Healthiest light technology to replace our fluorescent tubes?

GrowforHealthJune 17, 2014

Hi all.

We're health enthusiasts and I've been reading about 'full spectrum' lights or 'uv' lights and about how traditional fluorescent bulbs, raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to 'full spectrum' lights etc.

We're going to get rid of the fluorescent tubes in our kitchen and get the electrician to come in and put new sockets in, (whether bayonet or screw-type I'm not sure), and I'm looking for the best type of BRIGHT, (to light up the whole kitchen, in replacing our current big bright ones), and MOST HEALTHY light technology out there.

Mercury and CFLs I'm not a fan of. I've also read that incandescent is just generally out of the question and doesn't offer what I'm looking for.

I'm nowhere near an expert on all this yet, but I know enough to say that when I'm looking for 'full spectrum', I don't mean so much as the colour reproduction as the more literal sense of the phrase - giving out more types of light (like UVB, even UVA, and others) - literally giving more healthful parts of the light spectrum that the sun itself does, or at the very least, whatever's the 'most opposite' of that cortisol-raising harsh fluorescence that we have currently.

We're big fans of vitamin D, and while nothing (anywhere near) approaches the sun in terms of healthfulness, you may as well go for the best that our human technology offers!

So any information, guidance, or recommendations, would be a huge help, thanks!

My main concern is whether what I'm wanting won't give a bright enough light compared to our current big, long fluorescent tube pairs.

I just have no idea. There's so many types of lighting technology and quite a lot of marketing hogwash out there that it's quite difficult to work out what's what.


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There is no commonly-accepted definition of "full spectrum" lights. There a lot of very expensive hype out there generated by people that are primarily interested in your money. I think that you are best pointed to the chronobiology literature in refereed journals. If you are lucky, you might find a review in an established, non-specialist journal. It will provide for easier reading. My superficial understanding of the field is that light intensity is just as, or more important, than color for productive waking. If you can do it, the best thing is to wake up with the sun. Of course, some work schedules do not permit that. Keep in mind that the color of natural daylight is variable.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Thanks for your input. After a night of research I am now way more versed on this subject than a mere 24 hours ago.

(I just posted here initially, because I was sort of getting nowhere for a while and got pretty frustrated. But after finding a couple key resources answering all my questions so that I could continue researching on from there, I now know what the picture is).

Here is an EXCELLENT page to generally address the topic, give examples of one product that does the job and to explain what sort of specifications you need to look out for (and whattayaknow, it's at no less than our venerable, obvious merchandise gripes aside):

Mind you we are not in America so can't even try Mercola's impressive-looking (but) 120V bulbs, but I've found some possible candidate products here in Australia. (Even some 60cm full spectrum tubes to maybe fit our existing tube sockets in the kitchen already!)

If anyone wants to know down the track, simply ask on this thread and I will share my results, impressions, and findings once I have them!

But if it helps: turns out, LED is still a little too new to be as cost-effective/spec-superior to CFLs and tube fluorescent full spectrum lights, for the time being. They do exist, but so far I think I'm only seeing ones that don't *quite* tick as many boxes as the (now) mature full spectrum CFLs do.

So something to look forward to, certainly.

I hate lights in general anyway (they're so unnatural), but when ya gotta use em...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:34AM
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Unfortunately I don't share your enthusiasm for the web site that you posted. The graphs that they'd like to use the demonstrate the similarity of their lamp output to daylight are a clever way to bend the data. Output from any fluorescent lamp like this is is essentially a line spectrum. It has to be due to the nature of the lamp.

The bar graph that they use fills in spaces in what I'd call an inappropriate presentation. Check out the specifications of the major manufacturers and look at their data. The lamps at Mercola are not going to be significantly different for a 5000 K, high CRI lamp.

There is no data cited on the web site that indicates that there are any effects on anyone's health. The whole thing looks like snake oil to me.

The most choice for color characteristics are still available at the best price in linear fluorescents, especially if you can be in the range of what we Yanks call "4 foot tubes". The shorter ones tend to cost more. CFL don't have the economies of scale that long tubes do. Efficiency is much lower as well. Long-tube fluorescents are nearly as power efficient as LEDs and the lifetime costs are lower due to the expense of LEDs.

