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back to article Forget fluorescents, plastic lighting strips coming out next year

The blinking, buzzing fluorescent lighting tubes that have blighted office buildings for over 70 years could be on their way out, now that US scientists think they've cracked a system to replace them with glowing plastic. "People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes …

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WTF?

State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

> energy-saving proposition

Whether it is an "energy saving proposition" or not is debatable. What is not debatable is that the state should not force people to abandon their lightbulbs by decree. Either new products win on their own merit or they don't.

Personally, I'm currently running on halogens because fluos are out and I'm not going to pay the price of a hardback from MIT press for a single LED lamp.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

You assume a knowledgeable public. Trouble is, in this day and age, the public is mostly clueless, running on inertia and word of mouth, heedless of the benefits because discomfort is considered too serious a drawback. IOW, if you shove the benefits in their face and they ignore you, then it comes time for more drastic measures.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I've yet to see any benefits.

The compact fluorescents are crap. After a bit of use they take to long too light up and I have yet to see one that actually matches up to its equivalent incandescent wattage.

The light from LEDs is appalling. I've tried numerous different ones with numerous different shades of white and none produce a decent shade of white. The cost is to high and the reliability hasn't been that good. Of the twenty I've bought so far 4 of them have failed within the first week which gives me reason to doubt I'll get the advertised 20,000 hours of use from the remaining ones.

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FAIL

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

End subsidies to carbon burning and I might agree with you - then there would be a genuine free market and those wanting to stay incandescent can pay the bills. We all pay these subsidies e.g. through insurance costs against more extreme weather, but that's only a small part of it. Problem with putting up electricity bills by ending these subsidies is too many grannies freezing in the dark unable to afford their leccy bills. So that isn't going to happen, and the state is forced by all our politics to intervene to encourage reduced wastage, give a fair break to nuclear and renewables and keep bills affordable. You can't change that so you may as well get used to it.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

Charles: Your argument seems to indicate that democracy is doomed to failure..... you may be right but who is this elite who should be making decisions for us? I hope you're not suggesting it should be the politicians!

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Holmes

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

The compact fluorescents are crap

I see a lot of comments like this coming from Stateside. It's almost as if they're two generations behind on CFL tech, because all but the cheapest, off-brand, CFL's here are quite decent, with lifetime, apparent colour (spectrum is inevitably, as with all fluorescents, spiky), and startup time all totally acceptable for everyday use. The screw-in bulb types don't flicker either; there are some types of CFL though that use a conventional ballast in the lighting fixture (mostly ceiling downlight stuff), and obviously those flicker at mains frequency (usually mitigated by using long-persistence phosphors)

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I started replacing my incandescents as they failed. I've still got a lot of incandescents in the house. Every last fluorescent has been replaced at least twice in the last 6 years.

My electricity bill for lighting is a lot less than my lightbulb bill.

Nice idea - but like most things they forget to take the greedy bastards in business into account.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I have to agree that the light from LEDs is a bit on the blue-white side but they're probably fine for most applications, especially with a lamp-shade.

Personally, I've had so many halogens blow in my house that I'm happy to replace them with LEDs. Add that to the fact that here on Oz, the sun is so bright you need to draw blinds to see a computer screen, but then its a bit dark, so the lights go on. When you have a strip of 5 halogens pumping out 50w each and its 35C+ in the shade, cool LEDs running at 3w are a blessing.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I don't know what lighting you are using but our home is 90% low energy bulbs or LEDs - and the results are fine. The living room has a total of 9w (one three light standing light @ 6w and three 1w ceiling spots). The spots are not as bright as the halogens they replaced, but perfectly good enough for living room lighting. You can read by them, but they are not overpowering. The standing lamp is the next gen of LEDs from the spots and are just as good as the halogens they replaced. So much so that we got the same lights, only for the ceiling with 6 LED spots (still @ 6w), for our dining room.

The energy savings were a bit poor about 10 years ago, but anything we have brought in the last 7 years has been instant on with no flicker or hum.

