Have opinions about industry standards? Voice them!

PLASA StandardsNo, seriously! Every time that any standard is submitted to ANSI for approval or revision, it is first put into public review. That’s right, I said public. PLASA (formerly ESTA) is who puts forth our entertainment standards. At this very moment, there are 11 Entertainment Technology standards up for public review.

  • BSR E1.21 – 201x, Entertainment Technology — Temporary Ground-Supported Structures Used to Cover the Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events
  • BSR E1.6-2 – 201x, Entertainment Technology — Design, Inspection, and Maintenance of Electric Chain Hoists for the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.39 – 201x, Entertainment Technology –Selection and Use of Personal Fall Arrest Systems on Portable Structures Used in the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.1 – 201x, Entertainment Technology – Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders
  • BSR E1.6-3 – 201x, Selection and Use of Chain Hoists in the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.41 – 201x, Recommendations for Measuring and Reporting Photometric Performance Data for Entertainment Luminaires Utilizing Solid State Light Sources
  • BSR E1.18-1 – 201x, Standard for the selection, installation, and use of single-conductor portable power feeder cable systems for use at 600 volts nominal or less for the distribution of electrical energy in the entertainment and live-event industries
  • BSR E1.24 – 201x, Entertainment Technology – Dimensional Requirements for Stage Pin Connectors
  • BSR E1.32 – 201x, Guide for the Inspection of Entertainment Industry Incandescent Lamp Luminaires
  • BSR E1.33-201x, Entertainment Technology – Extensions to E1.31 for Transport of ANSI E1.20
  • ANSI E1.26 – 2006, Entertainment Technology – Recommended testing methods and values for shock absorption of floors used in live performance venues

All of the preceding, except for ANSI E1.26 – 2006, is in public review until October 18, 2011. ANSI E1.26 – 2006 is in public review until August 30, 2011.

From PLASA about the documents, review and voting process:

The draft documents are produced by members of the working groups in the Technical Standards Program. Membership in the working groups is open to all who are affected by the work of the group; membership in PLASA or any other association is not a requirement. Voting members are required to attend meetings, but observer members are not, although they are welcome to attend and to speak on issues if they choose. More information about working groups and an application to join are available under the working groups link.

I’m not certain how untimely the first item on the list, BSR E1.21 – 201x, looks with all of the staging incidents that have occurred this summer, but certainly now is the time for those involved, and even those not directly, to make a stronger standard. Just remember, they aren’t looking for rants – as valid as they may be.

-got fox?

Part L of the Building Regulations Code in the United Kingdom – A Mini EISA Scenario?

Here at JimOnLight.com, sense is trying to be made of the current labyrinth (movie starring Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie) that is the Energy Independence and Safety Act (EISA).  As we dig deeper and deeper into a piece of legislation that could actually do some good if it wasn’t so heavily balanced on income, news of some changes in a similar-but-not-same legislation in another country has some interesting components that need discussing.  it’s called PART L of the Building Regulations in the United Kingdom.  Ever heard of it?

PART L is a bit of legislation in England and Wales that generally tries to legislate the consumption of fuel and power in buildings.  Obviously there is a lot to this document; and in a document that has a lot, it’s bound to have flaws.  How many of these flaws will be allowed to get through?  A lot of people think time will tell, but the time to act to change some of the absurdity is running out to affect a change to get implemented any time soon.  The next opportunity to make a change?  2016.

If you’re interested in checking out the actual verbage of PART L, here’s a link directly to it.  Here’s the latest changes to the PART L document, too.

Basically, PART L is broken up into four parts.  L1 pertains to dwellings, L2 pertains to non-dwellings:

  • L1A:  New dwellings
  • L1B:  Existing Dwellings
  • L2A:  New Buildings other than Dwellings
  • L2B:  Existing Buildings other than dwellings

From what I understand, one large portion of the hullaballoo with PART L right now is in the way it deals with “energy efficiency.”  Generally, the issue is in the way that said energy efficiency is actually legislated.  Right now, PART L deals with a luminaire’s efficacy, and people involved in wanting to improve the legislation want to move to a lighting systems-based efficacy.  Doesn’t that kinda make more sense?  It does seem like we should be done with relying on the good ol’ toggle light switch, it is 2011 after all.

