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It is 2017 and incandescent is still better than LED  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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In another thread, Devaka asked me for my current opinion on led light.

I have already written extensively about how awful CFLs are, and I think that I have proven that they are awful in a long list of ways, so we can skip past that disaster.

I thought I had already shared my thoughts on led lights several years ago, but I couldn't seem to find that.  

As part of my campaign against CFLs, I pointed out the massive subsidies.  I suspect that they were getting subsidies from dozens of different government offices that didn't know about the subsidies coming from all of the other offices.  So when we would spend $3 for a light bulb, I suspect that some company was clearing $20 profit per bulb for a bulb that was $12 to our shores.    I suspect that those same folks are optimizing those paths to get $50 profit per bulb for LED lights.  This would explain why light bulb companies have lobbied so hard to have the incandescent light banned. Yes, light bulb companies lobbied to have their own product banned.   I feel like this is a lot of wickedness and I don't want to support this wickedness, so I am already anti-LED. 

So, to express my position on LED lights, I need to share my two short videos on CFLs:







Next: 

if you are trying to save energy, and you are still using a clothes dryer, then you really should not be exploring "which light bulb saves the most energy"

Heating and cooling use more energy - so those should also be explored first.

Another angle:

if you really think picking out which light bulb to use will save you that much energy, there is a very good chance that exploring your lighting habits will save you far more energy (money) than trying LED.

Here is my thread on lighting tips.

When I made my CFL videos I was living by myself.   I calculated that I spent $8 per year on electricity for light.  Yes, that is "per year" and not "per month".  And all of my light was incandescent.   So if we are exploring saving energy, I think the first step is to explore your lighting habits, and then move on to exploring many other energy pigs in your home.   It seems utterly bizarre to me how, when we talk about saving energy, people seem to always want to talk about light bulbs before heat, air conditioning, the clothes dryer, hot water ...   many things that suck up far more power than light bulbs.  And people also want to talk about which kind of bulb to buy instead of what are good habits that most people seem utterly ignorant of.  

Next up:  incandescent light has two big properties:  high quality light + radiant heat.   Radiant heat, when pointed at a person, is more efficient than convective heat - which is the most common way that people heat a home.  I live in montana.   And when it gets cold outside, the days happen to get much shorter.   So when I need more light, I happen to also need more heat.  A twofer.


quality of light

LED lights have come a long way on this path. 

There have been some folks on youtube that have done spectral analysis on a variety of LED bulbs and have found some that do a very good job of emulating a full spectrum, or emulating the sun.  The person doing the analysis claimed that this was the ultimate test - that this is complete proof that a good LED light provides as good of light, or better  than incandescent.   I confess that this is compelling, but I don't think it is a slam dunk.  After all, I think you could do something similar with fluorescent lights, but that test would not take into account the flicker.  And I still wonder about other elements revolving around the quality of light that we do not yet know. 

Incandescent light has a long, rich history of providing high quality light. 

LED light has a long rich history of saying that "LED light quality is better" and it turns out the comparison was to LED light from a couple years before which was awful.   So "better" meant "worse than incandescent, but better than earlier attempts."

I do think that the quality of light from an LED might now be as good as incandescent.  My spidey sense says that it is probably not as good for reasons we have yet to figure out.  I look forward to seeing what we learn over the next ten years. 

Overall, I think that a good LED light probably now has light quality that is really close to the light quality of a standard incandescent.  So here are my quality scores at the time of this writing:

natural daylight:  10
natural daylight behind glass:  9
incandescent light:  8
really good LED light: 7.9
average LED light:  6




longevity

The challenge here is the phoebus cartel from 1924 where the light bulb manufacturers artificially shortened the lifespan of light bulbs in order to sell more lightbulbs.   There are a few manufacturers coming out with "long life incandescents" but I think a lot of innovation in this space has been curbed by the incandescent being banned.

There were a lot of CFLs labeled as lasting 12,000 hours which often times didn't make it past 200 hours.   The most notable was in the tests I did where one made it 72 hours before it died.  So it naturally makes one suspicious of whatever is written on the box of a light bulb.  That said, I do think that LED lights do, generally, have an authentic long life span. 

I have that test still running that has a "long life" incandescent rated at 5000 hours and an LED rated at 10,000 hours.  So far they have both had on time of over 8000 hours.

Let's not forget the centennial bulb:


(source)

... which has been burning for more than a million hours.

I think it is possible that we can see both LED and incandescent bulbs constructed in such a way that they last 20 years or more.  So I think the longevity race is a wash.




toxicity

There are three important phases of toxicity to explore:

1: manufacture

2: during it's use

3: disposal

In my previous writing/podcasts/videos I think I made an extremely strong case on how CFLs are a freakshow disaster in all three of these.

I think the story on incandescent light is pretty straightforward.   There isn't much to it, so while I think there is toxicity in the manufacture and disposal, it is pretty small.  And it has a magnificent track record for during it's use.  

So, let's explore the LED.   Let's take a look at the innards:


(source)


(source)


(source)

So .... maybe ....   a hundred times more sophisticated?  The average weight might be a hundred times greater? Far more diversity in materials ...   highly toxic materials.   So I am going to speculate that the toxicity during the manufacture is about half that of a CFL, but still 100 times greater than an incandescent.  And I am going to further speculate that the same can be said for the disposal.

Take a look at this excellent documentary "The Age of Stupid" and pay attention to the part of how our electronics are "recycled" .... hmmm .... i couldn't find the time point of that ... maybe I am thinking of a different movie.   But, here is the sort of thing I wish to share:



The point is that:

a) most people (98%?) are just going to throw this stuff away - so it goes to landfills. 

b) if they actually recycle an LED bulb - that might actually be worse!


I don't know this for a fact, but I think that if you have DC power, then the electronics for LED is far, far simpler.  (I am trying to do a core dump really quick of my opinion - so rather than look this bit up, maybe somebody would be so kind as to educate me)

The summary is that if you wish to compare LED to CFL, LED is much better.   But if you wish to compare LED to incandescent:

natural daylight:  10
natural daylight behind glass:  9.5
incandescent light:  9
DC LED light: 8.5
AC LED light:  1.8






energy savings

In general, an LED produces about four times more light per watt.   Unlike CFLs, it really does produce four times more light per watt.   The amount of light it gives off in the first 30 seconds is the same as the amount of light it gives off ten minutes in - just like incandescent.  Unlike CFLs, the amount of light it gives off five years later is the same as when it was brand new. 

