Is Artificial Light Ruining Your Sleep?

Apr 18, 14 Is Artificial Light Ruining Your Sleep?

If you’ve been waking up tired or groggy, the reason could be beyond not being “a morning person.” After eliminating medical reasons, you may want to examine your pre-sleep exposure to certain types of light. Consider a few questions: Do you have bright, cool lighting in your bedroom?  Do you sleep with your TV on? Are you on your computer or tablet within a few hours before going to bed? If you answered “yes” to any of these inquiries, you already know where this is going. But how can these factors cause poor sleep? Let me explain.

The Circadian Rhythm and Blue Light

Most people have at least heard of the concept of a circadian rhythm. For those who haven’t, it’s our internal clock: a 24-hour cycle of biological, mental, and physiological processes. These processes include cognitive performance, mood, and most importantly here, sleep and wakefulness. Although circadian rhythms are hardwired into our nature, external cues called “zeitgebers” can alter these rhythms. Temperature, medicines or drugs, exercise, eating and drinking patterns, as well as light are all zietgebers.

daylightWithout question, light is the zietgeber with the biggest impact on our sleep cycle. This is because for millions of years, before anyone could even fathom the idea of a light bulb, the light/dark cycle of the earth was the way by which we lived our lives. We had to hunt and be active during the day (when we could see everything) and sleep by night when we could not. Throughout our evolutionary development, being alert and awake during the daytime was how we survived, and this notion gradually became part of our natural instincts.

Fast forward to today – a world with the advent of the light bulb. As it turns out, not only natural daylight has the ability to affect our sleeping patterns. Studies have shown that artificial sources can have a significant impact on our sleep as well – more specifically, sources that emit light in the same hue as middle-of-the-day sunlight.

Yellow-orange light (left) Neutral light (center) Blue light (right)

Yellow-orange light (left) Neutral light (center) Blue light (right)

So, what is the hue of mid-day sunlight? It is blue light in the color temperature spectrum of 5000K and above. Some overhead light sources, along with your televisions, laptops, and phone screens, emit light in this spectrum. Remember, for millions of years blue light meant daylight – not an episode of The Tonight Show or a game of Angry Birds. Although our conscious minds know the difference, our bodies and biological clocks don’t – so when we turn on bright, cool lights or use our electrical devices late into the night, the blue light from these sources triggers our mental alertness, making it harder for our bodies to fall asleep.

On a chemical level, blue light has come to regulate our secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When we are exposed to blue light, we limit the production of melatonin and stay alert and awake. When we are not, our melatonin production rises, and it becomes easier to sleep. 

How To Mitigate Blue Light

You may be thinking “Yes – I have been exposing myself to blue light at night. Other than going to bed earlier, what can I do to achieve better sleep?” No worries – we’ve compiled a few pointers.

  • Use Lights with a Warm Color Temperature (2700K-3000K)
    Evocative of the dim glow of fire, orange-yellow light tends to have a calming effect and does not interfere with melatonin production. These characteristics make warm light the best kind of lighting for your bedroom, especially when you’re laying down to catch some Zzzs.
  • Dim Your Lights
    Lowering your light level can also help. Using a light switch dimmer would be ideal, but if you don’t have a dimmer, you could simply turn off your main light source and use a lamp instead. If you’re watching TV or using some another electronic device before bed, dim the screen down to lessen the effects of the light.
  • Limit Electronics Usage before Bed
    Turning off your television or laptop (and consequently removing the barrage of blue light from your eyes) about an hour or two before bed will give your body some time to get back into sleep mode.
  • Expose Yourself to Plenty of Natural Blue Light during the Day
    This will help normalize your sleep cycle – it works both ways!

Of course, we’re not suggesting that blue light is all bad: it has its perks, too. In a previous article, we discussed how cool blue light can be ideal in classrooms or workplaces due to its energizing nature. We’re merely suggesting it stay out of the bedroom at night – where it doesn’t belong.

Have any questions about how light could be affecting your sleep? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, or Google Plus!

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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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Standing Out at Trade Shows

Apr 11, 14 Standing Out at Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great opportunity to showcase your business’s latest products or services. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste by getting lost in the crowd! Creatively illuminating your company’s exhibit can draw more attention to your products and even enhance your sales. Although your options will vary depending on your set-up, below are a few key pointers for creating a unique lighting design that will attract more visitors to your booth.

Layer Your Lighting

Before heading out to your next trade show, expand your lighting inventory. Layered lighting is the essential principle of lighting design. Using different types of lights throughout your exhibit will make it look more interesting and professional, and thus more enticing, especially if the light is coming from two or three different directions.

