Some think of it as a conspiracy: traditional light bulb manufacturers urging a switch to the new generation of pricey, sophisticated CFLs, or compact fluorescent light bulbs, in a bid to combat the competition of cut-price incandescent bulbs coming from makers in the Far East. Or retailers only too keen to usher in a new, higher-margin product with green credentials. Consumers, meanwhile, have tried an early version of an energy-saving bulb and found it wanting: not simply because of the expense – good value in the long run, maybe, but up to 20 times pricier than a traditional bulb – but also finding the bulbs outsized and aesthetically unappealing, their light dim with an unsettling flickering effect. Some people have not forgotten the terrible energy-saving bulbs introduced in the 1970s and will need convincing to try them again.
What we are dealing with here, says product and lighting designer Tom Dixon, who this year unveiled a public installation made from eco-bulbs, is a product still being refined. “In terms of energy consumption by CFLs the figures do speak for themselves,” he says. “Low-energy lighting has never had a strong name in design. But lighting is technology-driven and progress happens all the time.”
Indeed, CFLs soon may not be the only “green” lighting option. Compact halogen bulbs are providers of a rich, warm light but, at the moment, are only 10 per cent more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. But LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, would herald a new era in electronic lighting. LEDs are compact and strong and current designs are already 80 per cent more energy-efficient than CFLs. They can be programmed to light in different colours or sequences, embedded into walls, ceilings or furniture – as product designers such as Naoto Fukasawa and Ingo Maurer are already doing with experimental pieces.
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The case against the traditional bulb is firm: it’s antique technology and 85 per cent of the energy it consumes disappears as heat. And the case in favour of CFLs seems equally firm. They work not with the old filament but by containing phosphors, compounds that are phosphorescent, giving off light without heat and using some 60 per cent less electricity than standard bulbs to do so. If a standard bulb lasts some 1,000 hours (a year on average), the CFL lasts between six and 15 times longer, cutting carbon emissions.
How we light up the places we live and work makes a big impact on how we feel. It also makes a big impact on the environment. The kind of bulbs, the kind of fixtures, the kind of power, and the habits we keep can all add up to a very significant greening. Start with the fact that a conventional incandescent bulb turns only around five to ten percent of its consumed energy into light, the rest goes out as heat. From there, there’s no limit to how green your lighting can be.Top Green Lighting TipsCFL: The better bulbCompact florescent bulbs (CFLs) are those swirley little guys that look like soft-serve ice cream cones. Actually, they come in a myriad of different shapes, sizes, and colors of light. Economically speaking, they’re a great deal, too. CFLs cost a bit more than an incandescent, but use about a quarter as much energy and last many times longer (usually around 10,000 hours). It is estimated that a CFL pays for its higher price after about 500 hours of use. After that, it’s money in your pocket. Also, because CFLs release less heat, not only are they safer, but your cooling load is less in the summer. CFLs aren’t hard to find anymore, and many cities will give them away for free. Wal-Mart has plans to sell 100 million of them.Get the LEDs outLEDs are a definite TreeHugger favorite. LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are a technology that allows for extremely energy efficient and extremely long-lasting light bulbs. LEDs are just starting to hit the consumer market in a big (read affordable) way and still cost quite a bit more than even CFLs, but use even less energy and last even longer. An LED light bulb can reduce energy consumption by 80-90% and last around 100,000 hours. They even light up faster than regular bulbs (which could save your life it there are LEDs in the brake lights of your car). They are almost always more expensive presently, but we have seen the cost go down steadily. It’s no coincidence that the Millennium Technology Prize went to the inventor of the LED.
And then there are the inconveniences that may just be the cost of greening up: most CFLs don’t work with dimmers and, because they need ventilation, many others can’t be used in closed-light fixtures. While most new lighting design can accommodate eco-bulbs, some homes’ light fittings won’t take them at all, so will have to be replaced. The market also offers CFLs of markedly different quality standards. Frequently none of the key information – the bulb’s mercury content or how to dispose of it, the intensity of the light it will offer or, for that matter, the energy savings it may give – appears on packaging. No wonder consumers are bewildered.
The ability of a light to render colours is measured in the colour rendering index, or CRI. As a general rule you want lights with a CRI of 80, or better still, 90. One particular area of weakness with LED lights is the R9 (red) value, as this isn’t included in the CRI measurement. Make sure that’s over 80 too or else reds will look muddy and dull.Best way to avoid: Ask the supplier for their CRI values. If they won’t supply, be suspicious.
The cool or warm appearance of lights is measured in Kelvin. Incandescent lamps are 2700K while halogen is 3200K. If you replace these with LEDs which are 5000K your spaces will look distinctly chilly. LED panels sourced from Asia tend to be cool, because that’s their cultural preference and it’s easier to make a more efficient LED light in cool colour temperatures.Best way to avoid: Check the spec and buy a sample.
