Find out why LED lighting should be banned

This is a quote. Original blog article can be found here (highlights added).

LED led me astray: the home lighting misadventure that brought me full-circle

By Chris Ziegler on July 1, 2013

If I had known that last weekend was going to be robbed from me by the lighting industry, I probably would’ve just slept through it.

It all started, innocently enough, on Saturday. In the past couple weeks, my home — built in the latter half of the last decade but still lit entirely by old-school incandescent bulbs — had a couple lights burn out, so I trekked to Home Depot in search of replacements. It occurred to me once I got there that I should probably be buying something other than incandescent, given the proliferation of CFL and LED alternatives; they use dramatically less energy, and theoretically, they can last a lot longer. And traditional incandescents are going the way of Google Reader: Wattage restrictions imposed by the federal government means they’re probably going to disappear over time, so you’d better start finding alternatives and making sure the electrical equipment in your home can handle them.


So, with a healthy fear of Federal Light Police agents storming my home and impounding my stockpile of incandescent bulbs, I selected a Cree 60W equivalent LED bulb for my burned-out bathroom light. It cost about $14 — which was significantly less than I expected, and one reason I’d steered clear of LEDs until now — and is rated for just 9 watts. For the burned-out flood light in my office, I bought two Philips 50W equivalent LEDs (the lamp takes two, and I wouldn’t want to have one incandescent and one LED). These were more expensive at about $30 apiece, but they’re highly engineered pieces of equipment: a center lens contains four LED bulbs, surrounded by a thick, solid encasement with a couple dozen holes for ventilation. Heat, it turns out, is the enemy of the LED — it changes the color of the light and significantly reduces life span — so manufacturers need to do everything they can to make sure the temperature stays down.

I brought the bulbs home and installed them. One thing to keep in mind is that none of these LED bulbs exactly mimic the shape of the incandescent that they’re designed to replace, which led me to nearly break my bathroom fixture as I tried to shoehorn the Cree into place — but with time, patience, and elbow grease, I finally got it in.

Lighting-factsAnother thing that had scared me away from LEDs is the concern of color temperature, which is something you never really had to worry about with incandescents. Both LEDs and CFLs tend to cast a far cooler (bluer) light than regular bulbs. That’s fine for a store or office, but at home, it feels unnatural. Household items don’t look right when they’re not basking in the soft, orange glow of a tungsten filament — and as anyone who’s used f.lux can attest, it’s harder to relax in cold lighting. I discovered in shopping for the Cree and Philips bulbs that these lights all now have a “Lighting Facts” panel on back, which looks exactly like the ubiquitous Nutrition Facts panel on food products, except for… well, lighting instead of nutrition. It tells you key stats like how much the bulb will cost to operate, how bright it is, and — this is important — the “Light Appearance,” which is its color temperature.

Cree’s 60W equivalent bulb is available both in “Warm White” and “Daylight” color temperatures, listed as 2700K and 5000K, respectively, on their Lighting Facts panels. “Daylight sounds right for a bathroom,” I thought, so I picked it up. For the Philips flood lights, I got Warm White, knowing that I was replacing very yellow bulbs and I didn’t want to change the look.

I don’t know what star Cree is referencing when it calls 5000K “daylight,” but it isn’t the sun in our solar system. The bulb casts an extraordinarily blue light that makes my water closet look more like an operating room. It’s fine for a bathroom, but if I’d put this bulb in a living space, I’d be taking it back. The 2700K flood lights, by contrast, completely delivered — I was shocked to find that the light they produced was almost indistinguishable from the incandescents they replaced. I wasn’t expecting that kind of color from an LED. (If you’re using Philips’ Hue system, this isn’t a concern — but I just want one good shade of white, not a whole rainbow that I’m spending big money for.)


I was so impressed, in fact, that I set about looking for any other bulb in my house that I could replace. My top candidates were the four flood lights in a track lighting system over my kitchen, which I use for hours daily and emit a loud buzzing sound when dimmed. Thinking that the buzzing came from the vibration of the filaments in the bulbs, I figured that upgrading to LED would kill two birds with one stone: no more buzzing and significantly lower energy use.

This is where it all started to go downhill.

