Categories Lighting

Health Benefits of LED Lighting Contribute to Quality Senior Assisted Living at BioStar Lighting’s Project The Piper

The Piper is a unique luxury assisted living facility that utilizes an innovative design philosophy which provides a “home within a home”. The design team transforms assisted living into warm, nurturing homes that foster independence. The lighting design helps create this atmosphere and contributes to residents’ health and well-being. LED lighting was an essential part of the new construction plans. BioStar provided over 3,000 lights for the 100,000 square foot, 120 unit building complex and for the 5 acres of landscaping and parking.

LED lighting has been proven to increase well-being and to be beneficial in healthcare environments. The light output is the closest spectral match to sunlight of any type of light, providing the safest, healthiest and easiest light to see. It has been shown to decrease headaches, dizziness and nausea that can be caused by the gaps and spikes in color of fluorescents and incandescents, as well by the common flickering and hum of fluorescents.

The positive effect of LED lighting on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) have been demonstrated by research. It is possible to control the color temperature and brightness of LED lights so the ideal light can be used in each room.  A slight difference in color can affect how well we sleep and how alert we feel when we are awake. The blue spectrum suppresses melatonin which improves sleep quality. LEDs contribute to a healthy sleep/wake cycle which is crucial to mental cognition and physical well-being.  In a recent study, a 24-hour controlled LED lighting scheme increased night time sleep in ADRD patients by 24 percent and reduced behaviors like nocturnal wandering, agitation, and abusive outbursts. They are also used to treat depressive disorders because the similarity to natural sunlight improves mood and decreases

Vision loss and eye disorders can also be prevented with LED lighting.  They only produce light in the visible range with no damaging UV or infrared radiation. UV light contributes to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness.  Superior control of light levels provided by LEDs also prevents straining the eyes which is especially important to seniors whose eyes let less light in and take longer to adjust to changes in light levels.

The efficiency of LED lighting also drastically reduces lighting costs, allowing capital to be used in other ways that help provide high-quality care for residents. LED lighting uses an average of 75 percent less energy and lasts 25 times longer than incandescents. They are about 4 times more energy efficient and last 5 times longer than fluorescents. The decreased costs help The Piper to be able to provide personalized care, good food and luxury furnishings.

The health benefits, welcoming atmosphere and decreased costs make LED lighting ideal for senior care and healthcare in general.  They are an essential aspect of The Piper’s breakthrough concept in senior living.

Categories California

The Impact of the "California Quality LED Bulb"

In mid-December, the California Energy Commission (CEC) formalized the definition of a “Quality LED Bulb” and only bulbs that meet that specification could become eligible for residential rebate programs from the local public utilities starting in 2014.  While officials have framed this as a kin to an Energy Star “Plus” approach, it does reflect a significant leap forward in performance – requiring a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 90 with an R9 of ≥50, a CCT (Correlated Color Temperature) of 2,700 or 3,000 K and a tighter window of McAdams ellipses, (4 versus 7 steps), an input power factor of ≥0.9 at full load, mandatory dimmablity to <10 percent and a minimum 5 year free replacement warranty as some key requirements. Interestingly, some Energy Star lamp requirements such as efficacy (lm/W) are not even part of the scope. Further details on the California Quality Bulb motivation and requirements can be found in the following article.

What I wanted to explore is the possible market implications. First I needed to gauge how many bulbs might meet these requirements now so I went to the LED Lighting Facts Search tool and narrowed my focus to two mainstream bulb types; the omni-directional A-lamp and the directional R/PAR30 commonly used in down lights.  For the initial screen, I searched for CRI > 90 and 2,700 to 3,000 K CCT.  In the A-lamp category, there were 214 entries. Only four (1.9 percent), including the Philips L-Prize bulb, complied with the initial screen.


For the BR/PAR30 there were 369 entries. Eighteen (4.9 percent) met the search parameters, but once different beam angle/base options were eliminated, this number was reduced to four model types.  The California specification has other constraints which further reduced the number of matches. For example, the Philips L-Prize bulb winner has a power factor of < 0.8, which eliminated it and within the selected bulbs only LEDnovations and Sylvania offered a 5 year warranty.  Some of the other bulbs did not meet the dimmable to <10 percent requirement. Clearly, only a very small fraction of the LED bulbs in this database met the high level CEC quality bulb specifications today and of those, the PAR lamps identified were not targeting residential applications, but commercial retail lighting where high CRI can make the difference on the sales floor.