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Childcatcher

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

The public may be clueless, but its ever increasing patronization by the big nanny that is government is hardly going to help.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

Don't buy cheap junk LED bulbs then.

The one I have in my outdoor light is very good, nice warm light. I've also just bought a Philips LED bulb that should be even better still.

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Childcatcher

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I have been using CFL for over 20 years and I prefer the light they produce to incandescent. It is just a question of taste. And clearly I think yours is poor. OK so some CFL are slow to run up to temperature, but others are not, so be selective with what you buy.

If you have a problem with LED don't buy cheap ones. You should remember that in China the slogan is "me to" even if they know nothing about the product and related issues, the result is much is crap. I keep saying don't go over to LED just yet. Wait a few years and it will all be sorted out and prices will be lower.

Philips lighting has the best handle on this market but even they have a dozen different product for one application. One example the replacement for the 50mm tungsten halogen spotlight, the 7W size replacing the 50W TH lamp has a cooling fan built in. Now you will not find that in a Chinese lamp. So be selective or wait.

Natch!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

Buy poor quality and you get poor results. There's nothing to go wrong on incandescent, it's just a piece of wire glowing. A CFL needs an electronic starter to get it going, it is these that fail. Buying a quality brand helps.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

You can get LEDs in warm or cold light. In the EU/UK we like warm, but elsewhere they tend to want cool white light.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

> End subsidies to carbon burning and I might agree with you

Coal, gas and oil are not subsidised. The accounting trick the green lobby use to claim a subsidy is the 5% VAT rate on gas and electricity that the consumer pays. This is not a subsidy and if you want to consider a lower VAT rate as a subsidy then you must also consider fuel duty payments as negative subsidy. You should also consider that the 5% on electricity is the same no matter what generated it.

> through insurance costs against more extreme weather, but that's only a small part of it.

There is no evidence off more extreme weather. Costs of weather damage have increased but the increase is in line with property value increases and increased urbanisation.

> Problem with putting up electricity bills by ending these subsidies

You mean changing the VAT rate on gas and electricity from 5% to 20%.

> give a fair break to nuclear and renewables and keep bills affordable.

At the moment renewables are heavily subsidised and it is only these subsides that make it viable to operate a wind factory.

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WTF?

CF bulbs are fine here too

I don't know why we get it either - there is nothing wrong with modern CF bulbs, other than the dimmable ones really ARE crap.

I do find that the incandescent equivalence is one off - I'll get a "75 watt" CF bulb to replace a 60 watt incandescent. But so what, they still use a quarter of the power, and don't get painfully hot.

If you're defending incandescent bulbs, it's not because of any real superiority. Stop using 100 year old crap.

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Pint

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

"I have to agree that the light from LEDs is a bit on the blue-white side but they're probably fine for most applications, especially with a lamp-shade."

Sooo... they're too close to daylight, rather than resembling the artificial yellow light which we've all come to think of as 'normal'?

I'm slowly replacing with energy-saver bulbs as old ones blow, with two exceptions:

Daylight hue (so: white blue) incandescent bulb in the dress room, so I can see what colour clothes really are.

Incandescent bulb in the loo, because I hate staggering blearily into the room in the middle of the night and only getting a dimly-lit vista when I turn on the light.

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Re: CF bulbs are fine here too

All fluorescent lights give me a headache. Every single one I've tried, no matter how cheap or expensive, no matter the build quality, they all give me a headache without fail. I can always tell when there's a CFL in a room - even the high quality ones that emit an otherwise pleasing glow. Fortunately there are "energy efficient" halogens to keep me sane and headache free.

Something being "old" doesn't mean it's inferior and being "new" doesn't make something better.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I've had problems with LED lights in the past (flickering, inadequate brightness and unpleasant colour), but after hearing good things I recently bought a couple of Philips LED bulbs to see how things have changed. I'm impressed! The flickering is gone, the colour appears very similar to my old incandescent bulbs and while they are slightly more directional, their output is perfectly adequate.