If you want some good lighting information, do some reading here. For starters, search, "full spectrum" on this site.

Here is a link that might be useful: RPI lighting resource center.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Oh, I agree with you there (e.g. about graph data presentation, a tool that can stretch truths and deceive the uninitiated through visual and communicative distortion) - I'm ignoring those (I immediately did with that graph lol) and haven't even fully read the info on that page - trust me, I hold healthy skepticism (yet, crucial openness), to all matters when it comes to health, healing, and science - but the fact is I know the benefits of the various rays of light that the sun provides and its beneficial health effects, (or if you will, detrimental effects of not receiving it or receiving it in less natural ways), already, and that's (all) the common ground I need to share with mercola to appreciate the information they state on that page - obvious product promotion undertone notwithstanding.

I appreciate your information and thoughts - nothing I don't appreciate or ignore, certainly when it is friendly and respectful.

The simple matter is, I want lights that offer (appropriate levels of) UVA, UVB, UVC, and infrared light, in addition to highly accurate colour rendering, and midday-like colour temperature.

I want whatever those 80's studies in Germany (that their government concluded to ban traditional LFLs from), quoted as being far better for you than normal LFLs.

I know that for MONTHS (both in summer and winter), after living such a natural outdoor lifestyle out in full sun, I have been severely irritated (physiologically, in the eyes), by what I can only describe as a highly uncomfortable experience, that is the fluorescent lighting in our kitchen.

So that is the data and experience I base my views on, rather than any silly 'cancelling out' conjecture like this.

(I'm aware of my opposite.)

Maybe our kitchen lights are just OLD LFLs that are really bad. (But they're modern current market bulbs, so how could they be? Additionally, our electrician apparently told us years ago those fluorescents we have in the kitchen are terribly inefficient, (in fact the worst watt-suckers in the house, I've been told), so I don't know what that means.)

Again - more important than all of this, I want to avoid artificial lighting where I can anyway. But an interest in the healthiest form of artificial lighting, is really worthwhile.

So where others think 'UV radiation' in lighting should be avoided at all costs due to 'skin cancer', I beg to differ... (Because I know that what causes skin cancer isn't just UV radiation, but other lifestyle choices in combination with it that were never meant for the human body to sustainably endure.) (And where they don't give second thought to OTHER forms of (unnatural) radiation like mobile phone or Wi-Fi or general electronic EMR - I beg to differ...)

If that's the difference between them and me in one's opinion of lighting choice when it comes to health, than so be it.

My goal is to try and emulate natural conditions as much as possible, as the simple yet powerful philosophy behind one's choices!


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:32AM
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The simple matter is, I want lights that offer .... midday-like colour temperature.

In my experience, the problem with this is that you will be using the lights at times other than mid-day. While the lights were wonderful when they were on mid-day (I could easily forget to turn them off when leaving the room), they were not the right temperature for using in the evening. They were too harsh on the eyes.

The temperature of light changes during the day and your body reacts to that temperature change - time to wake up, time to sleep. Being in bright, mid-day lighting right before going to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:10PM
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While the lights were wonderful when they were on mid-day (I could easily forget to turn them off when leaving the room), they were not the right temperature for using in the evening.

Yeah I know, I was aware of that (though anything can only be an improvement upon our already blinding harsh LFLs at the moment I'm sure), and I do now prefer to use a torch (electronic or flame) at night for much gentler light on the eyes instead of 'turning day on' in entire rooms where possible, but you bringing it up reminds me, that maybe introducing a dimmer could be part of our 'upgrade' also. (If they are compatible with dimming, the ones that we get.)

And, of course, I'm still only at the beginning of experimenting with all this lighting - you reminded me also of how yes, the high Kelvin temperature is only what the bright midday sun gives.....I'll have to read to confirm again, but I'm guessing that it goes lower and way more like the red/orange hue-friendly end at either ends of the day then? So maybe that's why old incandescents are nicer on the eyes, (certainly at night, yes), than 'harsh LFLs'?

