Consumer info on LED flashlights & space lighting?

joel_bcMay 1, 2006

I'm interested in locating some consumer information about LED flashlights and LED space lighting (for house rooms, etc - 120v AC situations).

Does anyone know of any 'consumer report'-type info about efficiency, durability, advantages/disadvantages, and price? I'm interested in practicality, and not interested in LEDs as a novelty or a "be-the-first-on-your-block" sort of thing.

My searches have just led to too many hits... confusing. Thanks for any leads.


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Don't buy them yet, soon but not yet.

There was a big break through in LED lighting this past year which will work its way out to consumer products soon.

In the meantime compare lumens when comparing light bulbs. I think that right now you'll find you need two - four LED bulbs to do what you can do with one flouresent or for those totally behind the times incandescent bulb.

Here is a link that might be useful: efficient lighting

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 5:05PM
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Thanks. Do you remember what the big breakthrough was?

Also - just curious - why do you regard incandescents as behind the times if they still provide more light per unit ("bulb") than LEDs?

Not to say that I do not see them as "the wave of the future" because I suppose they are. And I do realize that LEDs are supposed to give up to 10 years of service.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 6:36PM
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LED's are making some big inroads . . . been in traffic lights, third brake lights etc for years.

They have two very strong selling points . . efficiency, and longevity. Most mfrs rate their LED's ~ 100,000 hours; meaning their light output will be at lease half what it was when new at 100,000 hours. Incandescents are ~ 1000 hours, and fluorescents ~ 8,000 - 10,000 hours. LED's have light output that degrades slowly, incandescents and fluorescents simply quit putting out light / fail completely. So as far as lifetime they've got everything beat by at least an order of magnitude. They are also immune to mechanical forces ( such as vibration ); but for direct damage. Incandescents tolerate very little, fluorescents take a good bit, LED's are not prone to it at all.

As far as their efficiency goes; they were about on par with fluorescents a few years back . . . in terms of light output per watt used. There are some out there now that surpass that . . with a cost to go along with it as well. No matter how many you need; the real measure of efficiency is how much does it cost ( energy-wise ) to illuminate a given area to the same level; using various lighting technologies.

Incandescents do VERY poorly; believe they turn about 8% of what they use, into light. The rest is heat. They are essentially heaters that happen to give off light. They are space heaters. Fluorescents do much better, and LED's better yet. Problem is that right now the cost of the really good LED technology and good optics to go along with it; does not make them economically attractive . . though I expect that picture to continue to change at a pretty good clip.

LED's also have another drawback that must be dealt with; they are prone to shorter, sometimes MUCH shorter lifetimes; when subjected to heat. Heat is a relative thing; you can easily burn yourself on an incandescent . . fluorescents can get pretty warm to the touch . . so too can LED's. They do not however; tolerate the heat nearly so well . . it can lower their output / shorten their lifetime drastically. To make a nice bright LED light of some sort can be fairly easily done; to make it achieve it's full lifetime is not so easily done; because of thermal reasons. As they continue to improve in efficiency / light output, and the cost comes down; I believe they will at some point surpass other technologies for most lighting purposes. Will make changing "bulbs" a rare occasion . . .


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 6:14AM
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Bob... that's a lot of helpful information. Thanks.

About the temperature-damage thing (which I'm assuming to be ambient air temp): How hot is "hot" in terms of what would be damaging to an LED? Are we talking 45 degrees celsius, or 105 degrees farenheit? Or higher?

And are LEDs susceptible to low-temp damage? (I'm assuming 'not very much', because they are used here in Canada in traffic lights that do seem to survive our winters.)

Are space-lighting LED models of good, durable quality now available for standard screw-in 120v AC sockets (to replace incandescent bulbs)? Can you replace a 60 or 100w bulb with them to get more or less equivalent space lighting?



    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 10:13AM
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Incandescents were cutting edge technology 100 years ago. Other than making the filiments stronger nothing new has been done with them.