THINKING OF upgrading your lighting? Don’t do anything until you’ve checked out the 10 mistakes that most people make with new LED lighting.
Don’t get misled by a disreputable LED lighting supplier and end up with an installation that doesn’t work for you. Avoid the 10 common mistakes in lighting upgrades by following our fixes.
Standard incandescent: turn off even if you leave the room for just seconds. Compact fluorescent: turn off if you leave the room for 3 minutes. Standard fluorescent: turn off if you leave the room for 15 minutes.Do-It-YourselfWe’re always encouraging people to take matters into their own hands. So much great eco-innovation comes when people create the things they can’t find elsewhere. Lighting is an especially accessible and rewarding thing to tackle. For some inspiration, check out the Cholesterol lamp made from cast-off plastic egg cartons, and the recycled Tube Light. Strawbale building pioneer Glen Hunter made some LED fixtures when he couldn’t find any he liked on the market. Eurolite, the company from which he bought the lighting components, liked his designs so much they decided to sell them.Dimmers and motion sensorsMotion sensors can be a good way to keep lights turned off when they’re not needed, and dimmers can give you just the right amount of life, and timers can be set to turn things on and off when needed.Get green powerA great way to green your lighting is to buy green power. More and more electric utilities are offering customers a green power option on their bill. Signing up for green power usually means paying a few more dollars a month to support energy in the grid that comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, or biogas. For some more info on how to get green juice, look here, and for the greenest grids in the States, look here. More info is also available in How to Green Your Electricity.Back To Top ΛGreen Lighting: By The Numbers10 percent: The percentage of global electricity saved by switching to entirely efficient lighting systems, according to a report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The carbon dioxide emissions saved by such a switch would dwarf cuts so far achieved by adopting wind and solar power.19 percent: The percentage of global electricity generation taken for lighting– that’s more than is produced by hydro or nuclear stations, and about the same that’s produced from natural gas.”40 percent: the increase in sales in stores with good natural light. (the Heschong Mahone Group)25-33 percent: The percentage of total requirements to receive a LEED Silver rating, that builders can achieve through the use of daylighting in their design.2.5 million: The number of homes that could be lit from the energy saved if every American replacing one light bulb with an Energy Star rated one; this action would also prevent emissions of greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.”Back To Top ΛGreen Lighting: Getting TechieLight emitting diodes (LEDs) are a big deal and we’re seeing them pop up in more and more places. Read more about what they are and how they work on Wikipedia’s excellent page.
Daylighting, the practice of designing for maximum use of daytime sunlight, is being used to do better business, make people happier, and save energy and dollars everywhere from hockey rinks, to Wal-Mart, to office buildings. The presence of daylighting often shows increased worker satisfaction and productivity in offices, better test scores in schools, increased sales in retail settings, and, of course, lower energy bills.
Most LED lamps on the market have the bulbs built into them, so you buy the whole unit. For screw-in bulbs, check out Ledtronics, Mule, and Enlux. For desk lamps, check out a few affordable ones from Sylvania and Koncept. For more designer models, look at LEDs from Herman Miller and Knoll. Vessel rechargeable accent lamps represent some of the interesting new things LEDs can do as well.MaterialsLight isn’t all about the bulbs, though. Having eco-friendly lamps and light fixtures is key to greening your lighting. When scouting for new gear, keep your eyes out for lamps made with natural, recycled, or reused materials. Lights made from recycled materials include metal, glass, or plastic, and natural materials can include felt, cloth or wood. Interesting lamps that use reclaimed materials include these made from traffic signal lenses, and these made from wine bottles. Also, don’t be shy about borrowing ideas for reuse in your own projects (see DIY).DisposabulbFluorescents last a long time, but when they’re dead, they have to be properly disposed of. CFLs, like all florescent bulbs, do contain a small amount of mercury, which means they definitely can’t be thrown in the trash. Every city has different services for recycling, so you’ll need to see what’s offered in your area. LEDs, to our knowledge, do not contain mercury, but the jury may still be out on how to best recycle them.Wall wartsPower adaptors, or “wall warts” as they’re affectionately called, are those clunky things you find on many electrical cords, including those attached to lamps and some light fixtures. You’ll notice that they stay warm even when their device is turned off. This is because they in fact draw energy from the wall all the time. One way to green your lighting is to unplug their wall warts when not in use, attached lights to a power strip and turn off the whole switch when not in use, or get your hands on a “smart” power strip that knows when the devise is off.DaylightingBy far, the best source of light we know is (yes, you guessed it) the sun, which gives off free, full-spectrum light all day. Make the most of daylight by keeping your blinds open (sounds obvious but you might be surprised). If you want to go a little farther, put in some skylights, or, of you are designing a home or doing a renovation, put as many windows on the south-facing side of the house as possible (or north-facing if you live in the southern hemisphere). To take it even further, sunlight can be “piped” inside via fiber optics and other light channeling technologies. [for more on light piping, check out: 1, 2, 3, 4]Good habitsAs efficient as your lighting equipment might be, it doesn’t make sense to have lights on when no one’s around. Turn out lights in rooms or parts of the house where no one is. Teach your family and friends about it too and it will become second nature. If you want to get a little more exact, follow these rules:
Yet, like them or not, CFLs will soon be all that you can buy. January next year sees the launch of a government-backed plan to phase out high-wattage incandescent bulbs altogether. And switching to eco-bulbs is so often cited as one of the first, and most easy steps anyone can take in making a contribution to the sustainability effort, that having any of Thomas Edison’s old contraptions is becoming socially unacceptable.
