American Environmental Products

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American Environmental Products / Sunwave Lighting is a company located in Boulder, Colorado.

Spectrally Enhanced Lighting can save 20 percent more energy compared to non spectrally enhanced T8's and more than 50% compared to T12's according to the Federal Energy Management Program. But according to the local experts from E-source it is controversial. It is recommended by DOE/EERE/FEMP but it is not yet accepted by IES. One suspects that saving energy is encouraged, but not recommended by those that profit from selling more of it. One should note that these are the same engineers and lighting companies that are responsible for all our existing buildings that waste so much energy. (Buildings are 40% of all Energy Consumption) According to former Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman 75% of our buildings can profitably upgrade their lighting systems and save significant amounts of energy.

I can't figure out why there is not more emphasis on saving energy in lighting. A 2006 Study in Denver clearly showed lighting as the dominant commercial electricity use at more than 3 times the next closest use. The industry likes to save us 30% while for practically zero incremental cost, one can save 50%. We seem to like to concentrate a lot of our efforts on saving energy in all the other areas as if lighting were not the most important target. Just look at the NASA photo of the US at night. Most of the light we can see from space is totally wasted and just because we cant turn off the coal fired power plants an night doesn't mean that that waste is acceptable.

I guess that some people just can't imagine indoor lighting that looks like daylight. Some people like yellow some people like blue. I have worked under yellow, brown, white, and blue lights. I personally find white to be right. One can easily see what Im talking about if they put a 3500K, 4100K, 5000K, 5550K, 6500K, and 7500K lamp side by side. One gets a veritable rainbow of colors. Then the task is to pick the color that most closely matches the color of the light coming in the window.

I find it easier to read fine print and I find I am less tired at the end of the day with 5000 and 5550K lamps. Where's the controversy. There are others that like white too so why do we get stuck with yellow or brown. Perhaps it is the ubiquitous color of flame or of the dimmed incandescents that everyone has experienced every day of their lives that helps us define the preference. We have seen yellow light practically every day or our lives so we expect light to be yellow so thats what we like. It's warm and homey. It has been demonstrated that people in cold climates psychologically prefer warm light and people in warm climates prefer the cool light.

I suppose that those that prefer yellow are the same people that don't like to go outside. It's also easier to see how dirty something is in white light. Oh the horror. The dirt disappears in yellow light. From my experiences in Boulder, Colorado people generally like daylight when they get the chance to work in an office with windows. There seems to be a significant number that like artificial daylight too once they are exposed to it and their brains get used to it. The eye has 3 separate blue photoreceptors systems. Yellow light doesn't have much blue in it. So when there is some blue, people tend to notice as the scotopic and cirtopic systems start firing.

Remember the old amber (or even green) on black computer monitors. Notice how Windows is now black text on white and there are a lot of blues in the standard color scheme. Ever notice how the keys on the MAC notebooks are back lit so that they are similar in intensity to the screen in low light conditions?

For a typical 3 lamp 2x4 18 cell parabolic fixture, we typically delamp to 2 low wattage Spectrally Enhanced Sunwave lamps and save 33%. The industry standard however seems to want to sell you 3 warm white 28 watt lamps and a new low ballast factor ballast and complicated controls instead. (3 x 17 watts for 51 watts) It's as if the industry prefers to ignore the research from the Lawrence Berekeley Labs, the FEMP recommendation and the California experience. I supposed it has to do with selling stuff and a general reluctance to kill cash cows. The more the better.

Keep in mind that all incandescents, all T12's, and all Generic 700 series T8s are going to be gone in 2012 as they do not meet the new minimum efficiency standards as mandated by congress and signed into law by president Bush. Are we just going to stock pile the old inefficient stuff in 2011 and keep on wasting energy, or are we going to take advantage of utility rebates and save 50% off our lighting bills (and reduce our carbon footprints) now with a positive return on investment. Typical projects here in Boulder have had paybacks in the 1 to 3 year range with 33 to 100% ROI.

