Monday, August 31, 2009

WSJ - Compact fluorescents don't produce good quality light

And from the Wall Street Journal -

"How environmental will it be for frustrated homeowners to remove and dispose of thousands of dimmers? What's more, CFLs work best in light fixtures designed for CFLs, and may not fit, provide desired service life, or distribute light in the same pleasing pattern as incandescents. How environmental will it be for homeowners to tear out and install new light fixtures?

Will some energy be saved? Probably. The problem is this benefit will be more than offset by rampant dissatisfaction with lighting. We are not talking about giving up a small luxury for the greater good. We are talking about compromising light."

It appears that there would be interest in a "Light without compromise"TM.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NEC Lighting to Release 60W-equivalent LED Light Bulbs

We have been purchasing and evaluating LED A-type (meaning "table lamp") bulbs as they become available.

Late last year, we acquired for our marketing collection a GeoBulb - the first true A-type to come to market. It has a poor light quality, the leds in the array are very visible and hurt your eyes if you look directly at them. The price was $119.95 plus $10.99 in s/h. It was touted, and still is, as a "60 Watt equivalent". In the "warm white" color temperature (the closest to an incandescent bulb) the GeoBulb puts out 260 lumens of light. Try to find a 60W incandescent bulb that produces less than 500 lumens. Most 60W incandescant A-bulbs are producing almost 700 lumens. So, the "60 Watt GeoBulb equivalent" produces approximately 1/3 the illumination.

Last week we added the new Philips AmbientLED A19 to our collection. Personally, I think it looks pretty good. Some of my colleagues disagree. The best color temperature available is 3100K. CRI of 85. The LEDs are not visible through the diffuser. Lots of aluminum heat sinking (looks almost identical to the NEC bulb in the attached article). We paid $50 + $8.70 s/h. Lumen output? 155 lumens or approximately the light output of a 15W refrigerator bulb.

Now NEC is entering the race. Once again, coming to market as a "60 Watt equivalent" with a bulb that generates 270 lumens (or 1/3 the illumination). Estimated price - $42.

By the way - none of the LED A-Type bulbs we have purchased can be dimmed.

Vu1 is working to produce a true "equivalent" for existing 65W incandescent reflector bulbs that generate 600-650 lumens. Our target "illumination" is 600-650 lumens - delivered to the floor, the wall, the counter-top with a visually equivalent illumination to the bulbs we hope to replace. We plan to initially price the Vu1 ESL R-30 bulb similar to the current price of dimmable reflector CFL bulbs.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

LEDs - square pegs in round holes?

From the New York Times - Green Inc.

"The chief technology officer for Lunera Lighting, an LED start-up company, warns that trying to put new, energy-efficient lighting technologies into sockets intended for incandescents is akin to putting a square peg into a round hole. When LEDs are exposed to high heat, they’re going to experience color shifts, you’re going to get reduced output from these fixtures and you’re going to get disappointingly short lifetimes."

In its first implementation (R-30 reflector bulbs), Vu1's ESL technology is being designed specifically for existing recessed can fixtures. We don't expect that 800 million recessed can fixtures will be replaced anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life-cycle study examines total energy used in LEDs, CFLs, and incandescents

From EDN magazine - an article that starts to look at the full environmental impact of conventional and energy efficient lighting technologies.

We have some early estimates on the cradle-to-grave environmental footprint that can be anticipated for Vu1's ESL technology. We believe that this is one more critical attribute that should not be compromised while providing energy efficient lighting. Stay tuned to see how ESL will compare to CFL and LED.

ESL Starts Fires????

One of the silliest things I've seen recently are some emails being sent to me that originated from message boards that claim "ESL technology starts fires after 4+ hours of continuous use".

I will make sure and advise our manufacturing plant of this phenomenon since the plant has been burning hundreds of prototypes of our ESL technology for months. I can also advise that in the Marketing Department (where we have had prototype ESL units burning on and off for over 12 months now) the only time we have almost had a fire was when an arc burnt through the ballast of a CFL bulb in our inventory and actually burned ME before I could get it unscrewed from the socket.