I would like to talk about "total energy cost" which would include the amount of energy used during the manufacture - but those numbers are all skewed by subsidies. 

So, on the one hand, we have the incandescent bulb which is being outlawed and given an artifically short lifespan for the sake of wickedness.  This is driving up the cost of the incandescent.  And on the other hand, we have the LED which is being subsidized for the sake of wickedness.  So this whole area gets really complicated, really fast. 

So I am going to speculate that there is about $10 worth of energy in creating the LED and about $0.10 in the incandescent.

So I am going to say that both bulbs will last 10,000 hours and electricity is a dime per kilowatt.  100 watts for 10,000 hours is 1000 kwh.  $100.10 worth of electricity for the incandescent and $35 for the LED.  A strong win for the LED.

BUT WAIT!  Consider the bit about a montana winter.   In the scenario of cold climate area and the lighting is in winter and a party is using electric heat, then using incandescent light will pay for itself by not only reducing your heat bill, but if used correctly, the light bulb can actually REVERSE your heat bill.   Proper use of an incandescent light bulb can save HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS PER YEAR.   Maybe even THOUSANDS!   In fact, for any type of heat, proper use of an incandescent light bulb can dramatically reduce your overall heat bill - and whatever you use for heat is going to use FAR more energy than what you use for light. 

In other words ....    if you are using incandescent lights willy-nilly about your house thinking only of light without a thought in the world of using them in an intelligent way,  and you are in a cold then the electricity is free.   Because if you turn all of your lights off, your thermostat will then tell your heater to come on more.  It will be almost exactly the same amount of electricity.   So - all of your lighting will then be totally free (but only on cold days and only if you are using electric heat).  So if you can assume that your incandescent lights will never burn out, then in the middle of winter, it is free to run dozens of light bulbs and make it super bright throughout your house. 

But I can do better than free.  This video is the centerpiece to my article "how I saved 87% off of my electric heat bill". 



Please note how the star of this show is a 40 watt incandescent bulb.  So, in this case, four micro heaters cut about $900 off of the bill one winter. 

So, if you live in a warm climate:

LED light: 10
incandescent light:  3


If you live in a cold climate:


incandescent light used intelligently:  10
incandescent light:  5
LED light: 1




environmental impact

If a person lives in a cold climate, there is no contest.   Incandescent is better. 

If a person lives in a warm climate, you have to wrestle with your own values to trade the toxicity of manufacture and disposal with energy savings.




my summary

I like the idea of off grid living where I am warm in a wofati.   Maybe there could be some passive solar heat and/or a rocket mass heater

I think that where I will work during winter nights would have an incandescent bulb powered by off-grid power.   And if I am going to read a book, I am going to have a reading lamp near the book that is incandescent.  But it is possible that I might use a 12v high quality LED - provided that I can look to the innards a bit and confirm that it has much less going on in there than most LED light bulbs.  I have some great LED flashlights and a couple of LED nightlights. 

I think LED has come a LONG ways in the last five years, and things are looking promising.  I am excited about what the future might bring.  I hope that we eliminate all light bulb subsidies so our future discussions can be a bit more direct. 

So, Devaka, you asked a simple question.   I have tried to provide a brief answer.  I really do have a lot more to say about all of this, but I tried to keep it short!




 
Chris Wells
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Variables of the individual situation can profoundly change the answer to this question. I converted my motorhome to led lighting a few years back. I also installed a solar system and battery bank so I could operate off-grid. I replaced 18w incandescent lamps with 3.5w LED. The LED were brighter and much more efficient, even after adding constant current controllers. I went from being able to operate (stingily) off-grid for a few days in a row, to being able to live off-grid without ever running out of power, even in the dead of winter. The efficiency of LED made that possible.

I think those who intend to operate off-grid are wise to look to LED lighting options. Energy sipping makes off-grid living much easier. Off-grid lifestyles usually involve heating with wood, passive sunlight, and other non-electric sources; as such, the heat generated by incandescent lamps represents inefficiency traded for no measurable benefit. It is different for those living on grid of course, especially if they use electric heating. But I guess that's my point. You really have to consider your circumstances to come up with an accurate position.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Lots of good info.

I think this is a case where there are a lot of site specific issues that can sway the answer one way or the other.

For example...

If you live in texas, an incandescent bulb produces approximately 95% heat and about 5% light.  For a good six months of the year, that heat byproduct will have to be removed with air conditioning.  I'm going by memory here from an article several years ago, but for every dollar you put through the incandescent, the 95 cents worth of heat cost $2.00 to remove with the Air Con.



And again, with emphasis, TURN THE DAMN LIGHTS OFF.

Off grid folks have known for decades that conservation is far far far more effective than the new magic light bulb.  One person, one light solves 80% of the problem right off the bat.


 
Steven Kovacs
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Thanks for this, Paul.  You've clearly put a lot of thought into the issue.

CFLs are awful, I think most people agree there.  Noisy, flickering, toxic, short-lived - ugh.

For LEDs, the upfront cost, subsidies, and complexity are definitely strikes against them.  I also agree with your sense that the light they cast isn't quite as nice as incandescents, though they have gotten very close.  Daylight and fire/candlelight are the most 'satisfying' types of light, IMO, and incandescent bulbs simulated candlelight better than LEDs do.  On the other hand, LEDs simulate daylight better.

Against those negatives, LEDs really are much more efficient (which means less wasted heat) and seem quite durable so far.  I also like that they can be had in multiple color temperatures for different applications - 2700K works for most household lighting but the "daylight" colors are good for other applications.  LEDs can also come in some new form factors that incandescents can't match, like strips for under-cabinet lighting, strongly directional lights, etc.
 
paul wheaton
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Steven Kovacs wrote:Thanks for this, Paul.  You've clearly put a lot of thought into the issue.


More like:  my brain is infested with a huge amount of thoughts on a lot of topics.   Lovely people then ask a simple question like "What do you think of LED lights these days?" and I am instantly tongue tied because my answer is not a simple "I still prefer incandescent."  My answer is huge.   In fact, my answer is even larger than what I provided, but I need to stop at some point.