I had a quick conversation with lighting designer and Twitter persona Liz Peck about this PART L business – to get more information on it from someone who’s right in the middle of it.  Liz gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on the PART L Regulations, and has been published in LUX Magazine.  Liz is also principal at LPA Lighting, her lighting design firm.

The interview:

JOL:  Liz, can you fill me in on what PART L means for people living where PART L would be implemented? What would an outside observer to PART L need to know?

Liz Peck:  Part L of the Building Regulations governs the “conservation of fuel and power” and it applies to all new and refurbished buildings in England & Wales. Scotland & Northern Ireland have different building regulations but in essence they all follow the same pattern. It’s divided into domestic and non-domestic buildings, but for both, compliance with Part L is based almost entirely on luminaire or lamp efficacy. This means that the application of lighting is often lost, especially in projects where specialist lighting designers are not involved – the principle is that as long as the luminaire complies, then it’s an energy efficient scheme.

As a lighting engineer, what does PART L mean?
It means very little as it’s so easy to comply with. I don’t think it really influences how we approach the lighting of buildings; most lighting designers would comply with Part L without even trying.

PART L seems a little like the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) here in the United States.  EISA has a lot of very confusing aspects to it, and people in the US generally have no idea what it means.  Is PART L a lot like that with respect to its complex nature? What could be done to alleviate confusion?
From what I know of it, the ambitions of the EISA are a little greater, though they certainly have some similarities in the use of energy efficient light sources. The confusion in Part L lies predominantly with its flaws, of which there are many. For instance, in non-domestic buildings, it allows an efficient luminaire to be left on in an empty building because there is no need for controls beyond a manual on/off switch. How can that ever be thought of as efficient? Equally, for some areas in the building, the targets remain on lamp efficacy with no regard to luminaire performance, so in theory you could have a ‘black box’ luminaire with zero light output but if it contained T5 lamps, it would be compliant! In domestic buildings, it’s not much better: the requirement is for 75% of “light fixtures” to be energy efficient (40 l/w) but there is no requirement for the fixtures to be dedicated, so the reality is that the plans get approved with either CFL or LED lamps specified in traditional lampholders and then as soon as the occupants move in, they switch the lamps to less efficient sources that they prefer!

Are there cons to PART L with respect to the way it legislates luminaires instead of systems?
I think it’s the lack of need for controls which is its biggest flaw; we’re a decade into the 21st Century and the ‘recommended’ controls strategy is a manual switch. We really need to move on; the controls aspect is so out of date, it’s almost unbelievable. To have a situation in 2010 when absence and daylight sensors are considered advanced lighting controls for new buildings is a joke. These are basic controls which no new building should be without unless they have very good reason. The old adage of the most efficient luminaire is the one which is switched off when it’s not needed doesn’t apply to Part L. Things have to change.

What else should people know?
Trying to get most people to understand lumens per watt is fruitless; most people running a building, whether it’s their own home or a commercial office understand only two metrics: energy and money. Metering is becoming more prevalent in commercial buildings and is being introduced into the domestic market – maybe when people can see just how much energy they are using through lighting, they will start to think about improving it, but all the time the Building Regulations only require the use of efficient sources and not their application, we will (sadly) continue to see inefficient lighting schemes being installed. We must move to a systems-based approach, with targets on energy consumption, if we are to really make a difference in the future.

I also did some digging and found an interesting article at LUX Magazine on this subject, written by Iain Carlile of DPA Lighting Design.  Iain’s article, entitled “Why We Must Fight for PART L,” had some very direct commentary on PART L legislation.  In reference to why PART L needs changing:

Part L is correct in its requirement to reduce energy consumption, but the metrics used for lighting are quite crude and predominantly only cover the efficacy of the luminaire — not the total energy consumption of the lighting system.

This leaves us in a ludicrous situation. The lighting scheme can comply with the requirements of Part L but still waste energy through the unnecessary lighting of unoccupied or daylit areas.

For example, look at many commercial properties where all of the lighting is on throughout the night when the space is unoccupied. These installations can have efficient luminaires and lamps, achieving low installed electrical load per unit area and high luminaire efficacies. But the absence of simple occupancy controls means the lighting can remain on for more than twice the required operational hours, wasting a huge amount of energy.

