Color Temperature Revisited

Jun 06, 14 Color Temperature Revisited

Have you ever purchased a new light bulb expecting the same warm, yellow light as the bulb you replaced, only to end up with a much brighter, whiter light instead? Chances are you neglected to consider the bulb’s color temperature before making your purchase. Nothing turns people off from making the switch to LED or fluorescent lamps like accidentally selecting a bulb in the wrong hue, so we figure it’s about time for us to revisit this topic in a new light.

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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!

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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.

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10 Lighting Terms You Should Know

Jun 07, 13 10 Lighting Terms You Should Know

Let’s face it: light bulbs can be confusing. Knowing which bulb you need is hard enough, let alone trying to understand all this jargon being thrown around by the lighting industry.  Below is a list of 10 commonly used lighting terms that will have you talking like a pro in no time.

Lumens (initial): While the amount of light a bulb produces is measured in lumens, the amount of light a bulb emits at the beginning of its life is referred to as initial lumens. Of course, the higher the initial lumens of a bulb, the brighter that bulb is going to be.

Lumens (mean): The term mean lumens is the amount of lumens the bulb produces at 50 percent of its life.

Volts: Think of volts, sometimes referred to as voltage, as a measure of electrical potential. Voltage is what pushes electrical current through a conductor. Typically, residences are wired for 110-130 volts, with businesses being wired anywhere from 220-277 volts. Most of your household bulbs operate at 120 volts.

Watts: This is probably one of the terms you hear the most. Watts (also referred to as wattage) refers to power consumption and the rate at which energy is drawn from an electrical system. The higher the wattage of the lamp, the more electricity that lamp will consume, and the higher your electricity bill.

Efficacy: Efficacy is the measure of lumen output per unit of power, and is measured in lumens per watt, expressed as “13 lumens per watt”. The higher the lumens per watt, the brighter the bulb, equaling a higher efficacy.

Color Temperature: Despite its name, color temperature actually has nothing to do with physical temperature. It refers to the color of the light produced by the lamp, measured in degrees Kelvin. A simple rule of thumb for remembering color temperature is this: the lower the temperature, the yellower the light, and the higher the temperature, the whiter the light. For example, a 2700K bulb has a warm color to it, perfect for living rooms or dining rooms. A 5000K bulb has a very white color to it, often referred to as “natural white” or “stark white,” and is ideal for office buildings, doctors’ offices, and in department stores.

Beam Angle: The name is a dead giveaway. Beam angle is simply the angle of the beam of light produced by the bulb. Beam angle is a key factor typically associated with bulbs such as MRs or PARs, which are generally used for things like track lighting or recessed lighting and is measured in two ways, either with actual degree measurements or with a series of designations. The degree measurements range anywhere from 7 degrees to more than 160 degrees, while the designations run from very narrow spot, spot, narrow flood, flood, wide flood, and very wide flood.

Center Beam Candlepower: Center beam candlepower, sometimes abbreviated as CB Candlepower, is the measure of the intensity of light produced at the center of a lamp beam, which is measured in candelas.

Life hours: This is exactly what the name suggests. Life hours are the number of hours the bulb can be expected to operate. For most lamps, life hours are calculated by observing when 50% of a group of lamps fail.

CRI: A bulb’s CRI, or color rendering index, is the measurement a light source has on colors and surfaces. Bulbs with a high CRI (80 and above) make colors appear more vibrant and natural, while bulbs with a low CRI (79 and below) will make colors look washed out and even take on a different hue.

Are there any other lighting terms you can think of? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!

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Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Mar 22, 13 Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Part 1 of this series covered bulbs and lamp coverage; part 2 covered grow fixtures and timers. In the final chapter, we will be discussing ballasts. There are a wide variety of ballasts to be used with different types of bulbs, different wattages, and different set ups. If you are trying to find the right ballast for your growing needs, stick around and see if we can answer your questions.

Fluorescent Ballasts

If you are using fluorescent tubes for your indoor grow, make sure you use a fluorescent ballast. As stated in part 1 of this series, T5 bulbs are used often for indoor grows, so be sure to double check the lamp type. Once you have determined the size of lamp; you will then need to determine the start method. Instant start ballasts do not preheat the electrodes; they are best if the lamps need to stay on for long periods of time. Programmed start ballasts heat the lamp cathodes slowly; allowing for a longer lamp life, and rapid start ballasts apply voltage and heat cathodes simultaneously. Lastly, consider the ballast factor. For bright lighting, use a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, for low lighting, a low output ballast with a ballast factor of 0.77 is best.

