Posts Tagged ‘Home lighting’

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


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. (more…)

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. (more…)

When LEDs first emerged, I was one of the many who expressed the opinion that a lighting system that could dim to a warmer CCT, imitating incandescent lamps, would be desirable. I want to take this opportunity to retract that original opinion and thought. I’ve played with it, seen the products available that do it, and have experimented with the approach… and can say unequivocally that I really don’t like it at all.

One of the problems with incandescent dimming has always been the patchwork of CCTs one gets through a space from different dimmer settings for the various products in a room. This has never been a good thing. Further, the change in CCT of an old school incandescent lamp is significantly different than halogen lamps, as it the character of the color. I for one have fallen out of love with the old incandescent lamp long ago. Over the last 20 some-odd years, I have come to use halogen sources over all incandescent forms, preferring the cleaner white color over that yellowy dinginess of the incandescent lamp. Incandescent lamps (non-halogen) produce a decidedly ugly color that I personally feel is misrepresented by their high CRI rating. The fact that the CRI formula will show a dimmed incandescent lamp with the same high CRI number, even when it very noticeably distorts color in a space, is a condemnation of our poor color performance metrics, not an indication of this lamps superior color performance. (more…)

I thought a lot about what to focus on in 2012 for this series, and decided that I had plenty to share from regular activities of Lumenique, LLC and Tasca. So, the plan is to select something completed in each of the 12 months of 2012 and feature them here. This will generally be products or projects completed for customers, but may also include a report on research work in process, when it adds value.

January Feature – TASCA Renovar Floor Lamp

This is a refitting of a Dazor table lamp, applying the TASCA lighting head, and adding an extension stand to convert a desk lamp to a floor lamp. The product was commissioned by a customer who provided the table lamp, purchased used. From the GSA and other government markings present on the original, it was obviously from a government facility. The table lamp made by Dazor has been around since the late 1930′s, where the fluorescent lamp version graced the GE display at the Worlds Fair.

For more details on this project, check out the summary and full technical specs at Lumenique 12 in 12 for 2012 – January.

For additional details on how you might procure a similar product from one of your own favorites, visit TASCA.

Also, as an update, the Lumenique Product Center now accepts all major credit cards, making your purchase experience easy and secure.

Stay tuned for additional news and updates on the 12 n 12 for 2012 review, and other interesting SSL information.


In an effort to create the highest possible performance in a portable lighting product, assembling the right combination of components is essential. Obviously the process begins with an efficient LED suited to the lighting effect desired. The LED must then be matched with an efficient driver. Finally, the driver must be fed power from an efficient power supply that converts incoming AC line voltage to clean DC power. Efficiency is generally found in matching the load of the LED to a driver designed for that load with no necessary over-capacity. Then, mating the driver to an efficient power supply matched in size to the driver’s operating load is necessary to produce the highest combined efficiency. (more…)

Photo from Philips Press Release

When the electric lamp was introduced at the turn of the century, the first push for product was to create retrofit kits for gas lamps. They ran one wire down the pipe and used the pipe steel as the neutral/ground. The first fittings screwed into the gas lantern where the mantle and burner mounted. This was seen as an important first step. So was the business of creating new electric table and wall lamps that looked like candle holders, oil lamps, and gas lamps from lanterns to shaded products once shielding a glass enclosure for the flame based light source.

In 110 years since, the commercial market has abandoned all of this to use the new technologies, from incandescent to fluorescent and HID, in new product forms enabled by the technology. This is why the commercial market today is reasonably efficient, given the state of the source technologies in use. It is also why most commercial lighting will be all new product designs using SSL in new ways. While it seems retrofit PAR lamps are a good fit, in fact, most lighting upgrades are installing new products, dedicated LED product, from cove lights to display, and recessed down and troffer lighting. Most commercial products today could not exist within the limits of gas lighting, while even more cannot work without fluorescent or HID. Soon, there will be a growing range of SSL product not possible otherwise – as it should be.