The installation may meet the requirements of Part L, yet in fact the installation can be quite wasteful of energy because the lighting is not switched off when it is not required.
Recent advances in technology make it possible to specify LEDs for ambient lighting that emit an excellent quality of light across the visual spectrum, with a colour temperature and colour rendering properties that compare favourably with tungsten lamps.

Iain’s resolution to PART L?

For this situation to be resolved, future revisions of Part L must change the metric used for measuring the energy efficiency of a lighting installation.

We must as an industry challenge the existing legislation and push for a suitable metric that considers not just the efficacies of lamps and luminaires but also includes factors such as lighting controls, dimming levels, hours of operation, daylight linking and presence detection.

Only then will we have legislation that allows the intelligent application of the ‘right light, right place, right time’ philosophy.

Personally, I am glad to see that the Society of Light and Lighting is pushing for a move to systems-based targets in the next revision of Part L.

If you’re looking for a quick five-minute overview on PART L, check out this video below:

Do you think that the public would feel good about PART L if they had someone explain it to them so that it made sense?  As far as EISA goes, that seems to be a lot of the problem.  Perhaps if more people knew about the legislation that the government was trying to put in place they could make a more informed decision.  It’s nice to know that at least America isn’t the only country in the world in which its people have to actually TRY to find out the real truth about things in which its government is involved.

Something I found pertinent and relevant from the LUX Mag article was a quote from Martin Valentine, a lighting expert in Abu Dhabi City.  He talks about the way we need to go forward:

‘We need to be looking at controls and overall limits as well as luminaire efficiency. But we also need to not lose sight of light quality. The four things work hand in hand.’

Valentine warned that the danger with complicated legislation is that nobody really knows what is going on. He believes Part L is a good thing but needs to move with the times, rather be caught behind.

He said: ‘It needs to evolve and it needs to be clear cut. People need to know what’s going on and benchmarks need to be in place.’

Thanks to LUX Mag, Liz Peck, iRed, and Wikipedia!

Luminaire Efficiency Rating

This is not my typical Monday morning post type, but I cannot not share this article.

I just read a great article on Luminaire Efficiency by the awesome Craig Dilouie from the LightNOW Blog.  If you have any doubts on this subject, you should definitely read this article.  For those of you who don’t actually know who Craig Dilouie is, he’s the guy who’s written the Lighting Management Handbook, The Electrical Systems Design & Specification Handbook for Industrial Facilities, the Lighting Control Handbook, among many others. He’s also take a ride into writing horror stories!

Thanks for the great article, Craig!

LER: Luminaire Efficacy Rating

Have you ever heard of a factor called the Luminaire Efficacy Rating, or LER?

Luminaire Efficacy Rating is exactly what it sounds like – it is a measure of how efficient a luminaire is, which basically means “how much light does it put out based on how much energy it consumes?”  Imagine it as “miles per gallon” for lighting fixtures; that example is pretty oversimplified, but it’s a good comparison of how the LER relates to the overall efficiency of a luminaire.  LER is expressed in “lumens per watt,” which makes sense if you think about it very briefly – how many lumens does a fixture produce per each watt of power that it uses, or how much light does this thing produce when it eat this much power?

The Luminaire Efficacy Rating generally deals with three important criteria:

  • the efficacy of the luminaire, or how much light it delivers per watt
  • the ability for the luminaire to direct light outside of itself
  • the ability of the luminaire’s ballasts to deliver power to the lamps efficiently

The LER is a factor that the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has put into play – fluorescent luminaires are one of the categories being compared in the case of LER, and the figure compares many factors.  There are three major categories of luminaire types that are broken down with the Luminaire Efficacy Rating – fluorescent luminaires, high-intensity discharge industrial luminaires (arc lamps), and commercial, non-residential downlight luminaires.

I put together an image with the breakdown of the terms and basic definitions – I hope it is helpful!

LER-jimonlight

NEMA breaks down the standards for Luminaire Efficacy Rating in the following documents:

  • Fluorescent Luminaires:
    NEMA LE5
  • High-Intensity Discharge Luminaires:
    NEMA LE5B
  • Commercial (non-residential) Downlights:
    NEMA LE5A

The LER factor mostly deals with luminaires using a ballast.  You can certainly calculate the LER for a luminaire using an incandescent lamp – the difference is that you wouldn’t multiply the Ballast Factor into the equation.  Your new equation would be:

LER = (EFF x TLL)/input watts
Luminaire Efficacy Rating for an incandescent luminaire = the product of the luminaire’s efficiency multiplied by the total lamp lumens of the luminaire, divided by the input watts of the luminaire.  Makes sense, right?  No ballast in an incandescent luminaire!

