The recent article: LED Bulb Efficiency Surges, But Light Quality Lags states very well the findings of the DOE and others reviewing LED retrofit lamp performance. While well stated, there are severl missing dynamic issues in the conversation that need to be included if LED is to overcome the failure of the CFL to capture the consumer market it so desperately seeks to dominate.

While efficient, there has been no great interest in the consumer market to lamps with poorer quality at higher prices.

While efficient, there has been no great interest in the consumer market to lamps with poorer quality at higher prices.

The CFL lamp has failed in the consumer market for these reasons:

  1. Light quality is poor in comparison to the far cheaper incandescent lamp. This includes color quality, distribution (photometric) pattern is poor (flood type products)
  2. Appearance and fit of the product into existing fixtures – i.e. ugly to look at, stick out of fixtures, create dark spots in shades and fixture diffusers, etc.
  3. They did not last as long as advertised. When switched frequently, the life of a CFL screw base product can be shorter than a long life incandescent. In outdoor cold climate environments, some fail within a few months. In down-lights and enclosed fixtures most fail even more quickly.
  4. They cost too much compared to incandescent of higher quality
  5. They save some energy, but have so many other liabilities the consumer does not take this seriously.
  6. Flickering starts, flicker under dimming, and 120Hz strobe effects from cheap ballast designs
  7. Slow to warm to full brightness – often taking longer to get up to full light than many products are on for in many rooms (pantry, closet, hallway, etc.)
  8. Mercury disposal concerns for some

Read the rest of this entry »

08285I have a fondness for the halogen lamp. From the little 20W bi-pin 12V burners to the 500W double ended monsters, the combination of light quality, simplicity, toughness, light density and versatility filled a special place in the hearts of lighting designers for decades. While there were also  larger iterations of the technology reaching 20,000W, even the most halogen crazed found them to be a bit over the top, setting them aside for special applications. In my own experience, the 20W through 75W 12V burners, 15W through 65W MR16, 35 through 50W PAR36 and 75W through 250W mini-can line voltage lamps hit the spot for a wide range of focused and unfocused lighting product designs. For my personal portable lamp works, the low voltage burners, MR16 and the PAR36 lamps were my favorites. I could create live-structures (where the fixture acted as conductor) using remote 12V power supplies, allowing sculptures to be simple to the extreme.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

When LEDs arrived on the scene in the late 1990’s, I caught a glimmer of what was to come. By the year 2002, it was obvious that solid-state would be delivering something new, and that the properties of the source technology shared a great deal with the halogen lamp from a lighting perspective, with a huge advantage – far less heat, much tougher and resistant to impact, and very long lived. The only issue was, color quality was initially poor, consistency from LED to LED was awful, and light output per individual LED device was pathetic. This required designs utilize a number of LEDs mounted to circuit boards, wired to drivers that were clumsy at best. The complexity of LEDs in the earlier stages were compounded by the lack of available components, which meant one-off application of the technology was out of reach for anyone not up for custom electronics design. Read the rest of this entry »

To set things off on the proper foot – I do not like complexity when it is not necessary. I’ve noted many times that if energy were free and maintenance was not a consideration, the perfect light source is the tungsten halogen lamp. This technology delivers a very attractive white light, is very easy to control, provides optical focus, and is as simple as it can get. The low voltage versions of this technology are equally attractive, accepting that transformers were a horrible thing to tag onto an otherwise neat little light source. I have made hundreds of lights using halogen lamps, mainly 12V versions, starting back in 1985. It was my go-to light source. I still have boxes of transformers and sockets, acquired over years of making lights for myself and others.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive, and attractive than CFL or other conventional “efficiency” improving sources.

That said, there is no escaping that energy is an issue, and maintenance is a pain. The cost of operating halogen technologies is simply impossible to bear. This is why we have HID sources with all their ugly liabilities, and the fluorescent lamp.  While I get HID technology as a giant super-power halogen device, it has always been a clumsy, heavy, messy engineering gadget that sets aside the art of lighting for raw lumen energy. Fluorescent lamps have are a source you are forced to live with, in an uninspired, just-get-lumens-in -the-box sort of way. There is very little to love about their scale, lack of focus-ability, ballast hardware, delicate tubes, and ghastly glow. I’ve specified millions of these lamps into existence, wishing every time there was a better way. I never made a single art light using fluorescent lamps, not because itsn’t possible, but because I never liked them enough to give them that part of my time.

The emergence of solid-state lighting, specifically LEDs, hit me in two ways. One, I get the small controllable source I had with 12V halogen. Second, I get the efficiency and raw lumen potential of fluorescent that made it indispensable. Because of this, the last time I made a light using halogen technology was in 2004, and that product was converted to an LED sources in 2006. For my own use, every halogen light I made from 1993 to 2004 still in use around the house, has been converted to LED. Every new fixture made since 2005 has incorporated an LED light source, without exception. I do not use retrofit lamps. I either tear down and rebuild products to utilize LEDs properly, or design them around LEDs in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve gone around in circles over the expanding complexity we find ourselves in. While I understand the benefits we enjoy, it comes at the price of elevating product beyond the understanding and serviceability of a growing number of end users. At least that’s what I once thought. In deeper reflection, the reality is most end users don’t understand how things work at the less complex level, so any elevation from that has little real impact. For example, the internal combustion engine has been around for a century. The percentage of the population that drives cars, who understand the fundamental principles of this technology is probably on the order of 25%. Of those, what percentage understand the basics of fuel injection? Of those, how many can explain why the engine in a modern day Corvette can generate 50% more power of the 1972 426 Chrysler Hemi, using 70% less fuel, generating 97% less emissions, and last 3 times as long? While there is a romantic notion that previous eras were simpler, that products were hand made and tougher than they are today, these are unsupported fantasies. Old products are almost always heavier, lower performing, and requiring of more regular service. Read the rest of this entry »