Admittedly, the bulbs were expensive (c. £10-12 each), but presumably this will change as the technology matures. I have a 4 W bulb in my desk lamp and a 11.5 W bulb in a lamp in my living room, and both have been fantastic.

If the claimed lifetime of 20-odd years is accurate, they should be long-term money-savers. I can't vouch for that yet though, since I've only had mine for two months.

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Black Helicopters

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

"... if you shove the benefits in their face and they ignore you, then it comes time for more drastic measures."

Nine out of ten totalitarian tyrants like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Jong Il, Idi Amin, Muammar Qaddafi, Ayatollah Khomeini, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez would agree with you wholeheartedly.

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@AC re: LEDs

"The cost is to high and the reliability hasn't been that good. Of the twenty I've bought so far 4 of them have failed within the first week which gives me reason to doubt I'll get the advertised 20,000 hours of use from the remaining ones."

Failures in solid-state semiconductors are generally rare. Early failure normally indicates a manufacturing fault. And manufacturing faults usually result in early failures.

IE expect the duff ones to die very quickly, and expect the decent ones to last a long time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I'm the AC @ 08:58 and here's some responses to the comments.

Re: Stoneshop

I'm in the UK, not stateside so it's UK CFL that I'm moaning about. The colour is rubbish, the startup times are to long and I've had one of them crack whilst in the light fitting, giving off mercury fumes. I will no longer consider using them in my home.

Re: AC @11:40

> Don't buy cheap junk LED bulbs then.

I don't. I've bought 20 of them, at a cost of over £200, trying to find a decent one. Reliability and the colour haven't been good enough.

For those interested in the economics of it, you can pick up a 50W halogen GU10 for £0.80 which lasts 2000 hours. With electricity at 12.5p/kWh this gives a cost of £6.75 per 1000 hours of use.

An equivalent LED lasts 20,000 hours, uses 5W and costs £15 giving a cost of £1.37 per 1000 hours of use.

Despite the economics of it showing I should use LEDs I'm going to stick with incandescents and halogens until the reliability and colour issues have been resolved.

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Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

I went through my house and replaced all the incandescents with CFLs. It cost me about $40, which I made back through a lower electric bill in a matter of months. The one in my garage takes about a half second to come on when it's really cold out, but the rest of them come on instantly. I don't know what everyone's complaining about with them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

"What is not debatable is that the state should not force people to abandon their lightbulbs by decree."

Well, given that you just started a debate about it, I'd say that your statement is objectively false.

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Happy

Re: State intervention may well result in de-civilizatory effects

Shirley, when staggering to the loo at 3AM you'd want the bulb to start dimmer, nothing worse than being blinded

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Re: I started replacing my incandescents as they failed.

Based on the power savings argument, I was an earlier adopter of CFLs. I found I needed to purchase at least one level above the equivalent light level for an incandescent for them to be useable, the lifetime wasn't as long as promised, and the damn things frequently don't fit in my existing light fixtures. I shouldn't have had to replace any of them yet, but most have been replaced at least once.

So when the ban was announced I started stocking up on incandescent bulbs. I figure I have a 2-3 year supply for our main light fixtures. But not for the candelabra type fixture over the dining room table. And while I can tolerate the noise from most fluorescents the racket from those bulbs is intolerable. Even the damn LEDs hum.

I doubt it has much to do with "the greedy bastards in business" and everything to do with the clueless bastards in government. The manufacturing process for those things isn't cheap. And all of them necessarily include the ballast element that would otherwise be part of the light fixture instead of the bulb.

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Colour temperature

"The research team claims the resultant light is close to natural sunlight but can be filtered for specific colors."

Good. Hopefully this means we can move away from having harsh blue-white lights in places where a warmer, yellow-ish light would be more suitable.

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Re: Colour temperature

Because it's totally impossible to put a CFL behind a lampshade and filter the color?