Let’s look a bit at the definitions in this LER equation.  Not everyone might have heard of all of these figures, and some people might be saying “SAY WHAAAT?”

EFF, or Luminaire Efficiency:
This term refers to the output of the luminaire proportionally to the lamp or lamps’ output.  Technically, it is a measure of the amount of luminous flux of the luminaire divided by the amount of luminous flux of just the lamp itself.

(HEY JIM!  What the heck is luminous flux?)

Luminous flux is the measure of the perceived brightness or “light power” – it’s different than radiant flux, which measures all of the light emitted.  Luminous flux is geared towards what the eye can see and the brain can interpret.

TLL, or Total Lamp Lumens:
This term refers to the total measured (rated) quantity of lumens coming from the lamps.  This amount is also multiplied by how many lamps are in the luminaire.  Pretty understandable, right?  So, for example, if I have a luminaire with 3 lamps with a 2000 lumen output each, the total lamp lumens is 6000 lumens – 2000 lumen lamps multiplied by 3 lamps = 6000 lumens.  Cake.

BF, or Ballast Factor:
Ballast Factor isn’t a difficult thing to understand, but there are a few components to understanding it.  Ballast Factor deals with both parts of the creation of light – the ballast and the lamp.  Ballast factor is the ability of a ballast to produce light from the lamp or lamps that it energizes.  A ballast not only fires up the lamp, but after it’s started, it maintains the processes of the lamp.  The Ballast Factor is measured by taking the lumen output of  lamp and ballast combination and dividing it by a reference lamp/ballast combination.

Reference Ballasts are ballasts that are designed to be nearly “perfect” in order to perform under a particular set of conditions.  NEMA has guidelines set forth for Reference Ballasts, which is how we are able to use them to compare other ballast/lamp combinations.

Luminaire Watts Input:
Another very easy thing to understand – Luminaire Watts Input (also called Watts Input, Input Watts, or a number of terms generally related to the idea) is how many watts of power that the luminaire consumes.

I hope this makes a bit more sense if you didn’t know about it before.  Please send me an email through the contact form if you have any questions!

Cree LED Releases an IPx5 Rated Tri-Color LED

cree led rgb

Cree, Inc – one of the major LED players in the industry, released a few weeks ago an LED with an IPx5 rating.  This means the LED is perfect for outdoor displays and situations where the LED is going to come into direct contact with water.  Typically, LED displays are made with respect to water-tightness as to not cause the display to fail, but Cree has incorporated this protection into the LED itself.  From the press release:

DURHAM, N.C., JUNE 17, 2009 — Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), a market leader in LED lighting, announces the first commercially available water-resistant, surface-mount, high-brightness LEDs for outdoor video screens. This RGB (red-green-blue) LED has an IPx5 rating, indicating that the LED is protected against low-pressure jets of water from all directions.

“We’ve developed a water-resistant, red-green-blue LED that can be used in indoor and outdoor video screen applications,” said Paul Thieken, Cree director of marketing, LED components. “Previously, LEDs had to be encapsulated to protect them from water. By incorporating encapsulation at the LED level, we can help our customers save time and money.”

“Displ’aire, working with Cree, is changing the rules for LED displays,” says Leo Stearns, Displ’aire’s CEO. “Cree’s involvement started with us early in our development cycle, and they provided the support we needed to rapidly deploy our new technologies. Displ’aire portable, daylight-visible displays and the new water-resistant Cree LEDs are a perfect technology match for creating brighter, more efficient displays that can better stand up to the elements.”

The ScreenMaster® CLV6A-FKB features a black face for improved contrast in full-color video screens, decorative lighting and amusement applications. It has a unique encapsulation resin with UV-inhibitors, minimizing the effects of long-term exposure to direct sunlight which helps to improve the stability of the light-output over the life of the LED. It also features a unique matched horizontal radiation pattern—enhancing color mixing and pixel-to-pixel color consistency.

