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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
While we will always need light, could it be possible that in the quest to create the “perfect” light bulb, a bulb isn’t what we are looking for at all? Edison’s original invention required the familiar gas-filled bubble we call a bulb to house and protect a carbon filament, and blown glass was the best, most efficient option. Yet that was over 100 years ago, and technology has brought us all types of materials that Edison may have considered better alternatives than a glass bulb.
The idea that we no longer need light bulbs is either revolutionary or absurd, but two products on our website are created with that very idea in mind. One is the LED downlight module, and the other is a series of LED tape light “profiles” from Poland-based Klus Design. One product suggests replacing traditional light fixtures and bulbs with dedicated, modular retrofits, while the other suggests we can do without light fixtures and bulbs altogether.
LED downlights consist of an array of high-powered LEDs, an LED driver, and a heatsink all integrated into a single unit. This alone doesn’t make downlights that much different than any LED light bulb. The difference is in the appearance of the product. The manufacturer doesn’t intend to make the module look like anything like the familiar light bulb we know. Instead, the LED module is a geometric mass of aluminum fins and hard plastic that replaces the bulb within a recessed can, sometimes permanently.
The second product, LED tape light profiles, takes the concept further. As we discussed in a previous article, LED tape light is an extremely versatile and easy to use product. To prove this, Klus even used tape light and their patented aluminum profiles to create a “House Without a Bulb.” Klus tape light profiles—an aluminum extrusion that houses an LED tape light—are inlayed into a groove cut into the underside of a step or cabinet, or mounted to the top of a flat surface. Some models are even made for installation into floors, sidewalks, and driveways. As with the LED modules, you never see a bulb, just light emanating from a recessed area that blends in with its surroundings. It blends in so well, in fact, the casual observer would be hard-pressed to determine where the light is coming from.
Even before LED downlights and tape light profiles, we turned the traditional round light bulb into reflectors, imitation flames, high efficiency tubes, and compact spirals. Do we need the “bulb” shape any longer for anything more than nostalgia? Share your responses in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
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.
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!