If you want to heat your home they are the way to go. They expend almost all their energy on heat.

Florescents are great, they have come along way with the colors and more improvements will likely follow.

LEDs are the future ( at least till someone comes up with something better ) They throw no heat to speak of, can with stand just about anything and can be shaped any way you wish. You will soon see them in everything from floors to counter tops to wall panels. LEDs can be made to release light in wave lengths that kill germs, or are better for plants and most LEDs can be made to adjust color at the turn of a knob.

The big break through was done by a couple of graduate physics students playing in a lab. They discovered they could mix LEDs in with polyerthene ( spelling? ) and send electricity through. This gives off much more light per watt. They are experimenting now with coating the bulb with LEDs rather than making the bulb from LEDs.

Not yet are there LEDs that are in a reasonable price range and watts/lumen range for screw in lights. Perhaps in a year?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 5:54PM
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Heat and LED's . . . the critical item is the actual temp of the junction . . that is; the actual little piece that actually makes the light. Many current LED's are in fact manufactured on an aluminum substrate . . . to ensure that there is a place for the heat to travel easily. There is usually a maximum temperature for that junction . . if you operate in a high ambient temp; you must have a larger heat sink than if you operate in a lower temp ambient. If you exceed the maximum junction temperature; all bets are off as far as the manufacturer is concerned. They will likely work OK; but as with anything; heat accelerates failure. Running them cooler is always better. In fact; LED's LIKE the cold . . the actual power dissipation in them goes down a bit . . Many LED's are rated to 85 deg C ambient; WITHIN the restriction of not exceeding their power level or temperature of the junction . . the mounting method, enclosure etc all enter into figuring out what those temps will actually be in real use. There are now beacons . . the lights on radio towers etc for planes; that are made using nothing BUT LED's . . they withstand the rigors of the weather quite well, use far less power than conventional bulbs, meet the photometric requirements of the FAA for visibility, and with their LONG lifetimes; can be very cost effective. For what it costs to pay someone to climb up a radio tower and change the bulb; an "expensive" bulb ( LED ) can be FAR cheaper than paying a guy to climb the tower 100 times to change it. The additional lifetime / longevity also limits calls due to bulb failures; they must be monitored and dealt with right away when they do occur for the safety of airplanes.

Just the other day I saw a place from Canada on Ebay; offering a screw-in Edison base ( "regular light bulb" ) that was supposed to be an equivalent of a 60 w bulb. Not the conventional shape; but neither are CFL's a "regular" shape. Anyway; there were some lenses built into a clear dome on one end; and they at least claimed it dispersed light very much like a conventional incandescent bulb. I have ONLY read the stuff; never seen one. May or may not be any "good" . . however; I suspect we'll see more and more of them as time goes on. Believe the asking price was $39 or $49 each . . . sounds like a lot . . but considering the expected lifetime, and their energy use relative to other lights; it may well be a financial payoff . . albeit a long one.

"White" LED's . . be a bit wary . . as there are various "spectrums" available. They all shoot for white; but batches come out more on the blue side, or yellow side . . . some come out a real nice white. You'll pay more for the real white ones . . . if not stated; you'll likely get one of the "off" shades . . may or may not be a concern. Incidentally; there ARE no white LED's . . they are made by taking #@%$ hot blues; and coating with a phosphorous coating much like a conventional picture tube; which absorbs the light and fluoresces a shade of white.

Incidentally, I started dabbling with LED nightlights many years ago . . wrote an article for Home Power magazine in '95 ? I think . . . anyway; white LED's did not exist then except in labs or dark corners; red has always been an "easy" color. I made the nightlights using red LED's; one advantage is that red light does not mess up your night vision . . an advantage over other light colors in the middle of the night. Anyway; I've got probably half a dozen of them, run off standard 120 . . some have run over 10 years now continuously, the ones that haven't aren't that old yet. Think we're kinda on the edge of them really breaking into the lighting field for more than just "spot" / task illumination . . . . and the electronics to dim them / run them is not terribly involved. I'll guess the next year or two will offer a proliferation of all types of LED lighting . . and I mean area lighting; not task-type lighting . . .


