Archive for August 2015

Auraglow colour-changing LED

August 24, 2015

I’ve been intrigued by colour-changing LED bulbs for years, and have kept an eye on the market while they gradually improved.  Auraglow were kind enough to send me their 10w colour changing bulb free of charge for me to review.  For some reason it took them three tries to get one sent to me, no one knows what happened to the first two that were sent out, but it finally arrived and I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks.

auraglow1

As the photo shows, they are really rather pretty!  You get sixteen colours plus warm white, and the warm white is a separate LED, rather than a mix of the red, green and blue LEDs.  The white is 10W and my guess would be that the other colours are substantially less, although they’re still pretty impressive.  They’re pleasant colours, well-balanced in hue, and the combination colours are brighter than the pure red, blue or green ones.

The idea behind using this bulb was that I could use the warm white in the daytime and the yellow through red shades in the evening. I had a spot for it lined up in the bookcase opposite my bed.  The trouble is, these bulbs are huge.  They only come in BC or E27 fitting, and like most table lamps today, the lamp I had was an E14.  I have an E14 to BC convertor in there already which works fine with the white LED bulb I usually keep in there, but the Auraglow bulb was a bit too big to fit in with that as well.  You could cram it in, but all the light ended up at the top of the lamp, and since it’s in a bookcase, it was getting cut off by the shelf above it.  In addition, the white was both weaker and more yellowy than the LED bulb I had in there already, so it wasn’t really an improvement.  (I have no idea where I got that bulb that’s in there already, I don’t think it’s more than 7W but it’s the best I’ve ever found.)

So I dug out a lamp that wasn’t really being used and put it on my bedroom desk, by the curtains.  Then I had to move it along the desk, away from the curtains.  It turns out that the bulb isn’t just huge, it’s really heavy.  I’d already tried it in a desk lamp in my partner’s flat, and it was so heavy it had pulled the lamp over.  This table lamp is medium height and slim, and it kept on falling over whenever someone drew the curtains and brushed against it.  The lamp is now tucked away where the curtain can’t brush it and hopefully it’s safe.  The great thing about this bulb being remote controlled is that I don’t have to go anywhere near the lamp to turn it on, I just keep the remote in my bedside chest, so I could put it in the most inaccessible spot I could think of, provided the remote can get line of sight to the bulb.

Now we’d found a home for it, how did it fare?  Pretty well.  As I said, the warm white is on the yellowy side, more so under a standard cream lampshade.  Warm white is a really hard colour to get right with LEDs, and I have found that the same LED bulb or string of fairy lights will look good in some places, against some paint colours, and awful in others.  Every time I’ve tried an LED bulb in my living room (painted off-white) it looks weirdly greenish, for instance, but in my bedroom (painted cream) they’re generally fine.  This one is a perfectly pleasant colour, although not one I’d want to use for colour work, and it looked odd when I tried it for my bedside lamp.  Even kept on my desk, you notice that it’s a very different colour from the other LED bulb and the halogen bulb in the room, but only if you glance between them to compare.  It’s not the strongest LED bulb I’ve seen, which is surprising for 10W, but I do like a lot of light for reading by.  If it’s more of a general lamp, it’s fine.  I wouldn’t use it for lighting an entire room, though.  You’d need quite a few of them, and they’ve expensive.  If the white were brighter and the colour were better, it’d be tempting.  Let’s see how the technology improves in that department.

Now for the really fun part, the colour-changing aspect.  You can set it to move between the colours in a few ways, which some people will enjoy for parties.  We admired how pretty that was briefly, then hunted for a good colour to put it on in the evening.  You can have a yellow, two shades of orange, or a red.  The yellow is a bit on the greenish side.  The two oranges are both very pleasant amber colours, and the red is a good one, on the more orangey side for a red LED.  The yellow and oranges are made from a mixture of green and red light, and opinion is split on whether or not green light affects your melatonin production and circadian rhythms.  I’ve decided to stick to the red light, which lights up a surprising amount of the room.  I don’t know whether or not green light affects me, but I stick to lights which look the same whether or not I am looking at them through my orange-tinted blue-blocking glasses, and the orange hues on this bulb looked different through the orange specs, suggesting that there’s something I’d want to block in there.  If you’re not using orange specs, and you don’t mind changing the light a few times, you could try gradually moving from white through yellow and orange to red over the course of the evening.  It’d probably feel very relaxing.

Would I buy this myself?  At the moment, no.  I’m not using it to its full potential, I’m only using the white and the red, and it’s cheaper to buy a second lamp and put a coloured bulb in that one.  If it were cheaper and heavier it’d be a different matter, but I’m guessing there are manufacturing reasons why that’s an issue.  But it’s very pretty, a fun gadget to have, and I do love being able to use it with a remote control. This is the first red bulb I’ve tried, if you don’t count the red fairy lights, and I was very impressed with the colour.  Watch out for another post soon about the various colours of light bulbs I’ve amassed by now.

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Beam n Read hands free lamp with blue-blocking filters

August 10, 2015

If you are a quilter or crafter, you’ll know the importance of having good light to work by.  I have two spotlights over my sewing desk, which is fine when I’m working there, but when I get to the stage that involves curling up in bed or on the sofa with the quilting frame, I have a lighting issue.  Recently I discovered that some quilters wear head torches for this.  You look a bit daft, and anyone you lift your head to talk to won’t appreciate the sudden beam of light in their face, which I can manage.  What was bothering me was that the cold white LED shining right above my eyes wasn’t a great option if I wanted to sew in the evenings, in terms of avoiding blue light, and sometimes it would give me a headache.

After some hunting around, I discovered the Beam n Read.  It’s a lamp you hang around your neck, so that it points down onto your crafting or your book and not into the face of your startled partner.  You can get a version with 3 LEDs or a version with 6 LEDs, with a switch that allows you to turn on just 3 of them if you choose.  More relevant to this website, it comes with two snap-on filters that block blue light. One is amber, one is red.  The folks at Beam n Read very kindly sent me one for review.  It’s the 6 LED model.  There’s also a model with a magnifying glass, but I don’t get on with those so I didn’t request it.  Here’s their picture showing what they look like with the filters on.

BNR_LED6_ filters_W2b

It’s an ingenious little device, especially with the filters.  Some people want to be able to see more and can use the amber filter, some want the light to be dimmer and use the red filter, and some simply have a colour preference.  They don’t make any medical claims, of course, but it gives you the option to use task lighting that filters out blue light and thus shouldn’t disrupt your melatonin production.  Having a personal, focused light can be particularly useful if you are, say, reading in bed and don’t want to disturb your partner, or if you’re getting up to feed a baby and want to minimise everyone’s sleep disruption.  The elastic strap which goes around your neck is adjustable, and the lamp itself is sturdily built.  If you find that the 6 LED version is a bit bright on its own, you have the option of reducing it to 3 LEDs when it’s on white, and then putting it on 6 LEDs when it has the colour filter on, so that you don’t end up with a light that’s suitably coloured but too dim to see by.  The colour filters are great, they give a strong light in two useful and pleasant colours, and you don’t get any light bleeding around the edge.  The light seems to be about as strong as my Petzl Tikkina head torch, which is about right for me, neither too dim to work by, nor so bright that you get glare problems.  Being bigger (and heavier), it takes bigger batteries, so it’ll last a lot longer before requiring fresh ones.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.  As a child, I remember reading a book which said something along the lines of, “Owen’s parents realised he needed spectacles when they saw him reading with the book six inches away from the end of his nose.”  (I have no idea what the book was, but it definitely featured an Owen.  I think he was Welsh, and there may have been magic involved.)  I thought this was rather odd, as I have always held books that close or closer even with my glasses on!  It’s the same when I’m sewing.  From what my optometrist says, people who are very short-sighted like me tend to do this, and you end up finding positions for reading and sewing that work nicely for you without much trouble.  However, it means that having the light shining from the top of your chest, rather than from somewhere near your eyes, is absolutely useless.  I shortened the strap as far as it would go, and moved the quilting frame around, and wriggled.  Unless I sat at a really uncomfortable angle which I couldn’t sustain for long, I couldn’t get the light to do more than illuminate the bottom part of the quilting frame.  I found the strap rather scratchy as well.  Beam n Read mentioned that some quilters make their own strap, which may mean that there are a few other people having this problem, although it could just be a case of quilters wanting to make their own version of any textile in sight.

So then I tried putting it on my forehead.  The strap is too long for that, so I grabbed my trusty eye mask and put that on top of it to keep it in place.  That worked, but then it felt uncomfortable having that big straight block of plastic against my forehead.  A spare fleece wrist warmer worked for padding, and I managed to keep it on my head for long enough to work with.  I now had light coming from the angle I wanted, and I could change it to amber light in the evening so that it wouldn’t creep around the edges of my orange-tinted specs!  But the set up was quite ridiculous, it’s really not meant to be used that way, and before long it fell off.  I don’t have babies who need to be fed in the middle of the night with minimal light, or go camping, or any other uses that I can think of that would work for me.  Reluctantly, I gave up on it.  I think I’ll have to buy a second head torch and put an orange vinyl filter over it instead.

By this point I was eyeing it wistfully, as it’s a nifty device and I had really wanted it to work.  I brought it out to show my friends when they were around for board games, as they are crafters too.  The cross stitcher said it wasn’t for her.  The spinner is interested, and since they hold their spindle quite low down, it may end up working for them.  The knitter wasn’t there and hasn’t been knitting much for a while anyway.  My partner, who doesn’t do any of these things (though he does play a variety of musical instruments), is wondering whether he will be able to attach it to a bedpost so that he can read in the evening without having his rather large bedside lamp on and shining white light everywhere.  I suspect it won’t really work for that, but we will play around and see what can be done.  I’m sure there is someone I know who will find that it’s just the thing for them.

I can’t really give this one a rating, since whether it works for you will depend on whether you like having light coming from your chest rather than near your eyes, and what sort of tasks you will use it for.  If you reckon it will suit you, then it’s great.  The only thing I’d criticise is the strap, which I hope they improve in the future.  Apart from that, it’s the only device of this nature I know of which has orange and red filters, and it’s sturdily built, with a good battery life.  You can get head torches with an additional red light built in, but as far as I can tell, the red light on those is too dim for sewing or reading by.  I may give one of them a try just to see.