Sep 132011

A few months ago, I posted a video about an engineer in Brazil who created “light bulbs” by installing clear plastic 2-liter bottles into the ceilings of buildings and capitalizing on the sun to light businesses and homes.

A friend on Twitter (thanks, Andrew!) recently sent over a similar video about “solar bottle lights” used in the Philippines.  If you didn’t see the first one, or if you are interested in green technology solutions, check it out:

 Posted by on September 13, 2011 at 10:52 am
Sep 092011

US power demand declining comes as surprising news to utilities executives 200x300 This Just In: US Power Demand DecliningIn an age of cell phones, high definition TVs, DVRs, iPods, and countless devices sucking power from every outlet in our homes, the latest report from the Electric Power Research Institute might come as a surprise. The demand for residential power in the U.S. is actually falling.

For the last 30 years (up until 2011), residential power demand has grown fairly steadily. From 1980 to 2000, the growth rate was about 2.5 percent per year; from 2000 to 2010, the rate was 2 percent per year.

However, during the first three months of this year, residential power demand nationwide dropped by 1.3 percent (after adjustment for the effects of weather). It’s expected to continue to decline over the next ten years.

Why is this happening? According to the Associated Press, utility executives are a bit perplexed – typically, power usage is not affected by changes in the economy. As AP Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey writes, “Even when the economy is stagnant, people still watch TV and keep their ice cream cold.”

Utility analysts are pointing their fingers at quite a few possible reasons for the decline, including the increasing adoption of energy efficient lighting, the efficiency programs initiated by federal and state governments, the weak housing market resulting in families occupying smaller homes, and grassroots efforts from consumers cutting back on energy use. They’ve also noted that appliances have become more efficient in the past couple of decades.

 Posted by on September 9, 2011 at 9:51 am
Sep 072011

1938 chevy 300x165 What a 38 Chevy Can Teach You About LightingJohn Philip Bachner of the National Lighting Bureau wrote a fantastic article (Good-bye T12. Hello Opportunity) about why T12 fluorescent tubes are being phased out in the U.S. I couldn’t have written it any better, so I wanted to include his opening paragraph here. It’s a great read – click through the link to view the rest of the article!

Imagine that the year is 1938. You buy a brand-new Chevy, the technological marvel of
its era. Now imagine it’s 2011 and you’re still driving the same car for your daily
commute. Far-fetched? Not if you substitute T12 fluorescent lighting – first marketed in
1938 – for the ’38 Chevy. True: We‟ve seen an astonishing array of new lighting and
automotive technology since 1938. Also true: No one we know of drives a 73-year-old
car for daily commuting, but some 500 million T12 fluorescent tubes are still being
illuminated in U.S. buildings every day… read more

 Posted by on September 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm
Aug 312011

Raleigh NC 300x175 Happy 5th Birthday to the Original LED CityBack in 2006, the city of Raleigh, NC partnered with local LED manufacturer Cree to become the first “LED City.” Since that time, the LED City program has grown substantially, with cities across the U.S. and abroad joining in to reduce their carbon footprint, save money, and promote LED technology in general. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy itself absorbed the LED City Program recently.

This fall marks Raleigh’s fifth year as an LED City! Since that time, 57 LED projects have been completed in Raleigh, with installations ranging from streetlights to pedestrian walkways to the mayor’s office.

According to assistant city manager Dan Howe, each project passes a careful cost-benefit analysis before going through. “We have undertaken no LED project that did not pencil out for the taxpayers,” says Howe. “Early on, we decided our efforts here have to be focused on LED as a strategy that pays off, not just something cool that will save the earth.”

Aug 122011

Classroom Concentration Lighting Classroom Lighting Impacts Learning: Research Study

When the Philips SchoolVision lighting system was installed in a German primary school, the teachers were probably dubious that there would be measurable results.

Sure, the SchoolVision system was specifically designed to improve learning environments: A touchpad allows the teacher to select between four lighting levels for the optimum atmosphere during lessons. For example, an “Energy” setting features high intensity light in a cool color tone, recommended for first thing in the morning or after lunch. A “Calm” setting has a standard intensity level and a warm color tone for use in a hyperactive classroom. “Normal” and “Focus” similarly use light to create the ideal setting for students.

But would such subtle changes in lighting make a difference? Apparently, yes! A year-long study of 166 pupils and 18 teachers in SchoolVision classrooms was conducted in Hamburg, Germany. Standard tests used to measure levels of attention and concentration found that reading speed among the students increased by 35% and hyperactivity decreased by 76%.