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 6:56PM
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Seems like LEDs as space lighters - when the appropriate model is selected - are something of a futurist novelty (albeit, a near-futurist one). Something for enthusiasts.

Which is great, but maybe offers little advantage as yet. I mean, there are five months of the year when the heat output of an incandescent light can be appreciated here in a building! (LOL)

But I suppose the situation could change in a year or two, right?

Anyway, are any of the LED flashlights a worthwhile investment at present?


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 11:43PM
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LED flashlights . . . I've got a couple. You need to be a bit wary; there is some real junk out there . . and some pretty good ones. I've got a Craftsman ( plastic and stainlees steel ) that can either do spot or wide beam; works well & throws a lot of light. Think I paid $15 for it. Also got a nice, small, all aluminum Dorcy for x-mas; small and indeed throws a very nice beam with lots of light. You can pay $75 for them if you want; there are some nice but seemingly way over-priced ones out there too. I have NO regrets about either of the ones I've got . . they are both well made and I'm happy with them . . .

Another quick thought about incandescents . . if you live in a cooling climate . . the heat they toss . . fights your air-conditioning if you've got it . . or increases temp inside if you don't. Think about it; since almost ALL of the energy they use goes to heat ( about 92% ); it's no different than turning on a big space heater . . . I suppose that can work for you during the colder months . . but still represents and incredible waste . . not to mention having to change the things so often . . .


    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 5:54AM
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The LED flashlights and night lights are great. At least the ones I have used.

It is far too expensive to heat your home in any climate now with electric heat. Loose the old bulbs and do florescent.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 7:12PM
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Prettyphysicslady... have you totally done away with incandescents in your living and office spaces?

Have you found the flourescents to be affordable, too?


    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 9:38AM
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Not to "hijack" your question . . . but FWIW, I've been totally fluorescent for ~ 15 years now. Prices were FAR higher back then . . . but even then the CFL's literally pay for themselves several times over. Especially now, with energy prices going up, and the cost of CFL's so far down ( used to be $15 for a SINGLE bulb ) they are far more cost effective than they used to be. If you snoop around a bit, you can find them in different spectrums . . including some nice daylight spectrums which are great for reading and other close-up activities. I think I've seen two die out of ever so many over 15 years. I've also found them to be VERY tolerant of MANY on / off cycles with no effect on the bulbs . . . I'm now solar powered, so conserving is a bigger thing to me now than it ever was . . without using CFL's, my energy consumption would be signifigantly higher . . requiring a signifigantly larger system . . .


    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 6:24PM
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Bob, when used indoors, as the sole evening light source, is there a 60-cycle/sec flicker with CFLs (as there used to be with old fluorescent tube lighting)?



    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 3:17PM
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Not at all . . I've never seen a CFL that wasn't fully electronic . . they switch at MUCH higher than normal line frequency; which is 60 Hz. This makes them function much better / longer; and also gets rid of the flicker that is associated with fluorescents that run from older style non-elecronic ballasts. They do FAR better starting ( they ARE instant start ) and do well in cold weather too. Some take a few seconds to get to full brightness; but they start out at a pretty good level instantly. The only thing in my house that ISN'T fluorescent ( or LED's ) is the light in the fridge . . . I can live with that . . . . .

A certain orange colored big home center chain which will remain unnamed; usually has a really good selection of CFL's at pretty good prices. I've had pretty good luck with them. You can even get floods, 3-ways, bug lights etc . . . grab a pack and try some . . . you will likely be pleasantly surprised . . .


    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 6:54PM
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No incandescent lights in my home.

We had a 100 yr old victorian in NE. It was dark there were lights on all day. I switched them to fluorescent and my electric bill dropped by 1/3!

Here in the Houston area the lights are rarely on but I was so impressed with the change in the old home it was one of the first things I did in this home. Here you have the benefit that you don't have the heating you did with the older bulbs.