While we all know how infallible Einstein was. Yet, all previous scientific genius has come into question as time passes. At some point, the whole issue of traveling at the speed of light, and Einstein’s assertion that this is the cosmic speed limit, will be seriously challenged. We might keep in mind two points: 1.) Just a few decades ago, the speed of sound was considered an impossible barrier, 2.) Einstein’s use of the speed of light as a constant, with mass a variable, was a convenience to completing mathematics, not founded on actual study of the velocity of photons, or the rubberiness of the properties of mass.  But lets put all this aside a moment and assume the speed of light is just really fast, and see if it’s even relevant.

There are a few things we know in fair certainty. One is that the human body cannot sustain high rates of acceleration for long periods of time. Aerobatic pilots can train to sustain upwards of 7G for a few seconds, military pilots very brief encounters slightly above that. With exceptional training effort, sustaining high G forces is a significant issue for humans in attaining the speed of light. Here’s why: The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. That’s 669,600,000 miles an hour, or 982,080,000 ft./s. If we were to accelerate at a rate of 1G (32 ft/s/s) it would take 1 year to reach the speed of light, 118 days at 3G, and 71 days at 5G – the upper limit of endurance of human physiology for short bursts. So, let’s assume that exceptionally trained pilots and crew could manage to withstand 3G for 118 days, it’s possible they could survive and attain light speed velocity (near light speed for those unable to get past Einstein as infallible). Read the rest of this entry »

The Replacement Dichotomies

Side One: It is acceptable, if not desirable, for LED luminaires to be replaced at the end of their service life. This is a common position among a wide range of LED product manufacturers. They make the case that extracting performance and costs from LED products requires a level of integration that cannot be accomplished using modules. This further forwards to concept that modules restrict design freedom, that integrated products are free to create light source forms to suit the intended end-product design, without restriction of standardized sockets or modules. Therefore, it is proposed, that the highest performing SSL products will be integrated units, replaced at the end of their life with the next generation of even higher performing product. The model often used to illustrate this approach is that of televisions, where the entire units are replaced, rather than serviced, with newer generation products.

Side Two: The single most active market in solid state deployment is that of the direct lamp and fixture replacement space. This includes screw based lamps made to imitate the light output and distribution of obsolete technologies, and extends now to bi-pin linear forms to replace fluorescent sources. Oddly enough, the one lamp form that is not addressed, is the one most universally despised in commercial and residential markets alike – the plug-in CFL lamp – but let us not be distracted by this obvious and blatant oversight.  This replacement lamp direction appears to make the statement that the existing infrastructure of sockets is not replaceable, that demanding building owners and end use customers to replace existing fixtures is a burden beyond acceptable limits. This also forwards the concept that the existing socket forms within compromised products, is acceptable, regardless of its severe negative impact on SSL product performance, design freedom and appearance. Read the rest of this entry »

It appears there is some confusion over what I do for customers, and who I compete with. While I’ve not helped anything by announcing that we make products now under the Tasca name, I’ve recieved some odd feedback that indicates that there are suppliers out there who think I am competing with my own customers – which is patently false. So, to set things straight, her’s what’s going on:

1.) Lumenique is first and foremost a design resource to lighting and electronics product producers. We now provide design, prototyping, preliminary testing, market and product research, and application evaluations. With the addition of Angie, who focuses on research, data acquisition and evaluation, as well as all around coordination with customer activities, we have a greater capacity to provide the up-front research and development work than ever. The underlying goal for Lumenique is to act as an auxiliary team resource to fill gaps in our customer’s own capacities, as they grow and evolve into offering their own solid-state lighting product range. As our customers grow their own capacity, we evolve into a support role, and eventually advisory role. Frequently we continue in new product development capacities, providing working samples, concept proofing, or simple preliminary mock-up testing. We also provide very limited lighting design services, mainly focused on the blending of attaining high degrees of energy efficiency in high quality lighting application. We no longer provide general lighting design consulting services to the market at large.

2.) As a writer, I provide editorial content to trade publications, as well as present on the topic of SSL. I also provide lighting educational briefs for newcomers to the lighting market, as well as production of white paper studies on various lighting and non-lighting topics.

3.) Tasca is a very small, specifically focused task light product manufacturer. It produces a limited production, made to order, solid-state work environment task light. This company does not compete with any of our customers, by its very design and market focus. We do not make or intend to make architectural lighting products, or products sold as general lighting into the commercial or residential markets. We avoid all conflicts of interest by simply steering our own desire to produce products into the work light space, where we can satisfy our interest in delivering high performance task lighting – a pursuit I have had interest in long before LEDs were even used for white light.

4.) As a sculptor and artist, I also produce one-off portable lighting sculptures. Many of these were seen in the 52 in 52 works of 2010. This is an interest of mine that utilizes the facilities accumulated to serve Lumenique customers in ways that are not competitive. These products are marketed independently of Lumenique for the most part, and are often nothing more than works in process until I feel they are ready to be moved to a new home, or just put them into service here at home. Read the rest of this entry »