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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New Product Spotlight: Kobi LED Light Bulbs

Mar 16, 12 New Product Spotlight: Kobi LED Light Bulbs

Do you want to switch to LED lighting but just aren’t ready for the up-front cost? We often recommend switching to LED, but let’s face it: LEDs are expensive, as this week’s Philips $50 LED light bulb debacle made very clear. At, however, we’re trying to destroy the notion that you can’t afford to go LED.

One of our first steps in that direction is our partnership with Kobi Electric, a manufacturer of low-priced LED light bulbs. This partnership adds 10 new products to our LED lighting selection, including six standard shape LED light bulbs and four LED reflector bulbs.

Our friends at Kobi say they are “established for one purpose: to finally make LED lighting for the home affordable to everyone.” We at think that’s great, so we’re helping them by pricing their LED bulbs as low as possible. Their 40 watt equal LED is currently around $16 on our website, far less than the usual $25 to $45 you’d pay for a “name brand” LED bulb.

But don’t let the price fool you! These aren’t the junk you find next to the dog food and panty hose at the grocery store. Kobi’s LED light bulbs have some of the most impressive light output we’ve seen, and certainly one of the best warranties. All Kobi LED bulbs carry a warranty that guarantees your bulb will maintain at least 80% of its original light output throughout its 30,000 hour life (about 20 years at 4hrs/day).

We aren’t the only ones singing the praises of Kobi’s products, either. Our customers have consistently rated Kobi’s bulbs with 4 and 5-star reviews. Check out this customer review for a Kobi LED R30 flood light: “The Kobi bulbs are very bright, very well designed bulbs. I am impressed how much light they produce for so little power. I calculate that they will pay for themselves within 1-2 years.”

Other reviewers praise Kobi’s dimming capability, and for good reason. Most LED light bulbs, if they even are dimmable, are compatible with a very restricted list of dimmers. That means in addition to buying a $25 bulb, you also need to buy and install a new dimmer. This isn’t the case with Kobi. They’ve made sure their LED bulbs are compatible with the most popular dimmers in homes today, and even provide a pamphlet of recommended dimmers just in case.

So Kobi LED bulbs are inexpensive, excellent quality, and dimmable. What more do you need? Pick up a few and let us know what you think!

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8 Reasons to Use Dimmer Switches

Feb 17, 12 8 Reasons to Use Dimmer Switches

1. They save energy

When you crank down a dimmer, you are lowering the amount of power sent to a bulb. The more you dim the bulb, the less power you use, resulting in lower energy use.

2. They make bulbs last longer

As discussed in a recent blog on how to extend the life of a light bulb, delivering less power to the bulb reduces the stress on an incandescent or halogen bulb filament. The less stress the filament is under, the longer it will last.

3. They’re good for the environment

This goes back to reasons 1 & 2. Using less power means saving electricity, potentially reducing pollution produced by power plants. Longer bulb life also means throwing fewer bulbs away, resulting in less landfill clutter.

4. They’re good for your health

In addition to reducing pollution, some scientific studies suggest dimming lights in the evening has less negative effect on sleep cycles than burning bulbs at full power because dimming a bulb also lowers its color temperature, replicating the effect of the setting sun.

5. They make rooms look better

Let’s face it. Rooms with dimmed lights just look more inviting, even romantic. Next time you go to a nice restaurant, take a look at the lights. Nice aren’t they? Now go to McDonald’s. Not so nice, huh? The secret is dimming.

6. They make you look better

You may be a pretty girl or a handsome guy, but that doesn’t mean lighting can’t still help. When you dim a bulb, you are changing the light from bright white to a warm, inviting tone, softening the appearance of your hair and skin.

7. They’re easy to install

Contrary to what you may think, most dimmers are incredibly easy to install. Just turn off the power at your breaker, remove your standard toggle switch, and replace it with your new dimmer. The same 3 wires you disconnected from your toggle switch (positive, negative, and ground) attach to the dimmer in the same configuration.

8. They’re cheap

This may be the best reason of all. While sophisticated, multi-location electronic dimmers like the Lutron Maestro can cost upwards of $25, a standard rotary dimmer or slide dimmer will cost less than $10.  For less than a $10 investment, what do you have to lose?

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Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Feb 10, 12 Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Unless you’re an electrician, you’ve probably never changed a ballast. Chances are, when your garage fixture or kitchen light went out, you changed the bulbs, and when that didn’t work, you went to an overpriced hardware store and bought a brand-new fixture. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you could’ve saved a lot of money by switching out the ballast—an investment of only $10 to $15.

But with so many options out there, how would you know which ballast to pick? The truth is, it’s pretty simple. There are tons of fluorescent ballasts to choose from (we have nearly 300 on our site!), but most business owners and even homeowners will find it easy to wade through that seemingly never-ending selection if they concentrate on just 3 key specs: Bulb type, start method, and ballast factor.

Bulb Type

Needless to say, this is the most important part. If you don’t know what type of fluorescent bulb you’re using, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which type of fluorescent ballast to buy. Fortunately, most fluorescent fixtures will use one of three common bulb types: An F40T12 (4′ long; 1.5″ in diameter), an F32T8 (4′ long; 1″ in diameter) or an F54T5 (46″ long; 0.625″ in diameter). If your bulbs don’t meet one of these descriptions, you’ll need to check the etching near one of the ends of the fluorescent bulb (a good idea even if you think you know the bulb type).

Start Method

Once you’ve determined what type of  fluorescent bulbs you have, don’t burn them out prematurely by choosing a ballast with the wrong starting method. As discussed in a previous article on how to extend the life of a light bulb, an instant start ballast hits the fluorescent bulb cathodes with about 600 volts every time you flip the light switch. As you might imagine, the bulb can only stand so many of those on/off switches. Consider where your fixture is installed. Offices, boardrooms, and retail spaces tend to stay lit for long periods, so use an instant start ballast should be fine, as long as you don’t switch the lights off and on more than about 3-4 times a day. Hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms are switched much more frequently, especially since the lighting in these areas is often controlled by an occupancy sensor. In these areas, it’s best to use a programmed start ballast, which will heat the bulb cathodes more slowly and prolong its life.

Ballast Factor

Finally, you need to consider light output. “What?” you say. “You mean the bulb isn’t exactly the brightness it says it is on the label?” Nope. The light output shown on a fluorescent bulb’s label, expressed in lumens, is figured using a normal light output ballast with a ballast factor between 0.77 and 1.1. A normal ballast factor is usually the right option, for “normal” circumstances. But if you don’t need your room quite as bright, you can save electricity by using a low output ballast with a ballast factor below 0.77. On the other hand, if you are lighting a warehouse or manufacturing facility where brightness is important, you will need a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, which will push the bulb to be 10% or more brighter than stated on the label.

Of course, if you need something more specialized like a sign ballastdimming ballast, or circline ballast, you’ll likely need an equally specialized electrician. The same principles still hold true, however, so if you need to call an electrician, at least he’ll be impressed by how much you know!


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Cyalume Glow Sticks

Aug 22, 11 Cyalume Glow Sticks

As a form of recreational light, “glow sticks” are popular options for children who go out trick-or-treating on Halloween and are fun options at parties and other recreational events. However, they have many practical uses as well. They are great options for safety lighting and are popular devices for the military, law enforcement, and other emergency personnel. They are useful for signaling, illumination, surveying, perimeter control, and many other uses. Cyalume safety products has taken advantage of the glow stick’s potential as a safety product by creating a line of industrial and military-grade chemiluminescent “Lightbars.”

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