A heliodon heliodon is a device that allows architects, builders, and engineers to simulate the effects of sunlight on the lighting needs of building designs.Color temperature is measured in kelvins, and brightness is measured in lumens and footcandles, and the effect of light on colored surfaces in measured in the Color Rendering Index.
“Things are happening very quickly,” says Osram’s retail marketing manager Lee Dryden. “Too often perception is based on a purchase made a few years ago. That means we have a few myths that need to be bust.”
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The generally-agreed rated life of an LED is the point at which its light output has dropped to 70 per cent of the initial output, termed L70. For example, you might see a rated life of 50,000 hours to L70. Again, optimistic ratings abound on the sales literature. And there is the phenomenon of ‘early failures’ – fittings that fail not long after installation.Best way to avoid: Ask your supplier what testing they have based their L70 rating on.
However, CFLs may not as bright an idea as is generally accepted. They are not only more complex products, comprising circuitry, so their manufacture is invariably less energy-efficient than the old-fashioned variety of bulb, but they also contain mercury – about 5mg per bulb. That may not be enough to cause personal harm if a bulb is broken, but it does mean that a CFL is not the entirely green product it is sometimes made out to be: in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued special guidelines for their treatment at the end of their life cycle. They should be handled with the same caution applied to an old car battery: sealed in plastic and taken to a dedicated site for recycling. IKEA is to date the only retailer offering to take back old CFLs for recycling. Throw a dead bulb into a bin and invariably it will end up in a landfill, where the mercury will possibly be free to enter the soil or local water courses and thus the food chain.
LED lights don’t always dim smoothly on dimmers designed for incandescent or halogen lamps. In fact, at low levels they will often flicker and flash. This is because incandescent and halogen sources present a standard resistive load to the dimmer, whereas LED circuitry confuses it, and sometimes both sets of electronics struggle for dominance, leading to component failure.Best way to avoid: You’ll need to test the dimmers with the LEDs or add a ‘dummy load’ such as one incandescent lamp.
Even one of the most basic claims – that, unlike the incandescent bulb, the eco-bulb wastes less energy emitting heat – may only seem a benefit if you live in a temperate climate. In a cold one, that lost heat will be replaced by turning up the thermostat. Those who bought early CFLs found they needed to be kept on longer than the old-style bulbs to reach maximum efficiency and run more or less continuously to maximise their lifespan.
Optimization theory is the idea that taking advantage of the daylight cycle to plan your day around the planet’s great source of free, full-spectrum light is good for the brain and body, and will mean less burning of the midnight oil. It’s not just for energy savings and bringing more natural light in your life, but that’s definitely part of it.
“The idea of the energy-saving bulb has gone all round the world and there is a general acceptance that they are better for the environment,” says Matt Prescott, director of energy-efficiency campaign group Ban the Bulb. “And yet I do get a mixed bag of responses to CFLs. It’s a different kind of light, no doubt, but useable. CFLs are not perfect but we can’t wait for them to be so before encouraging change.”
Will the supplier give you a warranty? Will they be around to honour that warranty? Is the guarantee for longer than the supplier has been in business? Check out the small print. Sometimes there are limits on burning hours and sometimes you have to register separately online within 90 days to ‘activate’ your warranty. Grrrrr!Best way to avoid: Use a reputable manufacturer, READ the warranty (and our warranty checklist)
The downside is they emit a lot of heat and are too expensive to make for a mass-market item. So far. Osram, which is working on LED technology, reckons a domestic LED light may be on the market in five years. Others have suggested an approach that focuses less on the bulbs than the way they are used: cut down usage with wider and domestic use of sensors that switch off lights when nobody is in the room.