For the record - there have been no instances of ESL starting a fire. Also, no ESL prototypes exist outside of Vu1 facilities. If you hear anything different - consider it fiction.

The ESL Video Documentary

A number of people have inquired as to how the production of Vu1's ESL documentary is coming along.

We have had an amazingly productive and enjoyable experience working with Opticus Films. We feel very fortunate that they signed on to do this project with us. We are on schedule to have the production complete by the end of the month. Filming has been completed at our manufacturing and development facility in the Czech Republic, our engineering facility in Colorado and our executive offices in Seattle. Interviews have been completed with Vu1's CEO, CTO, CMO, VP of Manufacturing and VP of Engineering. Interviews have been filmed with industry subject matter experts from the Electric Utility, Electrical Distribution, architectural industries and academia. The final interview is being filmed on Thursday with a senior member of the California Lighting Technology Center.

The video will be delivered to Vu1 on Monday. Next will be a review by our Board of Directors and Legal team. A "sneak preview" will be screened with a group of Vu1 insiders and industry advisors a few days later. We plan to release it publically during the week of September 7th. Stay tuned to meet the Vu1 team, hear comments from a variety of industry experts and actually see a demonstration of ESL technology at work and in comparison to other energy efficient technologies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

CFL's Only Contain a Small Amount of Mercury

This comes from our friends at

"The Coalition for SafeMinds is a non-profit organization founded to scientifically investigate, support research, raise awareness, change policy and focus national attention on the growing evidence of a link between mercury and neurological disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, language delay and learning difficulties."

SafeMinds frequently provides us with updated information on the issues regarding mercury in CFL products. Below is the best explanation we have seen regarding the claim that there is only a "small amount of mercury in a CFL bulb". Although the average amount of mercury in a CFL is 4mg - SafeMinds does the following analysis based on the impact of just 2.5mg.

"It's A Small Amount"
A Message from SafeMinds President, Theresa Wrangham

One argument that is often made about compact fluorescents is that they only contain a "small amount of mercury". Current CFLs typically contain less than 5mg (not mcg) of mercury. Some contain as "little" as half of that or 2.5 mg. Let's put that number in perspective:

There are 1000 mg in a gram so 400 CFLs contain a gram of mercury. A gram of mercury (about 1/70th of a teaspoon because mercury is very heavy) is enough, if vaporized, to contaminate a 20-acre lake for a year to the point where the fish are unsafe to eat. Now consider the fact that in 2007 the EPA estimates that 380 million CFLs were sold. Those bulbs contained enough mercury to make 950,000 lakes toxic! This is by no means a "small" amount of environmental mercury.

Now let's look at the "small" amount of mercury in a single compact fluorescent assuming that it just broke in your home. Again, we take a CFL containing 2.5mg of mercury but this time we convert it to nanograms, which are billionths of a gram. 2.5mg= 2,500,000 nanograms of mercury.

A typical 12'x14' room with an 8' ceiling contains 38 cubic meters of air. If you divide these numbers you get an air concentration of 65,789 nanograms of mercury per cubic meter of air. For argument's sake, let's assume that only a 10th of the mercury in that CFL actually vaporized (which is conservative based on the published data), so now you are down to 6,579 nanograms per cubic meter of air. Next, let's look at some of the safety reference ranges that the government has established:

300 nanograms per cubic meter of air - this is the Environmental Protection Agency's reference concentration for chronic occupational exposure to mercury vapor in adult males.

200 nanograms per cubic meter of air - this is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's Minimal Risk Level for chronic exposure in adult males. They have also established a re-occupancy level of 1000ng/cubic meter; this is the level at which it is safe for people to re-enter a building that has been contaminated with mercury.

