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Eco-Bulbs Not For Enlightened Optometrists

7 September 2008

Eco-Bulbs Not For Enlightened Optometrists

New Zealand optometrists have added another concern to the list of issues with the so-called “eco-bulb”.

Recent media coverage has highlighted the eco-bulbs’ potential as a fire risk.

But now the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO) says in addition, they may not be giving off enough light, in the right way, for people to read by.

Low vision, as highlighted by the NZAO’s Save Our sight awareness campaign last month, is a major problem for many tens of thousands of New Zealanders.

“Many older people in particular reach a stage where their vision is such that it cannot be helped with ordinary glasses or vision aids. Magnifiers and other equipment can help, but good lighting is probably the easiest, cheapest and most effective way for people to see better,” says the association’s National Director Dr Lesley Frederikson.

She says her members are reporting many of their patients are struggling to read with the so-called energy saving lights.

“As we age, we need more and better lighting for reading. The eco-bulbs are coiled fluorescent lamps that radiate 75 percent of their light horizontally. When installed in a downlight, or similar fitting, most of the light cannot escape from the fitting.

“This means that substituting an ‘eco-bulb’ into a light fitting designed for an incandescent bulb gives a gloomy and inefficient light,” Dr Frederikson says.

In addition, she points out, the fluorescent bulb is heavier and therefore may be dangerous in a lamp designed for a lighter bulb.

The NZAO has undertaken research into the eco-bulbs and notes that performance declines over time and at the end of their service life they will probably be only two thirds of their original brightness.

“The bulbs are very inefficient as sources of task lighting unless used in a purpose designed fitting that captures and directs the light from the coiled or linear tubular form of the eco-bulb.”

Good lighting is essential for people with low vision from a safety point of view as well as for reading purposes.

“Something people may not know is that the eco-bulbs are temperature dependent and optimal lighting will not be reached until the lamp reaches a temperature above 30 degrees Celsius. This is why it takes a while for the light to get fully bright and in a very cold climate, the light might not even start.”

Dr Frederikson says people with low vision should be aware it’s not a good idea to install an eco-lamp in a hallway that only needs to be lit for the time it takes to walk its length as it will only have reached perhaps 20 percent of its brightness by the time it is switched off again.”

“This can make the risk of tripping and falling much greater,” she says.

“Older people and people with reduced vision need to be able to make the right choice of lighting for their needs and they need to be careful they do not reduce safety in their homes due to decreased light levels and inferior lighting.

Optometrists are trained in giving advice on the best lighting for people with low vision.

“It would be a sad irony for many if eco-bulbs saved the planet but we were no longer able to see it.”


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