The CLV6A-FKB is commercially available now, and samples can be requested through a Cree representative.

Thanks Cree and Flashlight News!

The Whole World v. The Incandescent Lamp

We’ve been reading over the last year or so about the war on incandescent lamps – people preach hate for them but people buy them in droves.  Why is this?  A good reasoning is money, money, and money – To buy a 6-pack of regular incandescent lamps (not Reveals or energy efficient models) costs about as much as a stick of beef jerky at the gas station.  When you’re living month to month, week to week, or unfortunately day to day as many of our fellow Americans are doing, a six pack of light bulbs for $1.12 seems a lot more cost efficient when looking at a $4.00 compact fluorescent or even a $40.00 LED replacement.

Your next question should be something along the lines of “but you’ll save so much down the road if you buy something energy efficient!” and you’d be right – but when you’re staring down debt in the face and trying to fight to stay in your home, generic peanut butter sounds better than none at all, know what I mean?

But never mind all that – what about those of us designers who think that the incandescent lamp should be an available choice?  A lot of us feel that “banning” the incandescent lamp is a bit rash of a decision – including the IALD.  There is no good replacement product for them yet.  It’s a poor decision, in my very humble opinion – and the public still wants incandescent light.  Whether it’s cheaper, people prefer them over the cold and sometimes green light that CFLs bring into homes, or lighting designers want to have incandescent choices, incandescents are certainly popular.  But that’s like saying margarine is popular.

When the US Congress passed the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221), and the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 2776), lots and lots of people wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here:

Oh, lordy lordy, the incandescent lamp is so dead it’s mummified!  Viva la 2012!

*Ahem*

Other folks realized that these new standards that just got passed virtually make it so that no current incandescent lamp on the market would meet the standard requirements.  Seems like an obvious concern, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive or stupid with respect to this subject.  What we need is something that is way bright, gives us the color temperature we want, isn’t a zillion dollars per unit, and consumes as little electricity as possible.  What we have right now, in a feasible, sellable form, are incandescent lamps, which give off heat and consume lots of electricity; LED lamps, which have great color, output is improving, and consumption is ridiculously low with a long lamp life; and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) sources that can put off really terrible color, contain mercury, and are difficult to dispose of properly.  They also rock the consumption rate, but they have their problems.

Well, the bills passed by the Congress certainly put new standards to meet, that is no lie.  What this has done, as things always do when pushed to meet a deadline, is force companies to take the regular ol’ incandescent lamp and turn it into something that acts efficiently, people like, and is cost effective.  GE put out an improved version of the incandescent, the HEI – or High Efficieny Incandescent, which is lacking in title creativity but not good intentions.  Philips just put out an energy saving incandescent, the halogen Energy Saver line.  It’s 70 watts and emits the same amount of illumination as a 100 watt lamp.

Ok, that’s a start! However, at this new 70 watt efficiency, the CFL world is still consuming 75% less than it.

Scientists are starting to see growth in the really horrible (comparatively, of course) incandescent output of 15 lumens per watt – they’re up to twice that now.  There’s tough competition in the LED and CFL categories for consumption levels for incandescent lamps, but we’ve just started.  It is a real shame though that it took some competition to get a train of thought started on improving incandescent lamp efficiencies, isn’t it?

What are your thoughts on this subject?  Please post in the comments below!

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5

News on Texas House Bill 2649 – Committee Selected

There’s a bit of news on Texas House Bill 2649 – it is official that the House refused to concur on the bill, and that a committee of conferees has been established to view and study the bill.  As of May 29, 2009 the bill has a House Committee of five members – Wayne Smith (Chair), Doc Anderson, Bill Callegari, Patricia Harless, and Mark Homer.  The Senate Committee is comprised of Senators Bob Deuell (Chair), Mike Jackson, Eddie Lucio, Jr., Kirk Watson, and Jeff Wentworth

I am going to suggest that we email the members of the committee and let them know your constructive suggestions.  I got a message in the middle of this whole thing from Wayne Smith’s office telling me that his female staffers were a bit freaked, as people were calling with very violent attitudes.  There’s no need for that, act like a professional and contain yourself.  Their staffers didn’t make the bill, so act like a human being.