When I moved into my house in 2009, I replaced all of the switches and dimmers with Leviton’s Z-Wave-compatible Vizia RF+ system, because that’s what you do when you’re a gadget nerd with a new home. I’d always known that this would be a problem as incandescents rode off into the sunset — the system’s dimmers require a minimum of 40 watts to operate, for some reason, and that’s hard to manage when you’re using LED bulbs that sip just a few watts each.

But I tried anyway. I bought four 50W equivalent bulbs from Home Depot’s house brand, EcoSmart. No luck: When I replaced all four bulbs, the indicator light on my in-wall dimmer went blank, which I took to be a bad sign. So I headed back to Home Depot, buying an $18 dimmer — not Z-Wave-compatible, of course — that Leviton advertises as “universal,” meaning it’s designed for incandescents, LEDs, and CFLs alike.


It didn’t work. I found that if I set the dimming brightness to max and turned the switch on and off a few times, I could eventually get the bulbs to light up, but any attempt to turn down the brightness would cause them to extinguish again. It was inconsistent at best, and certainly not reliable enough to actually use.

LED and CFL bulbs have only recently been made in “dimmable” versions. Theoretically, that makes them far more practical — we don’t always want our lights at maximum brightness — but the reality is that dimmable LED technology is still young. They have a far narrower range of brightness than an incandescent bulb, can flicker annoyingly, and occasionally don’t want to turn on. These are the kinds of problems that LED-compatible dimmers are designed to solve, but I was finding that they don’t.


Back to Home Depot I went. This time I bought an LED-compatible dimmer from Lutron, only to get an even worse result: I couldn’t get the bulbs to turn on no matter what I did. Finally, I gave up on the dimmer and installed a simple on-off switch. To my bewilderment, the LEDs buzzed even louderthan the incandescents I had replaced. My ceiling quite literally sounded like one of those big transformer boxes you see in yards. Not to say it really mattered — I wasn’t about to permanently install a non-dimmable track lighting system.

And so there, abruptly on Sunday eve, ended my LED lighting experiment. I returned the four bulbs and their destroyed packaging in a plastic bag to Home Depot, which graciously refunded me, no questions asked.

As a technologist, I don’t want to be surrounded by 20th-century lighting technology more than anyone else. But despite new federal laws, an intense marketing push, and the proliferation of affordable bulbs like Cree, this feels like an immature industry that isn’t ready to fill every socket in my home. Next year, perhaps? Theverge_badge_black


Source: EDN Network (highlights added)

That 60W-equivalent LED: What you don’t know, and what no one will tell you…

October 30, 2013 by 

Most readers are aware of all the recent hoopla regarding 40- and 60-watt LED versions of standard 40- and 60-watt bulbs. Prices have dropped sharply, appearances have become somewhat standardized and dimmable versions are becoming commonplace.  So now most of the media and blogosphere time is spent in infinite speculation about the pros and cons and timing of when we will have such bulbs with built-in Wi-Fi, color tuning, smartphone gadgetry, retail pricing at the $1.50 level, and the pros and cons of the versions at Wal-Mart versus those at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Perhaps time for a reality check or two… meaningful for the average consumer, who has no little or no clue about CCT, CRI,  or heat sinking as they buy light bulbs to simply put light when and where it’s needed and doesn’t need it to be iTunes compatible.

First some facts:  For decades consumers have come to assume (a reasonably valid assumption) they can buy almost any CFL and screw it into any place they previously had a 40W or 60 W incandescent bulb. Maybe it would not allow dimming…maybe it was slow to warm up… maybe the color consistency was not as expected… and some “mongrel” brands have proven not to last as long as was thought. In most cases, however, CFLs have proven to be a good return on investment, lasting much longer and sharply reducing electricity costs. The hundreds of millions sold globally suggests they provided pretty much what was expected.

It follows then that consumers now have a similar expectation for LED versions, with even longer life and greater electricity savings, dimming, and even better color consistency. What’s not to like as prices keep coming down?

Let’s shift gears a second. Probably 95% of all UL approved recessed down-light fixtures have, for decades, incorporated simple inexpensive “thermal cutouts”. Why ? Because if a consumer installed an incandescent bulb of higher wattage than recommended, “bad things” could happen in the light fixture. Fixture makers learned early on that if there is a socket, many consumers will assume it’s good for any bulb, which is not expressly warned against.