Besides there are plenty of less harsh CFL bulbs available now, indeed the light color from the ones in my hallway is hard to distinguish from an incandescent.

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Re: Colour temperature

The temperature might imitate incandescent, but the spectrum's usually a disaster.

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Re: Colour temperature

"harsh blue-white lights"

If you mean the flood of 'cool white' LED lighting that has been dumped on the market I agree with you. The 'warm white' LEDs out there on the other hand seem to be just a bit too yellow, but if you combine the two types in equal amounts you get a really nice resulting colour.

This room is lit with 5 meter 5050 type LED strips of each white colour, running at 50% brightness through PWM control to keep them cool and prolong their life as running at 100% brightness produces a lot of heat which kills them quicker over time.

Also it's neat being able to easily control the brightness (right up to 100% when needed) with a remote :)

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Re: Colour temperature @Haku

Do you have a link to the bulbs/strips you are using - sounds interesting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Colour temperature @Haku

Try ebay - I've bought a few strips of these in different colors (and RGB too), they're very easy to work with. See http://captainunlikely.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/bambilight-cheap-bluetooth-ambilight.html for one possiblity

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bed

LED strips

I use a mixture of LED strips from http://www.ultraleds.co.uk/ The most fun are the RBG strips with a three knob dimmer so the colours can be varied. Somewhat expensive. Elsewhere are 5m runs of warm white LEDs on dimmers, best used as uplighters, and blue/white strips under the kitchen cupboards making excellent lighting for work surfaces.

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@James Hughes 1

I got them from a Chinese eBay seller for a little over £10 each strip, cheaper than sellers in your own country but takes a while to arrive, try this search term:

5050 5m (cool,warm) -(150,60,"0.5m",3528)

5050 is the type of LEDs used (3 diodes in a single chip), you probably don't want the smaller 3528 LED type, and you'll want to go for the 300 LEDs per 5m strip not 150, the 60 is in there because some sellers will sell you single 1m/60LED strips which work out more than buying a 5m and cutting it up to suit your needs (they can be cut every 3 LEDs). Cool & warm are there to specifically weed out just 'white' because if they don't say what type then it's usually cool white.

I then used a beefy 5A 12v power supply fed into a custom circuity with a microcontroller and MOSFET to dim the LEDs, I intend to upgrade the circuit sometime to be able to individually control the two types of LEDs to change the overall output colour.

LED lighting isn't the cheapest but if you want something different, something custom that traditional bulbs can't do then it can be a nice solution, especially in this case if you point the LEDs to the wall/ceiling and hang on some aluminium strip 1-2 feet away to diffuse the light and not get dazzled by the LEDs.

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Re: @James Hughes 1

Quick BTW: If the closeup picture of the 12v LED strip shows 1 resistor per LED that's a surefire indication they're 5050 type LEDs, 1 resistor per 3 LEDs usually means they're 3528 type.

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Happy

Free the light bulbs

American politics is truly funny for us outsiders: The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act of Mrs. Bachmann actually requires that light bulbs should only be phased out if this results in a 20% reduction of carbon emissions. But apparently lighting only accounts for some 13% of US electricity consumption and accounting for other forms of energy (engines, ...) would not really help the numbers.

Is this supposed to be funny, or is the state of American politics such that no one even proof reads the bills before submission?

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Facepalm

@Schultz

"Is this supposed to be funny, or is the state of American politics such that no one even proof reads the bills before submission?"

I guess you didn't follow the Obama-care debates. Nancy Pelosi's " We have to pass this to see what's in it" sums up the U.S. Congress on both sides of the isle.

http://www.deseretnews.com/top/46/4/We-have-to-pass-the-health-care-bill-so-you-can-find-out-what-is-in-it-Top-10-quotes-of-the.html

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Re: Free the light bulbs

While that's a bit silly, obviously the intent is simply to repeal the light bulb law. The "unless xyz" part was just tacked on to make it sound more moderate.

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Re: Free the light bulbs

In one word, yes, to both questions.

