LED's rule, twisty bulbs drool

Readers might recall I was an early adopter of LED lighting technology. Now it is getting even better.

New LED light design offers less energy, more light

LEDs are durable and save energy. Now researchers have found a way to make LED lamps even more compact while supplying more light than commercially available models. The key to success: transistors made of the semiconductor material gallium nitride.

Incandescent light bulbs are now banned in the EU, while energy-saving lamps remain a bone of contention. In 2016, it will be lights out for halogen bulbs over 10 watts as well. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) therefore have the best chance of becoming the light source of the future. Experts reckon that LED retrofit lamps for use in standard bulb fittings will overtake traditional energy-saving bulbs for the first time from 2015. By 2020 it is predicted that LEDs will have captured between 88 and 90 percent of the lighting market. The tiny diodes offer a whole host of advantages as the most environmentally friendly source of light – they contain no harmful substances, consume less energy and, with a lifetime of between 15,000 and 30,000 hours, last longer than conventional light sources. They also work at full brightness as soon as you flick the switch.

Coping with higher temperatures

LEDs do have one weakness, though – they are extremely sensitive to variations and spikes in power. To function properly, they need a driver that ensures a constant supply of power at all times. This driver, which takes the alternating current from the grid and converts it into direct current with a reduced voltage, has a profound influence on the light yield and lifetime of the LED lamp as a whole. The demands placed on the driver electronics are correspondingly high. This has prompted researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in Freiburg to focus their attention on voltage transformers featuring gallium nitride (GaN) transistors. During practical testing, the scientists found that the drivers developed using this new semiconductor material were extremely robust. Components made of GaN can operate at higher currents, voltages and temperatures than standard silicon transistors. “Heat plays a role both in the brightness and the service life of LED lamps,” says Dr. Michael Kunzer, group manager at Fraunhofer IAF.

Gallium nitride transistors switch at high speed

Gallium nitride transistors can also switch at high frequencies. The switching speed has a significant impact on the size of the coils and condensers built into the drivers for energy storage. In a GaN-based driver, the switch speed can be made as much as a factor of 10 faster than that of its silicon equivalent. “Applied to a smaller surface, this means it is possible to make switching cheaper. The whole LED lamp can be made lighter and more compact while delivering the same or even improved illumination,” explains Kunzer. Since the energy storage component plays a decisive role in manufacturing costs, this could have an extremely positive effect on the end price.

Thanks to the new semiconductor material’s useful properties, Kunzer and his team have been able to boost the efficiency of the GaN driver to 86 percent – between one and four percentage points better than its silicon equivalent. When compared with the silicon transistor LED lamps available on the market., the scientists were able to increase the light output: while the luminous flux of commercial LED retrofit lamps featuring silicon components is around 1000 lumen (the unit used to measure the light produced), researchers from the IAF have been successful in increasing this to 2090 lumen. “20 percent of energy consumption worldwide can be attributed to lighting, so it’s an area where savings are particularly worthwhile. One shouldn’t underestimate the role played by the efficiency of LED drivers, as this is key to saving energy. In principle, the higher the light yield and efficiency, the lower energy consumption is. If you think that by 2020 LEDs will have carved out a market share of almost 90 percent, then it is obvious that they play a significant role in protecting our environment,” says Kunzer. The researchers will be showcasing a demonstrator of their retrofit LED from April 7-11 at the Hannover Messe, where they can be found at the joint Fraunhofer booth in Hall 2, Booth D18.

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Dexter Trask
March 11, 2014 2:05 pm

I have tried to hop on this bandwagon so many times, only to be thrown off by the color (which despite what I’m assured each time is bluish) and the humming (which assurances to the contrary I have always heard).

March 11, 2014 2:05 pm

..and anyone with half a brain could see that LEDs were the future (from many years ago) – so why did the EU (and many other countries in the RotW) insist on forcing mercury death tubes on us (at massive cost, inconvenience and degraded lighting)?

March 11, 2014 2:06 pm

So we need LED flashlights, and battery/LED desk lamps. And stick-ums for the walls bypassing the AC power.
Who makes these things?

March 11, 2014 2:07 pm

“Incandescent light bulbs are now banned in the EU”?????
You can still buy them in the EU. Even Amazon.co.uk sell them

March 11, 2014 2:11 pm

Amazon carries a battery operated LED desk lamp for about six bucks.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
March 11, 2014 2:10 pm

By 2020 it is predicted that LEDs will have captured between 88 and 90 percent of the lighting market.

Technically speaking, LEDs will not have captured that larger percentage of the lighting market; it will have been awarded to them by virtue of regulatory bans on competing technologies.

LEDs do have one weakness, though – they are extremely sensitive to variations and spikes in power. To function properly, they need a driver that ensures a constant supply of power at all times.

You mean LED’s might suffer shorter lifetimes if run on power from intermittent sources like wind and solar?

March 11, 2014 2:11 pm

The only problem with incandescent light bulbs is that they are banned.

March 11, 2014 2:12 pm

It sounds like a press release, translated from German by a linguist – for example, a “condenser” should have been a “capacitor”. I don’t understand that rant about energy storage, or how the brightness would rise twice – it is usually limited by the LED itself, and if you make it too bright, it does not last.
That said, blue and white LEDs are made of gallium nitride, and if you could place everything on one chip, the future looks bright.

Paul Westhaver
March 11, 2014 2:12 pm

I love the LEDs too. But I am a late adopter of technology. I bout one lamp with a built-in LED array for $15.00 at Home Depot and tried it out. The light was a tad too blue for my tastes but that is now overcome with better more natural spectrums.
All of the LEDS ending up failing however. Worse part was that they all failed independently and intermittently. There were 24 LED on the lamp, each one would flicker then fail. The Led would flicker for weeks. The flickering light lasted for 2 years before it died. It was a pain.
I took the lamp apart and re-soldered every single LED and they all came on again!
I see LED arrays as problematic because their reliability drops as an inverse function of the number of LEDs in the array. One flickering LED with drive you bonkers.
I am certain that is is a solvable problem if attention is applied to it. That is why I am bringing it up. Hey GE and Sylvania! Fix the flicker!
Is it possible to have a single 3-watt LED that yields the same light output as a 100W incandescent bulb yet?
One other thing, stop putting network interface communications hardware in these lighting devices.

March 11, 2014 2:14 pm

The prospect of LED light output per watt increasing significantly makes me wonder if it would be best to hold off on equipping any but the most intensively used fixtures with them. . . I’m pleased thus far with the four test LED bulbs we have in use, but my experience with CFLs makes me skeptical of the long life claims.

March 11, 2014 2:15 pm

I love the efficiency and service life of LED technology, but the color fidelity still needs lots of work. My wife is an artist. She can not work under LED lights unless the color rendering index (CRI) is in the 90s.

March 11, 2014 2:16 pm

Only fossil fuels increase the carrying capacity of the Earth.
But Amador, I hate incandescents. They burn out every five minutes and my twisty bulbs save a lot of my money on my electric bill.

Mike Smith
March 11, 2014 2:16 pm

Incandescents basically suck, even though we had many decades to get used to them. They’re inefficient, the light quality is poor, the bulbs don’t last, and they run sufficiently hot to have the potential for injury and even fire.
CFL’s suck too, albeit in different ways. They’re more efficient but not great, the light quality is absolutely horrible, and they’re a problem when it comes to disposal.
LED’s are the future. Instant on, no flicker, decent (and improving) color temperature options, very high efficiency, cool running, long life, etc. They’re still somewhat expensive to buy but that’s mitigated by their low running costs and long life expectancy. Further, prices can be expected to drop very significantly as designs and manufacturing processes improve and volume explode.
Heck, let’s shovel some more R&D dollars into LED’s. They are something everyone can support from the devout greenies to the most skeptical deniers. Finally, we can all get along. Kum ba yah 🙂

March 11, 2014 2:18 pm

We refuse to do CFL. We’ve been slowly converting our main fixtures to LED bulbs. The first one we did in our living room overhead is still going strong and has a yellowish light nearly indistinguishable from the incandescent bulbs we still in the lamps in the room. I agree with wanting a 100w LED although we are seeing some 75w ones now.

March 11, 2014 2:21 pm

Yes, but they are being phased-out.
Far more interesting, from my viewpoint, is that many of the current LED lamp DRIVERS are quite good at radio interference. So if the new crop work at higher frequencies things look grim. As soon as the cheapo versions come out it will get worse.

Crispin in Waterloo
March 11, 2014 2:22 pm

Gallium nitride transistors can also deliver internet and TV channels to your home because they can flick the diode on and off at tremendous speeds. Your internet service can be light bulb (anywhere in the home) for download and wireless upload. Systems are already working.

Lars P.
March 11, 2014 2:23 pm

ConfusedPhoton says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm
“Incandescent light bulbs are now banned in the EU”?????
Well, even 100 Watt are available: heat bulbs 100 Watt about 95% efficient with a side efect of emmiting light too..
But indeed leds are the futrue of lighting…

John Hendrickson
March 11, 2014 2:27 pm

Loving my Phillips Hue LED’s pricey but very very cool.

March 11, 2014 2:28 pm

And, given that LEDs use DC, is there any movement toward equipping new office buildings with DC circuits for the lighting? It would seem that a single transformer would be cheaper than transformers in each bulb for large scale applications. . .

March 11, 2014 2:33 pm

Unintended consequences may be coming in existing commercial buildings due to LED use. Existing buildings were designed with a certain lighting W/SF that was accounted for in the heating calculations. While you save on AC during the summer, you increase your heating system energy during the heating season.
I have seen buildings with their natural gas usage spike due to an LED change-out to the point where their total energy bill ($) rose. (Same condition occurred when some bldgs went from T12 to T8 lighting.)You also may have to start your building up earlier, increasing the run-time on your HVAC system, which increases energy and maintenance costs.
Not saying it is a bad transition, just make sure you look at everything.If you are involved in any such project on a large scale, make sure the heating system impacts are accounted for.
Phillips has a 4′-T8 LED out that is 14.5W. http://www.usa.lighting.philips.com/lightcommunity/trends/tled/

March 11, 2014 2:36 pm

I am a convert to LED Christmas lights for the past 4 years. Mostly because I was too cheap to replace my electrical panel, and the regular ones were tripping breakers. (I have since upgraded my panel for other reasons).
I hate the CFLs. And so now that incandescent are virtually banned in the US, I am switching to LEDs. I prefer the light even to the incandescent. The price is an issue, but now that I am older, fatter and richer (relatively) I can go with what I want instead of what is cheap.

March 11, 2014 2:39 pm

I have converted several of my high magnification microscopes to LED lighting. The light is far brighter than any incandescent I have ever used and there are no filament shadows. The LED provides a bright and flat source. Now I am looking for a deep UV LED source that can can replace the high pressure mercury arc HBO amps.
I have seen some AL GAN LEDS that are too bright and dangerous to look at with the naked eye (deep UV and extremely bright). The pace of development seems to be picking up in a big way for LEDs.
It is also interesting that Philips got out of the commodity incandescent business a few years back.

March 11, 2014 2:45 pm

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm
Technically speaking, LEDs will not have captured that larger percentage of the lighting market; it will have been awarded to them by virtue of regulatory bans on competing technologies.
exactly…..just like wind and solar

John in Oz
March 11, 2014 2:50 pm

If low voltage LED lighting is going to be the norm, perhaps building codes should be changed such that a low voltage lighting circuit is built into our building power distribution boxes.
A single voltage converter supplying all lighting power would eliminate the need for converters in every LED lamp, lowering the unit cost even further. Lighter and cheaper wiring would also reduce costs as the current is much lower and an earth cable should not be necessary for 12V DC circuits.

