Categories Blog

Realize Your Genius!

In recent blogs, I covered the LED; interconnect of the Chip on Board LED device within a luminaire utilizing a TE Connectivity (TE) scalable or Zhaga compliant holder; the various device-level interconnects; and control, circuit protection and power aspects of Solid State Lighting (SSL) luminaires.  Now, let’s bring it altogether for a visual illustration of an LED light source and how TE enables the proliferation of SSL applications. The LED itself is quite a demanding device and requires a number of components to achieve a luminaire.  These components form a community of interacting devices all linked together to make an LED ecosystem.  An ecosystem for an LED light source is illustrated below.

As lighting undergoes the transition to LED solutions, simplicity and compatibility between the devices of a SSL lighting system are fundamental to system performance and their ability to scale in manufacturing.  These building block devices include (from left to right in the illustration); heat sink, thermal interface material, LED, LED holder, optical interface, and secondary optic.  This forms the basis of the SSL ecosystem, which would include a driver and aesthetic packaging.

The holder (or socket) is the core for the electrical, thermal, mechanical and optical interconnection around the LED.  Design and simplicity of the interconnection is paramount, hence TE’s introduction of a vast array of SSL enabling products.  Emerging standardization and convergence of form factors, particularly in spot light and down light applications, is providing manufacturers the opportunity to employ platform based solutions.  The Zhaga consortium is providing significant influence in this standardization.

This ecosystem platform approach drives the reduction in customization of many key components within the SSL ecosystem, simplifying assembly, allowing a faster time to market with reduced investment for the luminaire manufacturers.  By providing a common interface to the LED, heat sink and secondary optics, TE is enabling this ecosystem to be broader reaching.  Products engineered to work together from the outset, creating solutions and addressing the reliability touch points, while bringing a mutual benefit for the luminaire manufacturer and the end customer. More details and video are available on

An ecosystem of engineered components offers greater supply chain flexibility.  With an assortment of interchangeable light LED sources and optics, OEMs can limit risk, avoid capital costs of customized components or subassemblies and perform late customization of products to respond faster to customers ever-changing needs.  Here TE’s distribution partners play a key role to provide the availability of many of the SSL ecosystem products– thus empowering customers to create their own LED modules with far greater ease and confidence.  In this respect, TE focused on aligning our product availability through the same distribution channels that provide the LED’s, optics, drivers and thermal materials.

The Intelligent Buildings division of TE Connectivity is enabling lighting applications far beyond the LED itself.  We are enabling the integration of LED’s in the luminaire via innovative socket solutions, optical interfaces and power connectivity.  We provide low power and high power DC distributions systems via our NECTOR power system and our affiliation with eMerge Alliance.  We enable communication of multiple device applications to building management systems via wired and wireless solutions.  We are bringing seamless integration of devices to unlock the full potential for lighting systems and solutions.  More details available here.

Categories Blog

Portable Generator Reviews: Best Portable Gas Generators

The Best Portable Generator for 2021 | Reviews by WirecutterPortable Generator Reviews: Best Portable Gas Generators

Three “Best” portable generators were selected for review on the ConsumerSearch (CS) website:

  1. Generac 5724.
  2. Honeywell HW2000i.
  3. Briggs & Stratton Elite 30242.

The ConsumerSearch (CS) website published mini reviews of each model, and provides links to longer CS “Our Analysis” reviews of the same portable generators.

ConsumerSearch claims “…at no point are our editors influenced by advertising or other commercial considerations.” The organization investigates and recommends a variety of products. The company, a service of About dot com, provides on-line product ratings and reviews, such as the “Best” wind power generators, “Best” car tires, and the “Best” lawn tractors.

Generac Generators: Model 5724 “Best” Portable Generator Review

The Generac 5724 (est. $450) has a Good Housekeeping Seal giving it an additional warranty for two years in addition to factory warranty coverage. The 5724 received the CS “Best” designation because “ [is] a better bet than similar generators in this price and size class.” The model can run a refrigerator, lights, and a “couple” of lower wattage appliances during a power outage. The generator provides 3,250 watts with 3,750 surge watts.

The Northern Tool + Equipment website provides Generac 5724 owner reviews praising the model and giving it five out of five stars.

