Form and Function Meet in the Plumen CFL

Jul 27, 12 Form and Function Meet in the Plumen CFL

Many people in lighting and design circles are already familiar with the Plumen CFL. If you’re not, Plumen’s tagline sums it up pretty well: “The world’s first designer energy saving light bulb.”

To many, the typical spiral shape of a compact fluorescent is an eyesore, so they hide it under a lampshade or within an enclosed light fixture. That’s unfortunate, because there’s no reason a CFL has to be so ugly. In fact, the bulb’s glass tube can take virtually any form. There are plenty of fixtures, from pendants to desk lamps, which challenge the status quo. Why shouldn’t a bulb do the same?

Plumen Box

Plumen Packaging

The creators of the Plumen—designer Samuel Wilkinson and British design company Hulger—took that challenge. Their revolutionary bulb takes its inspiration from bird feathers (the “plume” in Plumen). Instead of twisting the glass tubes of the bulb into a utilitarian and industrial shape, the designers gave them an airy, organic form.  The unique design has already landed Plumen in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and earned it the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award.

Popular applications for the Plumen include pendant lights, floor lamps, and anywhere you might use an antique light bulb. Indeed, many stylish, yet energy conscious customers find the Plumen satisfies their desire for much less efficient incandescent antique bulbs. The Plumen uses only 11 watts to produce the equivalent light output of a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. This means the bulb saves 80% on your energy bills. In addition, the 8,000 hour bulb will outlast 8 to 10 incandescent bulbs. Lower bills, fewer carbon emissions, long life, and beautiful design: What more could you ask for in a light bulb?

Head over to our website to check out the Plumen, and let us know what you think. Drop us a line in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

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Get Your LED Christmas Lights Early!

Jul 20, 12 Get Your LED Christmas Lights Early!

It’s that time of year again: Christmas in July. Not only does this magical season give you the opportunity to buy discounted inventory, it also allows you the best chance to secure 2012′s “latest and greatest” high-tech Christmas lights and decorations. You don’t want to be the only home on the block without them, do you? These products move fast, so if you pick up only one or two light strings, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a larger quantity of matching lights when you need them later in the year.

Buying matching lights is essential since mixing lights from two or more manufacturers inevitably leads to color and performance discrepancies, especially among LED Christmas lights. If you aren’t careful, come October or November you could be stuck with a collection of off-colored, flickering light strings with irregular spacing and a phone book’s worth of manufacturer names. In the 2011 Christmas season, 25% more of our customers chose LED over traditional incandescent Christmas lights, when compared to the 2010 season. That’s the most rapid adoption of any technology we’ve seen, and it’s especially amazing considering traditional incandescent lights outnumbered our LEDs last year two to one. We project even bigger LED adoption this year, so if you don’t want to find yourself in the scenario described above, buy early and in bulk.

The increasing adoption of LED Christmas lights means we’re putting special emphasis on LED quality this year. Our buyers have traveled to trade shows and lighting fairs around the country to hand-pick the best Christmas lights available. Not all LEDs are created equal, so we only bring in the LED lights that do best in demonstrations and that manufacturers test for longevity. In some cases, we’ve even had lights manufactured to our custom specifications!

If you’re still skeptical about LED technology, consider this: A recent poll on our Facebook page shows that while some customers are still waiting to switch, early adopters of LED lights are overwhelmingly satisfied with them. Since LED technology becomes more efficient and less expensive every year, you can bet our 2012 selection will meet your expectations. If you’re still wondering just what LEDs can do for you, watch our Christmas YouTube videos to see some of the infinite possibilities of LED Christmas lights.

If you transition to LED lights this year, you’ll have a partner every step of the way in 1000Bulbs.com. Industry-leading professionals have trained our sales staff to assist customers with large orders, ensuring the products you buy are compatible with each other and guiding customers in the setup of more intricate systems. If you have a question down the road, our customer service team can answer questions and aid in troubleshooting. Rest assured we will do everything possible to ensure you have the best lighting display possible this Christmas!