Tom J
March 11, 2014 2:55 pm

Now for me to comment on something I know a little about. (Never thought that would happen, did you?)
Anyway, back in the 1940s automobile headlights were a dismal safety feature. The reflector plating would often flake off. Or, moisture would get inside and rust it. Dirt and dust could coat the surface of both the glass lens and the reflector. All of these things would diminish the power of the headlamp. And then there was the small bulb which went in this assembly: particles would burn off the tungsten filament and coat the inside of the glass bulb; blackening it over time.
So, the venerable sealed beam headlight was developed. (If you’re old and worn out like me you’ll remember them.) The lens and reflector were hermetically sealed and made part of the bulb. Thus the inside would stay clean; the plating could not rust off; moisture could not accumulate within the bulb; and since the lens and reflector were actually part of the bulb the particles of tungsten were deposited over a much greater surface, therefore the blackening of the headlight over time was reduced.
So, our beneficent overlords decided to make these sealed beam headlights mandatory on automobiles. After all, they were state of the art for safety – back in the 1940s.
Unlike the enlightened rulers of the US the callous Europeans never enacted such a safety ruling. So, in the latter 1950s the Philips Co. of Holland invented the quartz halogen bulb. Instead of operating in a vacuum the tungsten filament burned in an atmosphere comprised of one of the halogen gases, usually iodine. The gas set up a reaction whereby the particles of tungsten would redeposit themselves back on the filament. Thus the bulb lasted longer and, most importantly, it would not blacken with age. This reaction occurred at a very high temperature which necessitated a bulb made out of quartz glass. This high temperature also insured relatively high light output for the electricity consumed plus the light was much whiter, and closer to sunlight, then conventional bulbs.
Un encumbered by a sealed beam regulation, high end cars in Europe began appearing with these Quartz Halogen headlights in the 1960s. When the filament in a sealed beam headlight burned out the whole unit, including the lens and reflector, got tossed. Thus they were made cheaply. On the European cars, only the small QH bulbs were tossed, the lens and reflector remained. Thus they were top quality: the lens was made out of lead-crystal glass, very accurately fluted; and the reflectors were mirror finished. A substantial rubber boot sealed the bulb in the unit.
In the 1970s the California Highway Patrol began to equip their patrol cars with the European QH headlamps, and called them the finest headlamps they had ever used. Nevertheless, they vigorously enforced the sealed beam regulation on us lesser folks.
The disparity between daytime and nighttime accident rates are dramatic. And, up to the middle 1980s, almost 40 years after their development, the by then antiquated sealed beam headlamps were still required on cars because of a federal safety standard.
It has taken until now, almost 60 years after the fact, for automobile headlights to begin to recover from that ‘safety’ standard. Rest assured, there were substantial lobbying arms aimed at preventing this.
Let the foregoing story be a lesson to anyone who thinks that government regulations are always, and every time, the answer to our problems. Or, to consider why a political entity has been allowed to develop the arrogance to tell us what devices we are permitted to use to light our homes and our lives.

Mike Smith
March 11, 2014 2:56 pm

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
Technically speaking, LEDs will not have captured that larger percentage of the lighting market; it will have been awarded to them by virtue of regulatory bans on competing technologies.
Those regulations have helped and will help LED lighting and I wish they hadn’t been enacted. However, on the bright side:
1. I believe LED’s would have won anyway — just as solid state electronics beat out vacuum tubes. Ignoring all of the CO2 nonsense, LED technology is just plain superior to incandescent or CFL.
2. We haven’t sunk billions of taxpayer dollars into misguided lighting technologies.

March 11, 2014 2:56 pm

otsar says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm
They finally got blue light LEDs about 10 years ago, after decades of work.
UV LEDs are probably still several decades off.
Once they get them though, recorded movies will probably get close to theatre quality.

Tim OBrien
March 11, 2014 2:56 pm

My new house has very high ceilings in the living room with in-ceiling can lights – the previous owners had horrible 200watt incandescents in them. I’ll soon replace them with 25watt LEDs saving nearly a kilowatt/hour — but my main concern is lifespan; I only want to have to climb a very high ladder ONCE.

March 11, 2014 3:00 pm

I build custom LED light fixtures for various things and the least reliable component by far is any electrolytic capacitor in the circuit (as it is with most any other electronic switching power supplies).
For LEDs, the killer is heat. There is a direct relation between life expectancy and operating temperature. Mount an LED on a sufficient heat sink, keep the current within spec, and the rated life expectancy will be met. As for the power supply, keep out any cheap electrolytic caps and the power supply might last as long as the LED.

John Wheelahan
March 11, 2014 3:13 pm

In Oz, Phillips introduced a new type of mains-voltage LED replacement bulb in 2013 – better output/watt and colour than 2012 model, and lower price. I can’t find any technical data, but the difference may be a fluorescent coating on the inside of the bulb (it glows for an instant after bulb turned off, like a fluorescent tube.) But still the limitation is intolerance of high temperature, a problem with the very high max. mid-summer temperatures we have. So don’t believe the life claimed on the packet. Also, I am busy upgrading my ceiling insulation, to compensate for the lost wattage, otherwise saving will be lost in gas usage for heating.
A reference site for quality and technical issues for the impending flood of LED lights would be very helpful.

Common Sense
March 11, 2014 3:18 pm

We’ve used CFLs for 14 years because our new house had tons of can lights that would have cost us a fortune. The CFLs all lasted at least 8 years. The only issues we had were the warm up time and that they don’t work well, or at all, in the cold. We had them in the porch lights since we leave them on all night, but that doesn’t work in the winter and in really cold temps of around zero, they don’t work at all.
LEDs are way too expensive still.
I do have some heirloom lamps where only low-wattage incandescents work. I stocked up on 60 watts when I could.
We also switched all of our Christmas lights to LEDs. It was expensive but worth it after all the years of blown fuses, juggling wattage, and the wind breaking the bulbs. The colors are a bit different, but we can put almost all of them on one outlet.

March 11, 2014 3:20 pm

While Anthony’s article is technically accurate (and like him I am installing LED lighting), he implies that changing to LED lighting will save a large amount of the electrical energy presently used by lighting. This is historically inaccurate. As the cost of operating lighting decreased (either due to less expensive electricity or more efficient bulbs) people installed more or higher wattage lighting and left the lighting on longer. A typical example is LED christmas lighting that is left on 24 hours a day rather than being switched off. The cost of operating LED lighting is now so low that there is less incentive to switch it off. Sigh….

March 11, 2014 3:21 pm

John in Oz sez: —————————–
If low voltage LED lighting is going to be the norm, perhaps building codes should be changed such that a low voltage lighting circuit is built into our building power distribution boxes.
A single voltage converter supplying all lighting power would eliminate the need for converters in every LED lamp, lowering the unit cost even further. Lighter and cheaper wiring would also reduce costs as the current is much lower and an earth cable should not be necessary for 12V DC circuits.
—————-end quote ———————-
This sounds like it could be a good plan in new construction. But it would necessitate running “lights only” circuits to all rooms in addition to all the “appliances” wall-sockets. And for floor and table lamps, one would need either a separate “lighting” wall socket on each wall, or else. . .? But I like the idea! There is a lot about home/commercial wiring that could be improved over the next few years.
We live in an old [80-100 yrs] farmhouse (in the USA near the Great Lakes) whose wiring has been “updated” several times, in bits and runs, last time by me when we moved here 20 years ago. Ground floor wiring is great, next floor up is so-so and the top storey (finished room/attic) has EVERYTHING on ONE circuit contolled be a single light switch at the bottom of the stairs! We’d done limited use of CFLs earlier in the century, but in the last 18 months we’ve gone over almost 100% to LED light bulbs. The cost and quality have both improved (if you watch for sales!) There are limited coices in terms of color output, but lamp shades and glass can correct most problems one might have. Better than incandescent or CFLs, in my experience.
Very interesting article! Thanks, Anthony.

March 11, 2014 3:27 pm

Forget about LEDS, OLEDS rule.

March 11, 2014 3:32 pm

If alternatives to incandescents are (will be) as great as claimed, there is hardly any reason to legislate mandates for them. These mandates always seem to overlook crappy characteristics
of new technologies. The pubic pays for these things and has to live with them and should be the sole arbitor as to whether and when they ae considered good enough to be the new norm.

Reply to  Col Mosby
March 11, 2014 3:33 pm

you got it.

March 11, 2014 3:39 pm

As long as the little buggers don’t continue to burst into flames.
Had one do that in a fixture on the ceiling of my mobile home.
(Yes, mobile home dwellers are very concerned about light bulbs that burst into flames. Fire: It’s a hazard of the lifestyle.)

March 11, 2014 3:40 pm

“The switching speed has a significant impact on the size of the coils and condensers built into the drivers for energy storage.”
Did anyone understand this (or any of the rest of the article)? Presumably higher switching speed could enable the transformer coils to be made smaller, but how does it reduce what’s needed to store a given amount of energy?

D.J. Hawkins
March 11, 2014 3:47 pm

@Common Sense says:
March 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm
Hmm, well lucky you. My experience with CFL’s suggests they are basically a scam. I date the base of bulbs when I install them. None have lasted more than a year and a half, well under the touted 7year/22,000hr span. Everything from Philips to the cheapies, all reek. Oddly, for outdoor use they’ve been fine. My porch lights have gone on at down to 2F. They take about 5 minutes to get to full (or apparently full) brightness, but I’ve never had one not fire up.

March 11, 2014 3:49 pm

The free market always, ALWAYS, produces better results and products than government mandates. If governments had left the light bulb market to it’s own creativity and didn’t force the dangerous, expensive and dim CFL bulbs onto the market LED bulbs would more than likely have an even larger market share at this point in time.

D.J. Hawkins
March 11, 2014 3:50 pm

Barbee says:
March 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm
You will be pleased to know that UL considers this a normal and acceptable end-of-life failure mode for CFL’s.

March 11, 2014 3:56 pm

In a temperate or cold climate any energy saving created by the increased in efficiciency in converting electrical energy to light energy is counteracted by the room thermostat which turns the heating on in a room more often if you put a more efficient light bulb in it.
The EU ban on moving incandescent bulbs around does not apply to online and mail-order, only to physical shops in the street. Also they were being smuggled in to the East of England by the lorry-load and sold at car-boot sales.
The legitimate Amazon prices look much higher than the illicit car-boot sale prices, especially with the postage and packing.
Where LEDs have caused a revolution is in stage lighting: one can now perform in dazzling light on stage without getting fried, and without the hazard of climbing a ladder to put colour filters in.

March 11, 2014 4:03 pm

Happy with the science and technology, abhor the enforcement. If it is so good the market should fix it and leave me the choice.

