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Archive for March, 2011

Energy adviser: LED lighting not yet practical for many uses

26 Mar

With a countdown under way to eliminate incandescent light bulbs from store shelves by Jan. 1, what should consumers know about LED lighting as an alternative in the home?

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set in motion a transition mandating that all light bulbs use 30 percent less energy than current incandescent bulbs by 2014.

As part of the change — between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2014 — all conventional incandescent light bulbs with ratings between 40 watts and 100 watts will be gone from the U.S. market. The change does not mean that consumers can’t use incandescent bulbs, just that retailers can’t sell them.

Replacement options from manufacturers come in the form of compact florescent lamps, called CFLs, and light-emitting diodes, called LEDs. This column focuses on LED technology.

An LED is a semiconductor light source that releases energy in the form of photons across a luminescent spectrum. According to industry experts, LEDs offer advantages over incandescent light sources because of their lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size, faster switching, and greater durability and reliability. However, LEDs powerful enough for room lighting are relatively expensive and require more precise current and heat management than compact fluorescent lamp sources of comparable output.

The advantages of LED lights are that, in addition to their higher energy efficiency, they have a longer life, are rugged and do not contain mercury.

Their disadvantages? More expensive than incandescent bulbs or CFLs and their light output is limited to lower-light-level applications.

According to a report by Portland General Electric, “Because LEDs cast light in one direction at a narrow angle, they are not yet practical or cost effective for general illumination.” In addition, their heat sensitivity can hurt performance and longevity.
Consumers must be informed

Bob West, an energy adviser with Clark Public Utilities in Vancouver, acknowledges that there are still industry “issues” with LED products. Consumers must study up on what LED products are worth the investment and where they best should be used.

To assist consumers, as well as manufacturers and retailers, the U.S. Department of Energy has established a website at http://www.lightingfacts.com. The DOE also has developed a new Lighting Facts label for LED lighting.

Why? “The rapid growth of LEDs has resulted in an increasing number of new products on the market,” according to the DOE. “While many of these products showcase the energy-saving potential and performance attributes of LED lighting, under-performing products are also appearing in the market. Since bad news travels fast, such products could discourage consumers from accepting this new technology.”

When CFLs came to the market a few years ago, the same product challenges and slow market acceptance occurred, the DOE said.

To help consumers sort through the information, new Lighting Facts labeling has been introduced to help “evaluate product performance against manufacturer claims.”

Lighting Facts labeling should not be confused with Energy Star ratings. While Energy Star differentiates products that are above the minimum standards, the Lighting Facts label is an industry tool to help retailers and other buyers better select and understand the products they are selling, DOE’s website said.

“Armed with this information, retailers and other industry stakeholders can keep poorly performing products from reaching their shelves,” the agency said. The good news is that the technology is improving rapidly. New energy-efficient consumer LED lamps have been announced from three of the lighting industry’s largest producers, Osram Sylvania, Philips, and General Electric. As with many new technologies, mass production will mean lower costs and improved performance of LEDs over the next several years.
Certain uses make sense

Clark Public Utilities’ West said that in certain lighting applications in the home LEDs make sense, such as in-can lights at the top of a vaulted ceiling. But because of their higher cost, LEDs are really no more economical than a fluorescent in most applications. To see that you are getting the most for your money, make sure the LED products you buy have been registered and approved to use the Lighting Facts label. This labeling becomes effective on July 1. For more information, go to http://www.lightingfacts.com, click on “consumers.”

Energy fact: Lighting consumes about 6.5 percent of the world’s energy supply, according to a report at http://www.energymusings.com.

 
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LED Candles versus Traditional Candles, a Quick Overview

23 Mar

You may not notice but candles play a small yet important role in our life. They are used in many situations such as religious occasions, romantic and wedding ceremonies as well as in birthday parties. This week I visited Kiev Pechersk Lavra, magnificent religious structure with dozens of churches and monk caves. And each has to bur a candle to shed light in a cave to see ancient mummies of monks and saints of the days of yore. Thousands of people buy candles to see these underground wonders.