The CS “Our Analysis” longer review lists the “pros” for the 5724:

  • The model has a fuel gauge.
  • The 5724 will shutdown when low on oil.
  • The handle folds down.
  • The model has a wheel kit.
  • The 5724 comes with a Good Housekeeping Seal.
  • The Generac 5724 is CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certified.

The “Our Analysis” lists the “cons” for the 5724:

  • The model is not CARB (California Air Resource Board‘s stringent air-quality standards) compliant.
  • The model does not have a DC outlet.
  • The model makes more noise than “similarly sized generators.”

Honeywell Portable Generators with Inverter Technology

The Honeywell HW2000i (est. $500) uses inverter technology for keeping voltage from harming computers and TVs by controlling electric surges. It weighs 58 pounds, and is light enough for camping or tailgating. The model has an economy mode setting which reduces noise and saves fuel.

The HW2000i meets CARB standards, and comes with a two year warranty. Included in this model are two AC outlets and one DC outlet. If the consumer does not need to power electronics (TVs, computers, etc.), a non-inverter generator will deliver twice the power.

Briggs & Stratton Gas Generator Consumer Review

The Briggs & Stratton Elite 30242 (est. $1,000) is powerful enough to run appliances and lights up to a 2,000 sq. foot structure. The model can surge to 8,750 watts and is capable of starting heavy duty motors. The 30242 has an electric starter with four AC outlets, one 30 amp AC locking outlet, and a 30 amp extension cord with four outlets. The model weighs 200 pounds and comes with a two year warranty. A possible downside is the 30242 can burn seven gallons of gas in eight hours.

The ConsumerSearch mini reviews web page provides additional information about each of the three CS “Best” portable generators. The mini reviews page provides links to longer CS “Our Analysis” reviews of the same models, and provides additional links to outside sources reviewing the same portable generator models.




Categories Energy

LED Luminaires Help End-Users Meet Federal and State Energy Mandates

Federal and state energy reduction mandates and building codes are helping drive the adoption of LED luminaires.  But, as is so often the case with the government, there are numerous acts passed by Congress with very detailed language. So, I thought I’d explore the federal mandates, a few of the state mandates, and how they may affect those involved with LED luminaires – manufacturers, lighting designers and specifiers.

Because building lighting is commonly considered one of the easiest energy uses in which to find energy savings, it is often targeted in building energy codes and standards when energy reductions are sought. Therefore, it is important for lighting energy code developers and the lighting design community to coordinate efforts to ensure that lighting energy codes continue to be energy effective without inhibiting quality lighting design and implementation.[1]

Federal Mandates
Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005), which addressed many energy management requirements, including energy use measurement and accountability. It also mandated that new federal buildings must achieve savings of at least 30 percent below ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004, or the 2004 IECC if cost-effective.

Two years later, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007). One key mandate of this act is Section 433, which includes the Building Energy Efficiency Performance Standards requiring steep reductions in fossil fuel energy relative to usage in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. Additionally, EISA 2207 mandates that government buildings slash energy consumption 30 percent by 2015.

Then in 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that requires federal agencies to set 2020 emission reduction targets and numerous other efficiency improvements. A15-page executive order, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,” goes into great detail on how each target and improvement is to be reached.

State Mandates
The requirement for states to adopt and enforce a building energy code is a direct result of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA) as amended by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). All states have energy mandates and building codes, however, I’ve highlighted just a few below.

North Carolina
Switching to LED lighting will help the state meet the requirements of the 2007 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) mandate. This state legislation mandates that 10 percent of the energy that electric cooperatives sell be created through renewable energy resources or energy efficiency measures by 2018.

Environmental policies in Illinois have pushed the state to be one of the best ranked in the nation for green initiatives. However, the state still has some work to do in terms of really being green. The state ranked sixth in the nation for consumption of electricity in 2010, according to the DOE.

One program that is helping Illinois change this in order to meet the state’s energy mandates is the Illinois Energy Now program, run by the State Energy Office of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. It offers incentives for lighting upgrades to local, state and federal government facilities, public schools, community colleges, public colleges and universities that can help the facilities decrease energy costs. These public facilities are eligible for financial incentives that can help them upgrade to more energy-efficient lighting in response to a phase out of certain types of commercial fluorescent lamps that began in 2012.