Gerry, England
March 11, 2014 4:04 pm

Incandescent lamps were only banned for domestic use in the EU – in theory. When Christopher Booker requested the UK government provide him with the legislation that banned them in the UK it couldn’t – therefore they aren’t. They are not banned for industrial use so you can buy them and use them in the home. They are slightly less bright due to thicker filament to withstand rough handling – often labelled ‘rough service’ for use in inspection lamps etc. I use incandescent lamps on stage in 150w, 200w and 500w monsters and they can’t be changed due to the focussing of the reflectors.
CFLs are slow to light – especially in the cold. They don’t like being switched on and off frequently and are prone to overheating in unventilated fittings, both of which shorten their life to much below that claimed by greenies. They can also go bang and take out your whole lighting circuit, so are not recommended to be left on in empty properties. Also may catch fire. Incandescent lamps can have a much monger life if you use a dimmer switch as it reduced the stress on the filament.
LEDs are brilliant and I use a lot of them now. Great in my campervan for giving good light at low consumption and not draining the battery. Never yet had an LED fail.

March 11, 2014 4:07 pm

A few months ago I bought a LED desk lamp from Costco. The lamp has touch controls in the base (on/off, brightness, colour temperature), and two rows of LEDs (warm, cool). The lamp worked well enough for a few months, then suddenly one of the banks of LEDs would not turn off. I had lost the store receipt, so I decided to open up the base and see if I could identify and replace a component which may have failed. The base housed a 1 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ circuit board (the “driver”) with a handful of components, resistors, capacitors, a tiny IC or two, etc. None of which showed any obvious damage.
To me, this highlights the fundamental problem with the current generation of LED lighting technology. While the LEDs themselves may be long-lived, you cannot simply plug a LED into the wall. Somewhere inside will have to be some basic electronic components and if any of those fail, that’s the end of the LED lamp itself.
It would definitely be an improvement if the new semiconductor driver described in the article can replace those cheap components.

March 11, 2014 4:07 pm

Joe Born: I think that it is an awkward translation and it is referring to the size of the inductors and/or capacitors needed in the switching power supply. Higher frequency switchers require smaller inductors/capacitors — inductors and capacitors being devices that store energy.
Note. I am not criticizing the translator or the translation. I certainly couldn’t do any better.

March 11, 2014 4:12 pm

They would be better instaling a robust voltage regulation system (V-phase) on the incoming power feed to the house, then a much simpler, cheaper and more robust DC power supply could be used in the light bulb. Of course this would mean that they would sell less replacements and lower the price of their high priced light bulb.

Mike T
March 11, 2014 4:13 pm

I adopted CFL globes fairly early, having lived in a place with extremely high electricity costs (remote island, diesel generators) and have gotten used to the colours, although my wife complains- I like the Warm White, she prefers Cool White. I also adopted LED globes for my cars, such as interior lighting, I can play with colour themes, and get whiter, brighter lights than the crappy incandescent yellow. Unfortunately, many cars have warning modules for areas like tail lights, so to change to LEDs, one needs to add ballast resistance, or warning lights come up, which rather defeats the purpose of changing to LED globes. For household use I’ll stick with CFL until LED globes get cheaper. I have great many CFL globes anyway, as I move every few years with work and take them with me. Given their dislike of fluctuating power, they’d be a liability in places I live in anyway- frequent power outages and spikes especially when there are storms about. It’s not unusual for the whole of my town to be blacked out due to a storm, or some idiot hitting a power pole.

March 11, 2014 4:17 pm

If you can get the LED to give off the light (color) of the standard incandescent bulb, I’ll buy it:
I have color pallets for incandescent, daylight, and fluorescent light sources. I haven’t yet done a painting for LED lighting, which is bluer than daylight. Florescent is the least pleasant light with which to view a painting. I have been experimenting with color since the mid sixties. Just sayin…

March 11, 2014 4:20 pm

Throw the watermelons out and allow incandescents. I lived in a house built in the 30’s. The bulbs on the back of the house were the original Mazdas. For infrequent use or for applications where the color and heat-producing qualities of incandescents are deemed beneficial by the user, let the homeowner use what they bloody well want.

March 11, 2014 4:28 pm

I read the other day.
That there are LED’s that now operate at over unity.
When they are in that state that they absorb thermal energy.
True that they are very low powered and narrow colour photon band.
But that they have only just been researched does look to cool bright future 🙂

Alan North
March 11, 2014 4:31 pm

A lot of misinformation here.
I’ve been an early adopter of LED lighting, since I used it on a boat, where the power supply is very limited.
LEDs are now made with luminous efficacies well over 100 lumens/Watt, which far outstrips other low-power lighting technologies, including CFLs. The problem arises in that there are only a few small firms such as Cree and Nichia that can achieve this – they seem to hold the patents, so the majors like GE, Osram are following along with the best they can do, which is often just half this.
This causes a lot of disappointment when the lamps are marketed as “100 Watt” replacement, when they simply are not. I have also managed to buy fake Cree lamps, well below the stated performance, and on dismantling, they were not Cree LEDs inside but a Chinese generic component.
The lifetime of the LED itself is determined by temperature – they really do not like being hot,
and 70C is hot for them, the heat degrades the phosphors. Because of this, it’s not really feasible to manufacture a replacement light bulb in a standard outline, you really need an integral heatsink. To add to this, incorporating the ballast inside the lamp is a real challenge – this is what the article is really about. LEDs work on constant DC current, and low Voltage.
The way forward is to fit a new luminaire, but few people are prepared to pay the cost of a whole new luminaire, so that presents a real adoption problem.

March 11, 2014 4:36 pm

meanwhile when its cold (20F or lower) my furnace runs more often due to no heat from the lights.

March 11, 2014 4:40 pm

Under run an incandescent lamp and it will last a very long time.
I have had several that I installed as a low voltage back up system.
That acted as a night light for stairs and hall way,
Run on solar clock, on every night when sun goes down.
24 volt 10watt powered at 18volt ac. still running 37years later.
Installed 1969 still working when sold house 2006.
True they only had half brilliance but did the job.

Bruce Cobb
March 11, 2014 4:44 pm

Don’t tell me about “energy saving”, I want to know about money-saving. Meantime, I’ll stick with the tried-and-true incandescents.

March 11, 2014 4:44 pm

I have also used carbon filament lamps to charge batteries.
Do you know why.
Sorry off topic 😉

March 11, 2014 4:49 pm

50 watt low voltage tungsten filament lamps have burnt down many house.

Chris Edwards
March 11, 2014 4:50 pm

As far as I know all fluorescent bulbs need a large jolt of power to ionise the gas, this results in a huge power draw (compared to running power) I have read 2 to 4 running hours! in the use we normally give our lamps (on when we enter a room off when we leave) the CFL is awful compared to the old filament lamp! there was a website 5 years back (before the LED was common) that gave real world, tested life and power consumption in homes, the best was halogen mains voltage lamps on a dimmer , next was incandescent and way down last was the CFL. The last place I worked in the UK got me to fit a power use monitor to their (shared) power, they had a fit as when the spray birth lights went on (30 4 foot natural light tubes not the skinny ones) the hourly power was astronomical, the next hour with all the lights on was way less, we disconnected the cut out that shut the lights off on the bake cycle and when they went on they sated on till 5. You who claim cost savings with CFLs might be tricking yourselves, my 2 stay on 24/7 except for outages! last about 3 years.

March 11, 2014 4:50 pm

LEDs are what CFLs were promised to be: efficient, long-lasting, and effective.
My house is full of them….

March 11, 2014 4:53 pm

We converted to LEDs throughout the house about 3 years ago. It was expensive, but we bit the bullet. For example, in our sitting room there are 14 lamps consuming 56 watts per hour in total.
Conventional 35 watt halogens would have consumed 490 watts per hour. Whilst the life of these bulbs can be measured in years, my life is unlikely to last so long & in any case LEDs will probably be superseded before they fail. Probably we’ll have voice activated glowing walls, so the maximum savings will only be achieved if one becomes old fashioned & retains LED downlighters & wall washers.
Here’s a possible new technology

March 11, 2014 5:26 pm

Does your heating bill go through the roof because of LEDs? Unlikely – if your heating is electrical, your heater is probably 100% efficient, and simply supplies any heat no longer generated by incandescent bulbs. If you use natural gas for heating, you should be much better off unless your country does not allow fracking. If you use coal or wood, you will hardly notice the increased consumption. For propane or oil heaters it is a mixed bag.

Reply to  Curious George
March 11, 2014 5:33 pm

While the energy savings is constant, the associated $ aren’t. Depends on where you live specifically, and your income level. (The US west coast wants its own carbon tax program.) Some utilities provide low-income rebates.
Please provide a reference for your statement on various fuels.

March 11, 2014 5:42 pm

Just a few inaccuracies in the original text (perhaps translation errors) (boldface added by me);
“During practical testing, the scientists found that the drivers developed using this NEW semiconductor material were extremely robust.”
GaN (Gallium Nitride) is hardly a “new” material. All of the blue LEDs and Laser Diodes available since the 1990’s use it. Yes it is “faster” than silicon and that is why it is also used in microwave amplifiers.
“To function properly, they need a driver that ensures a constant supply of POWER at all times.”
Nowhere near true, the light output of any LED is linearly proportional (to the first and second order) to the applied current. The voltage developed across the LED is a function of the semiconductor band-gap which differs between materials. Since the physical area of the semiconductor junction is relatively small any “spike” or “surge” of current can heat the junction beyond it’s damage or “kill” threshold and permanently reduce or eliminate the light output.
What LEDs really need is a “driver” that protects them from the voltage surges common on most AC house wiring (“Mains” in Europe). An incandescent bulb with a larger thermal mass can withstand these surges better since the thermal response of the filament is on the orders of seconds. A 25% over power condition on an incandescent filament for a second makes little difference. A 25% over power condition on an LED for a second is likely “terminal”.
What could cause these surges, well large electrical uses like central air, refrigerators, etc can “pull down” the voltage inside you home when they switch on. Ever notice that momentary light bulb “flicker” when your AC “kicks in” ? The voltage recovers quickly, but when the AC turns off you could easily see a 10 volt surge (for a few 1/10s of a second) on your AC lines. These voltage surges can become current surges with a poorly designed driver circuit and kill or “maim” an LED.
But there has been lots of attention in the semiconductor industry to designing low cost/size driver ICs that overcome these problems.
Back about 20 years ago I designed a device to exposure color photographic paper (before it went extinct) with an array of small Red/Green/Blue LEDs imaged onto the paper with “ball lenses” (they are just a finely ground ball of glass). I had to design multiple LED driver circuits for the task (50+).
Cheers, Kevin.

Randle Dewees
March 11, 2014 5:47 pm

I have enough incandescent blubs in a plastic tub to last me to 1) LED lighting is perfected and cheap 2) I die 3) civilization as we know it ends.
Forgive me as I take a shot at crowd sourcing. I’m developing a dynamic (moving) range transmissometer. I’m using a DPSS 1064 laser for the beacon but that won’t work for my final application. I would like a 940nm or 970nm LED (not a diode laser) with radiant intensity higher than 1W/sr. That means it’s radiating more than a watt. I search for such once in a while and can’t find anything – the “5W” ebay stuff is around 135mw/sr even if they say “5W”. Sometimes someone just knows about some hidden thing…

Sweet Old Bob
March 11, 2014 5:52 pm

Tested LED lamps in industrial setting (three years ago ) As several have noted, heat is a MAJOR problem.
Results : epic FAIL . Short life span ,ran WAY too hot.
Hopefully , better heat sinks and better design(s) will fix this .
Re 12vdc not needing an “earth” conductor…. only if you do not mind burning things down / up .How many automotive electrical fires do you know of ? And 40 years of industrial experience leaves me extremely adverse to leaving out ANY safety related practises or procedures.
Also read somewhere that some people develop insomnia under exposure to blue spectrum light.
Still , LEDS have many benefits , and they will surely get even better.
Good post.

