New Energy Standards Changing How We Look at Lighting|
Article- October 2011 By Larson Electronics.com
Larson Electronics Explosion Proof Paint Spray Booth Light
With the new energy regulations contained within the federal governments' 2005 Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence Act of 2007 really beginning to take effect, consumers are finding themselves facing an unusual conundrum. It used to be that choosing a light bulb was as simple as picking the wattage of your choice and finding the best price. With the changes mandated by new regulations, however, the old ways of determining bulb brightness are quickly becoming obsolete.
Although the incandescent light bulb is not being outright banned, the new energy standards are making it impossible for the old technology that the trustworthy incandescent represents to keep up. In the 180 years since its first appearance, the incandescent bulb has been developed about as far as it possibly can, limited in its potential by its inherent design and material properties. The incandescent bulb has not been banned, but the bar has been raised high enough to make it unable to meet compliance. Filling the growing void left by the incandescent light bulb are new lighting technologies that promise to usher in a new era of high efficiency and extreme lamp life. While buying less bulbs and spending less money on electricity are certainly welcome changes, the problem arises when consumers find themselves trying to choose among the new offerings that have come onto the market. LEDs are taking a growing share of the lighting market, but the awareness and understanding of their properties has been slower to grow.
The problem is that these new lighting technologies are in fact a radical departure from how we have traditionally understood light bulbs to work. Just about anyone can understand that heating a piece of wire will produce a glow, which is precisely how a light bulb produces light. Try explaining the process of electroluminescence behind the operation of the LED however, and it quickly becomes apparent that there is quite a bit of ground to cover before a simple understanding can be established. While it may not be necessary to understand exactly how any of these lamps produce light, the fact that they produce light in wholly different ways means that the traditional ways of determining which light bulb to purchase will no longer be effective.
Most manufacturers have traditionally labeled their lighting products according to wattage and lumen output. It’s always been understood that higher wattage means a brighter bulb, and that higher lumen output means a brighter bulb as well. With incandescent bulbs this has been essentially true. Unfortunately, due to the unique properties of LEDs, wattage and lumens are no longer a simple baseline that can be relied on to deliver an accurate perception of a lamps performance. An LED lamp may produce the same amount of light as its incandescent counterpart, yet it does so while using only a quarter as many watts of electricity. Adding more to the confusion, LEDs do not emit light in the same way an incandescent bulb does.
With a typical incandescent bulb, light is radiated in all directions from the actual glass surface of the bulb. With LEDs, however, the light emitted is highly directional in nature, which is one the biggest problems that manufacturers of LED lamps have had to overcome. Rather than a simple filament suspended between two contacts, which in turn emits light radiation in all directions when heated, an LED is a flat piece of semi-conductor which emits light from only one part of its surface when electrical current is passed through it. The result is that while an LED may produce 5 times as many lumens as an incandescent bulb, the light is more highly concentrated over a particular range of area. This has led manufacturers to begin adding terminology like luminous flux to their packaging descriptions in order to better describe a lamps output, which in reality has done little more than add to the confusion.
What consumers will need to understand, is that new technologies like LEDs not only convert energy into light more efficiently, but are more efficient in how they illuminate a specific area. For instance, since an incandescent bulb radiates light in all directions, much of the light is not directed towards where it is needed. This is why we have lampshades, reflectors, and specially designed fixtures that attempt to focus and condense the output of the incandescent bulb and direct more of its light to a specific area. Thus, an incandescent lamp may put out 800 lumens, but only a third of those lumens are actually directed towards your work bench or the book you are reading. With the LED, all of its light is emitted over a certain range represented by degrees of spread. Outside of this range, light intensity drops markedly. The LED produces the same amount of light, only it emits this light over a much narrower range of degrees. The result is that an LED can put the same amount of lumens onto a target area using only a fraction as much energy.
What consumers will find themselves doing, eventually, is noting both lumen output and the directional properties of the lamps they are purchasing. This is not as much of a problem as it may at first seem, since manufacturers now have to label lumen output on new packaging, but for some types of fixtures it will be important to note how the new lamp distributes light in order to have a realistic idea of how well it compares to the older forms of lighting.
Fluorescent fixtures for example use long tubes which like the incandescent bulb, radiate light in all directions from their surface. Without some means of redirecting the light output to where it is needed, much of the light will be wasted. Manufacturers thus use reflectors built into their fixtures to direct as much of this light as possible over a practical area. Regardless of how it is done though, some light output is lost to diffusion and the inefficiency of the reflector, and thus less light reaches the desired area. LED fixtures that are intended to replace these fluorescent designs, however, emit light over a much narrower degree of spread. Instead of the fluorescent's 360 degree pattern of light radiation, an LED tube light may have a 150 degree pattern. This means that no reflector is needed, and all of the light is directed towards the targeted area. So, although an LED fixture like Magnlight’s EPL-48-2L-LED Explosion Proof Paint Booth Light may produce less total lumens than the comparable fluorescent fixture it is meant to replace, it will put more lumens on the targeted area.
As you can see, although it may be somewhat confusing at first, just by understanding the basic subtle differences in how these different lighting technologies achieve the same goal can make a great deal of difference in how difficult choosing among them is. Although it may seem at first somewhat inconvenient to retrain ourselves in how we think about lighting, it really isn’t that difficult. Besides, the benefits for our finances, environment, and the overall quality of our lives, are in the end worth the small bit of effort this understanding requires.