“There’s a fair amount to scare people off CFLs – and mercury is a hazardous substance that people are rightly concerned about,” says Thaddeus Dell, a local authority environment officer and founder of new green lighting supplier, the Best Bulb Co. “But taking CFLs’ whole life cycle into account, their environmental impact still doesn’t compare with that of tungsten bulbs – the tungsten and lead in those can’t be easily recycled either.”
Gloomy, pricey and not even very eco-friendly. With only weeks until the big switch-over, are we really ready for green light bulbs? Josh Sims reports
Back To Top ΛWhere To Get Green Lighting ProductsLedtronicsOsramPanasonicGEPhillipsSyvaniaLuxliteMuleEuroliteEnluxMioGreener LifestylesVessel1000 BulbsLuceplanBack To Top ΛLED’s, Solar & Green Lighting: From The ArchivesDig deeper into these articles on Lighting from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.Bringing sunlight indoors can be done in many ways. TreeHugger has covered the Sunpipe, the work of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developments coming out of Queensland University of Technology, FluoroSolar, and the Suntracker. The Univserity of Notingham has also integrated daylight into its new Creative Energy Homes.LED street lights are coming to Dusseldorf, Germany.The Luxim Plasma Light Bulb kicks some serious LED butt.Hybrid Solar Lighting goes into beta testing at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.Here’s the low-down on compact fluorescent light bulbs.For more lighting products, inventions, concepts, news, and activism, dive into TreeHugger’s Lighting category.Back To Top ΛFurther Reading on Green LightingLamprecycle.orgCFLbulbs.comWikipedia’s CFL PageDescription of a Killowatt-HourThe U.S. Green Building CouncilEnergy StarGE’s page on light colorHeschong and Mahone Group has done a variety of studies on the effects of daylighting and productivity in buildings.
A whole raft of new LED lighting suppliers have entered the market over the last few years. It’s worth doing an audit of them. Are they a reputable brand? Are they a member of a trade association such as the Lighting Industry Association? How long have they been around? Do they test their products at a reputable test house? Do they have a physical presence in your country?Best way to avoid: Check them out online, and ask around.
If you are thinking of conducting a like-for-like replacement of fluorescent with LED fittings, don’t just match the light output of the fluorescent (measured in lumens or lm). As the LED light is directional, you’ll probably get much more light from the LED. Beware however, the light output can be overstated on the data sheet and a different light distribution can make a room appear dark.Best way to avoid: Buy from a reputable brand, check a sample against the existing luminaire or have a sample tested in a lab.
With LEDs, the problem of glare is back, especially in offices. Often LED panels deliver all their light at the diffusing surface of the luminaire, not deep in the bowels of a louvre system, resulting in too much light. The unified glare index, or UGR, is a numerical way of defining how bright a luminaire appears in an installation and it should be under 19.Best way to avoid: Calculate the UGR in a computer render, or ask the supplier for the installation example on which they based their UGR rating.
“Generally what’s available now is bad,” says Caspar Thykier, director of communications agency Shop and founder of eco-bulb company Glowb, which launches in January and is one of the smaller companies seeking to make buying an eco-bulb less of a chore. “For all their faults, energy-saving bulbs are the green option. But the perception of them is very poor. Many people who have tried one don’t like it. In addition, the big players have not pulled their weight to get the right messages across.”
Say one of your luminaires fails in 18 months time. You phone up your supplier to get a replacement, and he or she says: ‘We’re not manufacturing that model anymore – we can supply our latest model’. Be warned, the latest model could look very different from what’s in your ceiling. Worse, you can’t get hold of the company, because it no longer exists.Best way to avoid: If it’s critical, buy extra luminaires as spares.
* Buying a CFL? “Avoid the cheap and nasty versions – they really are bad,” advises the Lighting Association’s chief executive, Keven Verdun. “And don’t pay out extra for a bulb with more than about an eight-year life span. The technology will have advanced by then.”
Certainly CFLs are making advances. They are still heavy relative to incandescents but similar in size and shape and distribute light as evenly. The mercury content is dropping too, to about half what it was just a few years ago. The flickering problem is generally old news, too – early CFLs flickered at a rate of 50 times per second, newer ones at 50,000, impossible for the human eye to detect. And Osram, one of the larger bulb manufacturers, has just launched the first CFL dimmable bulb.
EnvironmentGreen Living Green light bulbs: Not such a bright idea
Probably THE most common issue with an upgrade. LED lamps and light fittings tend to have more directional output. So, for instance, if you replace halogen downlights with LED ones, you’ll get much less spill light. This spill light is actually useful, such as for lighting walls in a hotel corridor. Similarly, if you swap fluorescent with LED, you can end up the top third of the walls in shadow.Best way to avoid: Buy a sample first.
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