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CFL Warm-Up Times: 4 Bulbs Put to the Test

Jul 13, 12 CFL Warm-Up Times: 4 Bulbs Put to the Test

You know the feeling. You just came home from the hardware store with a blister pack of brand new, energy-saving CFLs. You screw them in and hit the switch. “Oh, this is gonna be good,” you say to yourself. You’re going to save tons of money and your bulbs are gonna look great! Then you notice they’re dim, really dim. Defeated, you retreat to another room to find your receipt. But then, when you return a minute or so later, they’re as bright as you expected them to be! What sorcery is this?

Everyone has had this experience with their first batch of CFLs, though maybe it wasn’t as melodramatic. To understand why compact fluorescents start off dim, you have to know a bit about how fluorescent lighting works. Unlike an incandescent bulb, which creates light by heating a filament until it is white-hot, fluorescent lights use cathodes to heat a special gas or mix of gases to create UV light. The UV light is then filtered through phosphors to create white or colored light. To do this however, the cathodes have to warm up.

The Setup

Every new CFL on the market uses different proprietary technology to shorten the bulb’s warm-up time, with varied results, so we chose to test four of our best-selling 60 watt CFLs. Though this is far from a scientific study, here’s how we conducted the experiment: We screwed each bulb into a lamp, and set a light meter about one foot to the side the lamp. We propped up the light meter so it was roughly on the same horizontal plane as the CFL’s midpoint. We then turned on each bulb and used the light meter to record the maximum light output of the bulb. Finally, we replaced the bulbs with identical bulbs of the same make and model (using the already warm bulb would have skewed our results). We then switched the bulbs on and recorded the time it took to meet the previously recorded maximum output.

Bulb One: Energy Miser

The first bulb we tested is a 13 watt, 2700K CFL from Energy Miser. Just over $1.00 each, this bulb is not only the most inexpensive of the bulbs we tested, but it’s also our best seller. The manufacturer doesn’t make any claims about the bulb’s warm up time, though our customers have given it an average 5-star rating. In our tests, the bulb reached its maximum output in 2 minutes, 2 seconds. That’s not exactly quick, but according to most manufacturers, it’s about on par for a typical CFL.

Bulb Two: TCP TruStart

The second bulb we tested, a TCP TruStart, is a fairly new addition to our product line. In their spec sheet, TCP claims this bulb is the “Best on/off CFL ever made!” Unlike the previous bulb we tested, TCP does make a claim about this bulb’s warm-up time; specifically, TCP says the CFL has a less than 30 second warm-up time. Our tests showed this claim to be mostly true, with the bulb reaching its full brightness at 38.7 seconds.

Bulb Three: Sylvania DULUX EL

The third bulb we tested is from the “big three” of lighting manufacturers, Sylvania. Sylvania also doesn’t make any specific claims about warm-up times for this 13 watt CFL from their DULUX EL family, nor do our customers (who give it an average 4-star rating). So how did this name brand product fare? Pretty well, it turns out. The bulb reached its full brightness at 1 minute, 7 seconds. That not as good as the TCP TruStart, but it’s nearly twice as fast as the Energy Miser.

Bulb Four: TCP InstaBright

The final bulb we tested is a little different from the other four we tested. This covered CFL from TCP has a glass cap over the fluorescent spiral tube so that it looks more like a typical A-shape incandescent bulb. In their InstaBright G2 brochure, TCP claims the bulb has the “Fastest run-up time and significantly improved light build up time,” and it is supposed to reach full brightness in 45 seconds. Surprisingly, this bulb beat even its own estimates, reaching full brightness in only 35.1 seconds!