There are certain areas you’ll want to spotlight, or draw attention to, as well as areas you’ll want to accent, or illuminate for a subtle artistic effect.  Areas you’ll definitely want to spotlight include shelves or display cases, logos, wall graphics, and company literature. Areas that would look great with accent lighting include underneath or around countertops as well as behind posters. Each kind of lighting will often require different types of bulbs and fixtures. So what kind of lights would you need (and where would you need them) to achieve these effects?

Spotlighting

CREE-LE6US Adjustable Eyeball Trimmed Downlight

CREE-LE6US Adjustable Eyeball Trimmed Downlight

Spotlight-style lights, such as recessed downlights and track lights, are the most common type of display lights. Recessed downlights are great for highlighting singular items, and are often used inside shelves or embedded within ceilings. Track lights are ideal for highlighting graphics splayed across a large wall, or depending on how you angle the lights, they can illuminate key items on countertops. Usually the same kinds of bulbs are used in both downlight and track light fixtures, so the specific bulb you’ll need depends on the fixture you choose.

Popular bulbs for these fixtures include MR16s, PAR lamps, R lamps, MR8s, and MR11s. The “R” in these bulbs’ names stands for reflector, meaning that the bulb emits brighter, more concentrated light because it reflects light off the inside of its surrounding metal casing. When choosing a reflector bulb for use in a display light, pick one with a warm, inviting color temperature (2700 or 3000K), an excellent color-rendering index (above 80), and a beam angle that is narrow or wide enough to adequately show off your items. To add a little more pizazz to your display, you could even go with colored reflector bulbs.

Accenting

FT2-L120WW1230 30 ft. LED Rope Light

FT2-L120WW1230 30 ft. LED Rope Light

Due to their versatility, both rope light and tape light are excellent choices for accent lighting. No matter the size or shape of your exhibit, each option could be easily incorporated in discreet, out-of-the-way places such as along the corners of your walls, underneath counters, around cabinets, behind posters, or anywhere that a hint of light could create a dramatic impact. Rope light is durable, rounded, and requires screw-in rope light channels or clips to keep it in place, whereas tape light is flat, thin, and simply sticks to surfaces with its adhesive backing. Both can be cut and capped to different lengths. So which option would be best in your booth?

FLX-5050WW1230 10 ft. LED Tape Light

FLX-5050WW1230 10 ft. LED Tape Light

Although tape light gives off brighter light and is easier to install due its sticky backing, it’s not as easy to configure into unique shapes as rope light is, nor is it as durable. So if you’re going for a quick, easy set-up and don’t want to accentuate a uniquely shaped place, tape light is probably your best option. However, if you want to accent something a little more interesting (for instance, rope light could be easily wrapped around rails or columns) or if you want 360 degree, multi-directional light, you may want to go with rope light after all.

To conclude, these are just a few of our ideas, and there are certainly other fixtures you can use to create layered lighting designs. What are some interesting ways you’ve seen people use layered lighting at trade shows? Share your thoughts in the comments or send us a line on  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

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An Explanation of CRI

Mar 28, 14 An Explanation of CRI

When you’re shopping for light bulbs, what are some of things you look for? The number of watts the bulb consumes? The initial lumen output? Most certainly the life hours, right? Well it’s time to add another one to the list: CRI. Never heard of it? Don’t fret; we’ll break it down for you!

What is CRI?

For starters, CRI stands for color rendering index, and it measures the effect a bulb has on the perceived color of objects. Simply put, CRI measures how well a bulb replicates the sun, which has a perfect CRI of 100. Underneath a CRI of 100, colors look exactly like they should: bold, vibrant, striking.

The great thing about CRI is that it’s easy to understand: the higher the CRI, the better colors will look. The lower the CRI, the worse colors will look. A bulb with a CRI of 80 or above is good, and a bulb with a CRI of 90 and above is very good. A CRI below 80 isn’t that all that great, and will make colors look yellow, washed out, and can even change the hue of objects.  For example, the lights you see in highway fixtures have a very low CRI, which is a very yellow light which leads to a bad CRI. Subsequently making colors tougher to differentiate.

Choosing the Right CRI

6421218149_cf3dc85106_zWhen it comes to residential lighting, you don’t really need bulbs with a very high CRI, especially in places like the living room or the kitchen (bathrooms, vanities, and closets are different since bulbs with a CRI are highly recommended in these areas) since these places mainly just utilize task lighting. For example, if you use BR40 lamps in your recessed lighting fixtures in your living room or kitchen, these bulbs typically have a CRI of around 80, with some bulbs peaking at 85.