Both of these reference ranges have safety factors of 30 built into them. One single CFL, when broken, produces an air concentration of mercury roughly equivalent to the level that is known to cause neurological effects in adults

90 nanograms per cubic meter of air - this is California's Reference Exposure Level to prevent mercury damage to the developing brain based on animal studies. In our conservative example a broken CFL exceeds this reference range by 73 times!

Obviously, the amount of mercury in the air will dissipate over time, but this assumes that the homeowner knows that there is mercury in the CFL and cleans up and ventilates appropriately. At SafeMinds, we would rather be cautious and consider the "what if" scenarios:

"What if the homeowner is a pregnant woman?"
"What if the bulb breaks in a toddler's bedroom - or a daycare?"
"What if someone drops a multi-pack of bulbs?"
"What if the room has no windows to ventilate through?
"What if the broken bulb gets left in the trash can for a week?
"What if the homeowner doesn't have a clue that they have a neurotoxin on the floor?"

Even a "small amount" of mercury should not be taken lightly.

10 Days Left to Buy Incandescent Bulbs in the EU

Some people have commented that the upcoming 2012 U.S. incandescent bulb ban might not happen on schedule. They contend that it will be pushed out into the next millennium since people don't want to give up their incandescent bulbs. If what is happening in the EU is any indication we should be ready for some aggressive enforcement.

From London's Daily Mail we read that the bans are starting right on time across the world. In the U.S. that means that the 800 million recessed can fixtures will need to have replacement bulbs available. Will consumers replace those 800M fixtures with CFL bulbs? Personally, we don't think so for a long list of reasons. How about the "promised" LEDs? We also don't think so since it is unlikely they will be a viable, affordable solution for the direct replacement of incandescent reflector bulbs. Time will tell.

"Traditional lightbulbs will disappear from our shops in just ten days.

The measure, introduced with little fanfare, aims to force consumers to fit energy-saving lights. Consumers claim that many of the low-energy alternatives are ugly, expensive and produce unpleasant light. Under the European Directive, manufacturers in Europe will not be able to sell the banned bulbs to retailers. It will also be illegal to import energy-guzzling bulbs from outside the EU."

Read more:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"The LED's Dark Secret"

From our VP of Engineering - Robert White

The IEEE magazine, Spectrum, in this month’s issue published an article titled “LED’s Dark Secret”. The article talks about the problem LEDs are having performing at high output levels. All of the high lumens/watt measurements are at very low output levels – too low to be useful for general purpose lighting. When the LEDs are pushed to useful output levels, the performance (lumens/watt) falls way off. This article delves into the physics of the LED and the various theories on why this happens.

"The blue light-emitting diode, arguably the greatest optoelectronic advance of the past 25 years, harbors a dark secret: Crank up the current and its efficiencies will plummet. The problem is known as droop, and it’s not only puzzling the brightest minds in the field, it’s also threatening the future of the electric lighting industry."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eco-friendly light bulbs flip switch on problems

From the Washington Post -

An energy-efficiency measure is turning into a ticking green time bomb. Mercury may end up in trash.

Detecting Mercury in Light Bulbs

I'm always somewhat annoyed when people and organizations say "CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 4 milligrams. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury." Or "The 4mg of mercury in CFL's is better for the environment than the 9 milligrams being created per incandescent lamp from coal fired plants."

My response is that the only acceptable amount of mercury (a persistent neuron toxin) for the environment is NO mercury. Because of the mercury hazard - mercury thermometers have been virtually phased out over the last decade. Even when they were being sold they weren't selling at a rate of 400 million per year (U.S. CFL sales 2008) and growing.

Also, only 50% of U.S. energy comes from coal fired plants. The list of counterpoints can go on and one. Bottomline, less mercury is no solution. No mercury should be the goal.

A friend's son sent me this video link. It's an interesting look at a chemical analysis process. Most importantly is the result "concentration of diluted sample was .1 mg/L, so in conclusion sample has a significant amount of mercury".