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A Guide to the Lamp Phase-Out

I have mixed feelings about this subject, but it’s important to spread the news about what’s going down and how it’s gonna go down with respect to this incandescent phase-out happening in our time.  Sylvania has an awesome guide to this phase-out, showing the whats and the whens of this thing.  Check it out here.  Also, Sylvania’s website has a link to some of the political and law items of this phase-out.  It’s worth a look.

Click on the image, it opens up full-size.  Also, check out the PDF from whence it came.

Lemme just ask you this:  knowing what we know about how the government is handling things right now, do we really want them messing in what we use to see?

Green VS. Red Hot – The Question of Antique Filament Lamps

A New York Times article posted last week brought up an interesting topic – antique incandescent lamps, the old Edison style filaments, being used in restaurants and other places.  The article brought up some interesting points, and had lots of interesting comments from people like Noah Horowitz, Ken Friedman, and Charlie Palmer.  Check out this comment from Noah Horowitz, from the article:

“It boggles the mind that in these times of economic hardship and interest in environmental sustainability that restaurant owners would choose the light bulb that uses 5 to 10 times more power than the other bulbs on the market,” Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the environmental group, wrote in an e-mail message. “You can’t on the one hand brag how green you are by serving organic beer and locally grown produce while you are lighting your business with the least efficient light bulbs available in the world.”

You know the lamp they’re talking about?  The Edison filament?

I’m a huge supporter of energy advocacy.  HUGE.  I love LEDs, period.  I do hate CFLs, mostly because they look like total crap and are filled with Mercury.  I love solar power, wind power, and other forms of sustainable energy production.  I am always looking for new ways to help the LED industry grow in tune with my industry, lighting design.  In the future, I see LED sources becoming the next light source in mass usage, and eventually they’ll be as cheap as incandescent lamps are now.

What really gets me kinda frustrated at critics of incandescent lamps is that most of them aren’t lighting designers, but since everyone else likes to bash incandescent lamps, critics hop on the blame game of incandescent lamps just because they won’t find much opposition.  Incandescent lamp critics, do you just feel good to criticize because most people will agree with you?  It’s true that it’s not an efficient source – but how many are you still using in your houses, where no one can see what you do on your own time?

Yeah.  That’s what I thought.

In the case of these old Edison-style filaments, I think that if critics knew what exactly they were criticizing and WHY designers are using these old inefficient lamps, the critics might have more of an understanding of what they’re criticizing.  In this case, I view this subject like iceberg lettuce – sure it has about no nutritional value, but lordy, people love it.  Why?  Well, it’s cheap, it has its place, and, well, it’s cheap.  In the case again of these Edison lamps, lighting designers are using them to get an atmosphere that most LEDs cannot recreate, and certainly not by a fluorescent lamp.  Charlie Palmer said that these old incandescent Edison lamps are twenty years ago, and Ken Friedman said “no exposed bulbs!”  Well, why?  Is it because you’re worried about energy consumption?  Is it because you’re worried about people commenting on energy consumption?  That doesn’t really seem like a good reason to me to criticize something that you just might not understand.

Now before you call me a troglodyte or some other important people word that you feel better using in order to insult a critic of critics, as a lighting designer, I have a problem being told that incandescent lamps have to be banned.  What that says to me is that you don’t think that lighting designers can effectively utilize the light from incandescent lamps, so you have to go ahead and make people believe that they’re just the worst thing since the electric chair.  I just have to simply say “BS.”  You can tell me how to do my job when you’re better at it than me.

I have a hard time believing that the best next step for improving our worldwide use of electricity is to ban the incandescent lamp.  Before you make huge claims like trashing decorative use of incandescent lamps, you should criticize our nation’s electrical grid, the development of Smart Meters, and the fact that energy companies make it nearly fiscally impossible for homeowners to put solar panels on their house in a financially effective way.

The almighty dollar stands in the way of effective and revolutionary changes to the way we light.  I think that sucks.  Next thing we know, fellow lighting designers, is that we’re not gonna be able to use HPLs, BTNs, FELs, or any other incandescent lamp because people other than lighting designers think they aren’t good for us.

What Watt?