And why what people USED to do (natural fire light, candle light, torch light), worked so well???

So yeah, I guess if we introduce high quality 'midday lighting' to the kitchen, for meals at night we should just continue using candles like we've been having fun with lately all the same :).

But some system of dual lighting (day lighting and night lighting) would be cool. You know the funny thing is: it now makes sense to me for night lighting to NOT have UV coming out of it. Night lighting may as well just be traditional incandescent (or low kelvin LED? halogen might be a bit too hot?), which is dimmable.

I don't suppose anyone's tried to invent a light that has a CHANGEABLE range in kelvin temperature? Now that would be something for mercola to sell.

And in the future - not that I'm a fan of hi-tech, but: I can see systems plugged into devices like Google's Nest home automation device, automatically changing colour/dimming/brightening the lights over the course of each day as configured by the user. Even FURTHER in the future, lights that have (user and schedule-configurable) ranges of UV/infrared light emitted from the lights, with some sort of electro-activated/mechanical filters on/in the bulbs to filter out however much (at what time of the day and in increasing and decreasing stages) the user wants, to mirror the cycle of outdoor light fully automatedly.

Personally, I'm happy to do things more manually and with less reason for EMR to be in the picture though - for like, the rest of my life...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:12PM
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There is no way you are going to have enough lumens of true full spectrum light to produce any significant vitamin D or any other natural benefit except possibly mood issues related to lack of sunlight if you live in northern areas. It's not technically possible - just research sunshine lux vs. lighting outputs and skin production of vitaminD or take my word for it as a physician.

Having said that, pick a light that looks good to your eye and move on with life. Much more important choices to make and lighting technology is getting so much better than in 5-10 years we'll be replacing it all again anyway.....

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:20PM
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There is no way you are going to have enough lumens of true full spectrum light to produce any significant vitamin D ...

Oh I would never use it TO get vitamin D, just that if anything, I think the philosophy that a 'daylight' light should at least try to emulate as much of the original spectrum of real sun light as possible, is a good one - as a general rule...(details of the balance and intensity of the different spectrum ranges, aside...I can see that if not done well it can give MORE than what the sun gives in various ranges, like probably easily unnaturally high levels of UVC if you're not careful - and when I say unnaturally I mean more 'the balance of' in relation to the other ranges, not intensity, but of course when still not the real deal there's still other things a light bulb could never emulate anyway, so...)

And by the same token it occurred to me that it's also important to NOT actually use uv-emitting lights at night, (ever), as I'm sure that wouldn't do good things to your circadian clock.

Indeed, after seeing this telling chart of colour temperature examples, I can only unequivocally conclude (as a Christian) that God clearly made fire for us to use at night, as the perfect *light* (not just heat), to use, without upsetting our circadian rhythms at the same time.

(But let's not digress about God, or purpose.)

Point is, the profound realisation to arise from this research is that fire is for the night. It is our night light. Our natural night light, and to want more, is to want something unnatural. (But of course, that is what 'everyone' these days, does.)

Anyway, my latest thinking (and I'm still continuing with it all, bit busy with things but every second day I'm researching some more), is that CFLs and LFLs (just any 'L') are in fact more risky than I thought (if you care about toxicity), as I'm reading that the dangers of their mercury exposure are much more than just 'if it smashes, or if it is faulty' - and that they actually can/do/(even always do, by its nature?), leak mercury, slowly over the course of their lifetime, and that once it's reached a super old 'pink' stage that's when the mercury has run out. (hmm...)

So whatever the solution, I think I need to try and go 'all-LED' and just bite the bullet and suck up the (current) LED sacrifices. My findings so far is that LED is still very new and I think I may have to wait it out some years before finding affordable/market-available bulbs that DON'T have UV and infrared filtered out. For now, I think we'll just find suitable low kelvin (or dimmable high kelvin, or both) LED bulbs, to at least make the upgrade from mercury-filled, flickering, old-tech fluorescent tube lights.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:58PM
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"The temperature of light changes during the day and your body reacts to that temperature fall asleep."