The California Energy Commission recently updated its Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards, improving by 30 percent what “up to code” means for commercial buildings. The new standards, which take effect January 1, 2014, introduce requirements for photosensors, occupancy sensors and multi-level lighting controls, both indoors and out, making adaptive lighting the new standard in California.

Adaptive lighting, lighting that automatically dims or shuts off when it’s not needed, represents one of the largest near-term opportunities for energy savings, and its inclusion in the state’s building code marks vital progress. The California Energy Commission projects the non-residential standards alone will save the state 372 GWh every year. Hopefully, they will also pave the way for other states pursuing climate goals.

The California Public Utilities Commission has also called for a 60 percent to 80 percent statewide reduction in electrical lighting consumption by 2020, in its Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. This is on top of the goal to make all new residential construction net-zero by 2020, and commercial construction net-zero by 2030. Since lighting currently accounts for nearly 30 percent of California’s electricity use, the extensive use of lighting controls is absolutely essential to meeting these net-zero goals.

Many items in Congressional legislation direct the DOE to develop formal rules to implement mandates in legislation and to accelerate SSL technology. Because of this, the DOE has invested in the research and development of SSL, including LEDs, with industry partners.

Technology Adoption
New energy codes prompt the demand for greater energy efficiency lighting. In an article I read a few years ago, “Code of Conductivity, increasingly stringent energy codes call for higher-efficiency lighting fixtures,” Melanie Taylor, a lighting designer and senior associate with WSP Flack + Kurtz, a New York City–based engineering firm, commented that, “Manufacturers are making these fixtures available primarily because of energy codes. They’ve responded to the demand that energy codes have created.”

Engineering luminaires that meet the updated codes and mandates can only help building owners, lighting designers and specifiers. This, in turn, creates more demand for energy efficient LED luminaires.

Categories Energy

The March 15th Presidential Primaries Can Add Fire Power to the War on Energy Waste

The remaining presidential candidates have an opportunity to distinguish themselves in the upcoming primary by adding a key level of detail to how they would reduce government waste, help our Veterans, create jobs, reduce CO2 emissions, and also fund the fight against ISIS. Changing the lights never looked so bright!

The LED Advantages: 

  • Over 500,000 NEW JOBS
  • A Quarter Trillion in Cost SAVINGS
  • 3 Trillion lbs of CO2 Emissions Reduction

The remaining Republicans (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio) and the remaining Democrats (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) have all talked in different ways about health care, job creation, and combating terrorism. A War on Energy Waste starting in government buildings will help fund each initiative and also build a long term foundation for strength and American Energy Independence.

The delegates that are at stake on March 15th are significant, and the stats collectively have a vast number of military and government buildings that could all benefit from reduced energy costs. The state to delegate counts is as follows:

  • Florida primary – 246 Democratic delegates, 99 Republican
  • Illinois primary – 182 Democratic delegates, 69 Republican
  • Missouri primary – 84 Democratic delegates, 52 Republican
  • North Carolina primary – 121 Democratic delegates, 72 Republican
  • Northern Mariana Islands Republican caucus primary – 9 delegates
  • Ohio primary – 159 Democratic delegates, 66 Republican

March 15th is particularly key for those in the “Republican Establishment” that want to block Donald Trump from winning the nomination. If Senator Rubio wins his home state of Florida or if Governor Kasich wins his home state of Ohio, the path for Donald Trump involves more mathematical hurdles than if he wins one or both of the “winner-take-all” delegate states.

Here is why a fresh message with actionable intelligence can help candidates from either side of the aisle. America has fatigue from the extraordinary costs of the War on Terrorism, War on Poverty, and War on Drugs. In each case, the high cost of time, treasure, and human life has delivered results that are far lower than expectations. A War on Energy Waste is WINNABLE given the high Return on Investment (ROI) from technology such as LED lighting that is available today.

The order of magnitude is tremendous based on data from the General Services Administration (GSA) and LED performance metrics. The military and VA occupy more than 2.2 billion sq. ft. of buildings which is two thirds of the total 3.4 billion sq. ft. of federal government property. At $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit with LEDs, the annual energy savings is typically $.33 per sq. ft. or higher. The government could save more than a billion dollars every year just by changing the lights and save more than 10 billion over the decade long life of the LED technology.