9035006096_770e84628a_zHowever, if you’re displaying family portraits, art, or sports memorabilia, then bulbs with a high CRI, such as this Soraa LED MR16, would make these look even better; the colors would look more stunning and bold. The high CRI of these LEDs create brighter brights and whiter whites, while colors become more vibrant. Places where objects are on display, like art galleries, museums, or jewelry stores, will use bulbs with a very high CRI. You can learn more about Soraa’s LED’s in one of our previous blog posts. http://blog.1000bulbs.com/soraa-led-mr16s-changing-the-face-of-lighting/

So, when is CRI not really an important factor? While that’s purely up to you, you can skate by with low CRI bulbs in places like garages or outdoor lighting. Since there’s not a lot of aesthetic appeal in these areas, whether or not your cherry red Craftsman toolbox looks like Ferrari red doesn’t matter all that much.

Where do you use your bulbs with a high CRI? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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HPS vs LED Grow Lights

Mar 21, 14 HPS vs LED Grow Lights

We know that LEDs are all the rage in household lighting, saving you hundreds in energy and maintenance costs over the life of the bulb. But what about when it comes to indoor growing? Are they worth the extra investment? Do they provide extra benefits that HPS bulbs don’t?  The most popular types of grow lights are high pressure sodium bulbs (HPS) and LEDs. While both are used to mimic the sun, the differences between them are substantial.

HPS

High pressure sodium lamps have long been a staple of indoor growing. They are favored amongst growers because of their ability to produce a variety of light across the lighting spectrum and because they can be used in all stages of plant growth, from the vegetative to the flowering phase.

HPS grow light fixtures have a few things going for them. For starters, they’re relatively cheap. For example, for about the cost of a night out on the town, you can get a 250 or 400-watt reflector complete with ballast; you need only to supply the HPS lamp.

Sun System 900514 250 - 400W Grow Light Kit

Sun System 900514 250 – 400W Grow Light Kit

Not only is the cost of the whole kit pretty inexpensive, but so are the replacement bulbs. The same 250-watt replacement bulb for your grow light kit will run you about $12. So all in all, when the time comes to replace your bulbs, you’re not looking at a whole lot of out-of-pocket expense. Plus, these all-inclusive kits are ready to go right out of the box, making it super easy to start growing.

However, there are some downsides to HPS bulbs. For one, they produce heat, and a lot of it. Heat is detrimental to your plants, so it’s important to have air circulated throughout your grow space. That being said, adding a ventilation system will up the cost of your indoor growing experiment.

Another downside of HPS bulbs are the life hours. While a bulb with a life hour rating of 24,000 hours isn’t too shabby, you’ll go through those bulbs faster than you think. For example, during the flowering stage, your plants will need 12 hours of light, while the vegetative stage requires about 18 hours. So with those numbers, and assuming my math is correct, your 250-watt HPS bulb rated for 24,000 life hours will last about 1,333 days, which equates to roughly more than three and a half years. Not bad, but it still doesn’t compare to LEDs.

*From the moment an HID bulb (high intensity discharge), such as an HPS or metal halide bulb, is switched on, the quality of light steadily decreases. For best growing results, replace these bulbs every 9 to 12 months. 

LEDs

As mentioned above, LEDs (light emitting diodes) are gaining popularity in the household sector as more and more people are realizing their incredible energy efficiency and impressive longevity. The same holds true for LED grow lights.

Unlike their HPS counterparts, LED grow lights emit very little to no heat, therefore eliminating a detrimental factor to your plants and a further expense from your grow room since you don’t have to add a circulation system.

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

While your HPS bulb may be rated for 24,000 life hours, some LED grow lights are rated for nearly four times that. For example, this 165-watt LED grow light is rated for 80,000 life hours, which equates to 4,444 days or roughly 12 years, based on using the lights for 18 hours during the vegetative state. With such a long life, the LED fixtures won’t have to be replaced nearly as often as the HPS bulbs. Chances are, the paint will fade before the lights go out on this thing.

So we know that LEDs offer incredible longevity, but what about energy efficiency? The 165-watt grow light mentioned above is equal to a 200-watt HPS bulb, but only consumes 165 watts, thereby saving you 35 watts and lowering your energy bill.

What about the colors your plants need to thrive? For the proficient growth of plants, there needs to be a combination of cool and warm light. Tall and spindly plants love cool light, while warm lights produce shorter, fuller plants. With LED bulbs, both tones are available in a single bulb, striking that perfect balance your plants need.

The only downside of LED fixtures is price. Just like household bulbs, LED fixtures are going to be noticeably more expensive than standard light fixtures, about double to be exact. However, their longevity and energy savings more than makes up for the initial cost.

So, decision time: HPS or LED? Honestly, either one will work just fine for indoor growing. The question is whether you want to shell out the extra money up front and not have to worry about changing your fixtures for a decade or save some dough upfront and lose the longevity. Many people opt for what they know and are familiar with, so HPS usually gets the nod. But as LED technology progresses and prices drop, we should see more and more diodes being used in indoor grows.

Which fixture are you more partial to, LED or HPS? Tell us in the comments below 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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