LED are coming. 50,000 hours, or 2x the life of a good fluorescent with 100 lumens per watt. Most are LED are less than 50 lumens per watt and cost more than $100 dollars. Compare that to $15 for lamps and $15 to change them and $15 for a ballast for a total of $45 for 2x the light that lasts just as long. $15 for 2 lamps and EPA Certified recyling for the spent fluoresent lamps to mitigate the mercury issue. So let's examine induction lamps. 100,000 hours except they conveniently forget to mention that the ballasts only last 50,000 hours. So lets try T5 lamps. Here they often forget to tell you that these operate optimally at 90 degrees F and that the light output drops off significantly if the temperature is brought down to a more comfortable 70 degrees.

The Sunwave T8 Plus lamps are slightly larger than 1 inch in diameter and are low wattage. They are 5550K 93 CRI and TCLP Low Mercury. They fit all T8 Fixtures. There is a 5000K version that is 86 CRI and 3200 initial lumens for 100 lumens per watt. The full spectrum Sunwave lamp is only 84 lumens per watt although it has exactly the same tube and cathode design. The explanation is that some of the input energy is converted to wavelengths that are not measured in lumens and footcandles. For the engineer concerned with footcandles this is significant. For the biologist, not accounting for all the biologically significant light wavelengths is like trying to grow plants without the specific red and blue wavelengths that drive photosynthesis.

In a lamp for lamp retrofit, the lamps save about 15% without changing ballasts. But due to the 2.2 scotopic/photopic ratio they are in practice 1.8 times visually brighter (using Brian Liebel's P * (S/P)^.78 calculation). So if you simply changing 3 generic T8 lamps to 3 Sunwave lamps the resulting light is too bright. Here is where the energy savings part comes in. If it's too bright, one can remove lamps. Less lamps, less energy. So taking into account the reduced wattage design, the extra heavy duty 37 watt cathode, one can delamp to 2 lamps and lower energy with out the additional expense of a new ballast if the 3-lamp normal electronic ballast is still good. Most 3 lamp electronic ballasts are rated to drive 2 or 3 lamps although 2 lamps will be slightly overdriven. So you save 33% without the third lamp, without the new ballast, and without the extra expense to change to a new ballast. One starts with a fixture that runs at 90 watts and ends up with one at 60 watts. And all you had to do is change lamps. One can basically do the same thing with a fixture that is wired for bilevel switching. One uses the 2 lamp ballast to overdrive 1 lamp and used the 1 lamp ballast to drive the other one. Still 2 lamps, and you get 25 watts, 30 watts and 55 watts settings.

You can save even more if you change ballasts and add controls, but all this costs money. For T12 systems, you need to change ballasts but you can delamp four lamp and three lamp fixtures to 2 lamps. With a NEMA Premium Normal ballast, one can get the 2 lamp fixture wattage down to 48 watts. So do you want 3 lamps and a new ballast at 51 watts or 2 lamps and a new ballast at 48?

Saves energy, costs less. Please visit the for more details and examples of how this has been applied for several projects here in Boulder, Colorado. We have done both T12 and T8 retrofits.

So the Sunwave lamps save energy with a unique tube design combined with Daylight color match rare earth phosphors. They are Spectrally Enhanced (which is typically 5000K 82 CRI or better) and Full Spectrum (which is typically 5000+ and >90 CRI.) They are more like natural daylight as they produce wavelengths that address all four photoreceptor systems in the human body. This can be compared to a 3500K lamp that only address one photoreceptor system that happens to be measured in lumens and footcandles. Photopic, Scotopic and Cirtopic systems and Vitamin D Calcium Metabolism Melatonin Seratonin and Visual acquity are all impacted by natural daylight. Why would we want office light or artificial daylight that does less. See the paper "A Case of Daylight Robbery" published by the IRC.

Is there something else we should be doing to boost the triple bottom line. Something that saves carbon now and keeps more money in our pockets that is any easier to implement with less risk? The Colorado Governors Energy Office ignores lighting efficiency, with preference to weatherization and promoting solar panels. The Utilities and the Lighting industry do not make more by selling less, and we're building new LEED Platinum certified buildings with 3500K lighting leaving at least 20% more energy on the table than we need to all because some like yellow light and do not like lights that match the color of daylight from skylights and windows.


  1. Sunwave Lighting