The billions in energy savings from a War on Energy Waste can serve many much needed purposes:

  1. Staffing nurses and support at the Veterans Medical Centers and Clinics
  2. Job training for Veterans in need of employment
  3. Fighting ISIS and other terror organizations

By launching a War on Energy Waste, the government can go beyond job training to also create opportunities for Veterans to work on many aspects of lighting retrofits. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) there are more than 87 billion sq. ft. of commercial real estate in the US. With $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit and one new job created for every $150,000 in lighting retrofits, the employment ripple effect is over 580,000 new jobs. The employment includes counting lights to prepare savings analysis, utility rebate administration, installation, project management, engineering, and product production. Many of the jobs involve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) so the clean-tech work is foundational for 21st century careers. The national energy savings will exceed $287 billion over the next decade and yield over 3.4 trillion lbs of CO2 emissions reduction, the equivalent of taking about 30 million cars off the road.

As the CEO of Independence LED Lighting, I brought our LED manufacturing from China to Pennsylvania in 2010. We are one of multiple companies that have just scratched the massive potential of energy savings and job creation. Beyond our Fortune 100 and small business accounts, we have seeded the public sector with installations at the VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, the US Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and over 30 US Navy ships for Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Categories Blog

Produce Your Own Hydrogen – The Homemade Hydrogen Generator

How to make a mini Hydrogen Generator / TUTORIAL - YouTube

There are many different designs of hydrogen generators available on the Internet. There’s also many schematics available to download showing exactly how to build your own hydrogen (or Brown’s Gas) generator. While adding this component to your vehicle, keep in mind that some vehicles may not benefit from the injection of Brown’s Gas but many will – especially in smaller, older vehicles.

Vehicle Compatibility for Brown’s Gas

Some vehicles, especially newer vehicles with all the computer controls, could possibly run erratically if you introduce Brown’s Gas into the air intake system. This is primarily due to all of the sensors that are installed on vehicles today.

When Brown’s Gas is introduced into the air intake system, it enriches the quality of the air by adding hydrogen and oxygen. Vehicle engine sensors are designed to detect “normal” air quality and make any adjustments to the engine necessary if air quality changes. When they detect the hydrogen and oxygen enriched air in the air/fuel system, the computer will automatically make changes to the air/fuel mixture and cause the engine to run erratically.

Some people have avoided this problem by removing the air sensors from the vehicle and replace them with a fake sensor that makes the computer think that the sensor is still there, but unlike the air sensor, the fake sensor does not send any signals to the vehicle computer. There are also other methods to avoid this problem and a quick Internet search on “vehicle sensors and Brown’s Gas” will show ways to avoid computer issues.

The Homemade Hydrogen Generator

The hydrogen generator that you build should be designed especially for the vehicle in which you are installing it. You need room for the hydrogen generator, and it should also be located close to the battery (for power).

Components List

You will need at least the following components to start building your hydrogen generator:

  • A canister large enough to contain the water, electrolysis plates, and wiring.
  • At least two stainless steel receptacle wall plates.
  • Grommets, plastic or rubber washers, and stainless steel screws.
  • Heavy duty wires (6 to 8 gauge) – red (positive) and black (negative).
  • Fuse boxes with at least 30 Amp fuses
  • Enough plastic tubing to connect the canister to the fuel intake system.
  • An on/off power switch to allow power to be controlled to the generator

Basic Instructions for Building a Hydrogen Generator

Many different types of containers can be used to build a hydrogen generator, but the most common is a standard 6” to 8” PVC pipe cut to the desired length. The pipe must be completely sealed to allow the gas to be contained and captured. PVC caps or threaded ends can be used for this.

The stainless steel wall plates are those used to cover an old receptacle that is no longer used. These can be found in any hardware store. Stainless steel must be used because it does not corrode as regular steel will. Electrolysis will corrode normal steel within minutes.

