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August 19th, 2009

Thoughts on lighting with LEDs

It's been a couple weeks of life with a mix of CFL and LED in the office, and battery-powered motion-sensing LED in a stairway. I no longer foresee replacing the remaining CFLs in the office with LED. The LEDs are okkay for filling in the gaps, but they just aren't that that bright, even allowing for the lower equivalent wattage. And they are bit color-skewed.

In the office I was for a time considering going back to a "soft white" for at least one of the CFLs. The somewhat bluish LEDs and the white CFLs result in a cold feeling light. I'd say clinical, but every clinic I've been in was careful not to give this impression. It's sort of like the descriptions in some UFO stories: cold, slightly bluish, almost eerie light. If it was the same white or blue-white throughout the house I probably wouldn't notice so much. But every other room has CFL (or halogen for the living room[1]) that is more of a so-called soft white. The difference can be stark. I am curious enough that I might try switching to all LED in the office, but only as a very short test. I expect the office to remain a mix of CFL and LED unless or until LED gets significantly better: brighter and more of natural white. A more diffuse light would also be a Good Thing. Right now, for general use, CFL wins over LED everywhere except apparent power consumption. I say apparent as I suspect that with current LED technology to get full illumination would require so many more LED lamps that they would use as much power as the few CFLs they would replace.

I can see using LED in places where color and great brightness aren't that critical. A porch light that is only needed to reveal a step and the keyhole seems about an ideal application. Maybe LED lighting in a storage, but not clothing, closet would make some sense as well. If there was a light over a stairway, that's another place that only needs enough light to let you see where the top and bottom steps are.

I bought a couple "locker lights" which are a combination motion sensor and LED lamp. I put one in the main stairwell near the bottom so that it trips before I get there when descending. That lets me see the bottom step without my needing to switch on an upstairs light or carry a flashlight around. Another will go on the porch so that I can easily find the keyhole at night.

The LED lamp still isn't ready for general purpose lighting. It's fine for specialized applications and can fill in some gaps, but CFL wins big on brightness and color.

As I see it:

LED - For applications where efficiency matters more than color or brightness.

Fluorescent - General purpose lighting. (Some can be dimmed and some are outdoor rated, but you have to look for these.)

Incandescent - Specialty applications (appliance lighting, e.g. oven and refrigerator lights). Easily dimmable. Runs cooler than halogen.

Halogen - Slightly more efficient than incandescent and can easily be dimmed.

[1] Which is a dimmable torcherie that would not be a trivial swap conversion to CFL. If/when the halogen fails, I would certainly consider swapping out the socket arrangement to go to a dimmable CFL.

"Thermal coffeemakers"

Headline in the Star Tribune: Black & Decker recalls 9,000 thermal coffeemakers for potential burn risk.

Anyone have a non-thermal coffeemaker?


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