March 11, 2014 5:54 pm

John in Oz;
“Lighter and cheaper wiring would also reduce costs as the current is much lower”
Unfortunately the lower current draw will not allow the use of lighter wire. It becomes a voltage drop problem. Even though you may only draw 1/10 amp at 1.5 volts, if the wiring goes for tens of feet the voltage drop (as a percentage of the 1.5 volts) becomes problematic.
Low voltage (24 VAC) wiring for landscape lighting has been around for a long time, and the gauge (lightness) of the wiring is actually larger than that used for High Voltage loads of the same wattage.
I believe a Mr. Edison and a Mr. Tesla had this discussion a few years back.
Cheers, Kevin

March 11, 2014 5:58 pm

In December I bought an LED bulb (shaped like a regular incandescent, labeled as 40 W equivalent) as a test. I got it at Wal Mart for under $10. I installed it in an overhead fan to see if it would stand up to the vibrations, as I’ve found that CFL bulbs had problems in overhead fans.
1. It’s still going strong (so are the incandescent bulbs in the other three sockets).
2. To my eye the color is identical to the incandescents.
3. So is the brightness, although the incandescents are 60 W bulbs.
Meanwhile, a CFL bulb I installed in our kitchen ceiling fixture at the same time has already failed (no fan, just a light fixture). I’ve had a lot of problems with CFLs. They don’t last nearly as long as promised, and sometimes generate a horrible smell when the failure is from the ballast burning out. Does anyone know if the ballast fumes are dangerous?

Scott Scarborough
March 11, 2014 6:02 pm

Your lamps my consume 56 watt-hours of energy in and hour but they do not consume 56 watts in an hour. They consume 56 watts all of the time they are on at every instant they are on.

March 11, 2014 6:04 pm

Don’t give a rat’s ass what they are called or how they are made. I hate dim bulbs. Hate them! And twisty bulbs are the worst! The lighting has gotten so dim I have threatened to use kerosene lamps!!!!

March 11, 2014 6:13 pm

I was an early adopter of efficient lighting but still haven’t bought my first LED. Why? I got spoilled is the simplest answer. The first CFL I bought was a GE CircleLite. It lasted 12 years at 3 hours a day average (probably more). My second one is still going 10+ years later. The smaller ones all seemed to die on me but I kept the receipts and returned. The larger companies like Sylvannia and Philips just had me fax them a copy of the bill of sale and they sent me a coupon for the price. In the 2-3 years before the bulbs died the price dropped from $10 to less than $5 so I was getting 3 bulbs for $10. Fair enough and the last batch are still going strong.
I’m finally at the last of my bulbs and as they burn out over the next few years I’m looking to buy some LED ones. Less than $10 for a 800 Lumen is my buy in point. Anyone have any Consumer’s Reports on which ones last the best?

Owen in GA
March 11, 2014 6:15 pm

I recently picked up a whole bunch of LED 60 watt equivalent bulbs for $6 (US) at COSTCO. They work pretty well so far. I have been using them to replace any bulb that fails in the house.

March 11, 2014 6:30 pm

I didn’t like the color of CFL’s and then found out they can be high UV emitters. I am now converted fully to LED bulbs and have paid for them in saved power … and they keep getting cheaper. After running into my first incadenscent in a few years, I would say full spectrum LED’s are better. A couple of places a soft white style might be better, but overall LED’s are superior.

John in Oz
March 11, 2014 6:36 pm

Silverbear says:

But it would necessitate running “lights only” circuits to all rooms in addition to all the “appliances” wall-sockets.

Interesting that the US allow lighting and power sockets on the same circuit whereas in Oz we have separate power and lighting circuits so we would not be adding to the wiring runs, just making the lighting runs with cheaper cabling..

March 11, 2014 6:40 pm

Brad – the reference for natural gas is here
I only guessed coal and wood; when I used them for heating, they were not major items on my budget. It may be different in an industrial setting.
A word of caution, natural gas heaters have a wide range of efficiency – from 100% (in-room catalytic types) to as low as 50% (an old-style furnace emitting water vapor through the smokestack).

March 11, 2014 6:41 pm

Someone explain what we’re doing wrong. We have no CFL’s no LED’s and no solar panels or wind turbines. Maybe years of my mother nagging us kids to turn off the lights, take short showers (actually we only had a bathtub, no shower), and generally not to be wasteful paid off. My wife seems to have had the same mean mother.
We tried CFL a number of years ago. Right on the box it said ‘7 year life’. None of them lasted more than 1 to 2 years, some 6 months. So, before it become illegal we went to Menards and bought as many Edison bulbs that would fit in the cart and replaced every one of those CFL’s (one actually blew up) with the politically incorrect bulbs. Unfortunately those once nice durable GE bulbs were made in China; complete garbage.
I fail to see how spending $15-30 for a light bulb is going to have a ROI in my lifetime based on our electric bills, although LED Christmas bulbs and flashlights LED are great, not to mention for the guns.
CFL bulbs suck; there’s no other way to describe them. LED bulbs, even if I wanted them, are still not practical in many instances, such as existing light fixtures they don’t fit in. The cost of lighting our twice-a-day-use in the barn would be astronomical. Sorry, I just don’t see the logic in spending $1000 for 1 hour a day of use.
Alas, the good old incandescent bulb is actually still legal, you just have to make sure they are branded “rough service” in various wattages and know where to find them. Hallelujah! Menards was carrying them, not sure if they still do or not; I bought a bunch of them for about $5 apiece. Oh, and they last a LOT longer.
Here’s a place that sells “rough service” bulbs. http://www.newcandescent.com/
Call me a rebel, old fashioned or whatever, They can have my Edison bulbs when they pry them from my cold dead hands.

March 11, 2014 6:46 pm

Tom J says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:55 pm
. . . Let the foregoing story be a lesson to anyone who thinks that government regulations are always, and every time, the answer to our problems. Or, to consider why a political entity has been allowed to develop the arrogance to tell us what devices we are permitted to use to light our homes and our lives.

Exactly right (and interesting account of the history of automotive headlight technology; go read it if you haven’t). I like incandescent bulbs. I like their warm color and the mild heat they give off (in our cold New England climate, a blessing). I don’t mind paying for the electricity.
I really do not like being told by government enviro-whackos and Climate Parasites that I have to switch to some other kind of lighting. If I decide to switch, I will, on my own time.
I hope I’ve sequestered enough incandescents to last me a few years, but maybe I should go out and find more. . .
/Mr Lynn

March 11, 2014 6:46 pm

Question: how does anyone know LED’s are long lasting when they’ve only been on the market for a few years? CFL’s were promised to be the same, but we sure didn’t find them to have the advertised MTBF, plus they get dim over time and are horrible in cold weather.

March 11, 2014 6:48 pm

We’ve should replace all of those CFL bulbs eventually – mercury in every one, and they break sometimes as well as get improperly thrown into the trash when they go bad. The primary problem with LEDs is heat – they don’t work well in enclosed spaces.

March 11, 2014 6:54 pm

We own houses in AZ and MN. We just switched out (450+) BR30 halogen floods plus dozens of normal incandescent lamp bulbs to led bulbs at the AZ house. Starting in July of this year, the local utility will be awarded a new monthly fee to compensate it for the fact that, in aggregate, the customers are not using enough electricity. (https://www.tep.com/customer/rates/new/). This is also true in MN (not fun but see riders http://www.xcelenergy.com/staticfiles/xe/Regulatory/Regulatory%20PDFs/rates/MN/Me_Section_5.pdf).
Not cynical, but the utilities’ need for return on infrastructure buildout means we pay if we conserve, and we pay if we use lotsa electricity.

Kirk Hall
March 11, 2014 6:59 pm

I haven’t tried any LED’s that I know of (the wife could have sneaked one in on me) but did try the CFL’s and hated them. I have a lifetime supply in every wattage of incandescent and will probably even have a few to leave to someone in my will. Electricity is still pretty cheap where I am and I usually like the heat they put out.

March 11, 2014 7:12 pm

My experience with LED lighting (in-ceiling down-lighting incl. power converter, purchased on-line from China, ~$14ea, 12W equiv. to ~70W incand.) is that the LEDs are bright and very reliable. Great alternative to traditional pot lighting. No failures after 1.5 years. My biggest complaint is that although the lamps were advertised as dimmable, the power converters DO NOT work with standard dimmer controls. I have purchased “LED friendly” dimmers and the result is the same: the LED power converters go insane (I know now why but I won’t go into the details here).
I’m almost resorting to designing and building my own converters. I’d prefer however to buy something off-the-shelf if it works and is not too pricy.

david moon
March 11, 2014 7:13 pm

“We converted to LEDs throughout the house about 3 years ago. It was expensive, but we bit the bullet. For example, in our sitting room there are 14 lamps consuming 56 watts per hour in total.”
Watts are a rate of energy per time. Watts per hour is meaningless. When the lamps are on they are consuming energy at a rate of 56 watts. The real issue is how much light for those watts and if the light is acceptable (color temp etc.)

March 11, 2014 7:21 pm

I have been combining “older” fluorescent lights with LEDs. I put the LEDs where I need the light right away (at the bottom of the stairway, at the front door where i need to find the keyhole) and use the flours to come up to full brightness and balance out the spectrum a bit. (or make it worse, I am not sure sometimes.)
Still am a little peeved at the early sudden death on some of the LEDs; these are supposed to last for ages.
We live in an area that has power outages two or three times a year; I use a old car battery to power three of these LED lights though an inverter; I can always get 2 evenings out of one charge.
But I miss the incandescents…they were just the right heat to put in the pump box in the backyard to keep it from freezing in the winter cold spells.

March 11, 2014 7:36 pm

Curious George says: “Does your heating bill go through the roof because of LEDs? Unlikely – if your heating is electrical, your heater is probably 100% efficient, and simply supplies any heat no longer generated by incandescent bulbs. If you use natural gas for heating, you should be much better off unless your country does not allow fracking.”
Natural gas has always been cheaper than heating with electricity, fracking or not.
And you are completely forgetting he AC season I guess? Where you pay twice for your refrigerator and lights, removing their heat from the house?

March 11, 2014 7:37 pm

Great conversation! I’ve been holding back on LED bulbs until the price-point reduced, but that may be about now.
I’ve been a reluctant adopter of the CFL twisty-bulbs….however, the first one I ever bought (nicknamed “Hercules”) has operated without fail in an outside light fixture for at least four years. Since I live in Chicago, the Delta T can easily be 120º F! I’m fairly impressed with the old thing.
Everything works, it is just a question of if it works for you. The waste heat of the incandescent bulbs is an advantage in a cold house in the winter, and they sure were cheap. However, I don’t find that I miss them much, except for the bright 3-way bulbs. C’est la vie.

March 11, 2014 7:53 pm

Just wonder what an EMP from a nearby lightning strike would do to a house full of LED light bulbs.

