Saturday, April 01, 2023

When I started to write UnGarbled-Tech, I assumed I knew all the items I thought I would write about. Light bulbs were not on that list.

In my last column I wrote about IoT—Internet of Things—items in your home that you will connect to the Internet so you can control them remotely.

SmartHomes are becoming very popular. People want to turn off lights, heat—and even alert us when the dog walks too far from the home. And all of this becomes pretty impossible unless you build a brand new house with all the technology built in.

Today, even light bulbs come with connection capabilities. There are pretty much three types of bulbs today. Incandescent, compact fluorescent lamps and LED lights. LEDs are the future. The two I see most are GE Connected Light Bulbs and the TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb.

Incandescent bulbs go all the way back to Thomas Edison, and work by using electricity to heat a tungsten filament in a thin glass bulb until it glows. The filament is either in a vacuum or in a mixture of argon/nitrogen gas. Most of the energy consumed by the bulb is given off as heat, causing its Lumens per Watt performance to be low. Because of the filament’s high temperature, the tungsten tends to evaporate and collect on the sides of the bulb. The inherent imperfections in the filament cause it to become thinner unevenly. When a bulb is turned on, the sudden surge of energy can cause the thin areas to heat up much faster than the rest of the filament, which in turn causes the filament to break and the bulb to burn out. A standard incandescent bulb can last for 700-1000 hours, and can be used with a dimmer. Soft white bulbs use a special coating inside the glass bulb to better diffuse the light, but the light color is not changed. These bulbs are very cheap, but cost a ton of money to run.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are those curly ones that really look terrible, break in your hand when you install them, and burn out all too quickly despite their purported guarantees of long life. CFLs are a modern type of light bulb that works like fluorescent bulbs, but in a much smaller package. Similar to regular fluorescent bulbs, they produce little heat and are very efficient. They are available to fit screw type base fittings and pin type (snap-in). Most CFLs either consist of a number of short glass sticks, or two or three small tubular loops. Sometimes, they are enclosed in a glass bowl, made to look similar to a regular incandescent bulb. Most CFLs cannot be used with dimmers. They normally last up to 10,000 hours. And they are cheaper to run than incandescent ones.

Then there are the LED (Light Emitting Diodes) bulbs. These look like standard light bulbs, and will even look like the same light, but they are bulbs without a filament that are low in power consumption and have a long life span. LEDs, because of their higher initial cost (around $20 a bulb), are just starting to rival conventional lighting.

I went on Amazon and purchased a bunch of different types and lumens—a measure of brightness. The main reason people are looking at LEDs is not just that they might cut your electric bill by 90%, LED bulbs also claim to run for many years (indeed, some claim life spans of up to 22 years—if you use them for less than three hours a day).

For the most part, LEDs work the same as incandescent bulbs, though some brands are brighter than others. The brand I liked the most was Cree, which can be purchased locally at Home Depot.

But some LEDs do not like Shabbos timers. They will blink. What one electrician told me is the LED light is so inexpensive to run that he didn’t see the point of installing a timer. This being the case, I think people should get their heads around leaving lights on when it costs close to nothing to run.

In addition, there are now TCP and GE Link bulbs that boast you can install and connect to Wink HUB and control or schedule your light to go on and off from your Smartphone. The Wink HUB runs most devices that are Link /Smart. The hub will connect to your standard Wi-Fi routers. Once installed, each company has an app or the Wink app that lets you group the light bulbs together, turn them off and on, etc. If you are super-handy or an electrician, Wink has a light switch controller that can be installed that will allow local control to these connected devices.

Every day I hear about more and more household items that are coming with connection capabilities. This is a huge growing market. The one people are hearing about is the NEST thermostat that learns. This is also an IoT connected device. I haven’t purchased one of these, but it’s all inclusive: Save energy, save money and stay connected with your Smartphone.

Meet George Jetson.

Shneur Garb is the CEO of The Garb IT Consulting Group LLC in Teaneck, NJ. Any questions or comments email [email protected]

By Shneur Garb

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