Which of these bulbs should you buy? It depends how much you’re willing to pay and how much you value fast warm-up times. There is a spread of more than $4.00 between the cheapest and most expensive of these bulbs. Is a few seconds quicker to reach full brightness worth the premium? Let us know what you think in the comments, or connect with us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

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New Product Spotlight: TCP LED BR Reflector Bulbs

Jun 15, 12 New Product Spotlight: TCP LED BR Reflector Bulbs

If you’ve read this blog before, you know one of the shortcomings of LED lighting is that LEDs, by nature, project light forward. Manufacturers have posed all kinds of creative solutions to this problem, from frosted caps to space station looking spires of LEDs within the bulb envelope. However, one of our favorite brands here at 1000Bulbs.com claims to have solved this problem, at least for reflector bulbs, with a surprisingly simple solution.

The LED reflector light bulb market is saturated with Halogen PAR clones. PAR lamps, which are a directional light source anyway, are an obvious format for LED. The PAR format allows LEDs to show off their energy saving potential without addressing the directional problem of LEDs. As a result, LED bulbs such as the MSi iPAR38 have been a big hit, especially with businesses, but not so much with homeowners who prefer the shape of traditional incandescent BR- and R-type bulbs.

TCP took this challenge to heart when they created their new line of BR LED bulbs. The “guts” of the incandescent-inspired bulbs are the same as an LED PAR lamp, but the face is capped with a round, frosted lens to refract the light coming from the LEDs. This refraction creates a softer beam spread more similar to that of incandescent bulbs. Plus, when used in recessed cans, the bulbs look just like the incandescents they replace.

The light quality of the bulbs is equally impressive. The BR LED line has a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 85, higher than the usual 80-82 of most LED bulbs. The dimming quality is great, too. TCP has manufactured the bulbs to be dimmable down to 0.5%, and our tests show them to be compatible with both analog and electronic dimmers, which until now, we had never seen on an LED bulb.

TCP’s new line of LED reflector light bulbs includes BR40, BR30, and R20 LED bulbs, available in 2400K and 2700K versions. The BR40 and BR30 can replace 65 watt and 85 watt incandescent bulbs, respectively. The R20 replaces a 50 watt incandescent. All the bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours and carry a 5-year manufacturer warranty. The mercury-free LED bulbs save approximately 80% of the energy used by similar Halogen bulbs.

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The Lighting Facts Label Explained

May 18, 12 The Lighting Facts Label Explained

If you’re like me, you ignore the Nutrition Facts label on your food. I know I should be reading it, but a serving of Pringles is only 16 chips? Please! I eat that in 20 seconds. Of course, I might change my habits if there was some sort of monetary compensation for eating better.

There is no such promise with the Nutrition Facts label. However, there is immediate compensation in energy savings when you follow the LED Lighting Facts label published by the US Department of Energy or the Lighting Facts Label published by the Federal Trade Commission. These innovative labels appear on the packaging of all light bulbs manufactured since January of this year.

The Difference Between the DOE and the FTC Label

The biggest difference between the DOE LED Lighting Facts Label and the FTC Lighting Facts Label is right there in the title. The DOE label is only for LED lighting. The FTC label, on the other hand, applies to any bulb with a medium screw base manufactured after January 2012; this includes incandescent bulbs, Halogen bulbs, CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs that do not already have a DOE label.

Another difference is that the FTC label is mandatory, while the DOE label is voluntary. Also, the DOE label is independently verified, while the FTC label contains data solely from the manufacturer. The DOE’s independent testing, combined with more detailed information, can make it more helpful to retailers, lighting designers, and contractors who need specific lighting data for their clients. The FTC label, on the other hand, contains only the information useful to the typical homeowner.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the data presented in the DOE and FTC labels:

DOE LED Lighting Facts FTC Lighting Facts
Brightness (Lumens) Yes Yes
Color Temperature Yes Yes
Energy Used (Watts) Yes Yes
Efficacy (Lm/W) Yes No
Lifetime No Yes
Estimated Energy Cost No Yes
Color Accuracy (CRI) Yes No
Mercury Content No Yes

What the Labels Don’t Include

Some of the specifications left out on one or the other label may surprise you. The FTC label, for example, does not include figures for efficacy (the ratio of light output to energy use) or color accuracy. To most homeowners, however, those specs aren’t too important. The missing specs in the DOE label are more notable. The DOE label doesn’t include lifetime, estimated energy cost, or mercury content. Each of these, however, is left out with good reason. Lifetime is left out because, as of now, there is no standard for testing the lifetime of an LED bulb. Estimated energy cost is not included because of the label’s focus on commercial applications, in which lighting designers will need to perform more specific calculations. Finally, the DOE label does not include a statement of mercury content because LEDs do not contain mercury.