 
Deb Rebel
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I visited that light bulb in the fire station three years ago. It has been off three times in it's entire life. It is an old Edison bulb, and they had much thicker elements, and it has had less thermal shocking by being indoors and not being turned on and off. Hence the longevity.

I went from incandescent to CFL in about 2004, and watched the price of the bulbs come down. The ones I have used for the last 5-6 years are putting out 6500k or close to natural sun spectrum. This assists greatly with my SADD issues. I also have gone to more task lighting instead of full room illumination which also saves. I have not had flicker issues with CFL for several years. Also, getting zero mercury bulbs to not be such a health hazard to the environment. I have less heat generated and the savings per bulb per operating year is substantial over the incandescent.

I am experimenting with LED, have been for about five years. Some commercial bits are very expensive and disappointing. On spool now you can get SMD (surface mount) solderable/mounted strips of individual LED's (usually 3 per 2" and running about 12 W per 40") in both grow light (some red some blue) for plant rearing and in 6500k, which are outputting near sun. I have some old T-12 4 bulb pin grow stand hoods that I am going to be retrofitting with a staggering number of these strips this winter and see how they compare. As well as adding more of the 6500k to do task lighting and save over even going to T-5 fluorescents.

The less heat put out the better for plant rearing. In places where you have to remove that waste heat with energy, it could be substantial savings. Looking back to what CFL cost when it first came out and yes there were subsidies all over, and watching the LED technology slowly coming down; I will think that LED may be our future.

In the short run, whatever you are using; look carefully at how you are using that light and try switching to alternative ways of lighting what you need lit. In my case, lots of small task lights that are turned on when needed and turned off when done. Undercabinet lighting gives me much better counter illumination than the overhead system ever will, with fewer watts and less shadowing, for example.

In Europe they had banned incandescent bulbs, so an enterprising fellow started importing 'novelty globe heaters' and selling them for about three times the price of the old incandescent bulbs, and they are just incandescent bulbs in a different package. His sales are good.

There is no easy out here on what is best, though I do believe that LED is where we are headed next. I just refuse to pay the outrageous amount for some of the 'corn' bulbs and trust me the cost can vary WIDELY depending on where you go to get them. I'm buying a lot to experiment with from a place== http://www.banggood.com ; ==do beware that they are shipping mostly from China, and there have been some reported issues with using a credit card with them. I always use Paypal, opt for the tracking number and opt for the insurance. Some of their off brand electronics and such I would not trust, but for electronic bits and parts to geek with and experiment I have had good results. Shipping can take three or so weeks. (I do not get anything for recommending them or sharing their website!)
 
Carrie Graham
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The suggestion that incandescent heat helps cut down on heating bills is rather unlikely. Not because they don't produce heat, they do, I still use 1-3 in the bottom of my solar dehydrator at night time.  But because most light bulbs are positioned above the people needing the light.  Heat rises, so the heat would stay up  on the ceiling of a well insulated house like mine and provide little benefit to the inhabitants below.  They are just horrible on a hot summer night, couldn't read under one.   Modern LEDs  are brighter and cost far less to run. The only thing I am saving my incandescent bulbs for is baby chicks and  the dehydrator.
 
Dan Boone
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Carrie Graham wrote:Heat rises, so the heat would stay up  on the ceiling of a well insulated house like mine and provide little benefit to the inhabitants below.


A minor quibble: it's warm air that rises, which would be the air right around the incandescent light bulb that gets heated while touching the hot bulb materials.  That heat is lost when you use incandescent bulbs above you, although it contributes to the heating of upper floors and lofts and such. 

But if I understand Paul correctly, he's mostly interested in the radiant heat from incandescent bulbs.  That's the heat energy you feel on a cold day when the sun strikes you, energetic photons banging into your skin and warming it up even though the sun isn't noticeably warming the winter air around you.  And he's not wrong that you feel warmer under incandescent lights because of this phenomenon.
 
paul wheaton
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Carrie Graham wrote:The suggestion that incandescent heat helps cut down on heating bills is rather unlikely.


Normally I would say that we have different positions.  But not this time. 

Not only does it pencil out, but if you look at my article about electric heat, and look at the video I embedded about cutting 87% on my electric heat bill, I think I thoroughly proved my point.

Heat rises, so the heat would stay up  on the ceiling of a well insulated house like mine and provide little benefit to the inhabitants below.  They are just horrible on a hot summer night, couldn't read under one. 


And now your own words prove my point. 

If the heat goes up, and you are under the light, then how is that you suffer under the light?

The important part of this is that we are talking about the very efficient radiant heat. 

 
Rebecca Norman
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I was going to post that quibble too. The phrase "heat rises" has been confusing a lot of people. Please memorize "hot air rises" and forget "heat rises," because heat in all other forms (such as radiant heat from an incandescent bulb) travels in all directions.

My problem with the idea that incandescent bulbs are fine because they just replace some of your heat costs are:

1) I don't use electric heat, and will never if I can help it. My house is heated by passive solar. If your electricity is coming from a thermal power plant, it uses much more fuel to create electricity that you later turn to heat, than to make the heat directly in your house by burning the fuel there. Or if your electricity is off-grid, as mine is, then electric heat and incandescent bulbs use way too much power and are not viable.

2) As some people noted above, incandescent bulbs are giving you that heat summer and winter whether you want it or not.

LED bulbs have made our solar electricity much more reliable, as now the batteries last longer through cloudy weather. We don't have any high usage machines like dryers, air conditioners, heaters, toasters, etc. not even a fridge, though maybe we'll get one eventually. Our electrical usage is for lights, music, phones, computers, and one TV (not used daily).
 
Carrie Graham
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When I said "read under" I was envisioning a single bulb in a reading lamp right over top of you, which is what I happen to have in my bedroom, not a centrally located ceiling bulb.  We have totally switched to LED's and my electric use is measurably less than last year.
 
