The Differences Between CFLs and CCFLs

Apr 14, 14 The Differences Between CFLs and CCFLs

By now, almost everyone knows what a compact fluorescent, or CFL, lamp is. If they don’t know what it is by name, they certainly know it by its twisty shape resembling the top of a soft-serve ice cream cone. But if I were to ask you what a cold cathode, or CCFL, fluorescent lamp is, would you be as confident in your answer? Although CFL and CCFL bulbs may have a similar look, they do have their differences, with advantages and drawbacks to each one. This post will give you a rundown of the differences between CFL and CCFL bulbs while helping you decide which type is best for your specific lighting needs.

Hot vs. Cold Cathodes

First things first: although CFL and CCFL bulbs both use a ballast and cathodes to produce light, the temperature, type, and durability of the cathodes vary. The most common type of fluorescent bulb is the “hot cathode,” or what most people know as a standard CFL. In standard CFLs, the cathodes are constructed of a thin wire tungsten filament that is heated to temperatures reaching at or above 900 degrees Fahrenheit when the lamp is turned on. Heating the cathodes in standard CFLs causes them to release electrons that react to the mercury in the glass tube to create ultraviolet (UV) radiation, eventually producing visible light. This reactive process that standard CFLs go through to produce light is why they usually take at least 30 seconds to reach full brightness.

On the other hand, the cathodes in CCFLs are not heated by a filament. Instead, CCFLs use cathodes that do not require filaments to heat up. These cathodes resemble small metal thimbles that reach temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. While nothing about these cathodes is actually “cold,” 200 degrees Fahrenheit is considerably cooler than the 900-degree temp of the hot cathode.

Start Times and On/Off Cycling

Whereas standard CFLs have delayed start times of 30 seconds or more, CCFLs are instant-on, taking little to no time to reach full brightness. This is because the process of heating up a CCFL bulb is much quicker and requires less heat to create visible light. The thimble-like, metal construction of the cathodes in CCFLs, like the one to the right, are also sturdier than the thin filament used in standard CFLs and are able to handle around five times the amount of voltage.  This is why CFLs and CCFLs react differently to frequent on and off cycling. If you’ve ever had a CFL bulb burn out on you quicker than it was supposed to, it may have been because it was switched on and off a lot in a short amount of time.  The weaker cathodes in standard CFLs cannot handle frequent surges of electricity. This makes cold cathode bulbs ideal for use in flashing signs and residential applications where lights are often switched on and off.

Dimming

Litetronics MicroBrite MB-500DL Dimmable CCFL

Litetronics MicroBrite MB-500DL Dimmable CCFL

It’s no question that dimmable CFL technology has advanced over the years and will continue to do so, but there are still differences between dimmable CFLs and CCFLs. As I mentioned above, the cathodes of standard CFLs must reach extremely high temperatures to produce light. Dimming a CFL bulb requires the amount of voltage being received by the ballast be reduced, also reducing the temperature of the cathodes and causing CFLs to have limited dimming capabilities. This is where the lower operating temperatures of cold cathode fluorescent lamps present an advantage. Dimmable CCFLs require much less heat to produce visible light and can be dimmed to as low as 5 percent of their original light output. Traditional CFLs, although improving, typically can only be dimmed to about 20 percent.

Rated Life Hours

Now that you know that the cathodes in CCFLs are able to withstand more than the filament cathodes in standard CFLs, it’s probably no surprise that CCFL bulbs have longer rated lives. With proper use, CFLs can last anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 hours, depending on the rating. While that is still impressive, CCFLs are able to last as long as some LED bulbs on the market with life hour ratings up to 25,000 hours.

All of the information above considered, choosing between CFLs and CCFLs is very dependent on what is best for a particular application. If you’re looking for a bulb that can withstand cold weather, frequent on and off cycling, or has flexible dimming capabilities, CCFLs will be your best bet. However, CCFLs tend to be offered in lower wattages and don’t have lumen outputs equivalent to standard CFLs, which are able to reach incandescent equivalents of up to 150 watts in household applications. Either way, compact fluorescent lamps are a cost-effective lighting solution that will help you save energy.

Do you have any more questions about hot and cold cathode fluorescent light bulbs? Leave us a comment or reach out to us on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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The Three Layers of Lighting Design Explained

Apr 07, 14 The Three Layers of Lighting Design Explained

When decorating the interior of a space, lighting – one of the most important elements of interior design – is often neglected. Having stylish furniture in a room that’s been feng shui-ed to your heart’s desire won’t have nearly the same effect if the only illumination you’re using is a single table lamp or wall sconce. Just as an interior designer would layer colors or fabric, lighting designers use three layers of light – ambient, accent, and task lighting – to enhance a room’s visual appeal.