March 11, 2014 7:54 pm

I like LED bulbs and have many in high-use fixtures. However I cannot justify the increased cost in a fixture that only operates 1 hour per month (guest bedrooms, etc). It simply is not cost effective at such low usage levels.
For that reason alone I have stockpiled incandescents for use into the foreseeable future.
In effect the cost of wind energy and fewer fossil power plants has been legislated down to the consumers via more “efficient” and costly bulbs. But I digress…

March 11, 2014 8:18 pm

You want to save money on electrical lighting? Replace all the miserable outdoor lighting fixtures that wastefully illuminate the night sky and decrease safety because you get blinded by the direct view of bare bulbs with full cutoff fixtures that only illuminate the ground. These require lower wattage bulbs and increase safety because your night night vision is much less impacted. Recover our dark sky heritage. Astronomers will thank you.

March 11, 2014 8:29 pm

I have found CFL bulbs are very green in color and I can detect a flicker. I am waiting to see what LEDs look like before blowing a bunch of money on something I don’t like. I have put in a large supply of bulbs and at the current rate of consumption, I suspect the bulbs will last longer than I will. At night most of the time I only have one 100 watt bulb on between dark and bed time but I do use other bulbs when I move around the house. Color is so important to me that the walls are painted with a very light brown paint to give that warm feeling to the house.
If I were truly worried about power consumption, I would do something about my computer as it draws over 200 watts or twice what my single light bulb draws. The big power draw in my house is the 4 ton heat pump which can suck almost $200 of power a month in the Arizona summer with the house temperature set to 78 degrees.
In addition I have a 25 year old fixture with 12 60 watt bulbs. I have never replaced a bulb in it because it’s not usable on high so it has a dimmer to reduce the output to livable levels and the lower filament temperature greatly extends the life of the bulb.
I am not against LEDs as I had a 7 segment alarm clock that lasted over 30 years and failed only because the power company spiked it and the control board for the furnace. Even after the failure, the LEDs were still good but the timer chip was fried.

March 11, 2014 8:43 pm

Those buying all the LED lights, I have one simple question again. How do you know they are long lasting?

Chad Wozniak
March 11, 2014 8:50 pm

My guess is that we will only find out what is the best kind of lighting if all restrictions on marketing all types are lifted and all hidden taxes and subsidies eliminated and they can all compete with one another – i.e., a truly free market. I’m dreaming, of course.
My own experience with CFLs has been: (1) actually little more intensity for the wattage than with incandescents – an advertised 60 watt equivalent CFL for me has usually been more like 20 to 30 watts from incandescents; (2) the bulbs dim quite rapidly, down to half or less as intense within a month, and don’t last much longer than incandescents – say, three or four months vs. two or three months in the fixtures in my house; (3) there is a noticeable ozone smell around the fixtures where I have CFLs, but not around incandescents. It’s the same for all the brands I’ve tried.
The rapid dimming and the ozone smell make me wonder what sort of emissions are coming out of the CFLs. I suspect strongly that mercury is among them.
Makes me want to find a way to make the regulatory ciphers who come up with these things pay personally to fix it. How’s that for a law – if regulatories do damage, they pay?

March 11, 2014 9:07 pm

Yep, done. All lights in my house are LEDs including standard sized globes and spots. You can get warm (slightly yellow) or cool (slightly blue). Either way my energy bills dropped by about 12% so it should take me quite some time to pay it off. Also, I am told, some of them now work with dimmers.

March 11, 2014 9:10 pm

In terms of life, I have had to replace only one since I have done this about a year ago – I have something like 45 globes (bulbs) in the house.

Henry Clark
March 11, 2014 9:23 pm

A CFL bulb may be $2 or $3 for 800 lumens or more (especially if in a cheap pack) and last for several years or more depending on the light fixture usage. The LED equivalent usually costs such as $10 or more, while being no more than at best similar lumens/watt. Breaking even in gain from even longer lifespan would take a long time if ever.
But few people understand figures well in any context, and the media loves hype.
If going to run a light fixture 24 hours a day, that’d be the best bet for a LED bulb to pay off: not in all light fixtures, though, not unless/until they get cheaper.
Incandescents are much less efficient and shorter-lived by far than CFLs, but there are a few applications where waste heat is not a waste, while only the energy religion required not letting people choose. I’d put an incandescent in a closet with a light on only a few minutes a week, for example.

Walter Sobchak
March 11, 2014 9:49 pm

Randle Dewees says: March 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm
“I have enough incandescent blubs in a plastic tub to last me to 1) LED lighting is perfected and cheap 2) I die 3) civilization as we know it ends.”
Bad news dude. No. 3 is a lock in a very short time.

March 11, 2014 9:51 pm

Latitude says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:45 pm

No, wind and solar will never achieve more than footnote status in terms of baseload power generation. EIA projected well below 1% for wind and solar through 2030 back when they were honest. Still no different, but now the EIA hide the reality by mixing wind and solar in with hydroelectric power, and change units to make comparisons more difficult.

March 11, 2014 9:53 pm

Saw 2300 lumen LED ceiling can replacement units at COSTCO for $17 (23W).

March 11, 2014 9:57 pm

Joe Born: “Presumably higher switching speed could enable the transformer coils to be made smaller, but how does it reduce what’s needed to store a given amount of energy?”
Double the frequency and you will double the number of intervals storing half the energy, so the total energy stored over time is the same. Doubling the frequency allows the use of smaller caps and coils which not only cost less, but take up less space.

March 11, 2014 11:02 pm

I am a little disappointed that out of all the post so far, only one, KevinK, had any technical LED information. I have been using LEDs in products since the 60’s when they first became available and the recent advancements in power output have made them practical for lighting.
To get a white LED, a blue or UV LED is used and a glob of phosphor is put on top of the die to down convert some of the higher frequency (short wavelength) light into lower frequency longer wavelength light (red, yellow, green, etc.). The resultant mix of wavelengths gives warm white, cool white, etc. The first white LEDs were still experimenting with the phosphors, which is why the early white LEDs had a blue tinge to them, but that is largely a non issue now.
An LED is a current device with a compliance voltage (voltage drop across the LED) that is dependent upon the chemistry used. The white LEDs using a blue LED that has a compliance voltage around 3.5 volts. If the power source is a constant voltage device, like a battery, a dropping resistor is commonly used to limit the current. (Now you know why the cheap flashlights use 3 AAA cells, to get the voltage over 3.5 volts)
All of the power generated by the current flowing through the resistor is waste heat. The most efficient way to power an LED is with a switching power supply whose output is a current, typically from a switched inductor. The newer flashlights, like the new LED Maglight, now use this method.
The part about the GaN transistors appears to be mostly BS. The typical LED switching power supply will be a few ten to a few hundreds of KHz. The only reason someone would want to use a GaN tranistor is because they have lower parasitic capacitance compared to a Mosfet, but that only matters in the high Mhz to GHz range. Using a GaN transistor makes no sense, and it will have no effect on the efficiency of the LED. There is no way using GaN transistors can do anything significant, let alone double the power output of the LED.

Bernie Hutchins
March 11, 2014 11:13 pm

CFL’s were (are) a scam. I put in a whole bunch (several dozen) expecting to lower my electric bill. To name just a few of their sins: They only last perhaps 1/4 to at most 1/2 the life advertised. They flicker and sometimes “pop” (bang!) when they die too soon. When mine are all gone, I will worry about where to discard the dead. And I now understand they aren’t supposed to be installed “base up” (the boxes do not tell you this). They dim significantly after a few months. And they do kill off switches (not a big issue if you are your own electrician, I suppose). “Fool me once, shame on you.” I am currently replacing back with incandescents, and I am old enough that “lifetime supply” is a meaningful notion.
As for LEDs, they too seem like a good idea. Probably are. But I wait and see this time. I had not thought about the “regulator” or ballast issue with LEDs. If the LEDs last, but the regulators burn, what do we gain? Seriously, what IS the long term reliability? I am hearing “fool me twice…..”
Anybody really know?

March 11, 2014 11:16 pm

“environmentally friendly source of light … consume less energy …”
This site – of all places – should bring in a link to Jevons Paradox. Jevons pointed out that when you use an input to some process more efficiently, you will eventually use more of that input. By making the conversion of electricity into light cheaper, we will find more and more ways to use lights – and inevitably use more and more electricity for lighting. As computers have grown increasingly efficient in their use of electricity, we use more and more electricity to power them. People who own Priuses drive more.

March 12, 2014 12:23 am

I recently read that white LEDs surpassed a 200lm/W limit, and soon enough it turned a sort of wishful PR. Cree claims 80 CRI and 3,000K (ANSI) colour temperature and mass production in 2015 or so.
I don’t know about you, but I just can’t settle for flickering 80 CRI light produced by phosphors. Everyone, living and dead, look like a twilight saga banquet under that light. I can’t read for longer than 15 minutes or so, and their flicker makes things even worse. Because of the phosphors making their light “white” they are not too different from the ghastly CFLs, hence their abysmal CRI. And they are dying, with me in pain, forever.
I wouldn’t be this much disappointed with LEDs if I was not completely happy with halogens. I’ll need to have halogens indefinitely at least for reading and preparing food. In my country, although in EU, incandescents are still available. Halogens are not banned yet, so I’ll pile a stack for the time they get banned. Unless LEDs just suddenly start behaving.
As a sidenote, modern lightbulbs are exempt from every EM compatibility law … because they just can’t meet any.

March 12, 2014 12:28 am

Tried CFL’s early. Outside at 30 to 40 below, they didn’t even come on. The light colour inside was poor, the flicker about drove me crazy, they made an audible hum, interfered with electronics in the house and several failed in the first couple of months after which I took all the CFL’s out and put back incandescents. Over the last 5 years, I have replaced one ( 1 ) incandescent light bulb. I have two cardboard boxes of those “mercury accidents waiting to happen” in my basement if anyone wants them, next to my 10 year plus supply of incandescent bulbs. Given the low failure rate of my incandescents, make that a supply I will likely pass on to my children. I have some LED lights as emergency back up but at $14 to $20 per light versus $1 to $2 for incandescents (which supply some additional heat in the winter months) I don’t see changing over full LED’s soon – especially given they don’t always fit the existing fixtures.

March 12, 2014 12:42 am

BTW, an incandescent bulb can live at least twice as long with a simple zero crossing switch for turning it on. It makes most financial benefits calculations of CFLs go pufff

Steve C
March 12, 2014 12:54 am

Well, this is my fourth attempt at writing this comment over the last hour or so. The UK’s “New! Improved!” third-rate third-world electricity supply has dealt us three brief interruptions so far this morning, forcing PCs to reset, clocks to fall back to 88:88, the radio to turn off … We reduce our consumption and still we get cr@p service.
Right. I’ll try again.
Agreed LEDs are far superior to CFL junk, though (as Hlaford has noted since I started trying) they do have problems. The colour balance problem has been noted above, and given that LEDs, like CFLs, rely on phosphors to produce their light, it is hard to see how that can ever be resolved. Phosphors intrinsically produce a spectrum of lines; incandescent sources produce a continuous spectrum much more like the spectrum our race evolved with. That this can also give physiological problems has been noted already by Chiefio, here.
Hlaford’s mention of the EM pollution spewed out by these things is very welcome too – it sometimes seems to me that I’m the only person who’s noticed. Along with CFLs, PCs, phone chargers. TVs … OK, practically everything nowadays, they have switchmode power supplies built-in which now, in my city environment, bury most of the interesting part of the EM spectrum under their pollution. It doesn’t matter that most people (whose only interest in the spectrum is receiving high power broadcast stations) don’t notice this pollution, pollution it is, and apparently completely uncontrolled.
On the plus side, though, LEDs do have things going for them. I recently bought (at the budget German supermarket Aldi) a superb LED flashlight – 3x C cells in the (metal) handle and a 10W LED at the front, a sort of poor man’s Maglite®. Sure, they only claim 8 hours battery life, but for a handy light source which measures brighter at 1 metre than full summer sun (in the UK …) I’m not complaining. Fed from low voltage DC there’s no interference at all; and you most likely won’t be using it in situations where colour balance is critical. Horses for courses. But I’d still like to see reliable electricity supplies (like we used to have) running proper incandescents around the house – and at a price we can afford (like we used to have).
Good grief, I think they’ve held the power up for nearly half an hour this time. Post quick, Steve, before you have to watch Windows checking its file system again

John Moore
March 12, 2014 2:47 am

Someone mentioned ‘capacitors’ being called ‘condensers’. This was always the name given to them in England — capacitors is the American term….which of course is used here now! Also do LEDs need leaving on for long periods? The great advantage of filament bulbs is that they can be switched on and off for short periods so that it’s not necessary to leave lights on in rooms all over the house. This is the great disadvantage with flourescents….long or ‘compact’.

