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LumiSmart Technology Could Be Energy Conservation Game Changer

| Monday May 3rd, 2010 | 11 Comments

A new technology announced today by a Canadian company could have a “disruptive” effect on the energy efficiency sector by reducing fluorescent light bulb energy consumption by 30 percent, or more, for a fraction of the cost and hassle of other methods.

If fluorescent bulb technology doesn’t sound that exciting, consider this: fluorescent lights are used in 80-85 percent of commercial and industrial buildings; a 30 percent reduction in consumption from those lights could mean gigawatts of reduced demand, and by extension massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The technology, called LumiSmart from Cavet Technologies, is a shoe-box sized device that “compresses” the electrical current for lighting, similar to the way mp3s or jpegs compress audio and visual data. The $2,000 box can be installed in minutes at a building’s circuit breaker, and can reduce lighting bills by the same amount as building-wide energy retrofits costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more, according to both the company, and outside experts.

Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a clean technology research firm, said “we believe it is a potentially disruptive technology.” The firm spoke with more than 35 companies and organizations in the lighting and cleantech space about LumiSmart. “We were impressed with what we heard,” said Kachan.

Like an MP3, sort of

The device uses two different tricks to reduce energy consumption. First, it removes parts of the light spectrum we don’t see, similar to the way digital compression shrinks audio files without a noticeable difference.

As you may remember from grade school, visible light is only a small part of the spectrum of light. But fluorescent bulbs generate the full spectrum; coating on the bulbs blocks out ultraviolet and other parts of the spectrum we can’t see (UV “black lights” are just fluorescent bulbs with that coating removed).

The LumiSmart box shapes the sine wave of the electricity going to the light bulbs, reducing the invisible spectrum 30 percent. The box also reduces the light we do see by about 10 percent. But, similar to the audio in digital music, because of the way our eyes work, a 10 percent reduction in brightness is not noticeable, according to Cavet CEO Albert Behr.

The other way the LumiSmart reduces electrical consumption is by pulsing the electricity going to light bulbs. This works because fluorescent bulbs have a ballast at one end that works like a very short-lived battery with a charge time measured in milliseconds. The LumiSmart rapidly stutters the electricity going to the bulbs, allowing the ballasts to discharge and then be refilled again before the bulb can go out.

The technology was first patented in 1995, and was invented by Vito Rinaldi, who once worked on the Star Wars project for the Pentagon, according to Behr. “Walking into his office is like walking into Doc Emmett Brown’s office in Back to the Future,” he notes.


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  • Knuckle Boom Trucks

    What an awesome idea. I love it!!!

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  • fixitman48

    I'm sorry to say that – at least as explained here – this gadget sounds like a lot of smoke and mirrors. Someone point me to any independent before/after test results. Measure the actual energy savings at the circuit breaker providing the power. Do the test on lights that use currently available electronic ballasts. Measure the change in light intensity, actual changes in the delivered illumination's spectrum, and possible introduction of any objectionable flicker from the “pulsing” strategy.

  • Rick

    One major obsticle which I expressed a year ago to Mr. Rinaldi, the ballast manufacture will not warranty their ballasts using this technology. Phone Philips/Advance yourself and ask them if they will warranty their ballasts with this technology. The answer I received was “NO”. Tough sell knowing that you will throw away a five year ballast warranty, if you incorporate this technology. Still interested in using this techonlogy?

    You have also made an incorrect statement “But fluorescent bulbs generate the full spectrum; coating on the bulbs blocks out ultraviolet and other parts of the spectrum we can’t see (UV “black lights” are just fluorescent bulbs with that coating removed).
    This is true for UV lamp which uses a quartz glass lamp envelope but not true for a black light. A black light still uses a phosphor coating and uses regular soda-ash type glass, which by the nature of the glass filters out UV rays.

    I believe the audience hear needs to understand the internal workings of a modern day fluorescent ballast. All universal types use a PFC controller such as a ST “L6561″. The job of this device is to create a stable intermediate DC voltage “a regulated DC voltage” to a oscillator and a half bridge driver, which drives a transformer to create the correct lamp voltage and if it is a PRS type ballast also creates the filament voltages for the pre-heat function.