Formerly people used candles mainly as a source of light, and this usage is there in the  modern world where you do not have backup energy source in case of emergency. We sometimes use candles in our home when electricity is off. You can see tons of candles in churches, too, as they are associated with colemn occasions, with specific aroma and flickering light.

Yet candles are primarily used for festive occasions nowadays, such as wedding, birthdays or parties, as well as romantic dinners. Yet they have quite a lot of  disadvantages. For example, they are not fire safe. You will not want to put them near dried flowers, decorations or curtains. Pets and children are yet another danger as far as the combination of candles and fire is  concerned.

LED candles are much safer in terms of fire safety conditions. They can serve for considerably longer terms than their wax and wick equivalents. You can use a LED candle for a few months without changing batteries, and if you do not use them much, they will not cease to work for years.

They can be rechargeable or battery operated, they can even have a timer that is set to switch them on at dusk and turn them off at the sunset.  They do not produce any odor of burning wax that some people  find offending, or allergic. Wax dipping on the floor issues are also absent. You do not need a lighter or a match to light an electric LED candle.

These LED candles can be used in ceremonies, or put outside your house on window sills, they have special clips for windows, and have different options to provide stable or flickering light. They can be covered with wax from outside, so you even cannot differentiate between traditional and LED candle.

 

LEDs Play an Increasingly Vital Role in Life-science Applications

23 Mar

LED lighting technology can enhance our health, serve in rehabilitative therapy, and enable diagnosis of critical life-threatening conditions.

While LEDs are now widely recognized as emerging light sources for general illumination, it turns out that LED lighting can also enable a broad range of life-science-centric applications. A new article in a medical journal has documented that LED lighting can enhance the rehabilitation process for patients that have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI). LED lighting can improve skin condition and perhaps even provide vital vitamin D. Moreover UV LEDs can help detect cell necrosis.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has identified a number of uses for LED lighting in skin-related therapies. “LEDs are significant biologically because they can modify the function of mitochondria within cells,” said dermatologist Murad Alam, MD, FAAD, chief of the Section of Cutaneous Surgery and Aesthetic Surgery, and associate professor of dermatology, otolaryngology, and surgery at Northwestern University, Chicago. “This can have applications for dermatology, as LEDs may be able to improve wound healing by reducing inflammation, and improve sun-damaged skin by accelerating the growth of new collagen.”

The narrow spectrum of LED lighting is important in some applications such as the treatment of acne. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved blue-light therapy in the 405-420-nm range for acne treatments.

“Although blue-light therapy is not as effective as oral antibiotics in clearing active acne, it appears to offer some degree of improvement for patients who are not good candidates for traditional acne therapies,” said Dr. Alam. “However, in-office treatments must be administered up to three times per week to be effective.” There are over-the-counter blue-light devices emerging for in-home treatments although Dr. Alam notes that they are less effective at least for now.

Medical researchers are also exploring LED-based red- and green-light therapies according to the AAD. Red light in the range of 600-950 nm can be used to treat acne, rosacea, and wrinkles. The red light works by stimulating the mitochondria in the skin that in turn cases older cells to behave like younger cells.

“When light of wavelengths in the range of 532 – 595 nm, or green to yellow, is used on the skin, it can reduce skin redness in some patients with age-related central facial redness and blood vessels, or rosacea,” said Dr. Alam. “But future research is needed to explore light therapy in this area of dermatology.”

Treating brain energy

It also appears self-administered LED-based light therapy can help patients recover from TBI. A new article published in the medical journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery has documented improvements in two TBI patients that coincided with the light therapy.

The article “Self-administered light therapy may improve cognitive function after traumatic brain injury” may be difficult for anyone lacking a medical background to fully comprehend. But the website Medpage Today has a summary of the article on the LED light therapy that was vetted by a doctor, and that describes the findings simply.

Two patients with long-term cognitive impairments caused by TBI underwent four months of nightly treatment with LED lighting. Red, near-infrared LEDs were placed on the forehead and scalp. The patients showed improvements in cognitive ability after the treatment period. Moreover the patients regressed when the LED light therapy was discontinued – heightening the likelihood that the cognitive improvements were directly related to the LED lighting.

