Could Thomas Edison Ever Have Imagined This?
General Electric commercially sold its first light bulb in 1879 with Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb but its history extends back to 1802. We have had them now for quite a long time and until very recently, they really didn’t change much. Developments in the incandescent light bulb really were only ever based in the material used for the filament which ranged from Edison’s carbonized sewing thread to bamboo to tungsten and lots in between. I think it’s fair to say that the incandescent light bulb hasn’t changed much at all since the 1930s!
With the advent and recent popularization of LED, the light bulb industry has been turned upside down and innovations are exploding on the scene monthly.
The Problem of Dimming LED
Take Nanoleaf, the Kickstarter-launched company out of Toronto. Besides having the most unique looking light bulb I have seen to date, they have solved the “LED-bulbs-don’t-work-with-regular-dimmer-switches” problem by creating a bulb called the Bloom that dims and brightens using a standard light switch.
When you first turn on the Nanoleaf Bloom it takes about three to four seconds to reach full brightness. During this time, you can quickly flick the switch off-on to set the brightness level. If left alone, it will continue to brighten until it reaches full brightness. Once at full power, you have the option to dim it down again by flicking off-on. This time you have about 10 seconds as the light gradually dims down. One more quick flick off-on will lock it in that brightness. If left alone, the bulb stops at its lowest setting which is a very nice nightlight brightness level.
Problem solved! Nanoleaf has built dimming right into the bulb itself.
Fun With Colors
One of the features of LED that drives innovation is the fact that it can be designed to emit an impressive spectrum of colors, from purple to orange and red, to a spectrum of whites and yellows. For the home, however, you’re likely looking for something similar to the light that incandescents produce.
The popular colors available for LEDs are “warm white” or “soft white,” and “bright white.”
Warm white and soft white will produce a yellow hue, close to incandescents, while bulbs labeled as bright white will produce a whiter light, closer to daylight and similar to what you see in retail stores.
However, all of this pales in comparison to LED’s full potential to play with color and the additional opportunity to have lots of fun with it.
What we’re talking about here is hue and the most interesting way to look at it may be to understand light in nature. Light quality from the sun actually varies during the day due to the different amount of atmosphere that the light passes through on its way to the ground. That’s why the sky appears reddish (“warm white”) at sunrise and sunset while looking bright white (“natural daylight”) around midday.
Another interesting part of this is that our bodies are probably conditioned to behave in certain ways depending on that quality of light. This is surely related to how we “set the mood” with lighting. It also provides the opportunity to optimize a space for what you will be doing in it. Warm white is more relaxing and rest-inducing, while cool white (or “natural daylight”) improves alertness and probably productivity.
Ok, so how does all of this manifest in products on the market?
Several companies already have bulbs whose color can be controlled, such as the Hue and the LIFX. And you get to do it all from a cool smartphone app. LIFX has a cool little LED light bulb color demo here.
But what if you’re not really good with smartphone apps or you don’t really want to bother with one? You just like to flick the switch.
Upstart company Saffron is introducing the Silk light bulb, which automatically adjusts its color output based on the time of day, approximating the natural colors of sunlight. In addition to its pre-programmed mode, customers can also program their own schedules and presets using an app, much like the other multi-hue bulbs on the market. But what’s unique about the Silk is that quick adjustments can be made without reaching for a tablet or smartphone. The Silk lets users change the color output by flicking the normal on-off switch a few times just like the dimming function of the Nanoleaf.
Check out The Silk Kickstarter page for more info and get yourself lined-up for their starter kit.
Light bulbs never used to be a big deal in our lives and perhaps they’re still not high on the list of importances but they certainly offer a whole lot more than they used to and LED technology truly provides a lot more to us in the way of a comfortable and versatile environment and that can be more important than we first consider it to be. And “the cherry on top” is that at the same time you get all of these features, you will be using less energy, saving money yourself and contributing to the preservation of our natural environment. Now that’s winning combination!
NOTE: Learn about some likewise exciting and profitable LED Commercial applications.