 

Why is Layered Lighting Important?

Have you ever been inside a department store dressing room or a dim restaurant bathroom and wondered why the reflection you’re looking at seems less than appealing? It may be because these locations tend to lack multiple layers of lighting, causing unflattering shadows instead of even washes of light. While having all three layers of lighting in public restrooms and dressing rooms isn’t always considered a priority, it should be when it comes to your own home and any other area where a balanced and comfortable ambiance is desired.

The Three Lighting Layers

So that you can get a good idea of how to use ambient, accent, and task lighting in your own home, we’ll break each of these layers down by explaining their function and what kind of light source or fixtures can be used to create them:

layeredlighting41. Ambient Lighting

The ambient lighting layer could also be referred to as the “general lighting” layer. Ambient lighting should give your room overall illumination that provides an adequate visual of the entire area. Typically, ambient lighting is created by ceiling light fixtures such as recessed lights, troffers and panels commonly used in commercial lighting, or large overhead fixtures like pendants or chandeliers. This type of general lighting is typically uniform and, dare we say, boring. That’s why the next two layers of light are crucial in lighting design.

2. Accent Lighting

The second layer of light is known as the accent lighting layer. This layer can also be referred to as the “decorative” layer because it allows you to highlight points of interest in your interiors such as architecture, artwork, or anything other features that can’t be made more prominent just with ambient lighting. Types of fixtures typically used for accent lighting include wall sconces, track lighting, uplighting, and even LED tape lighting installed in coves and under counters for toe-kick lighting.

3. Task Lighting

layeredlighting3As you might have guessed, task lighting, the final layer of lighting design, provides illumination for specific tasks performed in an area. When choosing light for this particular layer, you should first evaluate what is done in that designated area. For example, if you typically read in your favorite chair near the bookshelf, you may want a floor lamp or swing arm sconce for better reading light. Commonly used task lights are table and floor lamps, desk lamps, under cabinet lighting, bathroom vanity lighting, and pendant lighting above smaller areas such as a kitchen island, the one shown in the picture to the right

Now that we’ve explained the three layers of lighting design, this doesn’t mean that you have to use separate fixtures for each layer when choosing your own lighting. Some fixtures can function as two layers of lighting at the same time. For instance, downlights can be used as both general illumination and accent lighting. Similarly, a wall sconce can be used as both accent and task lighting.

Do you have any questions about the best way to use layered lighting in your home? Leave us a comment or send us your question via Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

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Retail Lighting Basics: How to Enhance your Store

Mar 31, 14 Retail Lighting Basics: How to Enhance your Store

Have you ever wondered how much lighting affects a customer’s shopping experience? Well, studies have shown that it has a pretty big impact – more than you might even realize. Because it would be unthinkable to have a store full of products with no light to showcase them, lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when designing the layout of a store.

No two stores are the same and each have different lighting needs, but there are still basic principles and guidelines that should be kept in mind when creating a lighting scheme that will attract customers and keep them coming back for more. Below are a few tips for making the most of your retail space using light.

Color Correctness

Have you ever been inside a store and felt the need to bring a shirt, scarf, or whatever it may be, closer to a window in order to better see its true color? This is because natural daylight has a perfect color rendering index, or what we like to call 100 CRI. We’ve given an explanation of CRI in a previous post, but long story short: the higher the CRI, the more vibrant and true colors will appear to the human eye. When choosing lighting for a retail space, it’s a good idea to install lighting that has a very high CRI around 85 or more. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have a perfect CRI of 100, while LED and fluorescent lights are available in 80+ CRI.

Contrast and Focal Points

retailighting3According to the same aforementioned study, creating contrasts using light and dark areas should be a bigger area of focus the actual brightness of the store. By creating contrasts with lighting, depth is created and customers are better able to perceive the products. Focusing on contrast also gives you the opportunity to create different levels of attention between different products. Using track lighting or spot lights is an effective way to create contrasts and designate focal points. As display windows are usually the customer’s first impression of store, contrasts and focal points are especially important in this area. According to the Museum Store Association, a good rule of thumb is to make these pin-pointed, spot-lit areas three times brighter than the surrounding ambient light.

Create Ambiance

Knowing what kind of atmosphere you want to create in your store is crucial and lighting can help you achieve it. According to a two-part study conducted by Zumtobel, along with the Royal Institute of Technology and Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, the color temperature of light is able to influence the way customers feel about a space. It was found that cool white color temperatures (3500K to 5000K) create a sense of spaciousness, while warm white color temperatures (2700K to 3000K) convey a sense of familiarity and smallness. The color temperature of light you choose is all dependent on the type of atmosphere you want to create.

retaillighting3Well-Lit Shelving

If you’re going to display items inside shelves and cabinets, the interior of your displays should be well-lit. Speaking from personal experience, there are few things more frustrating than digging through a pile of folded shirts on a shelf to find the right size only to realize you can barely see the tag anyways. Using LED tape light hidden within extrusions is a great way to light smaller shelves discretely. The Zumtobel study found that a combination of wide-area backlighting and accent lighting makes the presented items appear to be more attractive and merchandise identification much easier.  