Also this home has some very high ceilings the less we have to rent a ladder to get to the bulbs to change them the better.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 10:40AM
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Still having my coffee I missed the comment on cost first pass.

In the victorian the bulbs ran an avg of $5 each but I made the money back on the first two electric bills. Also in the victorian because the bulbs were on so much I was changing the old ones out every other month or so. I didn't change a single fluorescent in teh year and a half between putting them in and moving.

Here I did it so quick I don't know what the payback would be? I found the bulbs can now be bought for about $3 each. Someone always has a brand on sale. I do know my electric runs about a third less than other friends in the area. That could be the bulbs, since the ac should have to work less or it could be any of a bunch of other things I've done.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 10:46AM
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"The only thing in my house that ISN'T fluorescent (or LEDs) is the light in the fridge . . ."

"No incandescent lights in my home."

IÂll bet your oven light is still incandescent. I know, I know, hair splitting; IÂll shut up now  great thread!


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 10:24AM
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I don't know the chemistry or substrate or anything else for the 2 LED flashlights I own, but I use the heck out of them. First is a Black Diamond headlamp- it has 2 LEDs and an incandescent bulb. You can switch on either, LEDs have a much longer battery life, but the incandescent is brighter and has a longer range. I use the LED for most crawling around working in the crawlspace and attic, b/c once your eyes adjust, it's plenty.

The second is a pricey Surefire L2, basically a high-end police/military flashlight. It rocks, and I just replaced the first set of batteries after using for ~1 year. It has two levels, and the high one is probably brighter than a full-size Maglight that doubles as a club.

A less-expensive handheld LED choice might be an Inova X5.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 2:06PM
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fsw4cw you've got me there.

You are correct, fridge too!

I'm not sure the amount of electricity used by all the appliance lights put together is enough to buy a cup of coffee. So I guess I can slack on that some. Though I'm pretty fanatical about saving energy for political and environmental reasons as much as money.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 9:31PM
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As a repairman, I jumped on a mini mag light adapter I found at Fry's. The batteries last about 10 hours. This is much better than before, where I was always using a dim flashlight. When the battery gets low, the light won't lightup. I spent about $15 per mag light. HD had a special at Christmas for $6.95 per mag sized light.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 1:51AM
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>Does anyone know of any... info about
>efficiency, durability, advantages/disadvantages,
>and price? I'm interested in practicality

I don't have any special links, but can give you my opinion.

>Are space-lighting LED models of good, durable quality
>now available for standard screw-in 120v AC sockets (to
>replace incandescent bulbs)?

No. They are glorified nightlights. Check CFLs.

>Can you replace a 60 or 100w
>bulb with them to get more or
>less equivalent space lighting?

It's not practical at this time. LED flashlights are highly competitive with incandescent. LED around the house area lighting is not. I made an LED porch light. It would cost around $150 to buy the parts and it has the output of a 40 watt incandescent bulb. OK for a project, but not practical for a whole house.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 10:14PM
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LED flashlights run batteries a long time partly because they don't suck dying batteries dry, and partly because they are low current devices. And while they do have better efficiency than low-wattage incandescents often used for flashlights, one reason that they are low current devices is that they are just plain DIM! I have yet to see an LED flashlight that comes anywhere close to the real world illuminating ability of my little Maglite using 2 AA cells.

So far everyone who's shown me his LED flashlight has seen my Maglite swamp the little bit of light it shines on the path to my barn. But if you have one that can truly win this match, I'd love to hear about it. Especially if it costs $10 like my Maglite did! ;-)

LEDs are bright when you look at them, but the ones I've seen just don't light up the path in front of me worth a darn. The beams I've seen have been dim and narrow.

Color LEDs are outstanding and quite efficient when their color is exactly what you need. Their bare efficacy is lower than fluorescents', but they surely surpass them after you filter fluorescents to red, green, blue, etc. They are terrific for traffic signals (except that the lenses ice up in winter, which isn't a problem for incandescents with all that waste heat). Color LEDs are are excellent as indicators because they can have high brightness even if not many lumens.