Back to our story:  Turns out that the consumer’s assumption is not valid: that the LED bulb is just another upgrade like the CFL. As noted, folks assumed that anywhere you had the 40W or 60W incandescent, you could screw in the CFL. This is not at all the case for a 40 or 60 watt-equivalent.

Within an LED bulb the internal generation and distribution of heat is such that it “desperately” needs access to cool surrounding air.  The fact that it has that metallic housing is irrelevant in restricted air.

That 60 watt Wal-Mart bulb, when operating base down in open air and not even using a shade, has its internal LED case at 85°C, the absolute upper end of what is considered “safe” for full life expectancy. The same deal is true for competitive bulbs. Put a shade around it… and it’s a little warmer. Put it into any kind of base-up socket and it gets a lot hotter and all life expectancy numbers are off the table. Put it into any kind of porch or post light fixture, and it can fry, with its internal power supply components at the cliff edge of failure. Put the lamp in a ceiling-mounted fully enclosed fixture and set the timer for when failure will occur.

In other words,  totally unlike incandescent and substantially unlike a CFL, reliability and life expectancy go down hill sharply as soon as you install  it anywhere that air is restricted. Guess what? A large percentage of places for LED best value is in those place where access is difficult and air is restricted. LEDs do not target a “table-lamp-only” marketplace.

All A-19 (60 W equivalent) LED manufacturers could solve the problem immediately with a 25 cent fix—a simple “cookbook” thermistor circuit that automatically dims the light to a safe thermal equilibrium level as things are getting too hot—and protects the unknowing consumer against himself. LED luminaire makers have been doing this for some time because they concluded it would be foolhardy not to do it.

We’ve see some mighty big LED bulb recalls in last two years stemming from thermal design carelessness. Before we get too enamored with thoughts of LED lamps that double as party lights or Wi-Fi hot spots, let’s first make sure they meet fundamental expectations as a trustworthy long-life, electricity-saving source of light for basic needs. We’re not there yet because this very real issue is being ignored by every existing supplier, without exception, of 40-, 60-, and 100-watt equivalent A-19 style LED bulbs.

This is a quote. Original article can be found here.

Lighting Science issues recall of 554,000 LED bulbs because of fire hazard

Lighting Science Group, the Florida-based makers of Home Depot’s EcoSmart LED bulbs as well as branded products for other companies, has issued a recall for a reported 554,000 of its LED bulbs. The bulbs are being called back due to their being a possible fire hazard after internal components overheat. This is a voluntary recall that affects bulbs sold under the Sylvania, Definity, EcoSmart, and Westinghouse brand names.

The recall, which is being organized under the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), was posted yesterday, March 19th, takes place after 68 reported product failures. Eight of those failures led to “visible smoke or fire conditions” and while others caused damage to a socket, fixture, or surrounding object. To date no people have been harmed by the faulty lamps.

The affected products include not just LSG’s own products, but ones that the company has made for other brands. These are 120V household bulbs operating at 6W, 8W and 9W within A19, G25, and PAR20 (R20) bulb types. Using the CPSC’s site and the label on an individual lamp it can be determined which products are affected and which are not.

One lamp that seems to be included in the mix is Home Depot’s popular EcoSmart A19. The bulb was one of the first to be available under the $10 mark, and was viewed as both a big win for Home Depot as well as for Lighting Science (though it’s questionable how much money Lighting Science made on the deal). This was never deemed as a particularly high quality bulb, but those judgements were restricted to the quality of its light and its build, never to its safety. EcoSmart bulbs are still available at Home Depot and Lighting Science’s Definity A19 Omni V2 is still available at Amazon so it seems that newer offerings are not affected.

Any product recall is bad news (especially one that causes fires), but this comes at a particularly bad time for Lighting Science. The company has a new CEO, Jeremy Cage, as of January 2013 and I’ve been told it has lost some talent over the past year. Also, the recall comes just days after Cree’s release of its A19 LED bulbs, products that can match Lighting Science’s low prices but — from what I’ve seen — are higher quality lights. Cree’s products are very competitive and will require a reaction from companies like Lighting Science.

This is a quote. Original blog article can be found here.

