Category Archives: CFL

Appreciating Lumen Depreciation

You might have heard the terms “lumen maintenance” or “lumen depreciation” or (if you’re more advanced) “L70” in reference to lighting – particularly LED lighting. These terms have to do with lifespan, which is particularly important for lighting for commercial, municipal, educational, healthcare, or industrial applications, where short operating lives come at a higher premium.

Like the metal halide (MH), high pressure sodium (HPS), and fluorescent/compact fluorescent (CFL) technology typically used in these settings, LEDs decrease in brightness over time. L70 is a calculation of when the output of a light source dips down to 70% of the initial lumens – after which point, the bulb or luminaire is considered no longer useful, and should be replaced.

L70 values for LED lighting are determined by testing samples at different temperatures for thousands of hours, then multiplying the damage exponentially. LED drivers/power supplies generate heat, and if not managed properly, they can dramatically accelerate lumen depreciation. This is why we place such heavy emphasis on the heat sinks and other thermal management systems on all products designed and assembled by LED Waves.

Lumen-Maintenance-Curves.allThe above chart maps the typical trajectory of lumen depreciation across many professional-grade lighting technologies compared to LEDs. L70 at 50,000 hours is the baseline for everything we carry; however, most of our newer industrial products such as LED high bays are rated to last two to ten times longer.

(Note that halogen/incandescent bulbs fail suddenly, or catastrophically, rather than slowly fade in brightness. This is because their light comes from filaments, which simply burn out, rather than from the gas-based chemical reactions of the ballasted lighting technologies, or from the electricity conducted through solid state Light Emitting Diodes.)

The slow lumen depreciation of LEDs is significant for several reasons. The most obvious one is that it supplements energy savings towards a return on investment. By saving on bulb replacements and on maintenance workers’ time – which is an especially important consideration for the workplace – LED lights pay for themselves. And the advertised lifespan of, say, a fluorescent T8 tube, is not as relevant if one third of it is spent transmitting dim, flickering light.

Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Secondly, lumen maintenance is worth noting when comparing the brightness of different lighting technologies. People are slowly disabusing themselves of the idea that Wattage measures brightness, and instead they are looking at lumen counts.

However, the advertised lumen output of a MH, HPS or fluorescent bulb is not an accurate indication of how bright it will be, since that value declines so drastically and so quickly. Occasionally, fluorescent lighting suppliers advertise a mean (average) value in addition to initial lumen output. When this is not available, one should determine their own value based on their needs and capabilities. For example, if you replace bulbs at the L70 mark, the lumen output at 85% initial lumens (or the halfway point between 100% and 70%) may provide a more accurate picture of how bright a fluorescent, MH or HPS light source will be.

Thus, exact matches in lumen output or advertised lifespans are somewhat irrelevant when comparing other light bulbs with LEDs.
Navigating this information may be a little confusing at first, but satisfyingly powerful with just a little bit of research. And our experts here at LED Waves are happy to help you make the proper lighting evaluations and choices along the way.

A Sea Change for LED Lighting Manufacturers

When we first shifted LED Waves manufacturing operations stateside to debut a set of American-made LED PAR lamps back in 2012, we did so with three primary goals:

  1. Lower costs by eliminating middlemen and consolidating operations in-house – accelerating wide-scale adoption of energy-saving LED lights.
  2. Create jobs – especially in the green tech field, particularly for the United States (which was falling behind in this field at the time) and most importantly – for us personally – on a local level here in NYC.
  3. Exercise closer quality control of our in-house exclusives – helping diffuse the discontent some early adopters experienced from poorly made LED products.
Chicago.Illinois.LED PAR30.light bulbs
Chicago, Illinois:
The evolution of our LED PAR30 involved adding dimmability and upgrading from 7 LEDs to latest Philips single CoB.

While we figured we were oddities at the time – supplying and manufacturing LED lights in-house in the USA, despite our small company size – we didn’t realize we were on the ground floor of a global sea change in the SSL industry.

China has long dominated our field, handling the intensive process behind the manufacture of all energy efficient lighting – from the glass-blown curvature of CFL bulbs to the board population and highly nuanced assembly of LED replacements – with a seemingly endless supply of cheap labor. Government subsidies made it even harder for American businesses to resist the allure of Chinese manufacturing.

Slowly yet surely, though, China is losing its foothold and manufacturing has shifted back to the United States. Forbes has noted six commonalities among manufacturers affecting this change:

forbes chinese mfgThis does not portend the end of Chinese manufacturing – far from it. Rather, we’re seeing a leveling of the playing field – and on a higher level at that. Healthy competition between LED Waves among other American manufacturers (not to mention other global contenders) breeds higher quality, lower cost LED lights, with more jobs and better employee satisfaction. And remember, that’s what drove our decision to manufacture LED lights in the USA.

In Capitalist USA, Utilities Pay You! Sort Of.

For some homeowners, low electric bills are not enough of an incentive to install LED lighting and other energy-efficient devices. Sure, there are fringe benefits (like better visibility and the convenience of a 35,000+ hour lifespan per LED bulb), but why stop at merely saving when you can also earn rewards?