Creighton Samuiels
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I have been slowly replacing some of my light bulbs, which are actually no longer incandescent anyway, but something else, to LEDs over the past two years.  Due to their high cost, I don't replace a burnt out one with an LED in every case, closer to one in 3.  Currently, about half of my bulbs are LED's.  I live in Kentucky, which is almost an even half-heating & half-cooling climate over the course of a year, so the heating advantage of an incandescent is a wash anyway, unless I was willing to remove & store my LED's each fall, which I am not.  Honestly, I think that I have found a flaw in using LED's that has not been mentioned.  Has anyone here known anyone with a Vitamin D deficiency?  It causes clinical depression in some people, and it is typically worse in winter because the human body naturally produces Vitamin D in the skin as a response to moderate sunlight.  It's a by-product of getting a tan, basically.  When I first started switching the bulbs two years ago in January, I did notice that my wife's attitude began to decline.  It's not scientific at all, but I solved it by buying her a freestanding reading lamp that uses one of those 3 level lights, which also happen to be one of the last kinds of *real* incandescents on the market today.  That 40 watt bulb that you used in that video is no longer available in the United States, at least not in retail stores.
 
Deb Rebel
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I was diagnosed with SADD in the late 80s, and the CFL's in 6500k or so do help a lot. As for Vitamin D, I have to take it as a supplement because of my dietary issues and restrictions, so I have not noticed anything else related. In northern climates especially, it can be hard during the cold months to get enough sun exposure to make enough Vitamin D naturally. (I take a calcium supplement that has Vitamin D with it). When I was first diagnosed (in Minneapolis) I had to use a fluorescent 4 bulb light fixture with cool white and warm white bulbs mounted horizontally at my kitchen table height, and 'stare' into them for 2 hours a day. I could put a newspaper or book on the table and read, that would work. I had to replace one bulb a week and no bulb could be used more than a month because the lumen output dropped off. (I gave the slightly used to friends and they occasionally gave me new bulbs in return). They originally prescribed fluorescent lighting. For psoriasis issues I was recently prescribed to use a UVB light for exposing the affected areas to help promote healing. I will see how that helps with my Vitamin D levels.

http://www.solarcsystems.com/vitamin-d-phototherapy-faq.html ; they do sell UVB lights but they have quite a bit of information on how to get the light you need for the Vitamin D you need.
 
Hans Quistorff
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I would like to comment on the failure factor. It dose not seem to mater what kind, CFL, LED, filament, the manufactures are cutting corners. I have bought packages of bulbs and none of them worked. the ground wire was not soldered to the base, just crimped between the base and the insulation. And as Paul brought up the extra electronics with AC which requires a rectifier circuit to produce direct current for the LED. Then the heat sink to remove the wast heat from the rectifier. Definitely LED is better fro direct current  
Filament lovers don't despair. The electronic alternative will not work in high heat situations [oven light] so incandescent lights have this exemption. You will not find rows of them on the shelf at the box store but if you persist down the the specialty bulb section there is your good old 40 watt bulb under high heat rough service label and less expensive than most of the replacements.
 
Deb Rebel
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Hans Quistorff wrote:I would like to comment on the failure factor. It dose not seem to mater what kind, CFL, LED, filament, the manufactures are cutting corners. I have bought packages of bulbs and none of them worked. the ground wire was not soldered to the base, just crimped between the base and the insulation. And as Paul brought up the extra electronics with AC which requires a rectifier circuit to produce direct current for the LED. Then the heat sink to remove the wast heat from the rectifier. Definitely LED is better from direct current  


Indeed they do work better as DC fed. I've gotten a low heat ballast converter that's waterproof for powering my LED SMD experiments and it doesn't heat much at all. Which is good. If you are doing solar/battery electrical source, DC is indeed much easier and simpler to work with. What I am experimenting with will not fit a standard AC lightbulb socket.... a lot more DIY.

Hans Quistorff wrote:Filament lovers don't despair. The electronic alternative will not work in high heat situations [oven light] so incandescent lights have this exemption. You will not find rows of them on the shelf at the box store but if you persist down the the specialty bulb section there is your good old 40 watt bulb under high heat rough service label and less expensive than most of the replacements.


That is true, appliance bulbs are sturdy and will always be readily available I believe. They are usually 'clear' as well so give a more direct and somewhat harsher light than the 'frosted' bulbs we are used to...
 
James Koss
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For me, the deal maker/breaker was 4500K to 5000K (Natural Light) bulbs. I can only find those online and in LEDs. That light is superior to any yellow or blue light. Recording myself on video means that I look yellowish - everything looks yellowish. >< Which is bad.

Alas, the LEDs don't actually seem to last that long, compared to other bulbs. Some lasted 3 months of heavy usage, while others died after just over a month even. :S
 
Deb Rebel
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James Koss wrote:For me, the deal maker/breaker was 4500K to 5000K (Natural Light) bulbs. I can only find those online and in LEDs. That light is superior to any yellow or blue light. Recording myself on video means that I look yellowish - everything looks yellowish. >< Which is bad.

Alas, the LEDs don't actually seem to last that long, compared to other bulbs. Some lasted 3 months of heavy usage, while others died after just over a month even. :S


Try going higher in K, natural daylight is 6700k to 7000k, readily available is 6500K. You will see even more improvement.  If it's labeled 'daylight' it should be at least 6000K. 'Corn' bulbs don't last very long IMO, hence I'm working with strip SMD's that run on DC. The leaders of the pack are the incredible multiwatt single LED's which you see most notoriously in the CREE flashlights and they want plenty for them just by themselves. When those come down in price (they are dropping, not fast enough to suit me) then we shall see some good lighting in LED...
 
Cris Bessette
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I think the most important points here are that there are other things in the house that use far more electricity than lighting (clothes dryers, air conditioning, anything with big motors,etc) 

My personal acts/experiences here:

I bought a piece of string to replace my clothes dryer. (still have the dryer for "emergency" drying)
I wash clothes when they are DIRTY, STINKY, not after each use.
I disconnected my airconditioning, installed an attic fan.
I replaced my old inefficient refrigerator with a smaller, modern version ($48 electricity use anual on average)

Then I replaced all my incandescent lighting with Leds (some fixtures hand built by me with no driver circuitry)

My electric bill runs $30-40 monthly except in winter when I use portable electric heaters ($80-$90 monthly)


 
John Wolfram
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:I have been slowly replacing some of my light bulbs, which are actually no longer incandescent anyway, but something else, to LEDs over the past two years.  Due to their high cost, I don't replace a burnt out one with an LED in every case, closer to one in 3.  Currently, about half of my bulbs are LED's.  I live in Kentucky, which is almost an even half-heating & half-cooling climate over the course of a year, so the heating advantage of an incandescent is a wash anyway, unless I was willing to remove & store my LED's each fall, which I am not.

