It's that time of year again, when we look back on lighting as so much more than just what we use for seeing, but as something that offers beauty and opens up avenues for new technologies to improve our lives. Let's take a look at lighting in the year 2016.
An Incandescent Bulb Comeback?
Just a couple years after the most common incandescent household bulbs were phased out by efficiency legislation, lovers of incandescent lighting cheered the news of technology that could make these light bulbs even more efficient than LED bulbs. Researchers at MIT developed this technology to "recycle" photons with a coating on the glass envelope of the lamp.
Early tests showed results 2-3 times more efficient than standard incandescents, which is still not as efficient as LED bulbs. This would mean replacing an old 60 watt incandescent with one using just 20 to 30 watts, while an LED can do the same job at around 9 watts. But this would be good enough to allow the new bulbs to be manufactured and sold under current legislation.
Yet the potential is for them to become far more efficient than this.
Unfortunately, if they ever do produce bulbs like this, they're probably some years off and their retail costs and rated life are unknown.
Still, there is a great affection for the warm look of incandescent bulbs, and no one seems to question their impact on human health the way they do with LEDs and especially fluorescent bulbs. (Probably because they've been around for more than 100 years.) If you had a chance to use incandescent bulbs again and they were just as efficient as LEDs and cost the same ... would you go back to light bulbs that only last about 1000 hours?
It will be interesting to see whether these bulbs become available in time.
UV LEDs Purify Water Off Grid
Electric lighting has certainly transformed the world. Lights are so common today, it's hard to think of a world where nighttime was controlled only by candles. But we love that today, light isn't just for seeing; it's frequently used to promote human health.
Enter the story of a new water filtration system designed for getting clean drinking water to communities all over the planet without the need for electricity. Using solar panels to power the system and UV LEDs to purify the water, this system can be inexpensively run, creating a job for the operator and cheap water for the community.
When you understand that children and adults alike are up long before the sun in many parts of the world, searching for water; hauling it; facing dangers along the way; and often getting polluted water in the end ... this is the kind of solution that can seriously save time and lives, allowing these communities to focus more of their energy on education and other productive activities.
A few years ago, getting an A19 LED bulb to replace common household and office light bulbs meant spending $10 to $15 per bulb. In the last couples years, generic LEDs have fallen under the $3 mark and, in some cases, under $2.
But we've written before about avoiding generic LEDs because of their potential problems when compared to trusted brands. Which is why we were excited earlier this year to announce that we had A19 LEDs from the trusted Satco brand (a US brand that's been around for decades) for under $3 (when bought in a 4-pack).
Since then, we've also broken the $5 mark with Sylvania BR30 LEDs, and continue searching for the right combinations of quality and price to give customers a good lighting experience on budget. You can see some of our best values in home and office LEDs here.
Mood Lighting for Animals
Converting Near Infrared to Visible Light
20,000 Watt Light Bulb Test
300th Anniversary of America's Oldest Lighthouse
The T12: an Electrician's Halloween Poem
Light Used to Purify Air
DarkLight Lets LiFi Work in the Dark
Enter this new development called DarkLight, which is designed to let LiFi work in the dark. Effectively it would cycle lights on and off so quickly, you would never see the light. This might beg the question ... would we still subconsciously recognize it, and would it therefore still have an impact on psychology or health?
Milk Tastes Better with LEDs
Niagara Falls Lighting Upgrades to LED
And with that, we conclude our review of lighting in 2016. Did we miss some of your favorite advances in lighting? Feel free to leave a comment, and if you liked this review, remember to share it with others!
In short, there's not much limit to how you use LED rope lights. Their use can be guided by your imagination.
Lighting Supply carries LED rope lighting in 150' rolls in both warm white and cool white options. Our rope lights can be used in a single 150' run or cut into any number of 3' sections used with end caps and plugs. Our rolls of LED rope lights come with 3 end caps and 3 plugs to give you more flexibility with how you use the lights.
This includes several brands, bases, and color temperatures to choose from as well as wattages up to 105W. That's not a 105 watt replacement ... it's actually a 105 watt CFL, which is similar to a 420 watt incandescent bulb. Yes, that's a bright CFL!
But we also carry an 8-pack closeout where the bulbs are just $1.25 each. And these aren't just generic imports -- they're GE bulbs. This is the company that is no longer making CFLs now, but it's a name brand that made them for years.
Remember, CFLs -- or compact fluorescents -- last longer and work best indoors where they're not turned on and off quickly. This makes them ideal in living areas like kitchens and living rooms rather than in quicker use locations like closets or bathrooms where you're not spending time getting ready for the day. Used in this way, they really can provide you with years of lighting for far less energy than incandescent bulbs require.
