological rhythms. In addition, dimming the lights helps to increase melatonin production.

If you want to take this research to heart, invest in a dimmer or two to lower the light levels a couple of hours before you head for bed. As far as the blue-sensitive photoreceptor, look for lighting with a color temperature around 2800-3200K  for a “warm” look that won’t interfere with your zzz’s.

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