The price of LEDs has dropped rather dramatically in the past year or so and it might be a good idea to reevaluate your ratio. When I moved this summer, one of the first thing done at the new house was to replace all the incandescents with LEDs. Factoring in the reduced energy usage, the reduced amount spent on air conditioning, and the cost per kilowatt hour, the breakeven time for most of the LEDs was about 150 hours of use. While you can spend big $$$ on high end name brand LEDs, most of the LEDs I used where from Menards and averaged about $1 a bulb. Unfortunately, LED bulbs for non-standard sockets (candelabra, etc.) are still quite spendy.  
 
Steven Kovacs
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James Koss wrote:Alas, the LEDs don't actually seem to last that long, compared to other bulbs. Some lasted 3 months of heavy usage, while others died after just over a month even. :S


The quality is definitely highly variable, but I've had good results so far with the "Greenlite" brand and misc. US and European brands, which have lasted 1-2 years so far with no problems.  The no-name Chinese strip LEDs I bought started having problems within months of installation.

I'm in Massachusetts, where the "Greenlite" bulbs are highly subsidized and are available at the local reuse center, so others may not have access to the same kind of inexpensive, seemingly well-made bulbs.
 
Tara Sanders
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LED lights are toxic as are all artificial lights with blue light.  Blue light is a non-ioninzing EMF and produces the same health problems as EMFs.  Blue light and EMFs from a computer screen destroyed my eyesight in just a few years.  There are steps you can take to help with this and now that I know about it my eye pain is gone although the damage can't be reversed.  It can produce glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration quite quickly for those particularly sensitive to it.

I will paste some info on it below.  Jake Kruse is a neurologist who is an expert on the subject although he himself may not be well liked by some.  Only incadescent or red/purple lamps, candles, or oil lamps/fires don't have blue light.  The idea is to go down with the sun and rise with the sun as much as possible, don't use any unnecessary artificial light in the daytime and limit it at night with these healthier choices or if you must use artificial lights with blue light such as LEDs, halogen, CFLs, etc at least use these tips below to help out.  Blocking the eyes from it is only part of it.  It is absorbed through the skin as well and can make one very sick.  I have a very strong sensitivity to blue light and can feel it directly.  It also shuts down melatonin and can cause insomnia and for your body to not be able to detoxify at night just like EMFs so you are supposed to avoid them at least a few hours before bed time if not at all.  CFLs and fluorescent lights of course have even more serious health issues in addition such as they release large amounts of mercury (even when not plugged in according to my friend who is a nurse and had them tested) and flickering.

This means avoiding blue light from non-incadescent car lights, street lights, lighting in the home, computer screens, etc.  Our county has a dark skies program to help with this issue. There are books written on the subject as well.

Here are some tips:

Blue Light:
All artificial lighting has blue light except old fashioned incandescent bulbs or red and purple lamps.  Even LEDs have blue light.  CFLs and fluorescents, in addition to blue light, release toxic amounts of mercury and have flickering.  Artificial lighting releases EMFs with non-iodizing radiation and produce the same effects that EMFs from other sources do and also shuts down melatonin, causes diabetes, insulin resistance, neurological damage, etc.  Also, many people receive eye damage from blue light and EMFs. 

“Morning sun has blue light in the spectrum, but it is balanced with the other colors in the sun so you get the exact amount you need to reset your circadian rhythm by getting out in the morning soon after rising and being grounded outside as well for 15 minutes.  It resets melatonin as well. No blue light blocking lenses should be worn with the Sun.  Just with artificial lighting.  Blue light doesn't just affect our eye clock, it also affects our skin surface, and our skin detects this color. Jack always recommends that if there is blue light exposure and you're inside, make sure your body is covered up from the blue light exposure, as well as your eyes.”

Here is an app for the computer to help block blue light:  (You can also go into the settings and make it more orange or change it to "incadescent".)  There are screens that can be added in front of your computer screen as another option to block it.  TV screen colors can be changed in the settings to remove blue light as well.

https://justgetflux.com/

Here is a blue light map to see how much there is where you live or around the world.  You want to live in the darkest places possible and avoid as much artificial light as you can especially at night but daytime exposure also affects your body:

http://www.lightpollutionmap.info/#zoom=10&lat=4647733&lon=-8861149&layers=B0TFFFF

Regular glasses to block blue light:

Zenni Opticals sells them. They shouldn't be worn out in the sunlight though because our eyes need the full spectrum UV light. These lenses block all UV and blue light but have a clear lens.

You can get any style you want, and when you order them, you'll have the option to add “Beyond UV” to your glasses. You can get them in prescription and nonprescription.

http://www.zennioptical.com/beyond-uv-blue-blocker

Goggles to block blue light buy here:  (These have an orange tint and help produce melatonin.  They could make you sleepy and are great for those who need more melatonin to sleep.)
https://www.amazon.com/Uvex-Blocking-Computer-SCT-Orange-S1933X/dp/B000USRG90


Here is some info on blue light from a friend:

"Jack Kruse believes that its the blue light that is at the heart of all health problems because it destroys DHA that is used by our mitochondria. Once the mitochondria doesn't work well, EMF problems loom large as well as other autoimmune conditions, cancer, etc. Mitigate blue light by using blue blockers, get natural sunlight in your eyes, ground outside barefoot, and set your circadian rhythms right again to help with this problem. In EMF fields he believes we need a LOT of fatty fish to replace our lost DHA.

Jack Kruse is really the top of the list when it comes to having information on blue light, non-native EMF, circadian biology and quantum biology.  He has a lot of videos online, and even podcasts you can follow.

Here is a list of different videos, podcasts, and links to his articles about blue light, and emf:

http://jamiegward.com/2016/08/14/2-dr-jack-kruse-mitochondria-sunglight-quantum-biology/


These two videos were from this July in Vermont. Rubin and Jack give these talks. They would be good to watch first:


Here's his website:
https://www.jackkruse.com/

It’s much easier to listen to him talk than to read his work. He does have a book as well available on his site.”