While the best white LEDs are comparable in efficacy to compact fluorescents (though not yet to T8 linears), those currently available to normal mortals at normal mortal prices are less efficient than almost any fluorescent light except perhaps a low-wattage magnetic ballasted PL CF. Some of the cheap ones can't even match a halogen incandescent for efficacy (measured in lumens per watt).

Check the specs and run the numbers. You'll find that a lot of the expensive white LEDs are returning - at best - around 30 lumens/watt. Around 20-25 is more typical. A T8 fluorescent lamp produces 80-100 lumens per watt. A 100 watt incandescent is around 17 lumens/watt.

But LEDs do have a place in the home. They clean up in very low brightness appliations. Low wattage incandescents are grossly inefficient. Low wattage fluorescents are better, but still have high ballast losses relative to the lamp consumption. But dim little LEDs lose much less in efficacy. So LEDs make good night lights. And feeble flashlights. ;-)

There is at least one company making LED recessed lights for home and commercial use. This is like swimming against current. They have to tweak and tweak to make them compliant with California high efficacy requirements. Only a couple of their models meet those standards, which are easily met by fluorescents. And once again, my friends, they are DIM.

The problem has been that white LEDs use blue LEDs and a white phosphor. This hurts the efficiency. A couple of labs are working on "real" white LEDs. They are getting close to surpassing fluorescents for efficacy, but they are still experimental devices.

I'm convinced that LED lighting has a great future, but don't hold your breath for anything really useful and efficient to be affordable. It will be several years yet. In the meantime, fluorescent is the way to go for home lighting.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 2:02AM
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I have LED undercabinet lights and LOVE them.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2006 at 5:44PM
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Davidr: If you've never seen an LED flashlight outperform a 2AA maglite, you've never seen a good LED flashlight. Head over to Target and look at their flashlight collection. Just about every Inova flashlight on that shelf should outperform it. Not sure if the single AA Inova X1 will or not, been awhile since I've played with the 2AA maglites. Target's own brand (River Rock) has a couple of good ones in their collection as well.

As far as good LED flashlights go, these are about as low as you'd want to go. At the high end, you have Surefire, and by all means, the LED Surefires will outshine anything Mag makes, even the big D-cell club/flashlight. Most valuable: LED flashlights won't blow bulbs like the fragile Mags do. Try blowing a mag light bulb in a dark attic sometime...then you'll gladly ditch the mag.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 12:52PM
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I've just seen where Hewlett Packard ( or some division or such ) has made LED's that SURPASS Low pressure sodium in terms of light output per watt ! These have long been the most "bang for your buck" at ~ 100 lumens / watt. The HP part was slightly above that. Right now some of the really good LED's are on par with CFL's at ~ 70 lumens per watt; with a cost approx 10x with LED vs CFL for same lumen output. HP's new LED's aren't commercially available yet I don't believe; but what a big step in light output ! Believe it's referred to as "TIP" . triangle inverted pyramid or something . . the LED does not appear to be made in a "well" like traditional ones => more of a sandwich between two leads; the middle part being light conducting plastic. Gives almost 360 light emission . . .

We won't be seeing these at Radio Shack soon; but a big breakthrough has been made for sure . . .


    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 8:27PM
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Don Klipstein is a lighting junkie, and about as up to date as anybody on these developments. He reports that a few manufacturers are now offering white LEDs with efficacies in the 50-70 l/W range. This is getting into the CF range.

Lab samples are up in the 130-150 l/W range. That's almost as good as LPS, which tops out at 180 or so l/W, and I'll bet the light quality is far better than LPS's.

