Jul 132015

Every full Energy Audit should look at Power Factor. It’s funny how often it comes up. Even when you don’t think you have a problem you might in the future.
I first heard about Power Factor Corrections in the late 1980s. My friend’s dad worked for Border States Electric (BSE) as an engineer. He came over to the BSE from Northern States Power (Now Xcel Energy). He was one of the first guys in the area to work on solving this problem using banks of capacitors. He would tell me how electric motors would create a lagging power factor. His job was to calculate the capacitance necessary to correct for low power factors. It didn’t hurt that BSE got a lot of orders for switched capacitor banks.

In the 1990s, my dad and I started to do some energy audits of our own. We would run deal with facilities looking to increase the efficiency of their equipment. It was there they would run afoul of low power factors. Utilities don’t like low power factors and will bill a penalty if your power factor falls below a certain threshold. Our lighting retrofits would have very clean power and high power factors, but because we were using substantially less energy for lighting than before- there was less clean electricity to dilute the dirty (low power factor) electricity, which the motors were using, and hence the facilities would be getting billed a Power Factor penalty. The solution: capacitors and/or new energy efficient motors- but that’s a story for another day.

If you’d like to learn more about Power Factor corrections and motors, I have this article from Moorhead Public Service and their partners at Missouri River Energy Services.

 Posted by at 9:41 am
Dec 042014
Rare Earth Elements

Periodic table showing location of rare earth elements.

Back in 2010 when the China’s started phasing in their export controls on Rare Earth metals, I suggested to my Sylvania rep, that the shortage would be short lived. “The Chinese are corrupt, once the price starts rising, they will find ways to get extra production into the market.”
I see in a recent Bloomberg.com article “Rare Earth Stocks Rise After China Approves MinMetal’s Group” that was the case.

China, supplier of more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earths, aims to create fewer and bigger industry groups to help technology upgrade and crack down on illegal production.

I’m guessing it’s too little and too late. China is still corrupt and other supply sources are coming online. In the meantime I have seen prices on Fluorescent lamps start to drop a tiny bit. Every fluorescent lamps uses rare earth metals. It’s the ‘phosphors‘, which makes each lamp burn at the correct color temperature. The more efficient the lamp, the more rare earth metals the lamp uses. Hopefully, world supply of these wonder elements won’t be limited, and the price will continue to come down to earth.  See my earlier article: Rare Earth Metals.

 Posted by at 10:35 pm
Nov 012014
Effective Concepts LLC. is a small company out of Fargo, ND. We specialize in selling lamps, ballasts, and energy services to customers in the Fargo-Moorhead area. We sell wholesale, meaning an on-going relationship with commercial customers that are willing to trade a little lead time for better pricing. We are authorized distributors of  Sylvania, Havells, and TCP lamps and ballasts.I have over thirty-five years of wholesale experience and a Marketing degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead. I have over 40 years experience with computers, everything from programing, database design, spreadsheet modeling, to graphic design. I am also the webmaster for a number of web sites. I help out small company sites but have also done some large e-commerce sites and one page sites for nonprofit organizations. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to have a nice website or blog. – Craig Maas

 Welcome  November 1, 2014
Sep 142014

One small issue with LEDs is they have a different quality of light. We have measurements that worked well with Incandescent, HIDs, and Fluorescent lamps. CRI (Color Rendering Index) which gave us a relative measure of quality and CCT which gave us a lamp’s color temperature. But these measurements were based on factors that are no longer in play in the world of solid state lighting.

In the July-August 2014 issue of Architectural Lighting, Alice Liao writes about the issues facing the consumer of quality lighting and the issues facing the professional user of lighting.

“Both CRI and CCT are derived through rote mathematic simulation rather than through empirical measurement. CRI testing is calculated on a computing device using a source’s spectral power distribution (SPD), a diagram that depicts the radiant energy a source emits at different wavelengths of visible light—wavelengths of 380 to 780 nanometers—and the spectral reflectance of each color chip. CCT is also computed from the source’s SPD.”

After Lias discusses the short comings of these measurements, we’re introduced to the Color Quality Scale (CQS). Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The CQS tests with a broader range of colors, higher chromas and deeper saturation.

“CQS also factors in extreme color temperature, which impairs a source’s ability to render color, and takes a root-mean-square of the color shifts of all 15 test colors rather than an average. This ensures that poor performance on a few samples is given proper weight.”

I am hopeful the IES Color Metrics Task Group will come up with a simple scale for consumers who are already confused about LEDs. They should also develop a set of ratings for Professionals, whose requirements for light require more data not less. For those interested in this important topic, I highly recommend this article.

The CIE chormaticity diagrams map perceived color.

The CIE chormaticity diagrams map perceived color. Lightness, the third dimension of the color space, is not shown in these two-dimensional graphs. The CIE created the 1960 Uniform Chromaticity Scale (UCS) to reduce the limitations of the 1931 system; it has since been updated by the 1976 UCS. The Planckian, or black body, locus—shown by the curved lines within the filled areas—indicates the color that a black body radiator emits within each chromaticity diagram as it is heated up.
Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Aug 152014

Xcel Energy has announce more LED fixtures available for rebate.

  • Troffers
  • Parking Garage
  • Outdoor Area Lighting
  • Street Lighting

Xcel requires Invoices dated on or after August 12, 2014. Equipment must be DesignLights Consortium qualified.
I assume the rebates are available in all of Xcel Energy’s service areas except ND.

The following LED Info Sheet and rebate applications are available.