I don’t think that having regulation in our industry is a bad thing; but it needs to be in our industry, and not lumped in as something else.  This idea needs more than a few legislators sitting around making decisions about an industry in which I assume they know little.

Email for the current House Committee on Texas House Bill 2649:

Wayne Smith:  Wayne.Smith@house.state.tx.us
Doc Anderson:  Charles.Anderson@house.state.tx.us
Bill Callegari:  bill.callegari@house.state.tx.us
Patricia Harless:  Patricia.Harless@house.state.tx.us
Mark Homer:  Mark.Homer@house.state.tx.us

Email for the current Senate Committee on Texas House Bill 2649:

Bob Deuell:  Bob.Deuell@senate.state.tx.us
Mike Jackson:  Mike.Jackson@senate.state.tx.us
Eddie Lucio, Jr:  Eddie.Lucio@senate.state.tx.us
Kirk Watson:  Kirk.Watson@senate.state.tx.us
Jeff Wentworth:  Jeff.Wentworth@senate.state.tx.us

Be nice in your emails – be professional.  We’re fighting for our art and craft here, so act professionally.  You represent us all.

Institute for Feedback Excellence

feedbackexce

I just got this, and I think it’s great!

A few companies have banded together in the pursuit to make protocols like Remote Device Management (RDM) adhere to a standard that goes industry-wide – and hopefully at some point ALL lighting industries-wide.  The Institute for Feedback Excellence is going to try to accomplish this feat; Enttec, Martin Professional, and Wybron are heading this effort.  More details below in the press release:

INSTITUTE FOR FEEDBACK EXCELLENCE LAUNCHED

A new nonprofit organization wants to ensure every piece of lighting equipment
using industry-wide feedback protocols performs at the highest standard possible.

The Institute for Feedback Excellence, www.fbexcellence.org, will enable lighting
manufacturers to test their feedback-enabled products – for now, those using Remote
Device Management – to make sure they’re compatible with other feedback devices.

The organization’s three founders are Enttec Pty. Ltd. of Australia, Martin Professional
A/S of Denmark, and Wybron, Inc. of the U.S. All three manufacturers have strongly
embraced the RDM industry feedback standard.

“Our goal here is not to break trail for new protocols. That is being handled very capably
by ESTA and PLASA and the committee members who work diligently to advance the
technical standards used in lighting control,” said Jeremy Kumin, Enttec’s U.S. Sales
Manager. “What we are trying to do is help the customer feel secure that when they rent
or buy something using this new technology, it’s going to play as well as it should with
other equipment.”

Enttec and Wybron have been integrating industry-standard feedback protocols into their
products for several years. While coming to the issue more recently, Martin is an
enthusiastic partner whose gear is recognized and used all over the world, making
compatibility with their products a desirable goal for any other manufacturer.

The organization’s initial focus will be RDM, the ESTA-approved feedback protocol also
known as E1.20. At labs located around the world, companies can test their RDM-enabled
gear against open-source standard tests that, when passed, yield the product the
“IFE Verified” seal of approval.

Companies can also choose to perform the tests at their own facilities by using one of
IFE’s portable labs. This will ensure complete confidentiality for manufacturers
concerned about protecting proprietary information.

A list of approved devices and their manufacturers will be posted on the IFE Web site,
and manufacturers of these approved devices will automatically become Sustaining
Members of the organization.

“It’s really all about the customers – making sure that when they buy RDM equipment,
it’ll work like they want it to, and it’ll be compatible with RDM equipment made by
different manufacturers,” said Wybron President Keny Whitright.

For more information, e-mail info@fbexcellence.org or visit www.fbexcellence.org.

Thanks, Jen!

Energy Star: EPA and DoE VS. US Senate

Right now, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are trying to convince the Senate that they can work out the details of the Energy Star program without legislative help.  The Senate has some members who want to go ahead an legislate the Energy Star program and decide what the standards are, regardless of what the two agencies decide. The Obama administration says that the Senate should take out some pending legislation that says the DoE and the EPA have to cooperate in a revised agreement for the Energy Star program. The EPA and the DoE have 45 days or so to get written dispute resolution to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Some people are not happy about this – about the legislation, that is:

Some witnesses at the hearings discussed problems they have encountered with Energy Star, a labeling program launched by EPA in 1992 to help consumers identify the most efficient products.