Article on Lighting and Insulin Resistance: 
http://www.naturalhealth365.com/insulin-resistance-blood-glucose-1939.html

This video below is mainly on the biological effects of EMFs on the body but in the Q&A briefly discusses blue light as well.  EMFs and blue light can cause the same health problems:

The Truth About Thermal Effects & the Good & Bad of Microwave Radiation on the Cellular/Biological level and How it Affects EHS/MCS, Cancer, Autism, and more


 
C. Letellier
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There are a number of points to comment on here.

First I think Paul's gestimate of $8 per year is probably a bit low for most households.  Lets look a closer to worst case reasonable.  Winter the sun sets at 5pm and you go to bed at 10 pm for example for a 5 hour run time.  Say you run 1 room light and on work light for that time.  Say each has a 100 watt bulb in it.  So that means in a given night you run 5 hours at 200 watts or 1 kwh.  Average cost per kWh in the US right now is just over $0.10.  So over the course of a year that reasonable worst case lighting will run $36.50.  Now summer lighting needs are not as long but there are times when you are working in multiple rooms and leaving the porch light on for guests and other stuff that adds in.  So say that chops in half down to $18 per year.  Guessing this is closer to typical.

Now for the energy needed to remove heat via AC that number is way high.  An AC unit has a SEER number which is the ratio of heat energy moved vs the energy needed to move that heat.  Even most of your crappy window AC units will make a SEER of 10.(good units make 14 to 16 or a bit higher)  Now worrying about efficiency of the bulb in this case is silly.  If the light doesn't escape out a window it eventually ends up absorbed and making heat so a 100 watt bulb eventually makes 100 watts of heat.(if this wasn't so the room would get steadily brighter the longer the light was on)  Lets use the above number for lighting cost.  A SEER of 10 would give an AC cost for the year of $3.65 to remove the heat the light bulbs put in the room.  Raising the total cost of that lighting for the year to just over $40 assuming you needed the AC for all the operating hours of the light.

As for LED life what does it take to make that work dollar wise.  A quick look and I can find a brand I am familiar with for $12.95 for the 100 watt equivalent so 2 bulbs would be basically $26.  Now their chart says they are 82% more efficient.(lets make it 80% even to keep math cleaner.)  Assuming they ran enough to equal the $36.50 incandescent bulbs the savings for the year would be $29.20 giving a pay back period of less than a year.  If half that then the pay back period is just under 2 years and with Paul's original estimate it would be just over 3 years to reach pay back.  I have 2 LED bulbs of that brand in service.  The longest running one is 3 years in and is making light that I am happy with(no visible flicker and satisfactory color).  So I know they can do it.

As for heat rising that is true.  But in a well insulated home there is almost no stratification of temperature.  If you measure the difference in my home between floor level and the ceiling the difference is less than 1 degree most of the time when the house is closed up.  And that is with a ceiling that is 14 ft at the peak.  Good design and insulation matter.  If your house isn't meeting this then worrying about bulbs is not where your priorities should be.
 
John Wolfram
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C. Letellier wrote:Now for the energy needed to remove heat via AC that number is way high.  An AC unit has a SEER number which is the ratio of heat energy moved vs the energy needed to move that heat.  Even most of your crappy window AC units will make a SEER of 10.(good units make 14 to 16 or a bit higher)  Now worrying about efficiency of the bulb in this case is silly.  If the light doesn't escape out a window it eventually ends up absorbed and making heat so a 100 watt bulb eventually makes 100 watts of heat.(if this wasn't so the room would get steadily brighter the longer the light was on)  Lets use the above number for lighting cost.  A SEER of 10 would give an AC cost for the year of $3.65 to remove the heat the light bulbs put in the room.  Raising the total cost of that lighting for the year to just over $40 assuming you needed the AC for all the operating hours of the light.

While SEER is useful for comparing systems, it uses a funky set of units (BTU/kWh) so a SEER 10 system does not actually produce 10 watts of cooling for every watt of energy consumed. Coefficient of performance is the apples-to-apples factor to look at for watts of cooling out per watt of energy input. Essentially, the cooling costs quoted need to be multiplied by 3.4, so they are $12.41 rather than $3.65.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_energy_efficiency_ratio
 
paul wheaton
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C. Letellier wrote:First I think Paul's gestimate of $8 per year is probably a bit low for most households.


Can you direct me to this "gestimate"?   I wish to make it perfectly clear that this is painstakingly calculated, measured and documented.  This is not a guess or estimate. 

I do think it is fair to say that $8 per year is a bit low for most households.  Which is why I am carefully documenting this - so others can learn from what i am trying to talk about:  I see an average family of four firing up several dozen light bulbs.  And leaving them on for hours and hours.  They illuminate many rooms that have nobody in them.  They illuminate an entire room even though a person is off to just one side of the room doing something.    This is all fine and good (especially in winter, with incandescent bulbs) - the problem I have is when they want to talk about saving energy.   Even worse, they go out and buy a bunch of cfls and then say something about how they are saving energy, and worse still, they refuse to consider anything that might be "eco" because they "already bought the bulbs."



 
Ty Morrison
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Well, that's an eye opener. 

When we looked at retail applications for LED the low-hanging fruit was parking lot lights.  The K color temperature seemed to render product packaging nicely and the longevity per kilowatt purchased made retrofitting payback in year three to five depending on cost of electricity saved.  Otherwise, it is mostly the number of bodies in a room that control the demand for heating or cooling.  I liked incandescents for indoors, especially when they got color correct.  When CFL and LED became available I tried them both.  Until I run out of incandescents I will continue to use them first.  My experience with CFLs lead me to believe that they were way-icky, compared to the benefit.  Then I noticed they seem to have a much shorter life than advertised and quality was all over the map.  Fail.  Now using first and second generation LED's   Really like the brightness and color rendition.  Tape version is very fun.  Quality is poor.  Longevity remains to be seen.  Factor in the blue-light thing and we have probably ruled them out except for exterior security and safety lighting, which is a social value of perception rather than true need. 

Eliminate outdoor lighting beyond the structure, give everyone an LED flashlight and use incandescents indoors to stay healthy.  Now all that research effort can go to making sick people healthy. 

The renaissance of the 1400's gave us great things, and in buildings without electricity: we survived. 

