TECH STUFF

All LED Bulbs created equal.

Exposed bulbs with glowing filaments, hung in clusters define today’s lighting design trends particularly in bars, cafes and restaurants.

The bulbs simultaneously look modern, yet create a warm, retro glow that encourages consumers to relax and forge positive memories and associations.

However, with a poor quality LED bulb, your customer experience (and footfall) will suffer; bulbs won’t reach their stated life-span and returns on investment remain unrealised.

Flexible LED Filaments – the law

Efforts to re-create the look of an Edison-type light bulb, except with LED technology, have redoubled recently due to a new EU law that banned the manufacture or import of incandescent bulbs in February 2016.

Until recently, sales of incandescent filament bulbs have dominated the market. However, with even an average-sized installation using at least 20 filament bulbs rated at 50W each, the incandescent versions result in huge energy bills and are not compatible with today’s drive to reduce energy costs.

In contrast, the fully dimmable Ambiflex LED bulbs use just four watts of energy, and – unlike incandescent or tungsten bulbs – contain no harmful mercury. They will also last for more than 15,000 hours (most incandescent bulbs fail after 1,000 hours) meaning less waste or maintenance effort.

They also do not get warm during operation and so save on air conditioning bills and are safer to have near guests and customers.

LIGHT QUALITY

Most manufacturers of the LED versions of incandescent bulbs have fallen back on developing straight filaments. Not only do these not look as aesthetically pleasing as the gorgeous, curved filaments of old-fashioned bulbs, but they too often produce poor lighting quality.

Light from straight filaments struggles to fall in all directions, creating “banding” which is experienced as stripes of darkness on your fittings and human faces. Even visible filament LEDs from the best manufacturers have only achieved 300 degree of light direction. In contrast, the flexible, curved filaments of the AmbiFlex LED range produce true 360 degree, omni-directional light.

HIGH CRI

In the rush to use LEDs most mass manufacturers forgot to ask questions about light quality – instead shouting about long lifespans and rock bottom purchase prices.

We believe that consumers demand more: we’ve all sat in a dull reception, restaurant or cafe and inexplicably felt the ambience to be, well just “wrong”. Often the culprit is that tell-tale “LED Look” – dull white LED bulbs with a poor colour rendering index (CRI).

The sciences of human psychology and biology show that humans respond to colour – that’s why chefs spend hours balancing the tones on a signature dish and designers play with colour and light to manipulate our emotions and shopping habits. However, unless you choose an LED bulb like AmbiFlex with a CRI of 90 or more (most are 80) that natural visible spectrum is rendered incompletely and the result is dull products and interiors.

BUILD QUALITY

We’re perhaps a little strange, but one of the things we like to do here is open up competitor LED bulbs with a scalpel to assess their internal build quality. This isn’t a redundant exercise: one of the key benefits of switching to LED bulbs is that the bulbs can last much longer than halogen, CFL or incandescent alternatives – but only if intelligent design is applied to their manufacture.

To achieve their stated long lives, LED bulbs have to be thermally efficient and disperse any build up of heat – otherwise they simply fail after a few months of operation. The starting point is using very high-quality LED chips and then considering how heat will be wicked away from the bulb. AmbiFlex LED uses a particular gas mixture inside the glass bulb to enable the heat transfer to the glass surface more efficiently than relying on convection alone.

Cheap LED bulbs use low-grade silicone to produce their filaments – the silicon will simply crack after a few hundred hours of use – creating heat build up and a degradation in light quality. In contrast, AmbifFlex LEDs use a hand-wound material to produce their characteristic curved filaments.

Finally, AmbiFlex LED bulbs are quite simply things of beauty: hold one, the high-quality brass nickel base feels solid in your hand and luxurious to the touch, unlike mass-market plastic imitations.