California represents >10 percent of US households and is one of the leading states in advancing energy saving and environmental initiatives so it can be a bellwether for emerging trends.  Some may recall that at one time within the automotive industry there were cars that had “California Emissions” while the rest of the country followed a less stringent standard, now we moving to uniform 50 states emissions standards due in part to California leading the way.

During the hearing process, there were concerns by some manufacturers on the incremental LED cost driven by the high CRI/warm CCT and tight four-step McAdams ellipse requirements. Moreover, with traditional “phosphor converted” white LEDs approaches these high CRI requirements translated into an efficiacy penalty on the order of 15 to 20 percent, which also drives up the cost.  As more LEDs are required, this impacts the driver and heat-sink cost as more power must be converted and dissipated for the same lumen output.

The intent of this voluntary specification is to encourage industry to develop energy efficient bulbs that target a significantly “closer to incandescent” lighting quality than what is currently on the market. The question remains, at what level of rebates does the added cost to meet the specification drive manufacturers to develop more products that meet the goals of the “California quality LED bulb” and at what price point will consumers open their wallets.  This is not an easy question as LED technology continues to improve and evolve in a rapid manner.

If we consider 2012 rebate levels in California on the Philips “L-Prize” bulb, some utilities had residential rebate levels between $15 to $25, which lowered the price in Sacramento for example to sub $30 closing the price gap between less expensive LED bulbs on the shelves.  While the L-Prize is arguably a special case, California based Pacific Gas & Electric did a “large retailer” pricing study in 2011 on PAR30 lamps priced at $39.97 and found a $10 instant rebate increased weekly sales by 279 percent. Clearly rebates matter, especially around critical consumer price points.  The challenge moving forward for this initiative is getting more manufacturers to develop bulbs targeting the specification and raising consumer awareness on the price-performance benefits of buying a “California Quality LED bulb”.

Categories LED

How Advances Beyond the LED Chip Can Boost Efficiency and Drive New Applications

In our last post, Hugo da Silva argued that cutting-edge LED applications demand cutting-edge LED materials. While this is an accurate statement, its counterpoint is also true: Advances in LED materials can help to advance LED applications.

This is evident in two coinciding trends: The accelerating adoption of high refractive index (RI) LED encapsulants based on phenyl silicones, and the increasing application of LEDs in general lighting.

To be clear: There are other, independent trends driving adoption of LEDs in general lighting applications – most notably, the strong worldwide demand for more efficient light sources. Currently, lighting consumes nearly 20 percent of global electrical generation, and accounts for almost 6 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to the en.lighten initiative. Governments around the world have responded by planning or implementing stringent regulations to promote more energy-efficient light sources, such as LED-based lamps and luminaires. Yet even as this opportunity beckons, it also puts greater demands on LEDs themselves to deliver more lumens per watt.

Meanwhile, there are only so many ways to incrementally improve the output efficiency of LED chips. And as LED chips approach their theoretical limits for efficient light output, every small improvement becomes increasingly capital intensive. This has prompted LED designers to consider alternative approaches to boosting output efficiency, which is where advances in LED encapsulants are playing a role.

As a class of optical materials, silicones have raised the bar for reliability, performance and cost in along the entire LED value chain. Yet not all optical-grade silicones perform equally. Although all share the same basic silicon-oxygen foundation, silicones fall into two distinct chemistries distinguished by the phenyl or methyl end groups distributed along the molecular backbone.

These chemical nuances have significant real-world implications for LED lighting manufacturers hoping to compete for a share of the general lighting market. Namely, the comparatively higher (1.54) RI of phenyl-based silicones translates into 7 percent greater light output – independent of the LED chip, case or input power. More importantly, this significant boost in LED output derives from a simple change in encapsulant materials, which is a highly cost-effective alternative to achieving a comparable improvement in LED chip performance.

Years ago, there was a perception among seasoned LED designers that phenyl silicones came with certain trade-offs in thermal stability. That is no longer the case. Advances in phenyl-based silicone chemistry now enable optical silicone encapsulants able to perform reliably in the latest generation of 5 W to 50 W chip-on-board LED architectures. In addition, phenyl-based silicone encapsulants offer comparatively higher mechanical strength and a stronger gas barrier than methyl products. This helps protect the silver electrodes inside LEDs against moisture and corrosion that can turn them black and degrade both their performance reflective properties.

More to the point, these advances in phenyl silicone technology come just in time to improve the efficiency, reliability and competitive value of LED lighting as it targets new applications emerging in today’s general lighting market.