We can still build that way today; where the heat and cooling come from nature without using a direct source of energy such as wood, steam, oil, coal or electricity.   Globally that reduces from 40 to 80% (depending on which study) of the demand on fossil fuels that we now currently face because we think it is our right to be comfortable and in a range from 68 to 82 degrees F.
 
James Koss
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Deb Rebel wrote:Try going higher in K, natural daylight is 6700k to 7000k, readily available is 6500K.


Those are blue lights. Not white. The sun gives off a light that feels white, neutral, neither blue nor much yellow. This is well noticed with gemstones, when examining them. A 5000K light is ideal for seeing the gemstone similar to how it would appear under daylight, colors and blemishes. Also, bluelight feels like shit, while natural white light feels good! Real good! I've felt the difference for long months. And finally, for the camera, the blueish lights make you... blueish.

Steven Kovacs wrote:I'm in Massachusetts, where the "Greenlite" bulbs are highly subsidized and are available at the local reuse center, so others may not have access to the same kind of inexpensive, seemingly well-made bulbs.


Talking LED quality, I'm in Israel and only found relevant LEDs online, from eBay; China. Shipping is a big issue, so most sites offering bulbs would have expensive shipping. There might be a better option out there, but I haven't found it.
 
Deb Rebel
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I've made high end costume jewelry (precious and semiprecious stones and sterling wire mostly) and #1 photography choice was and still is the first hour after sunrise on the west side of my house. Best lighting, ever. Next best is 6500-6700K bulbs, and I used to have a set of professional flood spots that took hideously expensive 250 watt incandescents I had to buy at a specialty shop. They were fragile too. I tried several different ranges. Most stuff went 'orange' and was not fun to fix with the editing software after. 5000K looked good with Amber, Citrine, Yellow Topaz, and some of the reds. If I want to take pictures that don't turn color in post edit, I push it higher. I also used a white diffusing fabric such as a silk crepe to give a good bright indirect light when using the photography bulbs around the object (a shooting tent). Or a curved piece of white laminate for countertops with an eggshell finish.

I grade quartz and diamonds preferably under diffused indirect bright daylight. Second best is 6500-6700K, though I would never grade diamonds under artificial light. I also tried different bulbs in my CFL, and have not seen a flicker bulb since about 2010. 5000K just wasn't 'bright' enough. I do have SADD and it does affect me. On the 6500's I use now, I do not have the related issues. Only thing is I do use a shade, the bulbs do NOT ever shine directly into my face/eyes. I have not had monitor issues, from CRT into the flatscreens. I also keep my brightness on those turned below 50%. I learned engineering drafting in the days before computer aided, and they warned at the front of the book it would bring out defects in your vision you never knew you had... for 8 credit hours over 6 months I 'lost' a diopter on my prescription (going from the low -7's to the low -8's). Currently I am 16 years post-Lasik and knowing what I know (and having to wear UV blocking glasses any time I'm outside, I find a lightly tinted grey safety glasses make a great day/driving sunglasses) I would do the Lasik again. That has aged as expected, including being under the higher spectrum lighting.

It is up to the person on what they choose for illumination, and what K range they wish to use. The only incandescents I have left are fridge/freezer/oven (appliance) bulbs. A few shop lights are halogens, holdovers from the mid range days and used to be used to illuminate booth displays (easiest way to make your stuff look good is to LIGHT IT UP).

If I want to go offgrid (which I may never achieve) I need to go to more efficient lighting sources. LED's are low consumption per watt of light produced. At the moment they seem to be at the edge of functional versus cost and return. I won't go back to incandescent because of the energy/watt ratio of them. I love the color of burning things (aka wood in fireplace or soon, RMH) but for color needful work (quilting/sewing/jewelry/other art) I will go for as close to natural daylight as I can get, and personally have found the switch to the 6500K seems to have helped my SADD issues. Other related to that includes Vitamin D which I handle as another part of my overall health. 

I RESPECT the other views being presented, it has been interesting and informative. Thank you for sharing!!! I can't emphasize that enough. However everyone's mileage may vary. I will take the positives I seem to reap for the high end (and as some state 'blue shift' light) and continue to use them. I will also be willing to share over the winter my experiments with the LED strip lights over the prepackaged 'retro' packaged things such as corn bulbs. You can get the strips in white from 2700K on up, so whatever I find out for working with the strips will work for anyone wanting to use them in whatever range they choose.

I also offer a recent chart: http://www.designrecycleinc.com/led%20comp%20chart.html which shows on average that equivalent LED is about 10% the energy used for lumen output (20-25% for CFL) against incandescents. BTU output (heat waste) for the LED is about 10% the incandescent.  So there are three issues here and Paul started this thread on mostly one with good sound reasoning.   LED now is where CFL were about 10-15 years ago.

https://www.1000bulbs.com/category/antique-light-bulbs/ ; the Edison bulb. These are wonderful. For some lighting these are totally the way to go, I do love them. I consider them 'mood' lighting though, for task lighting I like the bright high spectrum lighting, and hope to drive my energy bill and useage down. Squirrel Cage hand wound filament, please....
 
Fred Fisher
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paul wheaton wrote:In another thread, Devaka asked me for my current opinion on LED light.

[...]

So, if you live in a warm climate:

LED light: 10
incandescent light:  3


If you live in a cold climate:


incandescent light used intelligently:  10
incandescent light:  5
LED light: 1




Lot of people like me live in a temperate climate. So I rate for a temperate climate

incandescent light and LED used intelligently:  10
incandescent light used intelligently:  8
LED light used intelligently: 8
incandescent light:  5
LED light: 5

At the moment  I use a Mix of LED CFL, and incandesend light.
CFL will be replaced when lifespan is over, to justify toxicity which is already done.

What is  that I'd  like to have a complementary 46V DC-Net in my house, driven from solar and a Array of 12V Batterys for all those electronic helper to replace
al this small power supply units comming along with most of modern devices.

12V would have a bit too much energy loss due to high current in an house environment. But 46V would be fine in Family home size and without life danger.


 
Creighton Samuiels
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Fred Fisher wrote:In another thread, Devaka asked me for my current opinion on LED light.

12V would have a bit too much energy loss due to high current in an house environment. But 46V would be fine in Family home size and without life danger.





