Obsolescence of Edison

Let there be Light.   And there is light, just not inefficient light anymore.  In the United States, incandescent bulbs ranging from 100 Watts edbulbto 40 W are being phased out in the name of energy efficiency.  100 W incandescent bulbs were phased out late last year and the manufacture of 75-Watt lamps halted yesterday.  This has been a move heralded by environmentalists, energy officials, and CFL/LED light manufacturers and a move despised by incandescent producers, consumers wary of alternative lighting (quality, application, safety, Mercury), and ruttists (see a previous entry).  Sure, Compact Fluorescent Lamps and Light Emitting Diode bulbs produce comparable light, require less energy, and run longer than incandescent lights.  But why give them up?

Why should we stop incandescently illuminating our homes and businesses?

While we’re at it, we might as well ask why Ford Model T’s aren’t produced anymore or why doctors  no longer ‘bleed‘ patients to cure illness.

In an age where information and technology evolve at a blinding pace, the new and the better replace the old and the obsolete.  Advances in automotive fuel efficiency are generally commended instead of shunned as too fancy.  No one is complaining about owning a laptop that doesn’t take up an entire room.  And who looks at their smart phone and thinks, “This should be the size of a brick!?”  Lighting technology has surely improved enough that we shouldn’t want or need a century-old relic anymore.  Incandescent lighting produces 90% heat and 10% light….extremely inefficient unless you try to market light bulbs as winter heat lamps.

Don’t get me wrong.  Without incandescent lighting, we might’ve had a difficult time in the lab advancing fluorescent and LED technology.  Incandescent lighting has a long and diverse history; incandescent light has had vast impacts on life and society.  But it’s time to bow out and let CFL and LED technology illuminate society.   As for me, I’m investing in LED lighting.  Life spans of 25,000-60,000 hours, 5-10 Watts comparable to 30-75 Watt incandescent, NO mercury like CFLs…a worthwhile investment for me!

Think about it this way.

Comparison by ProductDose.com

Comparison by ProductDose.com

I think this is a slightly older study, as LED and CFL technologies have improved while cost has declined.  But you get the picture.  There certainly is a bright future in LED lighting. LEDs even work for specific situations now, like Candelabra fixtures or enclosed fixtures. (Just be aware of myths about LED lightingDSC_1195a.)

I suppose some folks aren’t so much opposed to alternative lighting as they are outraged that the government has shattered their lighting trends.  To that I don’t have a correct answer.  But I will say we are simply joining the growing list of nations that are phasing out inefficient lighting in efforts to reduce energy use, stifle pollution production, and minimize waste (think bulb lifespan).  Thank you light bulb and thank you Mr. Edison for brightening up our days.  But it is time.  Switch off!

A Call for Candelabra LED Lighting

I’ve recently moved into a place with several ceiling fans.  I think ceiling fans are fantastic for air circulation and important for reducing the need for constant air conditioning.

But now I have a problem with the lighting situation.  In many rooms, these fans also serve as the primary light source.  Unfortunately, all of my fixtures can only use candelabra style bulbs.  What about my cool LEDs?

WHY?  Why can’t I put in my medium-base LED lights into these fixtures in the name of energy conservation?  It turns out Uncle Sam has changed lighting regulations for ceiling fans in an effort to conserve energy (See the Reg Info).  Not all medium-base fixtures are technically banned, but manufacturers are exploiting a loophole by switching to an almost completely candelabra-based ceiling fan market  (See the point of contention).

Short-Lived Compact Fluorescent Candelabra

I understand these regulations were changed for the greater good, but what good are they if they stifle innovation in energy efficient lighting  (i.e., LED technology)?  I’ve posted about LED lighting before (Bright Future in LED Lighting), and the technology is here and improving dramatically.  There are several options out there for several fixtures, including candelabras.  However, most R&D has been devoted to medium-based bulbs (Edison Bulbs, E26 / E27).  These efficient bulbs could easily work with the Wattage restrictions if the medium-base fixtures were reintroduced  en masse.

Please let me know if you’ve found a candelabra that puts out adequate light (at least ‘equivalent’ to a 45 W incandescent).  I have yet to find suitable LEDs or even CFL candelabras that work.  And the few CFL candelabras bright enough for my applications generally have much shorter life spans than would be expected.