Kyle Pitsor of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association said there has been confusion in the lighting industry because of competing EPA and DOE programs that address solid state lighting technologies that can provide major energy savings.

Pitsor, the group’s vice president of government relations, said the first DOE specifications for solid-state lighting products were finalized in March of last year. But he said that last year EPA’s Energy Star program also began addressing light fixtures that use solid state lighting. “Companies are investing and making decisions on new LED lighting and … conflicting Energy Star programs will impede acceptance of this developing lighting technology,” he said, and recommended Energy Star programs for solid state lighting be under DOE only.

This is important.  If you’re affected by the potential outcomes either way by this, please post in the comments.

epa-doe

Check out the original article at the NYT.

A Big Post About Compact Fluorescents

cfl

I’ve been collecting information about CFLs for a few months now, and I’ve kept from writing this post for some reason until now.  There is so much back and forth out there about compact fluorescents versus incandescents, compact fluorescents versus using halogens at a lower intensity via a dimmer, and the economy versus compact fluorescents.

There is a fact of life that impacts the sale of CFLs right now – Americans, as well as people all over the world, are freaking broke.  A dollar difference in a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk is a big deal when everything else is costing more.  We’re in a crapstorm, and when you’re dealing with a 3-4 times price increase between incandescent lamps and CFLs, what do you think people are going to buy?  Most people are not versed in looking towards the long-term benefits of anything; a good example is the fact that McDonalds is experiencing record growth and profits in this economic downturn.  Hmm.

There are some major factors that play into compact fluroescent market share – cost vs. cost savings, output quality, manufacturing quality, application, and yes, aesthetic preference.

Maybe it’s easiest to start out with the most subjective issue – aesthetic choice, and how most people feel about the light emitted by CFLs.  It’s not hard to find pretty harsh criticism on compact fluorescent lamps, all you have to do is look nearly any review of the matter.  A lot of people do not like the quality of light that comes from compact fluorescent sources.  Sometimes this is an understatement – some people downright hate CFL light.  A New York Times article on the subject of CFLs versus incandescents had some people quoted on their feelings towards CFLs:

My experience with the new bulbs has been dismal. The quality of the light is bad until they warm up. They cost 3 to 5 times as much as an incandescent, and if you have old-fashioned energy-saving habits like turning off the lights when you leave the room, they don’t last any longer than the tungsten bulbs (sometimes less). And they’re more difficult to dispose of properly because of the toxic content. Maybe L.E.D. lights will be better if the price can become reasonable.

And:

There’s a difference between a low-flow toilet (which, if it performs properly, shouldn’t be an obvious change) and light bulbs that make your entire family look like cadavers.

And my personal favorite, leaving my opinion out of it altogether:

The amount of whining and the unwillingness to make small sacrifices of aesthetic preference in order to support an effort to save the habitability of our planet is disgusting. No wonder this country is such a mess.

At least we know how people really feel – and it’s not hard to see what people mean about looking like corpses.  The fluorescent lighting does have a tendency to make people look pretty crappy.  I’m a lighting designer, so light quality is something that gets a lot of attention in our home.  However, we do use a lot of CFLs in our home, too – the cost savings do add up.  We use a compact fluorescent anywhere that is what we consider a “medium-use space” – the laundry room, the back porch, the front porch, the garage, and in lamps that get turned on infrequently – like the one in the room with our television and video games.  However, I use incandescents in the kitchen and in the dining room.  The kitchen gets a lot of use, but the dining room does not.  I just like to make the food I prepare look good.  Could I do this with a CFL, or a few CFLs?  Sure.  But I have some incandescents I like for their color temperature, light output, and quality, and they are four of very few incandescents still in the house.

Now to be fair, there are “cool white” and “warm white” CFLs.  As a a matter of fact, most CFLs have both the lumens and the color temperature stamped on the package somewhere, in most cases.  There are certainly some cheapos that are in packaging with as little info as possible, and these are usually pretty crappy quality CFLs.  It’s also a fact that a large portion of the population could give a damn about what any of those numbers on the box mean – as long as it screws in, turns on, and doesn’t burn out this month, they’re happy.  Buying the right color temperature for the right application and feel is a principle that is not lost on those of us who know light and its idiosyncrasies.  However, this is lost on most people.  Buying cold CFLs and putting them in the living room might just make your whole family look like dead people.  It’s not a terribly difficult to understand concept – incandescents (generally) are warm, towards the amber end of the color spectrum – like a face flushed from the first Scotch of the evening.  Compact fluorescents generally sit on the blue end of the spectrum, high color temperature, and seem to take the blood out of a person’s face.