The steel wall plates should be sandwiched together but not touching. Mount the grommets inside the “screw holes” of the wall plates, use the rubber washers on the outside of the plates and attach them together with the stainless steel screws but leave each screw attaching a separate plate. The plates must not touch each other but each screw needs to touch each plate.

Connect the red (positive) wire to the screw on one of the plates, and connect the black (negative) wire to the opposite screw on the other plate. You should now have about a 1/8” space between the two plates with each wire connecting each plate. One plate serves as a positive conductor while the other plate will serve as the negative conductor. When powered, the current passes through the water within the canister – breaking down the water into its single atoms (hydrogen and oxygen).

A plastic tube (normally around ¾”) should be inserted through a drilled hole near the top of the canister where the gas will collect. It is this tube that will connect to your vehicles intake system; supplying the Brown’s Gas. As a safety precaution, connect the hose to the hydrogen generator canister and run it into a separate canister which contains water – then finally connect it to the intake system of your vehicle. This secondary canister will help prevent a disaster in case the gas is somehow ignited by the engine.

Install an on/off power switch on the inside of your vehicle – and connect to the red wire supplying power to the hydrogen generator. There’s several different ways to connect the power switch so do a bit of research on this. Also install the fuse box in-line with the power supply wire. If a wire was somehow shorted out, the fuse will blow instead of causing electrical damage or fire to your vehicle.

Connecting to the Air Intake System

Most vehicles are equipped with a rubber type, air-intake component which connects from the vehicles air filter directly to the engine intake. It is this rubber component where you will want to connect the tubing from the hydrogen generator. When the hydrogen generator is operating, pressure will build inside the container – which will force the gas into the engine’s combustion chambers.

More Information on Building These Systems

By no means can this short article describe all of the science involved in building a Homemade Hydrogen Generator. It was written to cover the very basics of this component and to give you a brief idea as to how they work and connect to a vehicle. I’ve included several links below that should be reviewed before attempting to build your own hydrogen generator.

And remember; take caution when building these because they can explode!

Categories Blog

Metrics – One Size Fits All?

LEDs are the answer. Now just tell me what the question is. That’s what it seems like, doesn’t it? Nobody doubts the promise of LED technology, and certainly the unprecedented design flexibility is very exciting. It seems, however, that anyone with any LED experience has a disappointing one among their forays.  So what’s the matter with all of us?

It’s become clear to me that some of these problems stem from familiar metrics and guidelines that are no longer sufficient.  We roll our eyes at naïve consumers who quantify their needs in terms of a “60 watt light bulb,” but perhaps it’s time we reconsider some of the other metrics that have been convenient, handy and “good enough.” For today, let’s pick on color quality.

For the most part, if it is important to have objects look attractive, we seek light sources with a color rendering index (CRI) in the 80s or higher.  Perfect, we reason, would be a CRI of 100.  We rely very heavily on that number, but will that really get us what we need?

The CRI scale was developed to measure color fidelity compared to a reference light source – at most color temperatures, an incandescent type source.  If we believe that incandescent light quality is the ultimate goal, then a CRI of 100 would represent perfection.  Those who have ever left the house with a navy blue sock on one foot and a black one on the other, however, may not agree with that assessment.  As guidelines for legislation and financial incentives are set, we should remember that CRI was never intended to indicate fitness for an application, nor does it say anything about preference by any population.

Averaging the appearance of eight pastel colors for what is reported as the CRI (Ra) metric is a compromise of convenience, but there are six additional reference indices that can hold more information.  But is higher always better?  Many highlight the R9 (deep red) index, since people generally want to look healthier and better rested than they may actually be, but does even that tell the whole story?  Many people prefer neodymium lamps in their homes, which transform standard incandescent lamps from 100 CRI and R9 of 100 to a CRI of 77 and an R9 of 15.  There are CFL lamps that are nearly indistinguishable from incandescent lamps at the same 82 CRI of their disdained cousins, but with an R9 value of 20 rather than zero (or lower).

It turns out that we don’t actually like to see all colors.  We tend to prefer red tones (ruddy complexion, toasty fireplaces).  We don’t like yellow so much (jaundice, sickly appearance).  So maybe we don’t actually want all indices to score 100?  This logic may be great for residential applications, but perhaps not for healthcare settings.  I would certainly want my pediatrician to readily recognize jaundice in my baby.