Where have you seen data to support this?

"So yeah, ... should just continue using candles like we've been having fun with lately all the same :)."

Be careful. Many more house fires occurred when candles and oil lamps were used for lighting compared to modern electrical devices. Candle lanterns would be a much better idea than open candle sticks.

"...take my word for it as a physician."

How much time did you get in your med school lectures on environmental light effects on health, maybe 5 minutes?

"...a 'daylight' light should at least try to emulate as much of the original spectrum of real sun light as possible,..."

Probably better to think "as practical" Anything is possible if you want to spend that much money.

" I'm sure that wouldn't do good things to your circadian clock."

What makes you so sure?

"... fire for us to use at night, as the perfect *light*"

Most of the evolution of animals occurred in the absence of any reliable fire light. The only night time light was from the stars and moon. Fire light was available only recently.

"profound realisation to arise from this research is that...."

What research? All I've seen is vague hand-waving.

" least make the upgrade from mercury-filled, flickering, old-tech fluorescent tube lights."

Take a look around and look at the available light quality from modern, high quality long-tube fluorescents lamps. It is a match for anything out there unless you feel the need for the continuous spectrum of (low color temp) incandescents.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 4:49PM
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I have no idea what your point was as you completely mixed up multiple posters and quotes and generally just added nothing.

I have actually quite a bit of research and experience as to the effects of lighting and skin as I deal with phototherapy and also have a spouse that has issues with seasonal affective disorder and have done additional research for said personal family reasons. I don't suppose you might wish to share with us your extensive credentials in the field?

There are very few modern fluorescents that give high CRI full spectrum light. I can guarantee 99% of lighting sold and in homes today does not. Whether or not it's even desired I'll leave to the philosophical questions posed as I've never seen any research on the effect of color spectrum on post sunset lighting and it's relation to mood or sleep patterns, though i find it interesting. There is certainly lots of data about light "leak" effects on sleep and lighting duration.

Ionized if you look at actual spectrum output of fluorescent bulbs, it is very band intensive and the CRI is poor. The human eye is very good at adapting and hiding these flaws, but the light is actually quite crap - just try and do high quality photography with it for example, even if you color balance for the Kelvin temp it's still poor.

I am not advocating the original product posted and have nothing to offer anyone other than the noted comment that I think many lighting claims are bogus and in the end you pick one that pleases your eye and go with it.

I'll be happy to be educated by you or anyone else with data to the contrary, but would suggest a bit more helpful posting than the last.....

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 7:59PM
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pprioroh, I did not "mix up multiple posters". I responded to more than one post. I am sorry that you could not follow that.

One proposed a relatively dangerous solution lighting a modern home. I hope that they have a residential sprinkler system.

Others had hand-waving arguments and obvious logical flaws. I get really tired of new age bologna -- if it sounds good, it must be true. On the other hand, no one should be expected to believe the argument that because someone is a physician, they're to be believed authorities about anything they care to present. It is a very off-putting, arrogant attitude. It is off-putting on TV commercials and here.

If you've done research in the field, would you care to share some citations to your writing in refereed journals? Maybe you mean, on the other hand, "library research". You might share that too. Have any good reviews that you can recommend?

I am very aware of the discontinuous nature of the fluorescent lamp spectra. It is inherent to their design. I take issue with your low CRI comment. Long-tube fluorescents have among the highest CRI available compared to the commonly-available non-incandescent alternatives (CFL and LED). They also offer lower lifetime costs than both at this juncture. I just replaced some slimline (8") T12s in my garage with CRI 90, 5000K lamps because I picked them up for a song. Please note that they are old-school, dead technology T12s. I have not taken any pictures with them yet, but my oil spots look great. Not that my human eye itself is anything to really brag about. The downstream processing is what takes care of poor light quality. If you want to see some impressive photoreceptors with little to no downstream processing available, look at some shrimp.

No one can say of the lighting in most homes is or is not "full spectrum" because the term has no meaning. I automatically go into snake oil avoidance mode when see that term.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 11:16PM
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