March 12, 2014 2:48 am

Just wait; they’ll soon be whining about the environmental impact of gallium mining!
Anything to push us back to the stone age.

March 12, 2014 2:50 am

Curious George says:
March 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm
… a “condenser” should have been a “capacitor”. …

We used to call them condensers. That’s the term used in my 1955 ARRL Handbook. I’m not sure when, or why, the terminology changed. Anyway, I wouldn’t call it wrong. It’s kind of like cycles-per-second (cps) vs Hertz (Hz).

March 12, 2014 3:18 am

I picked up a couple of 40W-equivalent LEDs at IKEA last weekend for under $5 each. Cheapest I’ve ever seen them. Vastly better for walk-in clothes closets than those *%%# CFLs. I can tell the difference between white and off-white shirts again, and don’t have to wait 30 seconds to have enough light to see.

March 12, 2014 3:46 am

At the instigation of huge companies, the governments have no mercy to the consumer.
During ages, at evening, humans were accustomed to the yellow and red light of the setting sun, and later on to the light of fire, used in campfires, torches, candles, oil lamps, etc. The incandescent light bulbs, introduced by Thomas Edison, were the crowning glory of. The yellow color at night was favourable for the human health.
In many countries, with one stroke of the pen, the law banned for ever the only lamp spreading a full spectrum of colors and giving beautiful warm light similar to the light of the setting sun. False arguments were used to implement this drastic revolution.
First, consumers had to endure during years the bad consequences of CFLs (awful light, UV radiation, danger when breaking due to the mercury, danger of overheating and spreading an unbearable odor, flickering, end of life before the promised life time, etc.).
The arrival of the LEDs introduced a new chapter in the history of light. The main flaws of LEDs are :
– Consumer group Which? tested 46 types of light bulb for endurance. More than a quarter did not meet claims of a 15,000-hour life. Disappointing result comes despite claims of them lasting 25,000 hours. Some even fell below the legal minimum of 6,000 hours.
See more
– a high proportion of blue light in the spectrum;
– high luminance (i.e. the high brightness density per surface unit emitted by these very small sources.) LEDs are point sources of light that can be dangerous for our eyes, especially for the eyes of children;
– flicker in the light emitted by LEDs.
It is known that:
1. Blue light tends to make us wakeful and inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Our bodies are attuned to daytime.
2. Red and near-infrared light, on the other hand, promote regenerative processes like cell renewal. This regeneration does not have a chance under artificial illumination with a major blue-light content, such as LED, low-energy lamps and computer screens.
3. Many genes are involved in the generation of and many processes are modulated by circadian rhythms.
The consequences are dramatic.
A growing and increasingly convincing body of scientific evidence suggests that excessive exposure of bright light at night (LAN) generates circadian disruption or chronodisruption, that it is, impairments in the healthy internal temporal order. Evidences point to melatonin inhibition as the principal responsible, and blue light is the most effective in this suppression while longer time exposures are required with warmer lights.
Epidemiological studies show that chonodisruption is associated with an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive and affective impairments, premature aging and some cancers such as breast, prostate and colorectal and the worsening of pre-existing pathologies, so light is not harmless anymore. (…) To date, we know some of the health consequences of CD [chronodisruption]; however, only a few attempts have been made to prevent circadian disruption induced by inappropriate lighting. Blue light should be avoided during the night in order to preserve our circadian physiology.
(http://www.cielooscuro.es/programa.php. María de los Ángeles Rol de Lama, Laboratorio de Cronobiología de la Universidad de Murcia)
The incandescent lamp is the most reliable lamp (full brightness instantly, dimmable, minimal flicker, can be used in cold places, no light loss over time, can be switched on and off without reducing its life, no interference with radio frequency, contains no rare earth metals, heat resistant, …) These lamps are nevertheless banned in many parts of the world and the halogen lamps will be next sacrifice. Will this be the end of the free market? How long will the consumer have to endure this injustice leading to more suffering?
More information can be found on my website http://users.skynet.be/fc298377/EN_argument.htm.

March 12, 2014 4:00 am

This is a fun confluence of ideas for WUWT, “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change.”
I try to practice micro-heating in my cabin near the Nearctic Taiga as an efficiency. We use electric blankets and lap robes that allow us to maintain the structure much cooler, warm enough only to delay freezing interior piping in the event of a sustained power loss. We will be early adopters of electric body suits when they become affordable.
100 Watt electric heat bulbs are a significant source of warmth, cozy heat on a long cold winter night and provide sufficient light by which to read. Conversely, our diesel Welsbach-mantel lamps provide tremendous heat – unmeasured – and 100 Watts of light.
Not all live in tropical cities. A project for the summer is sourcing 75 mm insulating foam sheeting for the already double-glazed insulating windows.

March 12, 2014 4:12 am

Incandescent lamps are NOT banned in the EU. 40/60W bulbs are available in shops and ”Rough use” bulbs of 100W are of the incandescent kind. Please check your facts Anthony.

March 12, 2014 4:46 am

“Incandescent light bulbs are now banned in the EU,”
Wrong. Production of them is banned. Existing stock can be and is sold. I can’t stand low energy bulbs, and don’t like the cold light of LEDs, hence our house uses only old fashioned incandescent bulbs, and we have a huge stock set aside. People notice it when they stay with us – the light comes on immediately when you flip the switch, and is a lovely warm light.
UK folk can go to bltdirect for stocks, and they are not the only supplier.

March 12, 2014 4:51 am

On information and belief, severe service incandescent bulbs are excepted from the prohibition.

Box of Rocks
March 12, 2014 4:59 am

Since the LED lights require a circuit board to function – has anyone done an analysis on the energy it takes to build the circuit boards?
I wonder how much energy we are wasting during manufacture to save during use?

March 12, 2014 5:21 am

Quantum dot coatings are able to change the bluue-ish LED light into warmer colours, without much loss of efficiency.

robert edward
March 12, 2014 5:25 am

Light is a necessity not a luxury. LEDs produce a different type of light to incandescent. Many people need incandescent lighting – it is not a luxury – it is a need. Al Gore, Tony BLiar and the fat cats at Philips and the communist EU use private jets – they are not concerned about energy – they are concerned about their own wealth and greed – and don’t give a damn about people that are made ill by the ban on incandescent bulbs. If LEDs were so great – no need to ban incandescent – let people choose according to their own needs. Philips etc have used their EU connections to rig a the legal system to ban incandescents for their own selfish ends – higher profits – Philips also sponsor the WWF to promote their harmful LEDs.
If you like LED – use them – but it is pure evil – real evil minds – that force people to used LED lighting in full knowledge that doing so will make them ill. Light is a necessity – let people choose what light they need in their own homes and at work.

March 12, 2014 5:31 am

Box of Rocks says: March 12, 2014 at 4:59 am “I wonder how much energy we are wasting during manufacture to save during use?”
Good question. A broader application of just that concern is; what is the pollution committed (to) by the integrated technological infrastructure of any new product (integrated as in the sum of all of the parts).
“Box of Rocks” was the localhost name of my last desktop computer, for all of the clever little dopey silicon rocks in it.

March 12, 2014 5:41 am

I am in the energy conservation business and have installed over 50 LED retro-fits in the last year and have had only a few lamp failures. LEDs have come a long way in a short time. Some of the comments are on point. 1) lights operating only 1 hour a day will generally not be worth switching to LED 2) LEDs now come in just about every shape and color temp. 3) Consumer Reports has been testing them for over 10,000 hours and have been impressed with the results so far. 4) LEDs will flicker badly when used with an incandescent dimmer and are generally not rated for enclosed fixtures. 5) I am not a fan of gov’t mandates or gov’t incentives so that is why I like LEDs so much they make sense without any of these incentives, I proudly say none of the projects I have completed have involved any type of rebate or gov’t incentive.

March 12, 2014 5:42 am

As we all get older & our eyes need more light, I find that these damn CFLs are just a hazard. You go into a room & put the light on & are out again before the thing has given out any light. Total waste of time! As for LEDs, they seem to be the way to go BUT, my tortoise likes the 60w incandescent bulb that serves as his personal sun in the winter. I suspect he would throw a hissy fit if I gave him a LED! Horses for courses, let the consumer decide. I believe that Incandescent & LED have a place. I just wish the bloody EU would go away with their CFLs.

March 12, 2014 6:06 am

What people fail to comprehend in the discussion is the fact that while LEDs do last longer, the electronics to support them (and the soldered connections to join them) don’t enjoy the same longevitivy. And as others have mentioned are rather fussy when it comes to spikes, droops, drops and other common power maladies. The solution is often to add more regulation circuitry, unfortunately this merely increases the complexity and therefore reduces overall reliability. Truth be known, LEDs rarely if ever fail. What fails is the support circuitry, lousy solder joints or other parts of the system. Whether it is the LED, the transformer or power conditioner, when one fails the lamp ‘assembly’ fails. Landfill time. False economy. 30+ years in electronics manufacturing has been a tough taskmaster.
This is part of my rant about LED and high tech lighting in cars. Yes, LEDs may last longer and require less energy. But when they fail, it isn’t a $5 bulb to replace; it is a $300 light module. When are they more likely to fail? In the secondary and beyond markets, the downstream or used car market. The market populated by folks who really can’t afford to replace $300 light modules. So they don’t and either replace the entire car with a newer used car or they simply ignore the problem and drive with one dead headlamp. But a $5 replacement bulb would have avoided the issue altogether.
The part of reliability and efficiency that most folks do not understand is that the repair/replacement cost plays a huge role in determining the “right” answer.

March 12, 2014 6:28 am

Aldi sells incandescents. Just this morning bought a box of 4 clear 100w bulbs branded Lightway, and 4 pearl 100w bulbs branded Status, from my local Aldi (German discount grocer) here in England. The Lightway bulbs are marked “not suitable for household room illumination”. Both brands are filament incandescent bulbs, marked “heavy duty”. BC22 bayonet cap. Both £1.50 per box of 4.