How do these 3-way bulbs work? They have two filaments. The first switch activates the 40 watt filament; the second turns that off and turns on the 60 watt filament; the final switch turns them both on for a combined 100 watt output. (Of course a 3-way bulb could provide different wattage levels; this is just one common version.)
Early in the move to LED light bulbs, 3-way LEDs weren't readily available. They have become so, though they're still not as common as LEDs with a single level of light output. Nor are they as inexpensive. But when you're looking for flexibility, they make for an easy solution.
Typical of our stance to carry brand name bulbs to give you the best lighting experience possible, we carry this Philips 3-way LED bulb that replaces a 40 / 60 / 100 watt 3-way incandescent bulb.
(And you can click here to find it on Lighting Supply at a very competitive price!)
Part of the family of High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps, metal halide lamps are the best in this family in terms of rendering colors correctly (as measured in CRI). While low pressure sodium lamps have a negative score on a traditional CRI scale of 0-100, and mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lamps typically score under 50 on this scale (well below 50 if they're not coated), metal halides score in the 60s and above (even into the 90s).
Though they don't generally produce as many lumens per watt as high and low pressure sodium bulbs, metal halides still have a high efficacy rating ... approximately equal to LED lamps (although this is a little misleading, as we'll explain below). So sodium lamps may be chosen to light up areas where light is needed for safety but not visual acuity (like along a park trail or at a construction site where no work is happening at night). Metal halide lamps are preferred when both the quality and quantity of light are important. Common uses include parking lots, streets, warehouses, and athletic fields.
400 Watt Metal Halide Bulbs and Ballasts
Like any gas discharge lamp, metal halides require a lighting ballast to run, and they need to be matched according to their lamp type and wattage. For instance, you might have a 400 watt probe start metal halide lamp, and you would need a metal halide ballast specifically designed to run that.
In the case of metal halide lamps, you can look at the ANSI code on the lamp and ballast and match these to verify compatibility. 400 watt probe start metal halide lamps and ballasts typically have an M59 ANSI code; and you typically have an M135 ANSI code on 400 watt pulse start metal halide lamps and ballasts.
(Probe start lamps use an older technology with a starting probe inside the lamp. These are not as efficient, they lose more efficacy over the course of their lives, and they may not be rated to last as long as pulse start lamps.)
Metal Halide vs LED Lighting Efficacy
1) A 400 watt metal halide lamp requires more than 400 watts to run because of the ballast. The lamp and ballast system together will take roughly 458 watts to run. So you need to take this into account when assessing how much light you get per watt.
2) LEDs are directional lights, which means they shine all their light where it's needed. A metal halide lamp shines its light in all directions, some of which is reflected by the fixture it's in. This means you lose some of the light that's being produced. So when you upgrade metal halide lamps to LEDs, you can typically use LEDs producing fewer lumens than the metal halides did.
LEDs also retain more of their light output and last longer, though the initial lamp cost is substantially more at the time of this writing. Still, in settings where the lamp is used a good portion of the day, the payback period can be two years or less. This is why many business are now upgrading their metal halides to corn cob LEDs.
Likewise, fluorescent lights have come a long way since the days of early T12 lamps, which could not have been used as high bay lighting. Today, for indoor settings, high output T5 lamps can be used in place of metal halides, though this would require an entire relamping since fluorescent tubes require different fixtures. And of course you couldn't use those in outdoor settings like street or parking lot lights; nor do fluorescent lamps work well in cold weather.
In all cases, when a 400 watt metal halide lamp has seen its final days, the easiest option is direct replacement with another metal halide. These bulbs are affordable and long lasting, and while modern technology provides more efficient and higher quality lighting, metal halides offer a good balance between up-front affordability and quality.
Warm-Up and Restrike Periods
We already mentioned several disadvantages of probe start metal halides compared to lamps with the newer pulse start technology. This is another area where pulse start lamps excel, as you can see in this diagram from the Lighting Research Center. According to their data, probe start metal halides can take 2 to 4 times longer to reach full brightness and easily twice as long to restrike after being shut off.
Overall, while metal halide lighting upgrades exist, relamping with fluorescent or LED technologies requires a substantial initial investment. And since sticking with metal halide lamps means purchasing fairly inexpensive bulbs that last a long time, are efficient, and produce a good quality of light, many businesses continue to find metal halides an attractive option. Of course as LED replacements continue to fall in price, at some point they will be a difficult upgrade to ignore. Until then, businesses can choose to rely on metal halide lamps that have stood the test of time.
Direct Wire LED Tubes vs. LED Tubes w/ Ballasts
Do LED Bulbs Interfere w/ Garage Door Openers?
Your Guide To Finding the Right Bulb
Replacing Your Fixture's Glass Shade
LS Case Study: Washtenaw County Road Commissions Upgrade to LED Lighting
How to Light Your Warehouse Effectively