The primary author Margaret A. Naeser, PhD, of Boston University and her associates concluded, “Results from the two chronic TBI cases described here, along with those from previous [light therapy] studies with acute stroke patients and chronic, major depression cases, suggest that further, controlled research with this methodology is warranted. Transcranial red/near-infrared LED may be an inexpensive, noninvasive treatment, suitable for home treatments, to improve cognitive function in TBI patients, as well as to reduce symptom severity in post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Vitamin D synthesis and cytometry

The recent Strategies in Light Conference also featured a talk by Cary Eskow, the global director of Avnet Electronics’ LightSpeed business, that focused on emerging applications for ultraviolet (UV) LEDs, including several in the life-science area. According to Eskow, UV light causes the natural production of vitamin D3 in humans. So adding a UV LED in a luminaire could have direct health benefits.

Eskow also discussed the cytometry diagnosis procedure that is utilized to distinguish the natural cycle of cell death called apoptosis from cell death caused by toxins, trauma, or disease called necrosis. UV LEDs combined with fluorescent dyes administered to the patient enable fast and automated analysis that can save lives according to Eskow.

These life science applications have the potential to further expand the demand for LEDs. Even applications for UV or infrared (IR) LEDs that aren’t used in general-lighting applications create a positive synergy for LED makers. The manufacturers make those LEDs on the same fab lines used to make the blue emitters used to create white light and can increase fab utilization and ultimately lower component prices.

 

Tips for Displaying LED Christmas Icicle

19 Mar

Decorating your home for Christmas can be fun and exciting, yet daunting at the same time. Some people go overboard with lights, decorations, and festivities, while others like a more simplistic way of creating their own holiday masterpiece. From trimming the tree to decorating your house and yard, Christmas decor can be done in many different ways.

One of the most common types of outdoor and indoor adornments for the holidays is lots of greenery. Garlands and trees are decorated with shiny bells, glass balls, and the now-popular LED Christmas icicle lights. These lights provide bright, beautiful illumination for indoor or outdoor decor, and are much safer than other types of Christmas lights that can potential catch fire or burn out quickly. LED lights have a much longer life span and are less likely to become broken or dull over the years. These lights come in many different styles, lengths, and colours.

Most people, when choosing their specific Christmas lights, want to express their sense of pride for their homes by accenting the colours that are already there, so choosing a solid colour such as blue, green, red, or white is for them. Other people want to show their sense of individuality and want lights that blink, chase each other about, or flash in coloured patterns. A great way to display lights for the holidays is to create a design with the lights and build other decorations around them. White LED Christmas icicle lights provide a simple beauty and can be accented by many other types of decorations such as candy canes, snowflakes, and they also look amazing on your Christmas tree, whether you have one inside or outside.

LED lights use far less energy than normal old fashioned Christmas lights. They also withstand being taken down and put in storage much better than other types of temporary lighting due to the durability of the glass used for the bulbs. This thicker, more break-resistant glass allows for a little more wear and tear than the low-impact glass used in other types of lights. Some people leave their lights up year-round, only to find that they are burnt out or broken after a year’s time from exposure to the elements. When using LED lights, the probability of breakage is much less than with more fragile light bulbs.

By using LED Christmas icicle lights, you can decorate more efficiently by reducing the replacement of bulbs, fire hazards, and energy use. These unique lights can be used on trees, garlands, and houses to create the perfect individualized atmosphere for your holiday decorating needs. The LED lights have a brighter, more intense light and last much longer than other types of holiday lights. With a little creativity and work, these brighter, safer light bulbs can create a Winter wonderland for your family during the holiday season, whether you want something simple or more flashy. They come in all sorts of colours, strand lengths, and sizes. Try LED lights this year instead of your old lights for a unique touch for the holidays.

 
 

Will bulb change turn out the lights?

14 Mar

When Pattye Nicolls heard that common incandescent light bulbs will be phased out beginning Jan. 1, she drove to a big-box store and stocked up.

