Editors’ note: This is a transcript from the above audio, which is 26 minutes long. It has been slightly edited so it is more readable. See the giveaway contest and purchase discounts at the end of the transcript!
Read on how to see Mr. Beams’ LED lights will not only decrease those hard to light areas in your house, but save you a little green as well. How? The lights are battery-operated and sensor controlled, so say good-by to the electrician and hello to more energy efficient lights in your home.
Anna Hackman: Hi everybody. I’m here with Mike Recker co-founder of Mr. Beams and Ashley Fantz, Mr. Beams’ Marketing Director. We’re here to talk about Mr. Beams products. Tell us about what Mr. Beams is and what products you sell.
Mike Recker: Mr. Beams makes LED lights that are battery-powered motion sensor and RF controls that you can attach anywhere. In addition to indoor use, most of our products are [sic] weatherproof, and are designed for outdoor use, so that allows our customers to attach them anywhere without the need for calling an electrician for wiring. We’ve found that the LED technology, in addition, to controls and battery power, offered customers a great product for adding lights in places where they previously had not been able to add light. We are launching three new products in March and three more new products in May to go along with the six products we already currently offer.
AH: Could you be a little bit more specific as to what products that you do offer?
Ashley Fantz: You can put our products basically anywhere. We have a spotlight which is great. You can put it outside your house on any entry areas, and it’s also perfect for inside the garage. It’s basically two screws …a third if you want the little extra support, but basically two screws, and it’s installed. Whenever it detects motion when it’s dark out, it comes on brightly. So, it’s kind of like light on demand. Whenever you need light it’s there for you.
We also have a stair light, which works great. You can put it in your stairwell, you can put it in your hallways, [sic] or anywhere as a path light. My Aunt actually has a boat and she puts it in her bathroom on her boat, and she also has a few on her dock as well. So basically, it can go anywhere. As Mike said, many of our products actually are weatherproof now. So, you can use them for indoor and outdoor use. Put in two screws and they’re installed, and you don’t need to wire anything. Everything’s battery powered.
AH: And are these products pretty good for the closets?
AF: Yes. We do have a closet light which is also a great product as well. Again, two screws and it’s installed. When it detects motion it comes on brightly until the timer setting is up, and then, it will shutoff automatically. So, you never have to worry about leaving your closet light burning all night long. If you left for vacation or even worked that day you’re not wasting electricity because you forgot to shut that light off.
AH: Now, I saw that all these products are available on your website. What’s the price point for a lot of these products?
AF: The prices can range from about 20 to 40 dollars depending on the product. We also have a new product coming out which I think is going to be around the 15 dollar range, maybe the end of March, which is also going be like an all-purpose light that you can use it anywhere.
AH: Mike, what is LED’s? A lot of people are confused by that. They don’t know what that means. They know it’s a new technology, but can you give a layman’s description of what it is and why is it more efficient than an incandescent or a CFL?
MR: Sure. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. Basically, a Light Emitting Diode is a solid state device, so it’s more along the lines of a computer chip than anything else. When you drive electrical current through it, it actually emits light. Compared to an incandescent bulb, which actually the electricity heats the filament, the filament glows. In the case of a Light Emitting Diode, you’re converting electricity into light through the solid state device, but in an incandescent bulb, you’re converting electricity to light by basically illuminating the filament. So, what happens is, in the process of converting electrical power to light, there are some inefficiencies, and those inefficiencies in an incandescent bulb are very high. But because of the solid state device in the Light Emitting Diode, it’s very efficient in terms of converting electricity to light. So, it’s typical that an LED light that consumes around 10 watts of power can generate as much light as a 60 watt incandescent light bulb.
AH: Now these LED’s do not contain mercury. Am I correct about that… versus CFL’s?
MR: That’s correct. Fluorescent lamp uses electricity to excite mercury vapor. [Sic] It’s just inherent in the way all fluorescent lamp or CFL’s works. It has to have Mercury in it. So that is correct. An LED light does not have mercury in it, and it’s basically a silicon device, like I said, is more commonly found on computer chips.
AH: So, are they also more efficient than CFL’s as well?
MR: They are more efficient than CFLs. CFLs have a higher efficiency than an incandescent lamp. The problem with the CFL’s, they’re not quite as efficient as LED’s, but, the disposal issues with the CFLs are what we are finding a lot of people are very hesitant because of the mercury inside the bulb. There’s always going be a problem with disposal.
AF: On our website, if you click on compare tab, at “www.MrBeams.com,” you can click the compare tab and it will display the differences between LED’s, CFL’s and incandescent bulbs in terms of energy, the amount of heat emitted, the environmental impact, how much carbon dioxide is emitted. It really, on a number of different spectrums, [sic] compares all three sources of, I guess, light.