Eventually LEDs will become a mainstream home and business lighting choice. Right now they are for early adopters and gadgeteers. I am both ;-) but I use LEDs only in a (almost uselessly dim) shake-charge flashlight and in surprisingly useful keychain lights (Photon). Oops, now one more; this Christmas somebody gave me a no-name crank-charge lantern with 5 LEDs and the most ragged light distribution I've ever seen (you can't even think of reading by it).

By far the most successful of the bunch are my LED Christmas lights. I love those saturated colors, especially the blues. I just wish they'd quit trying to use LEDs with 20-25 degree beamspread in light strings.

When anybody can buy an LED retrofit that has an efficacy of 80-100 l/W, produces a useful, room-lighting 1000-1200 lumens, and costs $20 - which is what CFs cost 15 years ago - then LEDs will have arrived for real world home and business lighting uses. I'm betting that won't happen before 2015, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

Glad to hear the LED torches are improving. Can those Target specials beat my little Mag in lumens while producing the same beamspread? For the < $20 my US-made, nicely-machined, all-metal Mag cost? And with the same quality of construction as the Mag? (Most of them seem to be Chinese-made plastic gewgaws.) If so, my hat's off to them.

Thanks to all - this is a great thread!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 3:09AM
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In a post-apocalyptic world my hand-crank powered LED flashlight will be lighting my path long after all your AA batteries are only distant memories in the landfills of the past! :P

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 2:20AM
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davidr- you should check out the Inova flashlights. They're built very solid. I impulse-bought an X5 at Target for $35, since I'd only seen them before via some of the dealers that carry Surefire.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 2:13PM
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Southern California Edison is subsidizing the cost of 15 watt compact flourescent lamps (equivalent they say to a 75 watt incandescent but I think more like a 60 watt) so they retail for 22 cents each. I just bought a case full that should last me for the rest of my life. The only trouble is they are too dim for most of my uses. I usually used 100 watt incandescents, and these 75 watt equivalent CFLs just dont hack it. But I did install them in all my table lamps and outdoor light fixtures where I previously used 75 watt bulbs. I wish they would start subsidizing the cost of 23 to 26 watt CFLs which would be the eqivalent of a 100 watt incandescent. BTW, electronic starters are head and shoulders above old fashioned magnetic ballast starters. They light instantly even when cold, although they may be dim at first until they warm up. There is also no noticible flicker since the electronic ballasts convert the 60 hertz powerline frequency to around 20,000 hertz which is too fast for the eye to detect flicker.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2007 at 12:42PM
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Update of Southern California Edison subsidizing CFLs. I went into Contractors Warehouse yesterday and they now have two brands of 23 watt (75 watt incandescent equivalent they say, but not really as one brand puts out 1600 lumens and the other 1650 lumens, and an incandescent puts out 1700 lumens), one for 92 cents each and one for 99 cents each. I bought four of them to replace four the 15 watters I had previously bought that were to dim for a ceiling fixture. Now if they would only come out with a 150 watt equivalent at a subsidized price I would be set and be 100% flourescent except for my appliance lights.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 12:30PM
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Now if they would only come out with a 150 watt equivalent at a subsidized price ...

Ninety-nine cents? Twenty-two cents!?!? Sheesh, you guys are spoiled! When I started using CFs over 15 years ago, they cost $25 a pop. ;-)

The really good ones still cost about half that. 'Course, that's without a subsidy.

If your utility subsidizes CFs, it makes sense to buy as many as you can possibly use - you're (partly) paying for them through your electric bill anyway. Though if there were a limit on total units available at subsidy, I'd be inclined to leave some for the folks who honestly can't afford them otherwise. (Ouch, I just whacked my halo on the chandelier. 0:-)

    Bookmark   January 12, 2007 at 11:05PM
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My outside bulbs are all LED's. They run on a photocell so they are on all night long...

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 11:55AM
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According to the ebay listing, these units are rated to produce 40 lumens. However, the seller claims "Light output is similar to a 40 watt bulb." Eh? A 40 watt incandescent bulb emits 500 lumens, over 10 times what these LED lights emit.

