Moodlyte Technologies
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Technology and Application Guide for LED Candles
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See the New light
By Jay Cullimore
President of Moodlyte™ Technologies

You ever see those commercials for the flashlight you just shake, shake, shake and presto you've got light for however long. Pretty cool idea! And you have to ask why are these type of products so hot all of sudden. Certainly shaking to generate power is relatively new, but it's really about the light source, low power and really bright, let's just say efficient for short. And they do work really great, I play with one every time I find one at a friends house, hmm, maybe I should actually buy one since I live in south Florida and we're getting ready for the 06 hurricane season.

But that's not really what I want to discuss although it demonstrates the most important technology advance for this article, the LED (light emitting diode). More specifically the brightness, and now even white light output color. LEDs have been around awhile, but the cost of producing them has sharply decreased while the brightness has increased, allowing for all sorts of new products to hit the market, and one being electronic candles.

You may have seen or heard of electronic candles and I'll guarantee you will know a lot more about them in the near future. These LED based candles try as much as possible to give the look and feel of real flames, and in most cases undetectable by the viewer. The products come in different configurations, such as rechargeable battery, replaceable battery, disposable and AC powered and in different sizes to fit lamps or stand-alone candle designs. This can be confusing with so many choices, so lets see if we can wade through some of the benefits and reasons for these different designs.

Safety
This one is easy, most people would agree safety can be the primary benefit for use. No flame, therefore no burning napkins, menus, fingers, hair, etc. Also you will never leave for home after closing, and obsess wondering if you put out all the candles that evening. Electronic candles eliminate wax mess on the table or in the back, and no soot clean up for the lamp globes and I don't need comparing to solid wax cleanup labor. For outdoor dining wind is the enemy, especially for the candles, and I'm tired of seeing hurricane lamps on every outdoor table. One last benefit is no odor from burning wicks, in fine dining you don't want the food taste to be altered by candle fumes.

Cost
This is where it really gets interesting. The cost saving over wax candles and fuel cells are very significant and can be attributed to different factors such as the labor of changing the wax candles or liquid fuel cells, cost of the fuel itself and fuel waste since you don't want to let the cell run dry in the middle of dinner. And don't forget as we discussed in safety, the cost of damage to tableware.

Theft/loss is always part of the equation, since electronic candles cost more to replace than liquid fuel cells, you will need to determine what your shrinkage factor would be. The cost of individual rechargeable candle cells vary between $15-20 each, while the replaceable battery type candle cells vary from $2-5 each. Looking at these replacement costs, and if you think theft may be an issue, the replaceable battery type may be your best choice.

For rechargeable type candles the, total saving is estimated by amortizing the initial purchase cost over time. The average life of a rechargeable candle is 700-1000 recharge cycles, and if you use them 7 days a week then the life expectancy is about 2+ years. So compare your cost of wax candles or liquid fuel compared to the initial cost over a 2+ year period.

For the replaceable battery type there is virtually (100,000 hrs.) no end of life, so you can calculate an even longer period of use, then add the cost of batteries over the same or longer period for comparison.

Example:
You have 24 tables using 18 hr. liquid fuel cells operating 8hr/day, 7 days/week; your current cost over a 2-year period is approximately $7800.00.

Replacing those fuel cells with replaceable battery candles such as a FC5001 FlickerCell™, your total cost over that same 2-year period is approximately $425.00, including the initial purchase cost of the electronic candles.

That's pretty dramatic savings, so you can put that money in your pocket or redecorate to bring in even more business.

Insurance savings? I've spoken to insurance agents and companies at most trade shows I attend asking them if they have a policy discount based on not using real flame on table, so far the answer is no, but we'll keep watching. The only cost benefit here, so far, is saving 80 bucks or so by not needing an open flame permit.

Fire Code
This is a simple decision, check with your local Fire Marshall, I've had more than few panic calls from owners for non-flame table lighting when it's discovered that open flame use is not allowed. Fire codes vary from city to city and are changing quickly, so you will need to check at the local level to determine what the code restrictions are for your area.

Brightness
Brightness is generally a comparison to natural candle brightness, As we know, natural candle brightness varies based on the actual source, ranging from low output solid wax tealights to high brightness fuels cells used for shaded lamps. One of the first considerations is how bright do you need, do you want the customers to read menus or do you want just ambient lighting? The current low cost electronic candles that use amber LED's are considered to be for ambient lighting purposes. The holder, or I should say the globe itself also has a lot to do with the ultimate brightness. For amber color LED candles, frost white is the best choice. The reason for this is, the LED's output is a narrow and specific color band of light measured in wavelengths and is easily filtered out when color globes are used, which reduces the total amount of light allowed through the glass. On the other hand, natural flames have a full spectral light output and are not nearly as reduced when using colored globes. Color globes can be used with LED candles by selecting a color LED candle such as red or blue with a matching color globe insuring full light output. Some LED candles have changeable operating colors and these should be only used with frost white glass or neutral wax sleeves. For the brightest output, read on to rechargeable electronic candles.

Battery vs. Rechargeable
Rechargeable means the individual electronic candles will operate between 8 to 16 hours per charge, then removed from the table and placed in a charging base at closing. The recharge time can be from 8 to 10 hours depending on the product. The comparable brightness for battery and rechargeable LED candles is about the same, good for ambient lighting environments.

For very bright light output, let's say for menu reading or when using a fabric-shaded lamp, the large capacity rechargeable type candle cells are available and recommended. While these do tend to be more expensive, they have a light output similar to a real candle flame using an incandescent bulb or a very high intensity LED cluster.

Electronic candles that use replaceable batteries, two sizes are prevalent, tealight and votive. Votive size electronic candles typically use AAA or AA battery sizes and operate from 90 to 350 hrs. The tealight size typically uses a 2032 lithium disc batteries and operate from 45- 60 hours before replacement. Both sizes usually include an on/off switch so the candles can be turned off between uses with out requiring removal from table, saving on time and labor. There is no notable difference in the flickering effect between these two types, although the light output for the tealight size tends be less bright to conserve on the smaller battery capacity. Also be careful about the size of the electronic tealight candles, some tend to be larger than an actual wax tealight standard.

Color vs. Flickering effect
The largest volume of product sold at this time is the flickering type since they most closely represent a natural environment. For nightclubs, events or other occasions, non-flickering blue, red and other colors are growing in popularity. Word of caution, color output candles should be used with a matching color or frost white globe otherwise the brightness and color will not be as effective.

I know of one manufacturer with an electronic candle that incorporates both very bright selectable colors (RGB) and natural flicker effects with remote control. how cool is that!

Disposable vs. Non-disposable (replaceable battery or rechargeable)
Food service distributors have chosen a slightly different direction with electronic candles, selling disposable electronic candles, when the battery is depleted you simply dispose of the battery package or the complete candle cell. Since you cannot replace or recharge the batteries, the disposable type is really more expensive than liquid fuel cells. These disposable products however, do fill the need of the distributor by accommodating customers that no longer are able to use open flame, while maintaining a delivery relationship with the customer.

This should give a good overview as to the differences and nuances of this newly emerging product segment. To insure the product is right for your facility, you should call a dealer and get a demonstration in your lamps of choice and on your table.

For more information you can call Moodlyte™ Technologies at 954-670-1600.

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