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Re: Free the light bulbs

I don't think Congressmen generally read the bills in detail. I'm reminded of Michael Moore reading out the text of the PATRIOT act over a loudspeaker in front of the Houses of Congress after having established that nobody in there had actually read the thing before passing it.

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Pint

Re: Free the light bulbs

Michelle Bachman is a paranoid nutjob. After her terrible (except for comedy value) presidential run, she just barely won her congressional seat, having to outspend her opponent 12 to 1 to do it. I don't think we'll have her around in the congress much longer. Here's to hoping.

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Re: Free the light bulbs

@Schultz

Our politicians can't read. They've spent so much mental energy pushing the extreme ends of the political spectrum further apart that they've forgotten how.

No, really. They vote on the bills based on who drafted them (first) and a brief summary that some underpaid aid gives them (sometimes). It's not at all funny. It's depressing.

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Doesn't matter. What matters in the end is how much it cost to replace the existing systems. People have already been conned by the "in the end, it pays for itself and saves money" hustle by other products, including lighting.

LED and Florescent bulbs, IMO, haven't held up to what they proposed.

LED testing has shown that the LEDs used in mass production are prone to fail, and florescent bulbs have problems with variation in temperature.

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I don't know about that. I switched to fluorescent over a decade ago. Granted, they cost quite a bit back then, but they mostly lived up to the hype. You get used to the light they emit, and the only time you realize they're there is when they break: usually years later. Then you look up and realize, "It really DID last a long time."

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What matters in the end is how much it cost to replace the existing systems.

One of the big problems is that government control has been making it hard to replace existing systems because replacements are not being offered. I run a mix of different kinds of lights to best suit the situation, and certainly CFLs are very successful for some places. I am however finding that there is a lack of low output low energy bulbs to replace what I used to use. I also do not have a local source of CFLs that work at the low outside temperatures we have in my area. I'm all for plastic strips, but so far I've already spent a fortune experimenting with CFLs only to learn that some work and some don't. I don't relish another several years of costly experimentation.

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Problem is that you only need one "short life" one and the payback time in energy savings from fitting the things disappears off into lala land.

I reckon about 1 in 10 or so don't make it through the first couple of weeks. They are like WW1 pilots though, if they make it through those two weeks they're likely to last many years.

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Stop

Taylor 1 - I had an energy-saving bulb that lasted through two house moves (so was in three houses). A conventional bulb would be lucky to last a few months. Definitely did save money in my case.

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"LED and Florescent bulbs, IMO, haven't held up to what they proposed. LED testing has shown that the LEDs used in mass production are prone to fail, and florescent bulbs have problems with variation in temperature.

Whilst I agree with your comments, I think the LED issues have been more about quality variation and teething problems. For example, buy a decent LED GU10 and it'll have a reasonable heat sink casing, buy the less well designed stuff and it won't, with inevitable consequences. Then you've got all manner of quality variation in the diode themselves with some makers producing very good devices, and other producing short lived, over driven tat. I also suspect that the commonest cause of failure in consumer LED lighting is poor quality driver electronics.

In terms of reliability and quality, we've had no problems with entire office building replacement of lighting with LED's - staff much happier with light quality too, about eight thousand hours run time to date on circa 1000 luminaires, our car park is lit with LED's - a big improvement on the sodium vapour, now into year three of operation. The trains I travel on have LED lighting, and that's better quality than the preceeding fluourescent, and I've seen no failures, with the units now probably at 4,000 hours of operation.

Considering the improvement in performance and quality in LED in a few years, and the still woeful performance of CFL's after two decades of being mainstream, I hope that CFL's will soon be consigned to the dusbin of history.

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In difficult situations I have been replacing with low energy halogen lights, not as good as good as CCFLs but 20% down.

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Anonymous Coward

Erm, the sort of bright LEDs I've been using in mountain bikes for a few years now are all going strong. So I don't see why the LEDs would fail. It is more likely to be the AC/DC conversion circuit that will fail, LEDs don't run on AC power.

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