  • daveberg1

    LumiSmart ILC is a patented power shaping device that acts as an intelligent lighting controller. The device performs adaptive power factor correction and adaptive waveform modification using 8 unique programs. LumiSmart will automatically select one of eight programs depending on the load that is on the dedicated lighting circuit to provide advanced power savings. The technology has been in development since 1995 and has been awarded two patents; an additional 5 patents are pending. While early attempts at waveform modification have come up with mixed results, Cavet has done extensive work to perfect the technology. The device does not cut out light spectrum as this can only be done using filters; rather, the device inserts on/off pulses very rapidly (between 7 and 20 pulses are inserted into the sinwave) the net result is that power is reduced to the ballast with minimal impact on lighting levels and no perceivable difference to occupant comfort. In most scenarios a 30 to 40% reduction can be achieved without any change to humanly perceived lighting levels. LumiSmart proivdes adaptive control of dedicated lighting circuits on both 50hz and 60Hz grids and as autoranging support for 120v, 240v, 277v, 347v on 15amp and 20amp circuits (up to 6.9kw on a single LumiSmart). A number of third party tests have been carried out and the product has been fully validated and the product functions as designed. In regards to the claim of voiding warranties of attached loads (ballasts) the LumiSmart ILC will extend the life of bulbs and ballasts, not shorten the life of the attached fixtures. Cavet stands behind its product and provides a 3 year product warranty to back its claims. Furthermore, Cavet's products are built by one of the leading electronics contract manufacturers in the world, Celestica. You can bet that a company like Celestica would fully vet and verify all claims prior to agreeing to the manufacture of Cavet's products.

    • Eric Tordjman

      While we appreciate the work that has been put into the technology, you do not address the issue of lamp and ballast warranty but simply state that your product will extend lamp and ballast life. I truly think you have to appease the folks who are worried that your product will potentially have a negative effect on lamp and ballast performance BUT if it will not then the likes of Philips and Advance would have no issue backing you up on your claims that your product will not impact proper performance of their product.

    • scalpscratcher

      It’s nice that a number of unnamed third parties have performed tests. Can you please name them, and let us all know enough to find the third party reports?

      When I read a claim like “removes parts of the light spectrum we don’t see” – without any further explanation – my eyes roll upward.

      Same for phrases like: “the product has been fully validated and the product functions as designed.” It’s very pretty language that means, um, nothing, best I can figure.

      You may have a great product here, but the empty hype makes me want to run in the opposite direction with all possible haste. Too much exhaled smell of dead fish.

  • daveberg1

    Hi Eric. I am happy to report that we do back our product and as such have warranties in place that not only protect the LumiSmart device but also ballasts and bulbs that are attached to the dedicated lighting circuit to which LumiSmart is protected. In the event of a catastrophic failure of a ballast (while the ballast is under the original manufacturers warranty), Cavet will cover the costs of ballast removal, replacement and re-installation should LumiSmart is proven the cause of the failure. To further assure our customers we have built in a number of safeguards to protect the circuits and connected equipment. Firstly we provide adaptive power factor correction and waveform modification. LumiSmart runs a pogram that is optimized for the specific types of ballasts that are on the circuit (T5, T8, T12, single phase, multi-phase – homogeneous or heterogeneous deployments). We also include a high speed fuse that intercepts any voltage irregularities and have a series of safety controls built directly into the unit to safeguard all downstream fixtures. We are well aware of the issues associated with warranty and as such are working with tier 1 ballast vendors to certify the product.

  • WayneC

    Sounds like it does the same job as a Fluoresave unit but using electronic manipulation of the supply waveform rather than magnetic. We use the magnetic technology in our larger ECO-MAX lighting optimisers which are 3phase multi circuit control systems for large buildings and discharge lighting systems. We have been doing this for around 10 years with hundreds of successful blue chip installations saving loads of money and CO2. I guess the only real benefit of using electronic instead of magnetic manipulation is the reduced size and weight of the equipment….if that is ever an issue ??
    There have been attempts in the past using waveform chopping to control lighting but these were unsuccessful due to harmonics and damage to other equipment on the system. In fact it tarnished the power reduction industry for a while which we had the job of recovering with our ECO-MAX system which is pure sinusodal. I guess Cavet have now overcome these early chopping issues with this poduct so I will be looking forward to seeing how it goes!

  • WayneC

    Sounds like it does the same job as a Fluoresave unit but using electronic manipulation of the supply waveform rather than magnetic. We use the magnetic technology in our larger ECO-MAX lighting optimisers which are 3phase multi circuit control systems for large buildings and discharge lighting systems. We have been doing this for around 10 years with hundreds of successful blue chip installations saving loads of money and CO2. I guess the only real benefit of using electronic instead of magnetic manipulation is the reduced size and weight of the equipment….if that is ever an issue ??
    There have been attempts in the past using waveform chopping to control lighting but these were unsuccessful due to harmonics and damage to other equipment on the system. In fact it tarnished the power reduction industry for a while which we had the job of recovering with our ECO-MAX system which is pure sinusodal. I guess Cavet have now overcome these early chopping issues with this poduct so I will be looking forward to seeing how it goes!