More information on Xcel Energy’s Rebate programs.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Jul 242014

A follow up to Indoor Farming from May. LedsMagazine.com has published a new article that reviews the basics:

“The narrow spectrum of LEDs in different colors can be selected to enhance the photosynthesis process while also offering energy savings relative to broad-spectrum HID or fluorescent lights used in commercial farming.”

There is practical knowledge from a number of test farms in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. There is also research taking place at two Universities. Purdue University is looking at LED light with bedding plants. And McGill University (Quebec) is studying tomato production under a mixture of different light sources.

May 152014

It’s cold for most of the year in North Dakota, so I’ve gotten familiar with growing seedlings under grow lights before Memorial Day. I didn’t realize you could keep on letting them grow. Green Sense Farms in Portage, Indiana, have used the unique properties of the LED to grow Herbs and Lettuce indoors. LED lighting can tuned to the very frequencies of light that plants love. The efficiency of Solid State lighting allows stacks of plants to be grown in warehouses. The advantages are climate control, nutrient control, water control, pest control, and 20–25 harvests per year depending on the crop.

I’ve did some research on the topic when I was building my own T8 Fluorescent fixtures. I used 6500K lamps and the seedlings grew fast and the fixtures used 40% less energy than with T12 grow lamps. I would love to test some of Sylvania’s LED ribbon strips in these more exotic color temperatures. (almost purple light) In the meantime, check out this article at LEDsMagazine.com for more information on the Green Sense Farms or this article on Broccolicity.com.

Apr 242014

As we enter into a new generation of lighting: Solid State; commonly known as LEDs, we need to be aware of the issues that drive the technology and hence the cost. LEDs Magazine has an article on LED Driver Design in their April/May 2014 issue. One of the issues that everyone hates is flicker.  In Fluorescent lamps, this was caused by poor ballast design or bad sockets. With LEDs, the driver operates off of line voltage with its 60hz cycle, which can cause a 120 hz flicker.

Flicker Index by Light Source*

Source Max. Min. Avg. Flicker (%) Flicker Index
Incandescent 12.2 10.7 11.5 06.3 0.0194
100W metal halide 09.1 03.2 06.5 48.1 0.1398
T12 magnetic 09.6 04.6 07.2 35.1 0.0897
T5HO electronic 10.5 10.0 10.2 02.7 0.0036
LED on DC 43.4 41.0 42.2 02.8 0.0037
LED with flicker 16.0 0.06 06.3 99.3 0.4498

*Percent flicker is a relative measure of the cyclic variation in output of a light source (modulation index). The percent flicker is based on the maximum (A) and minimum (B) light output levels. You divide the sum of A and B by the difference of the two to obtain a percentage.

There are a couple possible solutions, and this article by Zhaoqi Mao, Lane Ge, and Gary Hua of Inventronics (Hangzhou) Co. describe them in detail.

  • Passive or valley-fill Power Factor Correction (PFC) stage plus a DC/DC-converter stage.
  • Single-stage Active PFC driver architecture
  • Active PFC stage plus a DC/DC-converter stage
  • Active PFC driver architecture plus a Ripple Suppressor

The take away is you get what you pay for, the buyer of LED lamps whether at the retail or wholesale level should be aware there trade offs in Driver Design. Just buying or stocking the cheapest LED lamp or systems is a good way to be disappointed.

“As the LED lighting industry develops, features like high efficiency and long life alone cannot satisfy the market. People are looking for a better lighting environment, especially when it is related to health. For certain places like offices and living rooms, elimination of strobe flicker is even more important.
There are multiple ways to create good DC current with low ripple to drive LEDs; each method has advantages and drawbacks. The key advantage of the ripple suppressor is that it provides a very simple and flexible way to reduce the flicker of the design we already have at a minimal and very reasonable cost.”

Mar 252014

I’ve been interested in Rare Earth metals since the run up on prices in 2010. Not because it was an investment opportunity but because it dramatically affected Fluorescent lamps prices, which had been stable or falling for the last decade. The subject is also interesting because it deals with global politics, which I’m interested in, and Chemistry, which I studied in college. Recently the BBC ran an article on this topic in their magazine.

In addition to Fluorescent lamps, Rare Earth metals are used in LEDs, Wind Turbines, and all matter of green energy. What is ironic: mining Rare Earth metals is one of the least green activities on this planet. And thanks to laissez faire government policies in China, almost all mining of Rare Earth metals was done in China. It wasn’t that China had the only supply. No, in fact Rare Earths are not rare, and can be found all over the world. China didn’t sweat the environmental degradation, whereas Western countries did. But that changed in 2010 when China got tired of fielding environmental complaints of their citizens and foreigners alike. Economically, it also made sense to keep the metals in country- letting their own manufactures buy at a subsidized price, while forcing foreign companies to bid on the metals limited by their export quotas. This drove the prices way up. There are no substitutes for these exotic metals, and no secondary sources. Speculators drove the market as well. This cause prices increases everywhere, which caused complaints to our government.

Just how dependent the entire world is on Chinese rare earths became very clear at the end of 2010 when China threatened to restrict supplies. The spike in rare-earth prices was very dramatic – up to 3,000% for some of them. Prices have since fallen back, but the shock was enough to prompt companies to begin to explore producing and refining rare earths elsewhere in the world.

Source and graph: BBC, and Bloomberg.

Continue reading »

Jan 272012

I ran across the Department of Energy report on Lighting. It just came out and it is a survey or a census of Lighting in 2010.  The report is called 2010 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization and it can be found on the DoE’s Solid State Lighting Technical Reports page. It’s a long report but it is full of charts and graphs. It gives you a good looking at what is lighting this country. There are still a lot of inefficient lamps in the field- mostly incandescent lamps in residential homes. Business and Industry has done a good job of upgrading their lighting.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:48 pm