UV Rays and Heat

Something else to take into consideration when you are choosing the type of lighting to use and where to use it is what effect it could potentially have on your products. Using lamps that emit high heat could potentially damage and discolor fabrics and other materials if they are exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) rays  and heat for an extended period of time. LED lighting does not emit UV rays or a noticeable amount of heat, making it a smart option in areas where lights are shone on products constantly.

 

Are there any questions about retail lighting that you would like us to answer? Feel free to leave us a comment below, or give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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How to Choose a Dimmer: Four Factors to Consider

Mar 24, 14 How to Choose a Dimmer: Four Factors to Consider

In past blog entries, we’ve suggested using dimmers to provide mood lighting and save energy, but a lot more goes into choosing a dimmer than you think. Have you ever installed a dimmer only to find that it shortens the life of your bulbs or doesn’t work at all? Chances are you’ve chosen the wrong dimmer for the light sources you’re using or the type of wiring you have in your home.

As nice as it would be to be able to install one dimmer with any lighting system and have it work perfectly, that’s just not the case. There are many types of dimmers, all designed to be compatible with certain light sources and lighting systems. When choosing a dimmer for your lights, here are the important factors you need to consider.

Dimmer Type

How many switches control your light fixture? That’s the first question you’ll need to ask yourself when choosing a dimmer. Here are the four basic types for your lights that you can choose from:

Single-Pole Dimmer – The single-pole dimmer is designed for light fixtures that are controlled by only one dimmer in your home. In other words, this dimmer is the only switch used to turn your lights on and off, as well as to dim.

Three-way or Four-way Dimmer – These dimmers are for light fixtures that are controlled by only one dimmer plus one or more on and off switches in other places in your home.

lampdimmer

Lutron Cradenza Lamp Dimmer

Multi-location Dimmer – If your light fixture uses multiple companion dimmers, you will need a multi-location dimmer. Using multiple dimmers allows full dimming control from more than one location.

Plug-In DimmerPlug-in dimmers are used to dim the bulb in your table and floor lamps. Many of these lamp dimmers are compatible with incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs.

Bulb Type

Incandescent/Halogen – If you are using standard incandescent or halogen lighting in your home, standard incandescent dimmers are what you’ll need to reduce the brightness. These dimmers work in a very interesting way. Many people might think that dimming involves reducing the electrical current, but actually, dimmers rapidly turn the bulb’s circuit on and off at rates much faster than we can see (typically over 100 times per second).

Compact Fluorescent and LED – In order to dim energy-efficient lights, you should first make sure that the lights themselves are capable of dimming. Because technology is advancing, dimmable LED and CFL technology is becoming much more reliable. Once you’ve got your dimmable bulbs, then you can focus on making sure your dimmer is compatible. If you were to try to use an incandescent dimmer with an LED or CFL, it would only cause your lights to not dim correctly or malfunction completely.

Magnetic Low-Voltage (MLV) – Low-voltage lighting systems require the use of a transformer to regulate the line voltage. If a transformer used within a lighting system is magnetic, you will need a magnetic dimmer. Magnetic dimmers are inductive and use symmetric forward phase-control in order to dim.

Electronic Low-voltage (ELV) – Electronic transformers in low-voltage lighting systems require a compatible electronic dimmer. Electronic dimmers are capacitive and use reverse phase-control for dimming.

Wattage

Once you know what kind of light source you’re using, you have to be sure the wattage of your bulbs is compatible with your dimmer. That said, you also must take into consideration how many bulbs you are using on one dimmer. Some people assume that just because LEDs consume less wattage, the same incandescent dimmer can be operated with more LED bulb that consume a fraction of the wattage of an incandescent. Due to something called inrush current, or the maximum, instantaneous input current drawn by an electrical device when first turned on, using more LEDs than you would incandescents on a dimmer will only render the dimmer ineffective.

For example, if dimmer can handle 300 watts of electricity and five 60-watt bulbs, that does not mean that it will be able to handle 30 or more LEDs at 8.5 watts. If a dimmer could only handle five incandescent bulbs, only use five LEDs.