Nicolls, a high school teacher at Glens Falls, uses 100-watt bulbs on her farm, where she raises chickens and sells fresh eggs to natural food stores. The incandescents give off warmth as well as light in the coops, and she said they are a cheaper alternative to heat lamps. With about 150 bulbs stored in her basement and plans to add more, Nicolls believes will have enough to meet the small operation’s needs indefinitely after the bulbs are phased out.

“We have predicted our need for 100-watt bulbs over the life of our business, and are stockpiling,” she said.

Nicolls is part of a vocal contingent who oppose the ban, which has been on the books for years.

The Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007, establishing efficiency standards for light bulbs similar to mileage standards for cars. While the law doesn’t prohibit incandescent technology, most fail to meet the requirements.

First to go will be 100-watt incandescent bulbs on Jan. 1, 2012, followed by 75-watt in 2013, and 60- and 40-watt in 2014.

In anticipation of the first wave of changes, many stores are already stocking more efficient varieties, like compact fluorescent lamps, halogens and LEDs.

Not everyone is happy with the alternatives, however.

Consumers say CFLs are more expensive and don’t last as long as manufacturers claim. They complain that the light intensity and color leaves much to be desired, and that CFLs don’t work well in cold or damp environments like outdoors.

The small amount of mercury used to power CFLS also has many people concerned.

“From an environmental perspective, it’s one more non-point source of mercury in an environment that already has too much mercury,” said Nicolls, who also serves as the recycling coordinator for Glens Falls High School.

Like Nicolls, Daryll Roberts has been hoarding incandescent bulbs.

Roberts is an energy technician for the Economic Opportunity Council Inc. of Washington County, which weatherizes houses for low-income residents. During each home visit, Roberts checks for drafts and seals up cracks, and he usually swaps out incandescents for CFLs.

Since hearing of the ban, Roberts has been holding onto the incandescents, and now has about 60 stored in his garage.

“I keep them for my own personal use,” he said. “They are not going to offer them forever.”

Both Roberts and Nicolls say they aren’t opposed to CFLs – they use them strategically in their homes – but there are certain fixtures where they prefer the old standby for its reliability, heat and brightness.

But there are also people who oppose the ban simply on the grounds that government shouldn’t dictate what consumers can buy. In fact, a growing groundswell against the ban has prompted some lawmakers to propose repealing the legislation.

The Better Use of Light Bulb Act was introduced last month by U.S. senators from Wyoming and South Carolina, who argue the standards are anti-consumer and anti-choice.

During a debate over the Senate bill on Thursday, proponents countered that there are more lighting options today than ever before.

Scott Schwartz, president of Hill Electric Supply Co. in Glens Falls, agreed. He said choices have flourished in recent years, which is spurring a new generation of light fixtures not subject to the constraints of traditional bulbs.

“The next generation of fixtures is starting to look different because of the options that are available,” he said.

In the meantime, LED bulbs, which last up to 20 years, have gotten cheaper, and CFLs are becoming smaller and more versatile. The quality has improved, too, according to Schwartz.

“By the time incandescent lamps are no longer available, we anticipate to have many more options than are available today,” he said.

The National Lighting Bureau, a consortium of manufacturers and government groups, stresses that many of the common complaints from consumers are unfounded.

There are CFLs that work specifically with dimmer switches, instant-on varieties that light up quickly, and CFLs that hide their spiral shape with a traditional-looking shell.

There are exceptions for certain specialty bulbs, like appliance and bug lights.

And it’s far cheaper to own and operate the energy-efficient choices, even though the energy-guzzling incandescents cost less up front.

“There are more options than ever,” said Executive Director John Bachner. “You’re not going to have to rub two sticks together.”

Finally, the bureau says the mercury in CFLs is negligible compared to what’s emitted by the coal-fired power plants that supply much of the nation with electricity.

“It’s not just about light; it’s about degradation of your environment,” Bachner said. “And I, for one, do not want to have to inhale someone’s inefficient light bulb.”

 
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