As a matter of convention, anything under 50 volts DC is considered "low voltage", and would not require the same quality & ratings as a power wire, but standard romex wire is still your best bet.  Better would be to run EMT conduit through a working space, such as a crawlspace, basement or attic area; then 'tap' off a large gauge romex cable down to your DC outlets.  I recommend not using less than Romex 10-2, but you keep that portion as short as possible; and using #8 or #6 copper wire inside your EMT conduit.  You can get away with smaller gauge Romex cable for the short drops if you know exactly how many amps your connected devices will draw, and multiply that number by 1.25, and then compare that number to the standard rating of Romex cable you are using.  10-2 can handle 30 amps, 12-2 can handle 20 amps, and 14-2 can handle 15 amps.  You can't use 16-2 inside a house, and you don't want it anyway, so it doesn't matter; and anything larger than 10 gauge is specialty order wire (for Romex), and they will stick it to you for asking.  Copper is cheap right now, so if you are planning on doing this & have some extra cash, now wouldn't be a bad time to invest in some construction grade wire.
 
Robert Bodell
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paul wheaton wrote:In another thread, Devaka asked me for my current opinion on LED light.

I have already written extensively about how awful CFLs are, and I think that I have proven that they are awful in a long list of ways, so we can skip past that disaster.

I thought I had already shared my thoughts on LED lights several years ago, but I couldn't seem to find that.  

-SNIP-



I have been off grid about 50 years and I normally have 6 deep cycle golf cart batteries. When I built this house I switched from 12 volt florescent to 12 volt lead. Other than that I have just about the same load. By switching to led lighting I have been able to drop down to 4 batteries from 6.
 
Troy Rhodes
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I have found it to be very useful to right the date on the base of the bulb (any kind) when I install it.

Then I have a much better feel for how long things last.

 
Glenn Herbert
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In regard to blue light, I am curious to know why blue light from the sun is good while blue light from an artificial source is bad. I could understand if it is pure blue light being referred to, but most interior lights have a wider spectrum than that.


Also, the idea that morning sun has an especially valuable blue light component puzzles me. The atmosphere scatters/absorbs short wavelengths like blue more strongly, so at sunrise and sunset where the rays travel through more atmosphere the light we see is more red than blue. At midday the blue component would be strongest.
 
Casie Becker
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I have one tiny and relatively uninformed thing about why the blue lights are in at least some areas considered undesirable. My family is prone to insomnia, so this is something I've heard talked about several times. Something about the blue wavelengths excites the brain. If you use it indoors (or are spending late night on the computer) it can confuse your bodies natural sleep cycle. There are programs that are supposed to change the light output of your computers to help prevent this.
 
Glenn Herbert
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If this is true, it seems prudent to limit exposure at night, or possibly total exposure. The part I have trouble with is the claim that the sun's blue light is good while artificial blue light is bad, during the day.
 
Deb Rebel
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Glenn Herbert wrote:If this is true, it seems prudent to limit exposure at night, or possibly total exposure. The part I have trouble with is the claim that the sun's blue light is good while artificial blue light is bad, during the day.


I agree. A wavelength of light in the visible light spectrum that is 'blue' will be the same whether produced by fusion (the sun) or by electrical conversion (light source such as an LED)
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Glenn Herbert wrote:If this is true, it seems prudent to limit exposure at night, or possibly total exposure. The part I have trouble with is the claim that the sun's blue light is good while artificial blue light is bad, during the day.


The blue wavelength is used by the human body to determine the sleep cycle, because the sky is blue during the daytime, and there really isn't a natural source of blue light at night; excepting perhaps a full moon.  Fireflys are green to yellow, fireside light is red to yellow, candle light is yellow.  Therefore, the blue light from the sun actually is good, while artificial blue lights at night are bad; because it's disruptive to the natural sleep cycle.  And this is one problem with white light LED's that Ive found.  The generic white light LEDs, like you would find in a flashlight, are a direct evolution from blue light LED's, while red & yellow are not, and as a result, white light LED's tend to emit more blue than other wavelengths.  The best color for a night light is red, both because it's the color that human eyes have evolved to detect in low light the best, but also because they are about twice as energy efficient as blue or white light.  The US military has known about this for decades. and I had a red-light flashlight while I was in the military in the early 1990's.

I'm a occasional insomniac as well, and so are two of my teenagers.  Blue spectrum light street lamps, and blue night-lights for children, should be banned.
 
Deb Rebel
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:The best color for a night light is red, both because it's the color that human eyes have evolved to detect in low light the best, but also because they are about twice as energy efficient as blue or white light.  The US military has known about this for decades. and I had a red-light flashlight while I was in the military in the early 1990's.


When pursuing astronomy, a red filter flashlight or light source is preferable because it doesn't sensitize some of your retinal receptors, and you keep your 'night vision'. Right now there's a massive star party going on in the area, and they have 'dark hours' were you will be hated for headlights and everyone even the late night coffeeshop, is using red lights.
 
Glenn Herbert
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I used to work in the engineering department of a photographic film manufacturing company, and we were issued red flashlights when we needed to go into production areas. They were still so dim (low power) that it was hard to read a tape measure.
 
Deb Rebel
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Glenn Herbert wrote:I used to work in the engineering department of a photographic film manufacturing company, and we were issued red flashlights when we needed to go into production areas. They were still so dim (low power) that it was hard to read a tape measure.


I worked for a student loan servicer and was directly in charge of preparing loan documents for microfilming then filming and preparing the film for storage and retrieval (over a million accounts). Our 'darkroom' was a light proof closet with a red light for where the film cartridges were changed as that would not expose the film. I could change the film in under five minutes by touch; in pitch blackness. If you went in you would be checked on in twenty if you didn't come out (as in a cartridge problem). Some used the light some didn't, it was up to the person involved. I also took photography in college, and we did have a red light for printing film by. The large closet full of chemicals and sitting there with a glow in the dark timer or the red light (developing film itself you did black, printing was under a dim red light)
 
paul wheaton
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Jocelyn emailed me this link to an article called "How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health":

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/23/near-infrared-led-lighting.aspx


The article seems to emphasize how important the red spectrum is for general health.



It wraps up with "To Protect Your Health and Vision, Stick to Incandescent Lights" (yes, in a large, red font!)

I feel so validated!
 
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