Watch this time lapse video:

That mass of incandescent beauty is a spherical chandelier designed and created by Tim Fishlock, a designer out of London.  Tim was asked to create one of these chandeliers for a private commission, but will be making ten total in a series.  This lamp is called What Watt? and is made of 1243 suspended incandescent lamps of various sizes, shapes, and forms.  Beautiful.  What Watt? is almost 40 inches across.  If I had a big industrial building as my design studio with huge ceilings and epic awesomeness, this would be hanging in the lobby.

Thanks, Yatzer!

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

Femtosecond Laser Pulses and the Little Incandescent That Could

This is a little story about an incandescent lamp – once revered by lighting designers and people who had other causes to complain about, now the source of attacks and general worldwide badmouthing.  You dirty, dirty little incandescent skank, you.

But seriously.

No, actually, that made me giggle out loud.  Incandescent skank.

UNTIL NOW!

Now that I’ve impressed myself and probably looked like a tool across the Internets, let’s get serious.  A scientists and guy with a huge skull from his enormous brain has discovered that, if you shoot a very fast, very intense laser pulse called a femtosecond laser pulse onto the filament of an incandescent lamp, you make it more efficient at making light when it is energized.  Read this press release from the University of Rochester – it makes much more sense than me making a tush of myself trying to explain it:

An ultra-powerful laser can turn regular incandescent light bulbs into power-sippers, say optics researchers at the University of Rochester. The process could make a light as bright as a 100-watt bulb consume less electricity than a 60-watt bulb while remaining far cheaper and radiating a more pleasant light than a fluorescent bulb can.

The laser process creates a unique array of nano- and micro-scale structures on the surface of a regular tungsten filament—the tiny wire inside a light bulb—and theses structures make the tungsten become far more effective at radiating light.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

“We’ve been experimenting with the way ultra-fast lasers change metals, and we wondered what would happen if we trained the laser on a filament,” says Chunlei Guo, associate professor of optics at the University of Rochester. “We fired the laser beam right through the glass of the bulb and altered a small area on the filament. When we lit the bulb, we could actually see this one patch was clearly brighter than the rest of the filament, but there was no change in the bulb’s energy usage.”

The key to creating the super-filament is an ultra-brief, ultra-intense beam of light called a femtosecond laser pulse. The laser burst lasts only a few quadrillionths of a second. To get a grasp of that kind of speed, consider that a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years. During its brief burst, Guo’s laser unleashes as much power as the entire grid of North America onto a spot the size of a needle point. That intense blast forces the surface of the metal to form nanostructures and microstructures that dramatically alter how efficiently light can radiate from the filament.

In 2006, Guo and his assistant, Anatoliy Vorobyev, used a similar laser process to turn any metal pitch black. The surface structures created on the metal were incredibly effective at capturing incoming radiation, such as light.

“There is a very interesting ‘take more, give more’ law in nature governing the amount of light going in and coming out of a material,” says Guo. Since the black metal was extremely good at absorbing light, he and Vorobyev set out to study the reverse process—that the blackened filament would radiate light more effectively as well.

“We knew it should work in theory,” says Guo, “but we were still surprised when we turned up the power on this bulb and saw just how much brighter the processed spot was.”

In addition to increasing the brightness of a bulb, Guo’s process can be used to tune the color of the light as well. In 2008, his team used a similar process to change the color of nearly any metal to blue, golden, and gray, in addition to the black he’d already accomplished. Guo and Vorobyev used that knowledge of how to control the size and shape of the nanostructures—and thus what colors of light those structures absorb and radiate—to change the amount of each wavelength of light the tungsten filament radiates. Though Guo cannot yet make a simple bulb shine pure blue, for instance, he can change the overall radiated spectrum so that the tungsten, which normally radiates a yellowish light, could radiate a more purely white light.

Guo’s team has even been able to make a filament radiate partially polarized light, which until now has been impossible to do without special filters that reduce the bulb’s efficiency. By creating nanostructures in tight, parallel rows, some light that emits from the filament becomes polarized.

The team is now working to discover what other aspects of a common light bulb they might be able to control. Fortunately, despite the incredible intensity involved, the femtosecond laser can be powered by a simple wall outlet, meaning that when the process is refined, implementing it to augment regular light bulbs should be relatively simple.