Where to Find More Information

This helpful brochure from the US Department of Energy explains the LED Lighting Facts label in more detail, while this article compares the DOE and FTC labels. If there are other specifics you would like us to cover, be sure to leave a comment below or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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How Do Infrared (IR) Halogens Save Energy?

Apr 06, 12 How Do Infrared (IR) Halogens Save Energy?

In a recent article, we discussed the impending phase out of Halogen PAR lamps. One of the technologies we listed as a replacement was Infrared (IR) Halogen. But what is an IR Halogen, and how does it save energy? To answer that, let’s first do a brief refresher on freshman physics.

Visible light is only one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which in its highest frequency includes gamma rays and in its lowest frequency, microwaves. Somewhere in between is visible light, which itself is sandwiched between higher frequency ultraviolet rays and lower frequency infrared rays. (For those of you who like videos, check out the Electromagnetic Spectrum Song on YouTube for more detail.)

Electromagnetic rays aren’t neatly delineated like they’re shown in textbooks but instead, tend to “bleed” together, with visible light also including some UV and IR rays. When a light source ventures into the UV rays’ territory, the light may fade clothing, paintings, and anything sensitive to UV. Similarly, when a light source ventures into the infrared spectrum, infrared heat overwhelms visible light. This “bleeding” is why incandescent bulbs are so inefficient. Ever try to unscrew an incandescent light bulb when it’s been burning for an hour or so? It’s hot, isn’t it? That’s because as much as 90% of the electromagnetic rays produced by an incandescent bulb are in the form of infrared heat; only the remaining 10% is visible light.

Halogen light bulbs are a tweaked form of incandescent bulbs that are slightly more efficient. Nevertheless, they still waste energy in the form of UV and infrared rays. For this reason, manufacturers started adding dichroic coatings to Halogen lamps (especially MR16 bulbs) so that they redirected heat and infrared through the back of the bulb instead of the front, reducing possible damage to the object lit by the lamp. Still, this only protects the work of art, retail display, or whatever object at which the user aims the lamp. It doesn’t do much, if anything, to reduce energy consumption.

GE HIR Plus Table

HIR PAR Lamps Save 40%

From there, manufacturers developed a new idea: Why not coat the Halogen capsule within the bulb? The result is an IR Halogen, in which the infrared heat coming from the bulb filament is redirected right back on the filament, causing it to burn hotter and brighter while still using the same amount of electricity. In other words, a 60 watt Halogen bulb (for example)  when given an IR coating to its internal capsule, is bright enough to equal the light output of about a 90 watt Halogen.

So just how much energy do IR Halogen PAR lamps save? The rule of thumb is about 40%. Sylvania’s 50 watt IR PAR38 (130V), for example, produces 850 lumens, equivalent to a standard 130V Halogen PAR38 of about 75 watts. A savings of 25 watts is very significant, especially considering even small retail shops can be running as many as 100 PAR38 bulbs at a time. The savings over an incandescent PAR38 or R40 are even more dramatic—as high as 60%. For a more detailed wattage equivalency, check out the chart from GE to the right.

IR Halogen bulbs also have an indirect benefit on energy usage: Since the coating puts the wasted infrared energy to use by redirecting it inward and transforming it to visual light, the total heat emitted by the bulb is reduced, lightening the load on HVAC systems.

IR Halogens are now available in most Halogen bulb types, including IR PAR20 bulbs, IR PAR30 bulbs, IR PAR38 bulbs, and IR MR16 bulbs. Our advice would be to switch over now, even though the phase-out isn’t yet in effect. Why? If you wait and hold on to your less efficient Halogens, you’re throwing away money on wasted electricity!

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