John Innes
March 12, 2014 6:46 am

Regarding incandescent lights lasting longer if dimmed, the rough rule of thumb is that, for each 2% reduction of operating voltage, the life is doubled.
There is a limit to how much you can dim, or under-run, halogen lamps. Below a certain point, the quartz envelope will cool, and allow the tungsten from the filament to deposit, blackening it just like a conventional incandescent. So run them at full throttle, they will last longer when the tungsten gets put back on the filament.
Yes, Steve C, I certainly noticed the increased EM pollution from the CFLs. But it is the same with anything the PC bunch want to foist on us – the rules go out the window. If anybody but them had suggested switching to lamps with mercury vapor in them, they would have screamed blue murder. Or to a device with a worse power factor than an incandescent.
To those suggesting running 12 volt feeds round the house in lighter cable than the 110 or 220 volt power – you are not running less current, just less voltage. Work out the current, watts divided by volts, and you may even be running more current. And the voltage drop will be a much bigger fraction of the supply voltage, so you can’t skimp on the copper. Having individual switch-mode converters to provide constant current for each LED fitting makes some sense, and you don’t have a single fail point to make all the lights go dark at the same time.
The only thing I like about CFLs is that I don’t have to worry about turning them off when I leave the room.

Mike M
March 12, 2014 6:53 am

Competition within FREE market capitalism is the mother of improvement and lower costs. If government had only kept its nose OUT of it, LED’s, (and CFL’s for that matter), would have had more competition from incandescent and therefore more market pressure to resolve these color/warmth and spike vulnerability issues.

March 12, 2014 6:54 am

LEDs have their advantages – like all lighting,
including incandescents, and including fluorescents, for different uses in different circumstances, as per link below.
None should be banned on grounds other than safety.
But it is hardly surprising that manufacturers lobby for profitably patented sales
(compared to generic patent expired incandescents)
To begin with,
The non-guaranteed lab based lifespan of LEDs is hightly doubtful,
also as Philips, Osram, GE etc already reduced lifespans in their Phoebus cartel to limit ordinary bulb standard lifespan to 1000 hours – incandescents lasting 20 000 hrs and more can and are being made eg for mining at $1.50-$2 each
LED point glare and blue light issues have been raised eg ANSES France Govmt Health agency,
and UC Davis (USA) in big cross-discipline study with other American and international research depts, as referenced below, along with the complex LED use of rare earth minerals etc
Supposed energy savings don’t hold up for many reasons, including that relevant domestic incandescents etc are mainly used off-peak after 7pm anyway (DEFRA data), when surplus electricity available.
Applies not least to Coal, the main environmental worry – since coal plants have minimum night cycle levels covering any bulb use
(minimum output levels for operative cost reason re slow downturn and stoking up again to daytime levels, including wear and tear, again referenced APTECH and power plant commissions) = effectively the same coal burned anyway )
People can of course prefer LEDs – why not.
But for society, the whole bulb switch – save planet argument is therefore a Scam.
Even if it was not a scam, taxation (covering price lowering subsidy to LEDs) or market stimulation, helping new bulbs to market without baning others, are better policies.
14 points against the bulb switching or banning arguments

March 12, 2014 6:54 am

comment in moderation

March 12, 2014 7:30 am

I love LEDs also, but I had to chuckle when I observed the price jump at Home Depot after the first phase ban on incandescents went into place compared to six months prior.

March 12, 2014 7:31 am

Speed: You are likely right about the translation, except that I think what was translated is what wasn’t clear; the translation may be fine.
The passage I mentioned tends to reinforce a notion that some commenters seem to have taken. Specifically, the post seems to imply that, in contrast to incandescents, LEDs are like computers in that they need to avoid power-supply interruptions . As far as I know, though, the greatest storage required by LEDs but not incandescents is only the amount required to bridge the 8-10 msec between grid (mains) half cycles. (I’ve been told that incandescents’ filaments do that nicely, thank you.)
Now, my guess is that this does mean tenths of a joule–maybe tens of microfarads–for a single LED lamp. But this is orders of magnitude less than keeping the lamp powered for human-scale durations. On the other hand, it is much greater than I would have thought required for voltage transforming, which my guess is what the gallium-nitride-switching-speed comments are directed to.
So, for all I can get from the post, using gallium-nitride transistors affects only the amount of storage in a part of the operation that itself is only a minor part of the overall storage requirement.

March 12, 2014 7:32 am

Sam Grove: “Double the frequency and you will double the number of intervals storing half the energy, so the total energy stored over time is the same. Doubling the frequency allows the use of smaller caps and coils which not only cost less, but take up less space.”
I’m not sure I 100% agree with your physics, there. It’s true that for transforming purposes increasing the frequency can lead to smaller inductors and/or capacitors. But doubling the frequency with which you energize and de-energize a given capacitance or inductance to and from a given voltage or current does not increase that capacitance’s or inductance’s average energy storage.
The point is that the higher frequency enables the transforming to be done with less energy storage, not that the same energy is stored by smaller components.
And, as I mentioned above to Speed, I still don’t see how this affects overall energy-storage requirements significantly anyway; I don’t see how switching fast reduces the energy storage required to bridge power-grid cycles.

March 12, 2014 7:37 am

Yep, you can keep your health care plan and your light bulbs. Just don’t bring up the subject of costs. Gee I wonder if anyone bothered to check the CPI price change and item swap in that inflation survey. I guess we just chalk it up to involuntary change in cost of living and not inflation.

Tom in South Jersey
March 12, 2014 7:38 am

We tried some of the twisty cfl bulbs in our house years ago, mainly because of the children leaving lights on all the time. I had even reported a fire with those bulbs on this blog a while back. Since then I have tried some of the LED bulbs and have been very much pleased with them. I can only imagine that things will get better from here. I still firmly believe that the outlawing of the traditional bulb was criminal.

Mike M
March 12, 2014 7:41 am

John Innes says: March 12, 2014 at 6:46 am “Regarding incandescent lights lasting longer if dimmed, the rough rule of thumb is that, for each 2% reduction of operating voltage, the life is doubled.”
Basically, that’s the idea behind “extended life” light bulbs, they are just bulbs designed to run at a higher voltage so ~115 A/C is already a cooler “dimmed’ voltage condition. They are also therefore less efficacious and more yellow in color as a result. The most efficacious filaments are the hottest and have the shortest life, (such as photo flood light bulbs) .
Another major failure factor for incandescent filament failure is initial inrush current at start up which is roughly 10X the operating current. For a 100W bulb, the first full A/C cycle is pushing something like 10 amperes. The rapid thermal expansion from that puts a tremendous mechanical shock on the filament producing vibration/strain induced cracks on the surface that ultimately get deeper every time you flip the switch on. Those cracks also reduce the cross section thus locally increasing the amperage/area resulting in an even hotter condition at the cracks, (and weaker as well), that accelerates their propagation.
So, not only run the bulbs at a reduced voltage – ramp them up with a lamp dimmer control and they’ll last even longer.

Box of Rocks
March 12, 2014 7:44 am

“Box of Rocks” was the localhost name of my last desktop computer, for all of the clever little dopey silicon rocks in it.
I on the other hand get the moniker from the idea from my US Navy ‘A’ school – AX that some folks are as dumb as a “box of rocks” and can not be taught anyhtingie….

March 12, 2014 7:46 am

Thanks for the Jevons Paradox reminder.

March 12, 2014 7:56 am

commieBob: It is nice to meet a fellow oldtimer. Live long and prosper.

Mike M
March 12, 2014 8:06 am

I don’t know where else to complain so… is it me or are there some LED automobile tail lights out there that are ridiculously too bright and basically blind you if you are stuck behind one at night at a intersection? Has DOT anything to say about the spot intensity factor of automotive LED’s?
Another thing is that some appear to be operating on some sort of low frequency switching regulator circuit that causes, especially at night, a strobed trail of ghost spots across your retina whenever you move your eyes.

March 12, 2014 8:37 am

I have no problem with technical advances. I just want to point out that there is not any energy being saved. Any energy being saved on lighting just goes somewhere else. The governments have been passing energy saving regulations for forty years and yet there are no huge piles of saved energy in any form. It’s basic rule that the economy will burn all the energy produced. No energy has been saved and there are no laws even being considered to mandate saving energy. Saving energy would mean putting X barrels of oil or Y tons of coal aside and not being allowing to use it. Taxing energy doesn’t save any energy. Taxing energy is like taxing the blood going through your veins. If you want to live you pay the tax but the blood can’t stop moving. In the government regulation game there are winners and losers, but no energy is being saved. The flows of energy may just be directed somewhere else. If I am saving X energy on lightning I might just use it to keep my house more comfortable. One degree on my thermostat probably blows away all my energy “savings” caused by government regulations. If I don’t burn the “savings” somebody else will.

Ernest Bush
March 12, 2014 9:14 am

I have been using LEDs in my entire house for up to 4 years, now. They are all warm white and provide a slightly whiter light. You only need to look on the package, now, to make a choice of bluish sunlight-type output, or warm white. The most reliable bulbs have turned out to be made by Philips. Most of them use either a single large or several medium sized light emitting surfaces. Anything containing multiple less is a cheap ripoff. The incandescent bulbs for sale before the U.S. ban on manufacture tended to blow out after 6 months and the CFL’s were little better. A broken CFL is a hazmat situation and there is evidence that exposure to the extreme UV output may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
There is no evidence that there are any ill effects from long exposure to LEDs. In addition, outdoors the warm white bulbs attract a fraction of the insects that CFLs and incandescent bulbs do in southern Arizona.

March 12, 2014 9:19 am

I changed over to CREE LEDs for my high use lighting and some hard to access lights. Home Depot for $6.95 on sale. In my favorite reading lamp I have two 800 lm bulbs.

March 12, 2014 9:41 am

Thanks for the info. I didn’t believe the MTBF numbers quoted for the LED’s or CFL’s, and you have strengthened my doubts.

March 12, 2014 11:00 am

I personally like LEDs, but have learned to put up with the reality that they don’t last as long as incandescent bulbs. One of the expenses I hate is that some of the companies from a few years ago no longer exist. When I have an array of bulbs (like in bathroom vanities), and one goes out, I can’t get a replacement just like the old one, so I have to buy a whole new set. The warranties are worthless if the company disappears. Still, I don’t know what I did with the old incandescents, and we hated the CFLs – ugly and weird lighting characteristics.
If they can only get the reliability up there, I would be truly satisfied. (I don’t want to open up and re-solder LEDs, if that is really possible!)

March 12, 2014 11:31 am

Bought six 90 watt equivalent LED spots for my kitchen @ $39.95 ea. one year ago. So far 4 of them have failed. I seriously question their long term economy which has been the benefit hawked.

Curtis Beck
March 12, 2014 12:52 pm

Is there enough economically-extractable gallium in the world to keep advanced LED’s at the top in the lighting pecking order? Or, when we finally reach “energy nirvana” and electricity becomes cheap again, will tungsten bulbs make a comeback???? Stay tuned…

March 12, 2014 1:08 pm

“… [LED] the most environmentally friendly source of light … ”
Wait until the enviro-grievance groups find out that manufacture of LEDs and Gallium Nitride transistors require:
– freight train loads of ammonia & hydrogen gasses.
– multi-megawatt electricity consumption by the semiconductor manufacturing facilities, most likely supplied by coal burning plants.