The interesting aspect of the aesthetic argument is that tests have been done that suggest that people on average cannot tell the difference with modern CFLs and incandescents unless they see the actual lamp.

Looking at cost, CFLs range between about $1.75 and $5 each – and incandescent sources (except maybe the Reveal lamp) being around 25 cents at the cheapest and a dollar at the most.  Operating costs are just as dramatic of a difference, with an average of 70% savings over incandescents.  It’s hard for people to see this long term, but look at some numbers:

comparison

0102-biz-websubbulb

There are efforts to ban the incandescent lamp all over the world.  I realize this is just to force the population to exhibit a little energy savings, but I personally hate the thought of not having incandescent sources at my disposal as a lighting designer.  I am all for energy savings and being good to Mother Earth.  However, there are certain applications where we just don’t have a comparable quality source.  This is a fact.  Companies are working on it, so we’ll see how that goes.

Manufacturing quality of CFLs is like anything else manufactured – there are some superior brands and types and some very, very bad brands and types.  Some have a lot of mercury, some have little mercury.  There are also a lot – a lot – of Energy Star rated CFLs that actually do not meet the standards.  A lot of CFLs failed 2008 standards – there are more than 3,000 CFLs that meet the 2003 Energy Star standards, but 1,100 of these lamps fail the 2008 standard.  It might also be noteworthy that the Department of Energy has given a grace period until July 1, 2009 for those companies whose products failed the 2008 standards to sell about 100 million lamps that haven’t sold because of the economy.  It might also be due to the poor quality of some of them, too.  But that’s just a guess.  A company called the Environmental Working Group has published this ridiculously long list of FAIL lamps.  The report from EWG lists CFLs that are stamped with the Energy Star logo, but failed 2008 standards.  How do you like that?  167 brands, give or take, failed.

I’d check out that list.  You’ll be surprised who is on it.

Now on the other side, there are CFLs who have a low mercury content and a high longevity.  Treehugger posted a “cream of the crop” list of CFLs:

  • Earthmate’s Mini-size bulbs-13, 15, 20 and 25 Watt
  • Litetronic’s Neolite-10, 15, 20, 23 Watt
  • Sylvania Micro-Mini-13, 20 and 23 Watt
  • Sylvania DURA-ONE-reflector bulbs
  • Feit EcoBulb
  • MaxLite
  • Philips with Alto lamp technology

Energy Star has a standard equivalent wattage chart:

energystar_cfl_lightoutput_equival_chart

One of the big contentions of CFL haters is the mercury issue.  Mercury is a poison.  Mercury poisoning doesn’t sound like anything I want to take part in at all, nor do I want anyone else to have it.  I’ve read stories about a woman breaking a CFL in her home and acquiring a $2000 clean up bill.  Why that happened, I do not know – but clean up experts say that hazard removal services aren’t required for breaking a lamp in your house.  I wouldn’t be freebasing the broken lamp or sucking on the broken tube, but you probably don’t need five guys in full hazmat gear trapsing through your house, either.

There are some guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL.  You should take a few precautions, you know, to be safe.  Most of these are common sense:

  1. get children and your newborn baby out of the immediate area of the broken lamp.
  2. air out the room for 5-10 minutes, if possible.
  3. put on some gloves and a mask to clean up the broken lamp.
  4. put the pieces in a glass jar of plastic container, and seal it all up.
  5. wipe up the floor and clean your hands and such.
  6. recycle, don’t throw away, the busted CFL.

Seems pretty painless, maybe inonvenient.  It is a pain to dispose of CFLs, but don’t toss them in the garbage.  Take a few moments, find the recycling program for CFLs near you, and take them there.  If you don’t have time to take them there, seal them up in the garage or other out-of-the-way place and wait until you can.

Nothing is without its negative aspects.  Take tiramisu for example.  Delicious, but it makes my ass big.

Thanks to the EWG, Treehugger, EcoGeek, and NYT!