While there are new scales being developed, like the color quality scale (CQS) and gamut area index (GAI), the issue still remains – is our goal color fidelity (versus what as a reference) or preference (whose preference)?  The answer is likely “it depends on the application.”  As an example, the DOE’s Retailer Energy Alliance has recognized that in their performance specification for refrigerated display cases, where they include minimum values for saturated color indices R9 through R12.  So maybe the metrics are actually fine.  Maybe we need to remind ourselves what they actually were intended to measure, and consider identifying additional complementary metrics to define exactly what we are trying to characterize.

Categories LED

Avoiding LED Glare Bombs

If you’ve ever looked directly at a retrofitted LED luminaire in a parking structure or gas station canopy, chances are you were blinded by the glare. And when you looked away you probably saw those black spots reminiscent of antiquated flash cameras.  This happened to me just last week. As a lighting product manager and mechanical engineer I often look up at the lighting source; try as I might, I simply can’t avoid it! Since you’re reading LED Journal, you undoubtedly do this too.

So why do covered ceiling and area light luminaires have exposed LEDs? Such a design model virtually ensures glare. Yet as a lighting professional, I often wonder why LED fixtures are being developed with such little regard for glare control. While there is no clear answer, I’d suggest two strong possibilities: the first is that lighting manufacturers were initially so consumed with lumen output that a feature that would lower light output was not part of the discussion. Lighting specifiers were skeptical, at best, that a parking garage could be properly illuminated with a 3,000 to 4,000 lumen fixture, costing $700 and lasting only 50,000 hours—so where was the value proposition? The manufacturers were making seemingly outlandish statements that only delivered lumens mattered, and a parking garage could be magically illuminated with what appeared to be ¼ the total amount of light output from the luminaire.

The second reason, in my opinion, is that manufacturers and specifiers both believe the new designs are an improvement over the old shoe-box designs normally used in area light applications. Post-top mounts were certainly more attractive, but new stray light ordinances have slowed their sale so many specifiers perceive these designs as new and fresh.

Standards -Yes, fresh design aesthetics are definitely appealing! That said, I don’t believe that modern LED luminaires should be held to a lower standard regarding glare control or that modern LED luminaire designs should be exempt from the standards and practices meticulously developed over the last 100 years.

Measuring Glare – Since glare can be quantifiable through a standard luminance measurement, this issue is far more significant than one person’s opinion versus another’s. As you may know, luminance is the photometric measure of the luminous intensity per unit area of light travelling in a given direction. Luminance describes the amount of light passing through a specific area that falls within a particular angle.

A common mistake in measuring LED luminaire luminance is measuring the entire fixture. Luminance must be measured at the luminous opening, in other words at the smallest point (without any breaks) that emits light out of the fixture. If one were to measure the entire LED luminaire, it would not account for the “shards” of light emitted from each individual LED. The light emitted from individual LED luminaire designs is more akin to a series of laser beams in contrast to the homogenous output of a traditional luminaire.

I don’t want to dive too deep into the mathematical equations or the comparison of luminance values, since not everyone following this blog is an engineer.  However, it’s important to point out that in controlled tests, results showed quantitatively that a shielded LED luminaire yielded an eightfold reduction in glare.

LED Luminaires Redesign Needed – Most LED luminaires designed today do not address the issue of glare. To the contrary, glare is often completely ignored. Clearly, as was done with traditional light sources, manufacturers should address LED glare, because high efficacies and quality distributions can be maintained while controlling both discomfort and disability glare.

I believe glare is just as important an issue today as it was 20 years ago. Unfortunately, with the impracticality of physical testing, there is no easy way to compare one luminaire to another when specifying fixtures for a project. However, there is one important point I’d like to make and that is, as with incumbent lighting technologies, new LED luminaires should not be designed with unshielded lamp sources. Effective shielding of LEDs can be achieved, while still providing excellent performance and a dramatic reduction in glare.

You may have a different opinion and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Categories Blog

Is Low Price Really Low Cost?