Magnetic Ballasts

Magnetic ballasts are used with both metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium lamps. They regulate the starting requirements, as well as the line voltage for specific lamps, delivering stable power to the lamps. When using a magnetic ballast, be sure to use a lamp that is at a wattage equal to or less than the ballast wattage.

Some metal halide lamps are pulse rated; they feature a high-voltage ignitor that work with the ballast to start the lamp utilizing a series of high-voltage pulses, generally 3 to 5 kilovolts. The ignitor reduces the amount of tungsten sputtering, as well as warm up time, to increase the life of the lamp. If you use a pulse start metal halide bulb, be sure to double check the ANSI code of the ballast to ensure the pulse rating of the ballast works with the bulb.

Digital Ballasts

Using metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps? Digital ballasts are the best way to go! These lightweight ballasts operate both types of lamps, detecting the lamp inserted at that time, and will run the lamp to ANSI specifications. They can be dimmable and also run quietly without the hum of magnetic ballasts. While most digital ballasts operate both metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps, some only operate one or the other. In this case, you can either use the specified lamp, or a conversion bulb.

If you have any other questions regarding ballasts, fixtures, bulbs, or any other accessories for your indoor grow, be sure to let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter!

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Beam Angle Explained

Jan 18, 13 Beam Angle Explained

Reflector bulbs are more than just floodlights and spotlights. Like any light bulb, they come in shapes and technologies to fit any application. Two cases in point are the PAR and the MR16. These common bulbs, whether halogen, CFL, or LED, are highly specified, containing engineered surfaces that control the beam of light to an angle so precise it takes seven different classifications just to explain their possible uses!

Very Narrow Spot (VNSP)

The very narrow spot is just like it sounds. At 7 degrees or less for an MR16 or 15 degrees or less for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an intense, focused beam without a square inch of wasted light. Bulbs with a VNSP beam angle are often used to highlight a small statue or figure on display in a museum or in a jewelry store to make diamonds “pop.”

Narrow Spot (NSP)

landscape lights

Photo by RBerteig (flickr)

Like the very narrow spot, the narrow spot is most popular in commercial applications. At 8 to 15 degrees for an MR16 or 16 to 30 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a beam slightly less focused than a VNSP. Look for bulbs with an NSP beam angle in retail settings highlighting a special or sale item or in landscape bullets illuminating a sign or garden feature.

Spot (SP)

The spot, though primarily used in commercial applications, also shows up in homes from time to time. At 16 to 22 degrees for an MR16 or 31 to 60 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a medium-sized beam. Bulbs with an SP beam angle are used in stores to highlight a special or sale area or outdoors to illuminate an architectural feature.

Narrow Flood (NFL)

Fireplace Spot Light

Photo by ell brown (flickr)

Businesses and homeowners alike find uses for the narrow flood. At 23 to 32 degrees for an MR16 or 61 to 90 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts a medium-wide beam. Stores use an NFL beam angle to highlight a display table, while homes might use this bulb in recessed eyeball lights to illuminate a painting over a fireplace mantle.

Flood (FL)

This true “floodlight” has wide variety of applications. At 36 to 45 degrees for an MR16 or 91 to 120 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a wide beam. Bulbs with an FL beam angle can be seen in everything from pendant lights in coffee shops to recessed lights in living rooms.

Wide Flood (WFL)

Need a lot of light? There are worse options than the wide flood. At 46 to 59 degrees for an MR16 or 121 to 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, the wide flood has a dispersed beam to cover a large area. Bulbs with a WFL beam angle are common in many general illumination applications from motion-sensing lights above garage doors to recessed cans in auditoriums and movie theaters.

Very Wide Flood (VWFL)

recessed lights

Photo by mccun934 (flickr)

The very wide flood finds its way into specialty applications, more often than not. At over 60 degrees for an MR16 or over 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an extremely wide beam. Bulbs with a VWFL beam angle are used to illuminate without highlighting any particular object or area. They’re good options for outdoor flood lighting and low-ceiling recessed lights.

Keep in mind these designations vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some brands, like Ushio, throw them out altogether for their simpler system of “narrow,” “medium,” and “wide.” Also note that just because a bulb may have a commercial application, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your home. Use reflectors to make your walls a canvas for your lighting ideas, and be sure to share those ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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