On the other hand, pandering to the residential market has produced a condition where the design vocabulary remains founded on retrofitting of gas, oil, and wax light source technologies. Table lamps and sconces today in this segment would look as home in 1889 as they do today. Retrofitting these exposed lamp products with CFL has been a disastrous mix of  bad performance and horrible lighting quality. Retrofit versions of one of the only new designs to strike residential – the ceiling bent glass light – is truly awful when lamped with CFL. <br><br>I am amused and a little bewilderment that we are going to use LEDs to retrofit the electric lamps that are just retrofits of gas and oil lanterns. This causes consumers to make the direct comparison in the exact same fixture, between two technologies of completely different lineage, often resulting in dissatisfaction. Part of the failure of CFLs as retrofits, is they cannot stand up to a direct comparison with the beloved incandescent lamp, in the same product, side-by-side. New products that offer  no direct comparison, allows the new technology to deliver new value, on its own terms. The incandescent lamp is a wonderful light source, if you ignore life, fragility and energy use – which is exactly what the residential market has done for 50 years. LEDs will never produce an exactly equal one-for-one replacement, they will always be compromised as a retrofit, as the retrofit architecture compromises the technology to fit an obsolete form factor. However, there is infinite opportunity in deploying SSL products that beat incandescent lamps for light quality and aesthetics, that make the old burner lamps look like big black phenolic rotary phones.

Consumers replace old products all the time, of value well beyond that of table lamps and a few sconces. From phones and entertainment gear to cars, furniture, and homes (average stay is just 7 years, so there is no truly inseparable connection between the content of any home building), pressing for a replacement of the old lighting junk, only delays adoption. Manufacturers should be focusing on deploying products that entice customers to move from their old obsolete product to new and better energy efficient products. This has been played out in the telecommunications market, entertainment market, electronic game market, computer market, automotive market, etc… It can be put in place here, if that is made the focus. In street lighting, the leading solution selected is all new LED street lights, not retrofit lamps – for good reason – it is the best approach. Same applies to garage lighting, down-lighting, cove linear lighting, display case lighting, and a growing range of new SSL products being installed to replace obsolete incandescent, fluorescent and HID products. Change is not an issue – when it delivers good value. When retrofits are seen as the preferred solution – this indicates a failure of the market to deliver lighting products of greater value than the compromised retrofit solution.

It my own view that the money being offered by the government as a reward for creating a direct replacement lamp should be spent in stead on awarding manufacturers who innovate new and improved high efficiency lighting to replace incandescent products of all types, including delivering new products that satisfy residential aesthetic interests without continuing a third generation legacy of obsolete light sources.

I respect those pursuing quality retrofit lamp offerings, and accept that my views are not yet widely shared. However, that does not mean I agree with the approach, or promote it as a valid or desirable approach, as there is no such thing as universal truth. We should all feel free to pursue this transformational period in any way we feel is the best fit. In the end, what wins will be what sells, which will likely be a broad array of product from retrofits, to all new products that change lighting in some way.

The sooner we take on the task of moving from horses dragging wood wheel carts around dirt roads, and look ahead to putting SSL to work in new ways to deliver exciting new value, the sooner the interest in retrofit lamps will fade – just as the interest in rabbit ears on console televisions, 8 track tapes, pong games, and stand alone PDAs has. This takes a concerted and focused effort, not a short sighted vision using seemingly easy paths.

Think about this: As we discuss this issue, recognizing that the incandescent lamp is obsolete, the availability of retrofit lamps is enabling decorative residential product manufacturers to continue to make, market, and sell all new products with Edison sockets. With no pressure to change, and plenty of excuses not to, when exactly do we make the real transformation from one technology to another? While fitting retrofit lamps into valuable legacy products does make some sense – allowing new products to continue and advance this as a new product approach is ridiculous.

For these reasons, I do not directly support, nor do I support my tax money being spent on subsidizing, the advancement of retrofit lamp deployment as a priority. If it is going to exist, it should do so on its own as a short term patch, with every other effort focused on moving forward, encouraging manufacturers to move away from obsolete platforms, and rewarding innovators for leadings us into the future.

The challenge is not getting consumers at all levels to swap light bulbs in familiar products – the challenge is in creating new value that is irresistible to them, that causes the market to abandon its familiar obsolete products to capture this value for themselves. This will not come from clumsy fix ups and compromised solutions.


For the most part, LED work lights on the market today are useless, low grade junk. While there are one or two (literally) fair performing products, none actually replace halogen or CFL lights at all. In fact, the good old incandescent/metal cage shop light can kick the latest tecnologies tails any time. The drawbacks of a scalding hot lamp and metal shroud, lamps that pop at the slightest banging about, and the lack of any directional control are big liabilities for that old incandescent. The fluorescent lamps are not that durable either, with any rough handling resulting in a popped lamp, while start up in cold temps is sloooooooow, or not at all. Color is also pretty sad, making identification of color coded wires under a dash a bit challenging. Optically, the fluorescent stuff just blows light everywhere, often right in your eyes when your working too near one of them, with no way to control it. The LED crap on the market is poor in light output and harsh with their multiple light sources, also of really poor color. They are essentially bad copies of  cheap CFL twin tube junk.  The only thing to say good about them is they are pretty cheap, and won’t burn your face when lying next to one under a car or in a foot-well.