Leviton IllumaTech Dimmer

Leviton IllumaTech Dimmer

Control Style

Once you’ve gotten past all of the technical elements and narrowed down your choices, you can start to focus on the more superficial stuff – like how the dimmer looks. Dimmers come in many different colors and styles, so it’s all a matter of personal preference. The styles of the dimmer switches are varied and come in options as varied as toggles, rotaries, and even touch-sensitive dimmers.

Do you have any questions about finding the right dimmer for your lighting system? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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CFLs vs. LEDs: How Are They Different?

Mar 17, 14 CFLs vs. LEDs: How Are They Different?

Now that household incandescent bulbs are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past due to government efficiency standards, many people are being pointed in the direction of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs as replacements. But you may not know what makes these two incandescent alternatives different from one another, beyond their appearance and pricing. When it comes to CFLs and LEDs, there have a lot more differences than what meets the eye.

Energy Efficiency: While both CFLs and LEDs fall well within the government guidelines of light bulb efficiency, they are not on a level playing field in terms of energy consumption. While a 60-watt equal CFL typically consumes about 13 watts of energy, a 60-watt equal LED will only consume about 8.5 watts. LEDs also produce more lumens per watt than CFLs. Even though they both conserve a considerable amount of energy compared to incandescents, this discrepancy in energy savings, among many other things, is why LEDs are being praised as the ultimate in efficient lighting.

Mercury: As you may already know, CFLs contain a small amount of mercury whereas LEDs do not. This mercury doesn’t necessarily make CFLs more dangerous, considering you’d be able to find more of it in a tuna sandwich, but it does mean you should exercise caution if one breaks. Here’s what to do if you break a CFL bulb.

Life Hours: If you’re trying to make the choice between CFLs and LEDs, you should know the typical life expectancy of each. Bulbs with long rated lives are less likely to need frequent replacement and will drastically reduce maintenance costs. Incandescent bulbs are known to have a short life expectancy of around 1,000 hours. Even though CFLs can last anywhere between 6,000 and 20,000 hours, LEDs are capable of lasting up to 50,000 hours.

ledtracklighting1000bulbsLight Directionality: LEDs and CFLs are made to emit light in very different ways. While CFLs are omnidirectional, meaning they emit light in all directions, LEDs emit light in one general direction. The directional beam of an LED can be ideal for applications where focused lighting is needed, such as track or display lighting. However, LEDs can be made omnidirectional using lenses like on standard A19 LEDs.

Durability: We all know that incandescent bulbs have a very fragile filament that is prone to breakage if the bulb isn’t handled with care. CFLs and LEDs don’t use a standard filament, but still vary in their ability to withstand certain conditions, like areas that experience frequent vibrations or jolting. CFLs are considered to be more fragile than LED lighting because very strong vibrations can weaken the electrodes that the lamp uses to produce light. Also, CFLs are mostly constructed of glass and are much more likely to be easily damaged. LEDs are a lot tougher and can withstand rough handling.

Temperature Compatibility: Before making the choice between CFL and LED, you should also think about the temperature of the area in which you are planning to use them. If you’re looking for a light that will do well in cold temperatures, LEDs are the way to go. Conversely, CFLs don’t operate well in freezing temps but do much better in moderate to hot conditions.

On/Off Frequency: CFLs and LEDs also have different reactions to being frequently turned on and off. If you constantly turn a CFL on and off, its rated life is very likely to decrease. However, the rated lives of LEDs aren’t affected by frequent on and off cycling.

Heat Emission: All light sources emit some kind of heat – even LEDs. But the amount of heat CFLs and LEDs produce is drastically different.  In LEDs heat is generated in the rear of the lamp where heat sinks minimize its production. Whereas LEDs don’t produce Infrared (IR) or Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, CFLs produce both and can become very hot to the touch if left on for an extended period of time.

Lutron Skylark CFL/LED Dimmer

Lutron Skylark CFL/LED Dimmer

Dimming Capabilities: If you like having the ability to customize your lighting scheme, you’ll want to think about the dimming capabilities of your lights. CFLs and LEDs are more difficult to dim than incandescent bulbs due to the lack of a filament that generates light. Even though dimmable CFLs and LEDs do exist, they both need specialized dimmer switches in order for them to dim properly. In terms of which lights are easier to control on dimmers, LEDs beat out CFLs by a nose.

Start Times: As we’ve already discussed, LEDs and CFLs create light in very different ways. Their difference in technology is why one takes longer to produce visible light than the other. Even though CFLs are technically instant-on, they have to go through a few steps before the light it produces can become visible, usually taking around 60 seconds to reach full brightness. Some LEDs have a minuscule delay of about 1 second, but there is no delay in reaching full brightness and may be a better choice if you’ve gotten used to the instant-on of incandescent bulbs.

Did we miss anything? Do you have any more questions about energy-efficient lighting options? Let us know in the comments or chat with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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