The findings correlate with several other studies into the effects of SchoolVision. According to my research, SchoolVision has not yet been installed in any classrooms in the United States. What do you think: Would it be a valuable addition to our school systems?

Aug 112011
Baiyun Obo Mine Will the Future of Fluorescent Lighting Be Shaky?

A mine in Baiyun Obo, which produces half the world's rare earth elements. Photo courtesy of Treehugger.

Remember our post on why fluorescent light bulbs are becoming more expensive?

Well, the Chinese government is beginning to enforce those export restrictions on rare earth elements. According to an article in Times LIVE, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will now punish rare earth producers that fail to stick to the nationwide production cap.

Enterprises exceeding quotas will have licenses cancelled, and will also face government action if they are caught buying ore from mines that violate government guidelines.

It is unclear whether the production cap for 2011 of 93,800 tonnes has already been met, but a number of plants have closed down.

What does this mean for fluorescent lighting? For a fluorescent light bulb to create light, there must be a phosphor coating inside its glass envelope. While phosphor is not a rare earth element, rare earth elements are a crucial component to the process of creating the light-producing tri-phosphors inside the lamps.

The production cap is meant to crack down on illegal production of rare earth elements. However, since China produces about 97 percent of the global supply, the policy is affecting the production of countless products in the green tech industry that count on rare earth minerals.

 Posted by on August 11, 2011 at 10:31 am
Aug 092011

battle of buildings EPAs Battle of the Buildings Contenders Head to HeadThe Environmental Protection Agency launched its first National Building Competition in April 2010.  Fourteen buildings across the country competed to see who could reduce their energy use the most in a year.  The winner was Morrison Residence Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a reduction in energy use of 35.7 percent.  Among a number of strategies, the residence hall retrofitted their lighting, replacing 54-watt CFLs with 13-watt CFLs.

In this year’s “Battle of the Buildings, ” 245 buildings across the nation are competing for the energy-saving challenge.  So far, the 245 buildings have already saved a cumulative $3.7 million in energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to what 2,300 homes would generate in a year.

It’s at the midway point (the winners will be announced November 2), and the EPA has announced the top contenders in each building category and their percentage of energy reduction to date.  Another residence hall from UNC-Chapel Hill is in the mix, but there are quite a few buildings ahead of them! Continue reading »

Aug 042011

Shoe Display at House of Fraser The Link Between Color Rendering & Buying Shoes: A Case StudyWhen it comes to designing enticing displays in retail stores, there’s a lot more that goes into it than deciding where the “Sale” sign should go. Studies have shown that buying decisions are affected by store layout, lighting, music, and even scent.

The Smell & Taste Research Foundation in Chicago has conducted a number of studies evaluating how certain scents can impact mood and perception. One study placed an identical pair of Nike sneakers in two identical rooms – except one was sprayed with a mixed floral scent and one was odorless. When shoppers filled out surveys evaluating the sneakers, a whopping 84 percent said they preferred the sneakers in the floral-scented room, and that they’d pay about $10 more for them. Clearly, sensory perceptions affect our opinions on products.

Lighting, of course, has a significant impact on retail display as well. A recent study published in LEDs Magazine indicated that the degree of color rendering in a display may have an impact on sales.   Continue reading »

Aug 032011

L Prize Winner 300x204 Philips Lighting, L Prize Winner! The U.S. Department of Energy made an exciting announcement this morning: Philips Lighting North America won the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition!

The DOE launched the L Prize competition three years ago as an initiative to push lighting manufacturers to create incredibly energy-efficient and high-performance replacements for conventional light bulbs. Philips submitted their entry to the 60-watt replacement bulb category back in 2009, and that entry has been undergoing eighteen months of rigorous product testing to ensure it meets the DOE’s high standards.

The winning entry consumes just 10 watts of energy, lasts more than 25,000 hours, and delivers excellent light output equivalent to that of a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. The product could arrive in stores as early as 2012!

Philips will receive a $10 million cash prize as well as other partner incentives. For more information, read the Philips press release. What do you think of the replacement bulb (photo above)?

Jul 292011
heatball Heatballs Nixed in Germany

"Heat Ball" Logo

After the European Union phased out traditional incandescent light bulbs last year, a Germany company responded with an interesting product for the lighting marketplace: A “heatball.”

The problem was, a “heatball” was an incandescent light bulb in a not-so-secretive disguise. Since incandescent light bulbs emit 95 percent of their energy as heat and just 5 percent as light, the company re-branded the product to sidestep the new legislation.

A court ruled Tuesday that the company must withdraw their product.

The company website is still up; and although it’s in German, Google does a fairly good job of translating it to English.

What do you think: Should the “heatball” have been outlawed?