March 12, 2014 1:16 pm

My experience is that long lifetime for LED is a blatant lie, a year ago or so I changed from halogen to LED’s in a 3-bulb celing fixture in the dayroom of my flat , the halos had 35w power rating gave a nice warm soft white color to the room , so I went for 4w warm white LED’s , the light color from them was little harsher, but not so much that it bothered me, and the brighness was on par with what I was used to from the halogens, so I was resonably happy with the change, but not for long , whithin five days the first of the new bulbs went haywire , and stated to bink like feew**ng ’80- style disce danceroom lamp, so I pulled it out , went to store where it was bought, and demanded a new one free of charge , on the groundt that it must have been a defective item when they sold it to me, because had only lasted all fo 30 hours of use , not the stated 10000. The store chief hewed and hummed a little and was fairly relunctant to do so but relented in the end. So I put the new led in and everything was okay for some 8-10 days , then the new led simply died ( after 40-60 hrs use ) , Well I did nother bother to try to get another free replace as the my word exchange with store personnel had been on the verge of turning ugly in the first instance, so I just pulled the dead bulb out , and decided to live with the two still going for a while to see if they lasted longer, and wonder of wonders both died within a 4 week from that. Ok I thought, those LED bulbs were a comparatively cheap Chinese brand to begin with and perchance were just “China quality” junk , let’s give it another try. But to be on the safe side I asked a friend who is a certified electrician to come around an check if there was something wrong whith the light fixture, he di so found nothing amiss and also brougth me three new top of the range ( both in price and brand rating = SIEMENS ) 2.5w LED’s and put them in. The light from them was a bit more to the blue end of color scale ( bright white ), and to tell the truth I found the illumination from them somewhat uncomfortable, with the result that for a while i only turned the overhead light on for short periods of time , and made do with the wall lights and a couple of reading lamps for daily use the next few weeks, intending to replace those LEDs again for a set with a more pleasant color temperature. But alas I never got around to do that , wihin a couple of months all three of the new LEDs had turned up their toes and retired to greenie paradise or wherever else such thing go in their afterlive, and I had replugged the perfectly good halogens that I orginally took aout of the fixture again. And there they shall stay , even if they draw 8-10 times the power a LED does, and if they die I will most likely replace them with the same type , I have already bought and stowed a batch 30 spares, which should be enough to last a couple of decades as those that are now in use are already somewhere above the 3000 hour mark of in use ( c.a 2 years worth of illumination ) .

March 12, 2014 2:33 pm

What the heck. I’ll throw my 2 cents worth in too.
Incandescent bulbs. Little difference between them. You could buy any of them and pretty much know what you were getting in terms of light.
CFLs and LEDs? With all the different shapes, styles, etc it can be an expensive gamble. No store will ever use all of the multitude styles and shapes with in store displays so that you have an idea what they look like. I can’t afford to try, try again.
LED Christmas lights suck. Sorry. Hot spots and uneven lighting. What is needed are REAL C7 and C9 ceramic coated GLASS with LEDs inside. Home Depot sells a Cree LED bulb made with frosted glass. I’m waiting for Cree to do this with Christmas lights.
I even did a PowerPoint on the pros and cons of different Christmas lights since I help with my cities Christmas parade. It is a lighted night time parade and some of the entrants meet the minimum number of lights required but are pathetic to look at. Here is a link to the PowerPoint if anyone is interested.

Melbourne Resident
March 12, 2014 3:28 pm

Just fitted out my whole house with100% LEDs – been running some of them for 3 to 4 months intermittently during last stages of fit out – moved in 2 months ago – not one light has failed, flickered or caused problems – dont know what you are all whinging about. Mix of warm white with bright white – can vary the balance to whatever we need. I am sold…

March 12, 2014 4:31 pm

No whining. 3-4 months is the lifetime of a large candle. I just don’t believe the MTBF numbers by the LED manufacturers. Experience with CFL has already told me the MTBF claims are inflated.
Add the fact the components are largely made in China doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings.

March 12, 2014 5:37 pm

But doubling the frequency with which you energize and de-energize a given capacitance or inductance to and from a given voltage or current does not increase that capacitance’s or inductance’s average energy storage.”
It’s like using a larger or smaller bucket. To deliver the same amount of water in a given period of time, the smaller bucket must be filled and dumped at a higher rate. That’s why a 60Hz transformer delivering X Watts of power can be replaced with a much smaller transformer driven at a much higher frequency, The filtering caps can be smaller as well because only have to

March 12, 2014 5:38 pm

hold power for a fraction of the time required by line frequency transformers

March 12, 2014 5:47 pm

gping from 80% to 85% doesnt make your lamp a whole lot brighter for the same power, but what it does allow you to do is run it at 50% more power for the same heat..and that is relevant.

March 12, 2014 5:54 pm

In short a totally confusing article.
1/. Incandescent lamps are not banned. I’ve got well over 100 I bought this year.
2/. increased switching speed of LEDS is irrelevant for lighting purposes: what we want is steady light not a gigabit fibre optic driver.
3/. Increased switching speeds for down conversion from line voltage is good. That does shrink the electronics somewhat, but that’s nothing to do with the LEDS.
4/. Its not clear either that LED bulbs actually use switched transformers. Many seem to be a lot cruder than that.

March 12, 2014 5:55 pm

I replace about 4 or 5 incandescent bulbs a year. When they were due to be phased out I went out and bought enough bulbs to see me out. At the time I was buying two 100w bulbs in a pack for 38 cents (euroland) thanks to them being phased out.
During the summer we are outside much of the evening, so lights are not used for long periods. During the winter, the lights go on when it gets dark and generally the extra heat given out means that no heating is required despite sub zero temps (oil central heating – much more expensive than the lighting). Here in France the electricity (mostly nuclear) is relatively cheap – once the relevant extras are taken into account about ten euro cents per Kwh (cheap rate after ten pm) and sixteen euro cents during peak hours.
I can’t imagine switching over to any other form of lighting anytime soon. I prefer the light, the response time and I believe I am using less total energy hence saving money. Win/win/win.

March 12, 2014 6:56 pm

I have two twisty bulbs still in the package. Why? The dim light panel in the bathroom will not be made brighter by replacing the burned-out twisties with new yet still dim twisties. It just isn’t worth the hassle of getting a big ladder into the bathroom.
Years from now the stories in childrens’ books will be about some famous president who as a child was trying to read by the dim light of a twisty.

March 12, 2014 7:37 pm

Love LED bulbs. Put them in everywhere in my house I could. It’s about being $$ smart, not Carbon stupid.

March 12, 2014 8:13 pm

Went with the twistys (whole house) when they came out years ago.
Power bill went down $10.00 per month. Only had 3 fail in all that time and they get left on a lot.
(I have one in a back yard fixture going non-stop for 5 years)
The only thing stopping me from going LED was the color temperature….
Just bought 2 nice 3700 deg. kelvin 60 watt equivalent Cree LED bulbs at Lowes less than $10.00 ea. They give the same light as the 60 watt incandescents we all know and love !!!.
So I’ll be swapping out again.

March 12, 2014 8:23 pm

A somewhat minor edit suggestion. The article states “the luminous flux of commercial LED retrofit lamps featuring silicon components is around 1000 lumen”. This amount of lumen is currently available in a 10-12 watt LED bulb. A currently available 60 watt LED bulb may have 4000-6000 lumen (ie 100 watt/lumen).

March 13, 2014 7:53 am

@Dennis Kuzara: “The typical LED switching power supply will be a few ten to a few hundreds of KHz. The only reason someone would want to use a GaN tranistor is because they have lower parasitic capacitance compared to a Mosfet, but that only matters in the high Mhz to GHz range. Using a GaN transistor makes no sense, and it will have no effect on the efficiency of the LED. There is no way using GaN transistors can do anything significant, let alone double the power output of the LED.”
Unless I misremember, don’t GaN transistors have a lower Rds ON that MOSFETs? Lower On resistance means less energy loss from heat which in turn means higher efficiencies, all other things being equal.
With higher switching frequencies on the power supplies I would think standard MOSFETs would do the trick, though they would generate a little more heat than GaN FETs.

March 13, 2014 8:50 am

Do we still know what we are buying when we acquire CFLs or LEDs?
Earlier, when we bought incandescent light bulbs, we knew exactly the color rendering index (CRI), the power factor (PF), the spectrum that is similar to the setting sun. Buying modern lamps, the CRI is lower (about 80%), the PF is very reduced, the characteristics of the spectrum is not indicated: Which colors are predominant? Which hues are absent? What’s the share of the blue color in the spectrum? It is very important to know this share because if it is too high, the lamp may not be used at evening because of health reasons.
Moreover, the life time of the lamps has become a matter of statistics. In Europe, it is considered as ‘normal’ that 10% of the LEDs fail before 6,000 hours, that 20% of the LEDs do not maintain the prescribed luminance after 6,000 hours burning!
Conclusion: Buying a modern lamp is purchasing a product of poor quality regarding CRI and PF. And is taking part in a lottery regarding the life time. The rights of the consumer are denied blatantly.

March 13, 2014 11:47 am

I haven’t been able to find a dimmable LED light that I like as much as incandescents. That being said about half the lights in my home are LEDs. Unfortunately I also have a few fixtures that are CFL only, which are a total nightmare and don’t seem to work even when I buy the appropriate goofy-pronged replacement bulb. ANYTHING is better than CFL, the sooner we get rid of them the better.

March 14, 2014 12:12 am

In a cold country LEDs don’t save energy. They provide heat when and where it is needed and otherwise don’t, i.e. they save energy in the same way as ventilation controlled by presence of people in a room. The “saving” LED provide assume people don’t put up their thermostats when the room they sit in becomes colder. All practical experience speak to the opposite. Which you can see from actual energy use in residential homes: it has increased.

March 17, 2014 12:48 pm

My previous comment was WAY up in the list! Usually I’m one of the last to reply to a thread. But here is my second comment:
#1 I agree with the free-market libertarian comments that the issue ought to be decided by personal buying choices. One size does NOT “fit all!”
#2 On the other hand, as a very minor former player in local politics, I will state that UNFORTUNATELY a majority of the population in the USA does not give a rats ass about anything until it becomes a personal problem/irritant. One reason there are so many nuclear power plants is that in decades gone by –due to subsidies and tax breaks– they provided an “easy” way to increase electrical power generation. THE FACTS that decades later these “easy” solutions to boosting power generation would incur billions of dollars in costs for nuke waste management, cleanup were NOT subject to public debate at the time. This does not even begin to address the incalculable costs of things like Fuk-U-shima polluting the entire North Pacific ecosystem.
–Therefore, it is in the public interest to reduce electrical power usage. Being an old git on a very meager US SSD income, I’m personally not fiscally in favor of _really_ charging me what electricity costs to generate and distribute. But most people have no real idea of how unrealistic their current energy costs are. Unfortunately for me and others, reality is what it is.
My bottom-line comment is a pessimistic list. I think it would be best if :
A] All Nuke power plants were decommissioned ASAP.
B] Existing shareholders of the corporations owning these plants bore the brunt of the cost.
C] All Government (politically motivated) subsidies be abolished in the energy markets.
D] Let people decide for themselves whether they want to pay 4-5X the REAL cost in electricity for incandescent bulbs as opposed to LED lighting.
E] CFL’s are mercury-laden toxic hazards. Under any logical application of existing law, they are to be banned. It’s only due to political influence that they are on the market at all.
I can go on and on. But since my appointment as Ruler of the World is still pending, I’d just like to say:
Go Anthony Watts! Go Steyn! Let’s use rational science –and let the chips fall where they may.
. . . and IT’S ALL subject to debate!

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