So they produce less than 1/10 the luminous output of a 40 watt incandescent lamp. Not so coincidentally, they consume 4.2 watts of energy - more than 1/10 the power of a 40 watt lamp.

In other words, these LEDs are less efficient than a 40 watt incandescent bulb.

You, sir or madam, have been had.

I'll take my compact fluorescents, thanks.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 12:26AM
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Are there fluorescent or LED bulbs available yet that work with dimmers, a la the halogen bulbs? Most of the lights in our living, dining, and kitchen are on dimmers and I haven't seen anything other than halogens or incandescents that work with those.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:27AM
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I've used dimmable screw-in (retrofit) compact fluorescents (CFs) by Osram-Sylvania. They work well and dim to perhaps 25%. Others here have had good results with Greenlite dimmable CFs.

Try for dimmable CFs.

I don't recommend LEDs for area lighting. The affordable ones aren't efficient, and the efficient ones aren't affordable.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 8:50PM
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davidr- you should check out the Inova flashlights.

Well, I finally did. I was at a Target store the other day and saw an Inova Radiant on closeout at a very attractive price (not much more than the Chinese knockoffs) so I gave it a try.

I have to admit that I'm impressed. I tried it with the somewhat used AA alkaline cells from one of my Maglites (I use mostly NiMH rechargeables, but keep alkalines in the ones that don't get used very often). Open circuit voltage of the AAs totaled 2.98 volts.

The Inova certainly seemed significantly brighter. But how much? The bluish light that "white" LEDs emit can be a fooler. I wanted some numbers.

I used my old photographic light meter to measure the relative output of the two lights. It's calibrated in unidentified units (lumens? footcandles? Lux? Ivory? ;-), from 0.2 to 1600 in two sensitivities. I measured both lights on the high scale (50-1600 whatevers).

I chucked the Inova in the vise and aimed it at the meter's PV element, so that the "hot spot" covered the PV (its edges aren't very sharp, so this was approximate). It turned out that this was exactly 6" from the meter. I then chucked the Mag into the vise 6" from the meter and adjusted its beamspread to cover the PV, getting the coverage as close to the Inova's as possible.

The Mag measured 300 <mumbles>, and the Inova 1600 <mumbles>. I don't know whether the light meter's scale is linear (suggesting 4x the output for the Inova), but I'm going to assume that it's pretty much colorblind. It certainly seemed to confirm what my eyes told me.

I then measured the current consumed by the lights. It was almost identical - the Mag used 305ma, the Inova 308ma. Remember, this is with a somewhat used battery, just slightly below nominal voltage. Results would no doubt be different with brand new or very nearly flat cells.

Thus we can safely say that the Inova's efficacy is significantly higher than the Mag's.

Now, some user-level notes on the lights.

The Mag is considered a top-shelf item. It's constructed of machined aluminum and is made in USA. The beamspread is adjustable. It costs about $10 (less on sale).

The Inova Radiant is part of the company's budget line. It's made of polycarbonate, and is made in USA "with US and imported components" (my guess is that the LED itself is Chinese, but I don't know for sure). It costs about $20 (I paid less on closeout).

I'd say the Inova is pretty solidly built for the low end of the high end. ;-) I find the bluish light color unattractive but that doesn't really hurt its utility. I miss the Mag's beamspread adjustment a bit, but it's not that big a deal.

My real concern with the Inova is the switch. It has a push-on / push-off switch on the end. On other gear, I've found these switches aren't especially long-lived. Time will tell.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 6:09PM
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Minor correction to the above. The Mag produced 300 whatever-units, and the Inova 1200 (not 1600). The statement "suggesting 4x the output for the Inova" was correct.

Sorry about the error.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 3:48AM
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Update: the Inova Radiant has failed. I can get it to operate for a short time by twisting or bending the plastic barrel, but it won't continue to operate.

I emailed Inova and they say they'll replace it with a different but supposedly equivalent current model - if I pay the postage and packing to ship it to them. Stay tuned.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 7:35PM
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