Guo is also announcing this month in Applied Physics Letters a technique using a similar femtosecond laser process to make a piece of metal automatically move liquid around its surface, even lifting a liquid up against gravity.

This research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

CFLs or Dimmed Halogen Lamps?

lutron1

Dimmer maker Lutron says that by dimming a halogen lamp by 30% will give you many of the same benefits as using a compact fluorescent lamp.  Lutron also says that a 3,000 hour halogen lamp will last 12,000 hours when dimmed by that 30%.

What do you think? I know that I love incandescent light – CFL light quality often tends to be sickly, and often isn’t very flattering.  Now it is getting a little better, but in my designer eyes incandescent light still renders better.  It’s also free of mercury, and I can recycle it easier.  However, CFLs do have a lot less heat exchange, and are a bit safer, especially when my cat knocks them over.  Over a longer period of time, you’re going to save more money using compact fluorescents – but it is undenyable that halogen/incandescent light looks better – at least right now.

lutron2

Thanks, DVICE and Lutron!

Banning the Incandescent Lamp – IALD’s Position

Incandescent lamps (you know, light bulbs?) are in the crosshairs of the Banning Wizard across the world.  I really made that sound worse that the principle of it actually might be; of course being a lighting designer I like the quality of the incandescent sources, and I know what the trade-offs are, and I respect them.

The International Association of Lighting Designers – the IALD – has a taken a position on this.  I’ve listed their key points below, but please visit their website on the topic, here.

IALD’s position:

  • There is presently no lighting technology that can replace certain types and uses of incandescent lamps. There are still drawbacks such as poor color, bad dimming performance, and high cost, that make replacement technologies ineffective replacements for incandescent in some applications. A grace period is needed to allow the development of light sources that can replace incandescent in all applications.
  • Energy-efficient replacement light sources must be adapted to suit the existing electrical infrastructure. Those with simple and clear-cut applications must be made available as soon as proven, but there will be cases in which an efficient source is not ready for a particular use. When products cannot achieve appropriate goals, continuance of incandescent technology specific to those situations should be permitted.
  • The complete environmental impact and life-cycle carbon footprint of each replacement technology must be understood. Incandescent lamps should not be banned until their replacements are proven to be an overall environmental improvement.
  • Replacement lamps must be cost-effective. Because replacement light sources are often more expensive than incandescent sources, conversion cost is a concern. Subsidies may be needed to help low-income consumers.
  • Phasing-out of inefficient light sources is one step in reducing lighting energy use. The most efficient electric light source is the one that is turned off. Effective use of daylight and aggressive use of lighting control technologies will be needed to significantly reduce lighting energy use.
  • The IALD supports all efforts to reduce electric lighting’s negative environmental impacts through careful design, daylighting integration, lighting controls and more efficient sources. We urge consideration of the full ramifications of proposed regulations, and possibly the continued use of some unique types of incandescent lamps until truly better alternatives are available. Through our design choices and expertise, IALD Lighting Designers have an opportunity and an obligation to make a great contribution to energy use reduction and global CO2 goals. We are fully prepared to offer our technical and design expertise to help reduce the negative environmental impact of lighting while producing quality lighting solutions for effective working and living.

How do you feel about incandescent lamps?  Please post your opinions in the comments!

Bye Bye, Incandescent Lamps!

Did you know that pretty soon over a half a billion people are going to be saying goodbye to incandescent lamps?  Yeah.  A half a billion, plus.  There’s a great article at Forbes about this very topic.  Please read it!

An excerpt:

In a little more than a year, more than half a billion people in nearly 30 nations around the world will bid adieu to the incandescent light bulb.

Last week, the European Union joined Australia, the Philippines and Cuba in finalizing plans to outlaw the sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2010. The U.S. plans to ban the bulbs beginning in 2012.

And for good reason. Incandescent light bulbs, which convert heat into light, are notoriously lazy, using only about 2% of the electricity they consume and wasting the rest as heat. Considering that lighting accounts for nearly one quarter of the world’s electricity use, the potential energy savings are prodigious. The prospect of converting those savings into profits has encouraged a clutch of companies to commercialize cutting-edge lighting technologies. If the past presages the future, it will take more than an intriguing technology and superior economics to kill the incandescent light bulb, especially in the U.S.