Anyway, enough of the fist shakery.  I simply want to enlighten anyone in the LED lighting industry that there is a niche that desperately needs to be filled!

Bright Future in LED Lighting

There has been press lately about the new Philips LED bulb, retailing at (yikes!) $60 minus available rebates.  The slant of many posts state that it’s efficient but expensive, so hug onto your old Edison technology and stay tethered to your coal-powered  electric utility.  True, people are likely to be reluctant to pay $60 for a light bulb, but there are several reasons to consider LED lighting.  There are also several options in LED lighting that cost much less than the hyped Philips bulb.

If I turned every light on in my apartment, I’d be using approximately 276.5 Watts.  Out of 25 screw-in bulbs, 11 are CFLs and 14 are LEDs.  If I exchanged every bulb with a 40 Watt incandescent bulb, I would require 1000 Watts for all 25 bulbs!

Over the past few years, I’ve ‘invested’ in LED technology by buying strange new bulbs for my home.  At first, I was just curious if they could actually trump CFLs in energy efficiency.  The first few bulbs I purchased (a few 1 watt and 3 watt bulbs) did NOT impress me.  Sure, they produced light very efficiently, but their brightness was subpar (less than 100 lumens).  They might as well have been security or night lighting.

150 LEDs in there

Nonetheless, I didn’t dismiss LEDs.  I began to purchase higher-wattage LEDs.  These bulbs, ranging from 7-13 Watts, were much pricier ($50-$100), but much brighter.  I quickly discovered that LED bulbs use varying technologies: multi-LED panels and super-bright LED systems.  The multi-LED panel is simply several basic white LEDs (like the ones in your flashlight).

Old vs New. Improvements in EarthLED ZetaLux bulb size, brightness, and price.

The Super-bright LED systems require far fewer LEDs that emit much more light.  Whereas 36 LEDs could barely produce 180 lumens at 3 watts, a bulb with 8 superbright LEDs can produce over 500 lumens at 7 watts (see CCrane Chart).  A 13 watt bulb equipped with modern “light engines” can emit about 1000 lumens, replacing a 100 watt incandescent.  As the companies I’ve ‘invested’ in have progressed, lighting technology and durability have improved and prices have dropped dramatically.  For example, a bulb costing >$100 a few years ago is now $25.

There are additional benefits to these lighting advances.  LED bulbs are intended to last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours.  Standard incandescent bulbs, producing more heat than light, survive for maybe 1,000 hours.  Even CFLs die out after 5,000-10,000 hours of use.  Next, LEDs generally contain no hazardous heavy metals like CFLs.  They are usually made with aluminum bases (serving as heat sinks) and durable plastic coatings (versus breakable glass globes).  Finally, for those still uncertain of the longevity of LEDs, many manufacturers offer 3-5 year warranties for their product.  That’s an extensive warranty for a LIGHT BULB.

C.Crane GeoBulb uses 8 super-bright LEDs.

Of course, there are a few downsides to LED lighting.  As time goes on, the lights’ output slowly degrade, as opposed to abruptly burning out in incandescents and CFLs.  Insufficient light output in general has been an ongoing issue with LEDs, though R&D has gone into correcting this.  Another issue many have is that LEDs tend to not be omnidirectional; lights focus in only particular directions.  This is a technological issue (the new Philips bulb is trying to address it), but if you strategize, you can find the right bulbs for most applications.  Finally, while the LEDs and the hardware are extremely durable, sometimes circuitry can prematurely fail.  I’ve had this happen on a few bulbs where an array or two of LEDs would fail.  This has not yet occurred with my superbright LED light bulbs.  I have no solution except to look for products with warranties and trust that the technology improves. LEDs use semiconductor technology similar to that of photovoltaic solar panels.  Advances in one technology may translate to improvements and cost reductions in both industries.

Anyway, the takeaway point of this extensive talk on light bulbs (who writes about light bulbs for fun?) is that LED technology has a definitive future.  As for me, I’m investing in it NOW and witnessing the progress…all while promoting stewardship of natural resources and reducing my electric utility bill!

From Left to Right: 13w CFL, 5w LED, 7.5w LED, 9w LED, 7w LED

If you have any questions about LED lighting, feel free to ask!

Related Entry:  A Call for Candelabra LED Lighting