Do We Need Light Bulbs Anymore?

May 04, 12 Do We Need Light Bulbs Anymore?

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+.

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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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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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Organic Luminescence Takes Advantage of Naturally Glowing Compounds

Feb 07, 11 Organic Luminescence Takes Advantage of Naturally Glowing Compounds

Organic luminescence is an interesting marriage of technology and natural materials. You can find a number of substances and compounds in nature which naturally glow with light, even in the dark. Science is trying to marry these natural compounds and processes with technology to create organic sources of light.

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