Design 51 is a work in process effort intending to create a real LED based shop light that can kick the incandescent and fluorescent products out of the tool box, and put the LED stuff from the catalogs to shame.  I started with the LED, in this example using a 1200lm Bridgelux LED. I applied a Lidel 50 degree optic to this. In all, at full operating temp, the light head produces over 911 lumens, with a CBCP of 1300. That’s enough power to put 134 footcandles at the center of a worksurface 36″ away, over an area of 72″ in diameter.  It also delivers over 1400Fc at 12″, so there is a hi-lo setting to the power switch, to trim light on close up tasks.

Next, since the LED operates at roughly 20 Watts, thermal management was an issue without making the head the size too large to be useful. Not only that, but shop lights tend to be used in a wide range of positions, and in various ambient temeratures. To address all of this, I used a Nuventix Synjet active cooling system. This little gadget generates moving air over a small heat sink to significantly reduce package size and thermal controllability. In this case, after operating for over 4 hours steady in the high mode, the LED never saw more than 70C, and the outer surface of the light head remains cool to the touch.

With a head in hand, I incorporated the LED driver and the Synjet power supply in the main body. Ideally this will be a single electronic assembly, but for this version, its a combination of parts. I also used a remote 24VDC power supply so the cord presents not potential shock hazard, and can be made from very flexible, fire retardant materials. The mounting attachments snap onto the main body, and provide a hook, a magnet base, a floor stand/stabilizer, and a 5/8″ tripod mount for mounting to any lightweight tripod stand. The head itself tilts a fill 270 degrees, so aiming can be made as precise as one might need. I’m going to fool with mounting gadgets as I put this to use in my own shop.

While this is by no means perfect, or economical, it is infinitely more powerful and useful as a professional tool. Something I cannot say for the rest of the LED stuff I have tested and have on hand. I need light more than I need to save a few dollars. I think D51 delivers not only usable light, but new value not available in other work lights of any source.

There are a lot more images and some more information  on this worklight-in-process at: Lumenique 52 ion 52 – Design 51

Back when many things were made here in the States, so were the tools we used. Today machinist/hobbiests and small custom shops have come to revere some of the most iconic of these tools. In lathes, South Bend holds a special place in history (the company has longs since died and become a brand for import stuff). These machines occupied machine shops, went to war, and schools. The one in this picture is a 10″ x 42″ tool room lathe. It has all the good stuff of the day, from taper attachment to driven cross slide. For me, restoring this lathe and putting it to service in our prototype shop is like restoring a classic car. There is a great deal of timelessness about this tool, and they are as tough as they come. This particular model was purchased in the 1960′s, and was worked hard for its entire life. I rebuilt it in 2009, and have just updated the task light with the design you see here.

LEDs with high performance DC drivers make excellent machine task lights. With no flicker, there is no strobe effect, and with LEDs not minding a little vibration and getting banged around a little, the issues of burned out incandescent lamps is ended. CFL retrofit lamps in this application are awful. They take too long to warm up, most flicker when lighting moving objects, and the beam intensity is miserable. Halogen is not a lot better than incandescent, and is hot.

The rework essentially replaced everything on the work light except the flexible stem and mount to the lather bed. I used a Molex/Bridgelux Helieon module and a 1A driver mounted at the base. The replaceable module allows me to change the light distribution by snapping in different modules. For example, when doing long taper work, a wider overall light pattern is great. But when working on small detail work, a spot distribution is better. With a couple modules in the drawer, this is just a quick swap.

More images of this can be found at Lumenique 52 in 52 – Design 49

How about a table lamp without the “lamp”. I’m not talking about LED retrofits made to look like incandescent lamps, or those offensive screw shaped CFLs with the lump of plastic on the base. I am talking about tossing all of that and concealing the light source altogether, allowing the shade to produce a soft indirect light. No glare, no heat, and energy efficiency all rolled into one.

This design utilizes a 7.2W GE Vio LED, operated at 350mA, with an integral dimmer in the base. The LED is hidden in the cup at the top of the stem, over the heat sink. Yes, the heat sink could have been hidden completely as well, but for this exercise I liked the way it looked, so left it exposed. The shade is a simple paper shade made from White Optics material to demonstrate how effective a shade can be with the right reflective material in use.

The main body of this particular design is English Walnut, with polished aluminum and white accents.

More images and details can be seen at Lumenique 52 in 52 – Design 43