When building an LED luminaire or lamp, total price of components in the bill of materials is a critical to the commercial success and adoption of a product in the market.  Another factor that is truly important in the long run of manufacturing LED products is the total cost for such components and the ability to meet the expected lifetime demanded by the market.  The LED lighting market is demanding high reliability and long expected lifetimes of products in excess of 50,000 hours.  Total cost not only takes into account the price of components, but also the costs associated with issues such as manufacturing quality, warranty claims, and brand reputation due to reliability issues.

The industry has already started to see some of these associated costs in instances related to failures of electrolytic capacitors in drivers and optical performance degradation due to lens material complexities in LED systems.  Connectivity products for LED systems are also important components that are not immune to such concerns and need to be carefully evaluated for quality and reliability when selected during the design process.  While the price is important, selecting the right connectivity solution may prove to be less expensive to a manufacturer over time.

Understanding the basics of the connector design and test process helps a fixture designer make a confident component selection to meet market demands.  The basic connector consists of a housing and contacts used to create the electromechanical interface. The interface can be used for wire?to?wire, board?to?board, and wire?to-device/board connections. The purpose of the connector is to establish and maintain a reliable, yet separable low?resistance connection. The contacts used in a connector system are at the heart of what makes a connector work.  Correct material selection is critical to ensure adequate normal force is retained at the interface during the life of the connector.  The connector housing provides a number of very important functions. Fundamentally, the housing provides electrical isolation between adjacent contacts and between the contact and the outside world.

In high?intensity LED applications, the LEDs themselves generate enough heat to require careful consideration of thermal management and material selections. Choosing the right connector is critical to ensure it meets the intended application and environmental conditions just as with the LED, optics, thermal management and driver electronics.

Connectivity solutions should to be designed or evaluated for LED environments to minimize common failure modes such as fretting corrosion of contacts and other issues due to the effects of plastic relaxation that lead to catastrophic failures.  At TE Connectivity, we have developed design processes and testing procedures along with robust material selection guidelines to design high quality connector performance and field reliability.  Years of innovation and experience is embedded in TE’s design and manufacturing practices providing the market with the confidence it needs to build products with high demands for useful life at competitive prices.

In today’s solid?state lighting systems, LEDs, thermal solution, optics and packaging comprise a considerable part of the overall cost of the lighting system. The connector is usually a small part of the overall cost and is often specified without adequate consideration and balancing of cost versus performance. It makes little sense to scrimp on the one component that your entire fixture relies on for power. Without a reliable and appropriate connector system, the lighting fixture, however well designed and esthetically pleasing it is, becomes a dull, static (and unlit) non?functional object d’art. Spend some time and consideration selecting the appropriate proven connector system for the application even if it costs a little more. It will pay dividends in the long run.

The bitterness of poor quality lasts much longer than the sweetness of the lowest price.

Categories LED

2021- New Year, New Possibilities for LEDs

How are LEDs evolving and impacting businesses? With the New Year comes new opportunities and this is certainly true with LEDs. There are now high quality LED luminaires for street, area and landscape lighting; down lighting; track lighting; shelf and display lighting; decorative fixtures; 2X2 and 2X4 recessed luminaires for general ambient light; even high brightness high bay luminaires. The directional nature of LED sources allows for more of the lumens generated to be emitted from the luminaire compared to traditional light sources making these luminaires extremely efficient. The advancements in LED technology has lead to higher efficacy and higher lumen LED chips, as well as chip on board technology minimizing or eliminating heating sinking requirements, enabling the development of luminaires for general ambient lighting  that deliver more than 100 lumens per watt.  Most indoor luminaires typically have a rated life of 50,000 hours (L70), but there are many street and area lighting luminaires with life ratings in the 70,000 to 100,000 hours range. Color consistency fixture-to-fixture and color stability over life is being address with “hot binning” of LED chips or the incorporation of intelligent active color control into the LED system to maintain the color within a two-step or three-step Macadam color ellipse minimizing perceptual color differences. There are also a variety of phase cut, 0-10 V, DALI and wireless lighting controls that have been developed for dimming of LED lamps and luminaires down to 5 to 20 percent.

Boston Interiors Photo Credit: Shannon Creeden

One example of LED technology making a difference for businesses is Boston Interiors, a family owned and operated furniture retailer with seven locations throughout Massachusetts that sought to reduce operating costs at its retail locations. Having identified lighting as an area that could offer significant savings, it was also critical to Boston Interiors that its lighting provided excellent color rendering to highlight its quality furniture and catch customers’ eyes.  Boston Interiors selected its retail store in Stoughton, Mass. as the pilot location for upgrading the lighting to LEDs. Having selected OSRAM SYLVANIA’s ULTRA High Performance series PAR38 LED retrofit lamps to replace the existing 60-watt halogen lamps throughout the store, Boston Interior was very satisfied with the quality of light and color rendering of the ULTRA High Performance Series LEDs.

As a result of the retrofit to LED lighting, Boston Interiors will save more than $8,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs at its Stoughton store. Over the lifetime of the lamps, the savings will total nearly $100,000 over approximately 12 years. In addition to the energy and maintenance savings, Boston Interiors has also noticed savings in cooling the Stoughton store. Because OSRAM SYLVANIA’s LED lamps produce far less heat than halogen lamps, Boston Interiors has not needed to rely on its HVAC system quite as much since the LED lighting was installed.

In addition to cost savings, the LED lighting has enabled Boston Interiors to reduce its carbon footprint, as the company is committed to green initiatives. The retrofit is a major contributor in helping reduce the store’s energy consumption by 48,315 kWh, the equivalent of 74,163 pounds of carbon dioxide.

The advancements in LED technology and more reasonable price points for LED luminaires definitely makes LED lighting solutions worth looking at. Remember, not all LED solutions are alike and requires doing your homework. Before deciding on an LED solution, it is best to install a few luminaires and evaluate its performance before making a final decision.

Categories LED

LEDs Cook Eggs

LEDs are very good at producing light and heat. Unfortunately they are slightly better at the latter than the former and as each generation improves, more Lumens for every Watt of electrical energy are produced.

Indeed, LEDs have now become so good at producing light that they are rapidly replacing other types of light source for a wide range of applications including automotive lighting, domestic “light bulbs” and industrial luminaires (e.g. ‘high bays’). The one thing these applications have in common is that it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to prove the product is safe and performs as advertised. Both are accomplished through testing. Often these tests are defined by standards.

While passing a test is highly desirable, it does not guarantee that an LED light is suitable for an application or will survive long in service. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The manufacturer often has little control as to how or where the LED lights are installed
  2. There is Mother Nature to contend with.

Consider, for example, the thermal management of LEDs. Due to the production of heat (alongside photons) LEDs must be cooled to keep the junction temperature within safe limits. Ideally LEDs will run at the lowest practicable temperature since virtually every performance metric of LEDs efficiency, stability of hue and lifetime all decline as the temperature increases. LEDs are cooled by conduction so it is important to use circuit boards with very low thermal resistance between the semiconductors and the heat sink. It is for this reason that high brightness and high intensity LED light sources use various forms of metal-back PCBs on which to mount the LEDs. A metal board is able to spread the heat and conduct it through to a heat sink that dissipates it to ambient air.

A well-designed LED luminaire will keep the LEDs comfortably warm at around 70-90°C and the heat sink at a pleasant 30°C or thereabouts. However that very design assumes the luminaire will be used in a temperate climate where the ambient air is around 20°C. More importantly, LED lights are often tested in just that sort of environment. In some parts of the world, night time minimum temperatures can be as high as 40°C – and that is outside in a nice “cool” breeze. Typically luminaires are installed on or in ceilings. Now given hot air rises and the ceiling air is relatively stagnant (particularly if the LED light is installed in a closed void) the operating environment can easily reach 50°C or more.

Traditional metal finned heat sinks that transfer thermal energy to air function by having lots of surface area.  As such the LED luminaire sent for testing will, in all probability, have a pristine heat sink that will function at maximum efficiency. Now fast-forward five years and some heat sinks will be covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs (when did you last clean your light fittings?). Indeed, it is not uncommon for larger high bay lights to be used as nesting sites by a variety of lesser and more endangered bird species! Cutting the efficiency of the heat sink has only one outcome, which is to raise the operating temperature of the LEDs and inevitably shorten their lifespan.

While the construction of a birds nest on an LED heat sink is not part of standard tests, some allowance for product aging should be included in the thermal design.