The NYT reports that a growing number of utility companies are partnering up with businesses and app developers to help inspire their customers to use less energy. Opower, a home energy management company, sends subscribers a report detailing how their usage stacks up against that of their neighbors, granting smiley face badges to exceptional savers. This social approach relies on customers’ satisfaction from helping their community reach an energy goal, as well as on their competitive nature.

"OMG That Deborah is such an energy hog! #OutdatedHVAC"

As for those who care less about keeping up with the Joneses than about cold hard ca$h, there are discounts and gift cards. Duke Energy sends out vouchers for cold water formula detergent to encourage customers to give their water heaters a rest. C3 uses demographic information to reward points that customers can redeem at local and national stores. (For example: Young children in your household? Enjoy a Staples gift certificate in time for back to school season.)

The most commonly rewarded LED light? The standard A19 bulb replacement.

And of course, there are the ubiquitous rebates for LED light bulbs and programs that give away CFLs (which, at this point, seem to serve the main purpose of getting rid of the cheap ghastly things before newer LED bulbs take center stage).

Why do energy companies want us to consume less of what they sell? Because the consequences of not curbing energy use – like power outages, or construction of new plants to meet high demand – are way more expensive for them than the alternative. That makes LED systems and other green upgrades a rare Win for all: for utility companies, for homeowners, and of course, for the environment.

LED Grow Lights “Let-tuce” Eat Healthy Year-Round

Patrick Henry Community College of Martinsville, Virginia has embarked on an ambitious new project involving LED lights: indoor farming! The school just welcomed the public to its Agricultural Resource Center. The center – a former Main Street storefront – is now occupied by rows of hydroponically raised Great Lakes, Romaine, Buttercrunch and Red Sail lettuce, as well as cilantro. Students are comparing how these crops flourish under red and blue LED lights. (And a few CFLs – why the heck not?)

LED lighting lettuce at PHCC image via Martinsville BulletinGrowing vegetables under LED lights has been adopted by progressive farmers worldwide. Sun-kissed produce is great, but indoor farming allows growers to stack more crops on top of each other, increasing the potential yield per square foot. And this can happen year-round. (No more guilt from eating tomatoes out of season!) Hydroponic farming saves water, as it cycles through the plants and wastes none to runoff. Plus, within this controlled environment, no pesticides are needed. This makes organic produce more attainable for all!

Beyond the foodie benefits of PHCC’s Agricultural Resource Center lies a greater goal. The school hopes to show this model of indoor LED-lit farming is sustainable, and eventually use it to repurpose the abandoned warehouses in the area. This is just the boost that an economically depressed community could use – nourishment for your wallet and your belly.

via Martinsville Bulletin

LED Bulbs Help Teach a Lesson in Energy Efficiency

Last Friday systems engineer Anthony Marino paid a visit to New Jersey’s Bullock School, where his presentation on energy provided third graders with some enlightenment – LED light-enment, that is! Using a Wattage meter, Marino showed students the drastic reduced electric draw from a 9 Watt LED light bulb, comparing it to a 40 Watt incandescent and a 10 Watt CFL.

Marino's meter reads the Wattage of what looks like the A19 Mark II LED light bulb.

In addition to the hands-on demonstration, Marino taught the kids some basic properties of energy. Some quotes:

  • “Potential energy is stored energy, like when you’re waiting at the top of a hill with your bike.”
  • “Kinetic energy is motion, like when you’re riding down that hill.”
  • “Non-renewable energy sources take many years to replenish and have the potential to run out.”
  • “Renewable energy includes things like sun, wind and waves.”
  • “Food provides you with chemical energy that you use for motion. Sun provides radiant energy to plants, which convert it to chemical energy.”
  • Thus illustrating that, “energy is neither created nor destroyed.”

It is so very important to open the energy conversation with kids from a young age, so LED Waves applauds Marino for this valuable lesson. And it sounds like the students applaud him, too. Nine-year old Mercedez Willis gushed, “I learned how wind can be a big help to a lot of people… I want to be an engineer and build a windmill.” :)


The Second Price Tag

image via Home Energy SaverHome Energy Saver posted an essay on some often overlooked factors when consumers weigh traditional vs. energy efficient appliances for the home (unfortunately snubbing LED lighting by only mentioning CFL in the process, but whatever). Some of their arguments were quite surprising; did you know that the average household emits over twice as much greenhouse gas per year than a car?

Their breakdown of how intelligent appliance shopping decisions should be made: “Whenever you buy an energy-consuming product, it really has two price tags. The first price tag is the initial purchase price. The second price tag isn’t so obvious—it’s the cost to operate the product over its lifetime. Because this second price tag is hidden in your monthly utility bills, it’s easy to overlook. But the second price tag can be large. For some products, it can be even more than the initial price. So when you are comparing models, remember the second price tag before you buy.”