Philips Recalls 99,000 LED Light Bulbs Due to Shock Risk

by Stephen Lacey | August 20, 2013

I just spent the last two minutes unscrewing two Philips LED bulbs from lamps in my home office. And then I came to my computer to write about it.

Why? Because the bulb has been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for posing an electrical shock danger.

“A lead wire in the bulb’s housing can have an improper fitting, which can electrify the entire lamp and pose a shock hazard,” reported the CPSC. (Hat tip to Energy Manager Today for catching the news.)

Reportedly, no one has been hurt yet. But the consumer agency recommended immediately taking out the bulbs and unplugging the fixture.

Don’t have any backups? Bulb owners can contact Philips for some free replacements.

The CPSC is recalling two models, a 12-watt and 12.5-watt Endura LED. Here’s how to know if your bulb is the right one:

“The bulbs are orange in color and have ‘MADE IN CHINA,’ ‘Fabrique in Chine’ followed by a slanted ‘S,’ and the model number 9290001829 printed on the gray plastic band on the neck of the bulbs. The date codes, 2L for the Endura bulbs and 2K or 2L for the Ambient bulbs, are printed on the metal screw base.”

The Endura was Philips’ answer to the 60-watt incandescent bulb, and was proudly displayed at the 2011 Lightfair International as part of a suite of new LED products.

Wondering what to do with a bulb would probably last another couple of years (if it weren’t potentially dangerous)? Don’t try to sell it off to an unsuspecting friend, warned the CPSC.

“Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.”

Not that the resale market would be massive — LEDs still only represent 12 percent of worldwide lighting sales. But global penetration is expected to increase to 25 percent by 2014, and possibly hit 80 percent by 2020.

Philips, a world leader in light sales, is pushing aggressively into the LED market. But it is nudging up against competition from tech competitors like LG and Samsung, cheaper Chinese suppliers and up-and-comers like Cree.

Source: via:

Watchdog safety alert on LED light

October 26, 2010

PARENTS have been warned to keep young children away from areas lit by new-style light-emitting diode (LED) lights and to avoid toys that use the lamps.

Public health watchdog Anses has just completed first tests on the lights, which are starting to be increasingly used in many different applications, and says it found that some were not suitable for public use.

LED bulbs can last for 25 years and give out an intense blue-white light. They give the same illumination as a traditional incandescent lamp, but use only a tenth of the energy. They are starting to replace traditional lamps and a report in the Daily Mail said London’s Dorchester Hotel had cut its £150,000 lighting bill by a third since switching to LED lighting.

Now they are used as car running lights, billboards, kitchens and on TVs.

Anses tested nine types of LED lights against the IEC 62471 standards and rated three in the second-highest risk band.

It says the intense blue-white light is a “toxic stress” on the retina, with a severe dazzling risk. Youngsters are particularly sensitive to this risk as their eyes are still developing and the lens is not capable of filtering out the light wavelengths.

Anses that the intensity of LED lights should be reduced and public use restricted to lamps that give off the same intensity as traditional ones. High-intensity LED lamps should be for professional use only.

Read the entire ANSES report (in French) or summary (in English)

ANSES = The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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LED lighting causes headaches in Dutch workers

November 6, 2009 by 

The 350 as environmentally friendly promoted LED lights installed in the Dutch town hall of Hoogeveen appear to cause headaches in the employees.

Town Hall of Hoogeveen

The lamps also produce vibrations on computer screens. “If your hand moves along a lamp, a stroboscope effect occurs in the office. Sometimes it seems like a disco in here” said town spokesman Hans Vonk.

Just this week the Dutch Environment Minister Cramer started a public campaign to persuade citizens to use energy saving lamps or LEDs. However, installation expert Nico Koreman warned for the risk of strain on the existing electricity network. The cause lies in certain electronics for the new lighting, which can manipulate power frequencies. “With very unpleasant effects such as by burning and melting equipment and flickering lights”, warns Koreman. “The frequencies are so high that you can’t detect them using standard measuring equipment.”

One solution is to avoid cheap electronics from the Far East, says Koreman. “And do not buy the cheapest light bulbs, but stuff from regular brands.” The town of Hoogeveen will replace all the lights with a newer generation of LED lamps, which have already been tried in three rooms. “These new lights do not seem to cause health problems,” said Vonk.

Original article in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: