Late last week, I made my once-in-a-year or so pilgrimage to IKEA, just in time for Mother’s Day. I always feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m at IKEA, and my mind runs wild with questions like “how did they save space and pack that in?” and “what can I repurpose this cheap item for?” The food is always nice to have, and even though I travel by public transport, the tarp bags always mean I can carry more than I can expect.
IKEA keeps refreshing their items every few years, with new designs and prices to keep the stock going. This time, I was met with an impromptu sale, which was good news for me. Of course, being an electrical minded person, the cheap alkaline batteries always get me, along with the lamps and light fixtures. In general, the batteries tend to be okay in quality, but the light globes tend to be pretty high quality.
The last time I visited, the catalogue consisted solely of compact fluorescent globes (CFLs) of varying types, including bare 2U-shaped globes, fancy “round” frosted globes, and smaller spot-reflector style globes. I left mainly with bulk packs of 11w Sparsam CFL globes in E27 and BC formats with regular sized tubes, and 11w frosted round CFLs based on slim-sized tubes, none of which have failed and been torn down yet.
The IKEA globes had always satisfied with endurance to switching on and off, mainly because the globes were programmed to take a short period to pre-heat the filaments before starting. This delay can be annoying to some, but it is critical for longevity. One disadvantage would be the low mercury content which results in a moderate to longer run-up time to full brightness compared to some others, but I was willing to take the trade-off.
This year’s visit was met with surprise, with bulk packs of globes being almost completely banished. CFLs still remain, but have been highly phased out in favour of LED globes under the Ledare branding. While LEDs and CFLs generally are in a similar ball-park when it comes to efficiency, in practice, LEDs are now excelling past CFLs and the lack of disposal issue when it comes to mercury content makes it more environmentally sensible. Add to that the lack of run-up time, instant start, and lower penalties for on-off cycling, and it really satisfies. I think this really matters to IKEA, as the environmental issue was one reason why they had offered to collect CFLs for proper recycling and disposal … although I don’t know where that ended up. That being said, LEDs still are a little more expensive, but hardly unaffordable.
IKEA has a large range of globes, and it doesn’t make any sense for me to purchase them all. Instead, I purchased more of the globes which appealed to me – generally the higher power level units. So lets take a look at the haul from IKEA this year.
Sparsam 15W 820lm E27 Dimmable CFL
We start off with the only CFL option on display, which was boxloads of them sitting around. As a result, they were on a snap sale, going at AU$2.99 each. It’s not a bad price at all. The packaging, however, is more of that heat-sealed plastic bubbles that are frustrating to open.
This globe is based around a spiral shaped slim-line style tube. It is rated for 10,000 hours operation, with a warm-up time under 80 seconds and 20,000 power cycle lifetime rating. This is a newer style of globe compatible with triac dimmers, and contains 2mg of mercury. The claimed output of 820 lumens, for 15W, results in an efficiency of 54.6 lumens per watt. This is identical to the performance of the 11W CFL from previous years, and is pretty average for a CFL, which can be seen to get >65 lumens per watt especially in larger sizes where ballast losses are a smaller fraction of the power loss.
While a CFL is not particularly interesting to look at, the moulded logo in the base and the fact that this is Made in Poland inspires confidence in its quality. When tested, the globe does pre-heat before start resulting in a short lag, although it does distinctly have a warm-up time where the glow increases starting from the filaments. This is due to the reduced mercury (environmentally friendly) and the slimline tube. The brightness is exactly as expected, with the expected colour temperature as stated.
As it had a quality build, I couldn’t find any way to easily open it without potentially destroying the globe, so I decided against a teardown. However, I did decide to hook it up with my Variac and the Tektronix PA1000 Power Analyzer to find out just how it performs across a wide range of voltages. The globe was started and warmed up at 230v, the voltage was then increased to about 272v, and measurements of power and power factor were taken as the voltage was hand-swept to zero.
The old 11W IKEA CFL was also subjected to the test for comparison.
The old CFL shows what I would expect for a low cost CFL. The first thing to notice is a power factor of about 0.6, which indicates significant distortion or phase shift of the current waveform. While this doesn’t worry your power bill, it does cause inefficiencies for the power distributor. The other thing is the ballast itself doesn’t have a properly functioning “active” feedback regulation of the tube power, and it seems that it is just a “coincidence” that the globe draws 10.6-11.2W depending on the 230-240v line voltage. I suppose that makes it an 11W globe, on the dot. As a result, you will get more brightness at a higher voltage, and less brightness at a lower voltage. The globe extinguishes for a line voltage below about 60 volts, although the discharge is unstable below 80 volts. Just because it was capable of this on a downward sweep doesn’t mean the globe will actually strike at a lower line voltage though.
This is why the new globe is much more interesting. Above a line voltage of about 185v, the globe regulates its power between about 14.1w and 14.9w, so it’s more like a 14.5w globe. Below 180v, the globe actually dims significantly at first, and then more linearly down to about 30v, where there is only “quiescent” draw but no glow. The globe itself is intended for triac dimming, so is not expected to necessarily respond in this manner to voltage-based dimming. The best part is the near unity power factor across a wide range of voltages, which will save utilities from reactive power loading, and is a small cost addition to a globe with positive benefits.
As a result, I think this is a much better globe than the previous non-dimmable model – Made in Poland, rather than Made in China. No radio interference was observed with the globe running, which was good.
Ledare 7w 400lm E14 Clear Candle LED
The second globe up for testing is another globe on special. It seems like they have a bit of an overstock on these LED globes, so they’re going out for AU$3.99 a piece. The packaging is more heat-sealed annoyance, but the card inside seems to have the understated black-and-white presentation we expect from IKEA. The unit is Made in China.
The globe has a small edison screw fixture, and is rated for a 2700K colour temperature, with a colour rendering index (CRI) of >87. It claims 25,000 power-cycles with <1 second start up time and a lifetime of 25,000 hours. The globe is not compatible with dimmers.
This globe is intended for smaller desk lamps and chandeliers, where it is designed to throw out light in a 360 degree arc through the use of a diffuse reflective cone shaped centre optic. The left half of the globe, painted white, is actually an aluminium base heatsink for the LEDs with a plastic collar, whereas the right seems to be a glass cover.
As this is a smaller globe, the overhead of the ballast electronics load means that the globe’s efficiency is a little less than expected at 57 lumens per watt. This may also have been because of the special diffusing reflecting optic inside, which may lose some of the generated light. This is pretty similar to that of CFLs, as above. In usage, this globe starts up quickly at full brightness, although the light is a bit yellower than I expected. The globe seems to have issues with handling line voltage variations, especially Decabit off-peak signalling causing the globe to flicker at every “on-off” transition of the 1050Hz signal. The ballast in mine was not audible.
Since this one is cheap, lets try taking it apart. Some careful prying shows that the glass cover is attached to the base using some white silicone substance, normally used to immobilize large components on PCBs. Despite the best care in prying and lifting and cutting the silicone …
… the bulb shattered in my hands and it was an absolute mess. Maybe best not to take this one apart. After carefully cleaning around me, and removing remnant shards from the bulb, we can see the remainder of the globe.
The PCB resides underneath the collar and the plastic optic … lets remove the collar.
This reveals part of the PCB, but the front optic is actually held by a screw from inside the bulb. You can twist the front optic off, but that leaves a screw in the ballast area which you’ll have to remove later. Lets take this route for now …
We can see how the optic is formed – a conical diffusing/reflecting segment inside of an acrylic plastic form which itself is reflective at certain angles due to the refractive index.
The unit is built on a metal core printed circuit board (MCPCB) dated week 51 of 2013. The board is marked LDB-02 L-C400I-A2-01-V2.0 with an approval number of E347474. The power connections are directly soldered to the board. The board has a total of 18 surface mount LED chips, all of which are connected in one series string. This is a preferred configuration in ensuring all LEDs run at the same current and ensures the maximum lifetime, although if one LED fails open circuit, the whole chain may be compromised. The board itself comes from Xiamen LED Board Electron-Tech Co. Ltd. according to the UL number. The manufacturer itself is indeterminate, but some of their other products seem to be rebadged under other names.
The circuit appears to be connected in numerical order as marked on the globe. The two screws secure the MCPCB to the heatsink – although one seemed to be loose from over-tightening, which is a bad sign. Removing the screws reveals the MCPCB achieves thermal contact with the outside rim of the board only, although it is nicely thermal-greased for maximum heat transfer.
For better heat transfer, a larger area of thermal connection might be desirable. The ballast is nested inside the middle, in the middle of the heat, which is a little suboptimal. The ballast is exposed, although it cannot be extricated because the wires at the top are bonded to the screw cap, and cannot be separated non-destructively. The visible capacitor is Aishi branded, as seen in Philips CFLs, and seem to be of sufficient quality.
Removing the optic and running it in this manner may not be as safe as the secondary side power connections are exposed, but this does turn a “360” degree bulb into a powerful spot globe – just what I needed for an small edison screw-based desk lamp.
Hooking it up to my Tektronix PA1000 for a check of the globe’s power consumption shows some unusual issues. The ballast electronics try to actively regulate the current in the LEDs, and as a result, the power consumption “floats” between 6.5 and 7.6W through the range of 130v up to 275v. However, while performing the sweep, the globe pulsated and flickered when moving between certain ranges of voltages, as if the active regulation has feedback limitations and limited “steps” in adjustments. The power factor isn’t as high as it could be (0.77 to 0.80), so we might be seeing a return of the low-power-factor energy saver globes in residential usage. The output dims significantly at line voltages below 130v and “strobes” as the regulation fails to reach its set point.
No radio interference was experienced with this globe, which makes it good for shortwave/HF enthusiasts.
Ledare 14.2w 1000lm E27 Round LED
We move on to the biggest globe you will find in the IKEA shop, and it comes in its own box. This one is a decorative fancy “large” round bulb, currently selling at AU$17.99. This bulb reaches a lofty 70 lumens per watt, which is 29% more efficient than the CFL above. Again, this is rated for a 25,000 hour lifetime, with under one second start-up, with a CRI > 87 and made in China. One attraction is that this globe claims to be compatible with dimming.
I didn’t realize how big it was until I got it home and out of the box. I’ve never had a globe this large before. The white collar where all the information is printed is a metallic heatsink, with the screw-attachment being a plastic insert.
The construction of this globe is virtually identical to the one above, just that the diffusing cover is made of plastic rather than glass. This makes it very safe to pry around and remove the cover.
This unit features soldered connections to the ballast, and is marked LD-AL KT-G95-1000-01 with an approval number of E333645. The unit claims to have been manufactured in Week 36 of 2014. This unit is built with 24 large-emitter surface mount LEDs, connected as six parallel strings of four series LEDs. This arrangement offers some redundancy if an LED fails open, only 1/6th of the LEDs will go out, but the same current will be redistributed amongst the remaining operating LEDs which will shorten their lives and change the colour temperature. An imbalance of voltage drop will result in a string going into “runaway” and self-destructing as well, which may limit the lifetime of the unit.
The PCB itself seems to be made by Shenzhen Leadfly Technology Co. Ltd, although the whole globe itself is likely made by a different company. The letter prefix seems to suggest it might be Shanghai Kingtoon International Trading Co. Ltd, although I can’t be sure.
The quality of the ballast isn’t known for sure, but it is potted which should improve acoustic performance. The soldering on the SMD capacitor on the underside is a little sub-par.
Sadly, this globe is too big to fit into any of my fittings, and so it remains untested.
Ledare 13w 1000lm E27 LED
This globe is probably the most appealing of them all, with a 100W equivalent bulb rating, and a shape that is slightly longer than the average GLS globe, it will fit into most fittings and provide enough light for larger areas. This was being sold at AU$17.99 a piece, and also claims to be compatible with dimming.
While the specifications of 25,000 hour lifetime, >87 CRI and under 1 second start are common across the range, this is the first globe I’ve seen with an EU A+ rating for energy efficiency, reaching 76 lumens per watt which is a 40% improvement over the CFL above. This starts making it a worthy contender for replacing failed CFLs with.
Again, the unit is Made in China with similar adhered plastic front cover diffuser construction. The body plastic is rather brittle when pried at, and flakes into bits. It doesn’t seem there are any exposed heatsink metal in this globe design, and it does run a little warm for that reason.
This unit is made of fourty LEDs in a single string series connection. This is a large number of chips, so the lifetime may be limited by failure probability due to the series connection. The whole thing is built on an MCPCB dated week 21 of 2014, marked with L-A1 000SS-Q3D-02 V2.0 LDB-04, design dated 3rd January 2014 with approval number E347474. This is the same manufacturer as the 7W candle globe above.
Unlike the candle globe, the connection is made by a push-fit connector. Unscrewing the screws releases the MCPCB from the heatsink base, where thermal grease is used to thermally bond the disc to the heatsink at the edges. The contact area could be larger, and the paste application more even to optimize the thermal transfer.
The ballast itself is fully potted, and no analysis is easily possible due to this. It is within the hot area of the heatsink behind the LEDs, so it’s probably an non-ideal compromise as needed to fit in the GLS globe form factor.
This globe seems to be a good contender to the Philips 13w globe that I’ve been using for a while. The Philips globes are very very well built and so I cannot seem to tear them apart without risking complete destruction, so I didn’t – but lets take a look at the electrical performance of the Philips.
The Philips globe seems to have an intermediate power factor of about 0.8 to 0.85 through the 230-240v range, but the current driver seems to have a very lax attitude to regulating the power to the LEDs itself, similarly to the older CFL above. The actual power consumption is about 13.8-14.2w from 230v to 240v, which is more than the 13w it claims, which seems to be a side effect of the lax regulation. The globe does dim significantly as the line voltage falls, and extinguishes below about 20v.
Lets take a look at the IKEA globe – I expect a more regulated performance because it is a dimmable globe.
As it turns out, I am right, with the power level regulated at between 13-14w through a wide voltage range of 100v to 270v. The power factor is relatively high, above 0.91 for voltages above 165v, which is good news. The power consumption is 13.5-13.8w, so it is a little high, but it is stable in light output with voltage variation down to about 210v where there is a bit of flicker stepping as the voltage decreases. Below 40v, the regulation seems to fail entirely resulting in a spike in the power usage, which then falls to zero at about 10v where the globe extinguishes. This behaviour is mainly because dimmable globes are designed for triac (waveform duty cycle) based dimming, rather than by voltage control dimming. The globe is quiet, and doesn’t cause any interference to my HF and shortwave reception.
The output from the globe is very reasonable and the lumen rating is very believable. The colour temperature is a bit yellow, as expected.
Ledare 6.3w 400lm E27 LED Two-Pack
For smaller luminares, or for less smaller, less trafficked areas, a smaller LED globe is necessary. Maybe you have a bulk appetite for LED globes – as it turns out, this is the only LED globe available in anything resembling a bulk pack. The pack of two retails at AU$8.99.
This particular unit is Made in China and non-dimmable, but is an inferior globe to the others. This one claims only a 15,000 hour lifetime and a CRI >80, rather than 25,000 hours and CRI >87 with the others. It does achieve an A+ energy rating, with 63 lumens/watt which is about 16% above of the CFL.
There’s nothing special about the construction – all of them seem to have the same construction. The front lens is made of plastic, and the rear part is covered in brittle plastic with no exposed metal heatsink. The physical size is very similar to that of a traditional glass bulb, so it will fit into most luminaires.
The MCPCB is riveted into place, and cannot be removed for further analysis. Five larger surface mount LED chips are connected in one series string, with a push-fit contact to the ballast behind. Based on the markings, the MCPCB was made in Week 8 of 2014, the design was made in 7th January 2014, and it is labelled LDB-04 L-A400XS-A1-01-V2.0 with approval number E347474. This means that it is made by the the same manufacturer as the candle globe and the 13w globe above.
The globe shows excellent power regulation above 120v, with the power being flat and bang on. The power factor is disappointingly low though, in the range of 0.5-0.6. Below 120v, the globe brightness diminishes, and the stability of the regulation disappears below about 40v. The globe is quiet with no radio interference issues. The output is about right, although the reduced CRI is somewhat noticeable. It’s perfectly fine for hallway lighting, and matches the lesser CFLs, but you wouldn’t want to be appreciating art underneath it.
It seems that IKEA globes continue their tradition of reasonably good quality from an examination of their internals. There may be two manufacturers involved in their globes which I purchased, but the designs seem to follow similar cues. While they cannot be called flawless, they definitely show some care in their design, and their performance is generally satisfactory. Only time will tell if the units will last in reality, but this could be a source of LED light globes should you wish to buy some.
On the 7w candle-style globe, I did experience some flicker and instability on sharp voltage changes, say when Decabit off-peak signalling is being sent on the line, which can be disagreeable. The other globes don’t seem to be as much affected, so it might be a one-off.
On the positive side, no RF interference has been seen from the globes in the shortwave/HF spectrum, so if you’re a radio enthusiast, you don’t need to worry. Audible noise didn’t seem to be a problem either.
Interestingly, IKEA no longer stock any BC based globes, and they are aggressively selling-out all of their CFL stock, so expect LED only from now on. The future is now!
Unfortunately, IKEA globes won’t satisfy all with a very limited choice of colour temperature – virtually all of the globes in stock were 2700K except for one cool white option which I didn’t purchase. This might be a little too “warm” and yellow for some purposes.
There are much more efficient LED globes pushing 100 lumens per watt as well, but unfortunately, it seems that we are very slow at getting these in Australia. It might make sense, if you are chasing efficiency, to hold off on buying LED replacements until those globes become more common.