This reasoning makes so much sense it’s almost embarrassing how seldom it’s applied. And the second price tag is also tied to other non-energy benefits, such as the long lifespans and safety features of LEDs. As prices for LED lights continue to drop steadily, though, that first price tag will start looking more insignificant than ever! Read the full essay at Home Energy Saver.

House to Vote on Repeal of Light Bulb Standards

It looks like the House will meet at noon today to vote on the BULB Act. This legislation, introduced by Representative Joe Barton of Texas, aims to repeal the energy efficiency standards in light bulbs (starting with 100 Watt incandescents in 2012), written into law as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

These new energy standards have recently become the center of much debate, sadly fueled by misinformation spread by EISA opponents. (It’s interesting that this controversy has only come to light now, during the Obama administration, as few conservatives found fault with the bill when George W Bush signed it in 2007.) The EISA requires light bulb companies to engineer their products to be 25% more efficient; it is not restricting consumers’ individual choices to only CFL or LED lights. This is similar to how new fuel efficiency standards placed our failing auto industry on a forward-thinking path, more competitive with the gas-saving models from other countries – and didn’t FORCE consumers to buy electric or hybrid cars, nor did it penalize owners of gas-guzzlers.

Furthermore, the EISA allows a gradual ascent towards efficient lighting models across the board: 100 Watt incandescents – rarely used in residential or commercial applications – being the first on the chopping block, and with provisions protecting our access to high-energy “specialty” bulbs. (Meaning your small pets can still bask under their heat lamps.)

Various consumer and industry groups including the Alliance to Save Energy, Consumers Union, the NRDC, and the National Electronics Manufacturers Association have spoken out against the BULB Act as its passage would increase consumer energy costs, waste power, and diminish consumers’ lighting choices. As a result of the EISA in 2007, there are already incandescent bulbs on the market that are 28-33% more efficient. This illustrates that the energy standards are technology-neutral, and not simply a measure to drive incandescent technology out of the lighting industry. Consumer Reports projects that energy efficient bulbs can save the average homeowner $100 a year in energy costs.

It’s also worth noting that food safety, alcohol and tobacco sales, seatbelts, and other automotive safety features are all measures regulated in the United States by the federal government. And we as consumer still have choices in these products despite this regulation.

Obviously, as an LED lighting company, we may hold a particular bias in this matter. But that also means we’ve heard every possible argument against energy upgrades so we’ve done our research to address them. We hope that our representatives will do the same as they prepare to vote on this historic measure.


Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult for a small business to go green. For many, there is a lack of education on the environmental impacts of various business operations. Plus, retrofitting or installing energy upgrades can be expensive. And even though prices for LED lights are falling everyday, many still feel that the upfront costs are too high. This is why it is important for public organizations to step in to educate and facilitate these changes for their constituents.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center is one such organization in the LES of Manhattan. They run EcoBizNYC: a FREE program that helps small local businesses reduce air pollution and environmental impacts while saving money in their day-to-day operations. EcoBizNYC matches businesses with sustainability staff members who perform energy consultations, customize sustainability solutions, and follow up with assessments.

Some of these environmental changes are free or at low cost for the business, such as shutting off the power supply after closing time, or enrolling in a cooking oil recycling program. However, EcoBizNYC also has a corporate-funded grants that helps allow these companies to reach their goals. This was the case for Ost Cafe, a neighborhood institution that received a generous grant towards the purchase of LED light bulbs.

Eighteen of the participating businesses have collectively saved $19,385 from switching to CFLs and LED lights, according to the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

What may be the best feature of this program is that participants are finding that being more environmentally responsible is better for business. Customers really respond to these efforts, as pointed out by Renzi Van Bolderick of Zum Schneider, a LES Bavarian beer garden. “We get recognition, signage and support for being green!” As LED Waves continues to do our thing, spreading the gospel of LED lights and energy savings, we are happy to hear about the growing movement of businesses going green. And as New Yorkers, we applaud the work of EcoBizNYC not only because they help support LED lighting, but because they’re making the air around us better to breathe, day by day.

To enroll your business in the EcoBizNYC Program, call the Lower East Side Ecology Center at (212) 477-4022 or email

Big Green Theater and Big Green LED Lights!

LED Waves is excited to pass along information about Big Green Theater, a performance festival at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr Theater starting on April 22. The program features a series of short plays, each with an environmental theme, performed by professional actors and written by local kids age 7-13! Cute overload!
Big Green Theater made a commitment towards using only energy-efficient CFLs and LED lights to illuminate the show. In support of this cause, LED Waves has donated some LED rope lights – in green and red – to the Bushwick Starr. (A bunch of us here are huge theater geeks so you can imagine our excitement at getting involved.) The organizers of Big Green Theater are making a great statement by going with LED lights, and we hope this practice catches on in the theater world.
General admission to the performances is $12. (Free for kids under 18 and Bushwick community members with proof of address.) Performances will be held at 4pm and 7pm, April 22 and 23. Seats are limited, so register ASAP at This is bound to be an amazing experience, and if you’re in the NYC area, we’d love to share it with you.