AH: Ashley, can you just repeat that website address?
AF: Sure. It’s www.MrBeams.com. It’s “MrBeams.com.” (spelled out.) It’s all one word, and Mister is Mr.
AH: Mike, how did you get into this market?
MR: Basically back in 2004, David Levine and I started developing some ideas around lighting controls, and we were prototyping a few different RF and motion control ideas that we had. As we talked to people about the ideas, we found that the concept of wireless lighting that was enabled by some of the advances that we were seeing in white LED technology was very exciting. The white LED technology at that time back in 2005 was really in the early stages. There were some products coming out, but nothing that we thought was really ready for commercial success.
Then in 2005, we actually developed our first prototypes for closet lights and a mini spotlight, which are on our website. Around that time frame in 2005-2006, the dotted, which is a famous LED, (it’s a little push light), came out. It had a great commercial success, and the LED product market sort of started to take off. This is all enabled by really the advances in white LED technology itself. So, the devices that enabled all of this for manufacturers such as Phillips, Cree, or OSRAM, which are the companies that make white LED’s, and Nichia, which makes quality white LED’s that then get integrated into these LED lighting products that we develop and others develop… as those products put out more light for the amount of energy they consumed, products become more and more viable. From 2005 to today, we’ve seen great advances in quality of LED products. And I think what we’re going see from 2009 through the next two or three years, we’re going start to see some great groundbreaking LED lighting products come on to the market that I think really starts to make it viable to replace a incandescent bulbs and CFLs worldwide.
We’re very excited about the prospects for our own products and some of the ideas that we have over the next few years, but not just for ourselves, but [sic] also for the product market. LED lighting really has the chance to change the way lights has been created. I think, it’s technology revolution that people are really going benefit from, both in terms of the quality of the products and the positive impact on the environment.
AH: What is your background?
MR: I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from John Hopkins University, and I’ve been doing Electrical Engineering design work for 20 years…for my entire career. Most of the time that I’ve been involved in product development, it has been with cutting edge technology. So, when David and I, back in 2004, started discussing ideas for products for the area we wanted to get into, it was very easy to identify LED technology as really one of the next big things. I used a lot of sort of my engineering background to evaluate what was available at that time, and what could be available in the future. Then, in addition to that, David and I used a lot of the experience we had in RF design, in terms of from his perspective, looking at business side of what we could sell and what products people really needed and wanted, and from my side, what we could design in terms of battery technology and RF control and motion control and how much light we could get out of LEDs.
AH: One of the things that you mentioned a couple of times is this word, “RF.” Many people may not know what that means. So what is RF technology briefly?
MR: RF stands for Radio Frequency. So, one of our early ideas for this product area was a concept called wireless lighting, and wireless lighting is the ability to put a light anywhere, and attach it anywhere without wires, without connecting it to what they call the power grid. What I mean by that is, without connecting it to AC power. If you want to be able to place a light anywhere you need to be able to control it wirelessly. It needs to be powered wirelessly, for example by batteries or by solar power, or another method that it can basically stand alone, but it also needs to be wirelessly controlled, which means that it needs to have a motion sensor or it needs to have a radio frequency controller such that you can have a remote control, a lot like your door lock, [or] your key chain remote for your car. You have a remote, you pull it out of your pocket and you push a button to unlock your Car. We have a radio frequency product coming out that you take a remote and you push an on button and the light turns on. You push an off button and it turns off.
AH: Now what makes Mr Beam’s products so much different from the other LEDs on the market? I know you’ve touched on it a little bit, but if you can just summarize why your lights are different.
MR: I think that comes back to the concept of wireless lighting. In order to design products that are battery powered and are wirelessly controlled, you really have to think through how the customer would use that light. So for example, our motion sensor spotlight, we had to think through what’s an acceptable battery life would be, how much light that product needed to put out to solve the problems that we were targeting, and how effective that motion sensor needed to detect motions 30 or 40 feet away.
So our products, I think, are different than other LED products on the market. A lot of products are first of all are powered by AC power which means they have to be plugged into a light socket or plugged into the wall somehow. So the battery powered aspects of our products make us unique. The wireless control elements also make us quite unique. The motion sensor and the RF control [also make us unique.] We feel that concept of wireless lighting is what differentiates us from some of the other LED lighting vendors in the market.
AH: I had a chance to test your outdoor light, and I loved its wide light beam. I was taking it all around my house and showing it to everybody how wide the light was. Is this typical of a lot of LEDs?
MR: An LED has a viewing angle, so different LED products actually have different beams of light that come out of them. You can think it, an LED, as a little spotlight. A narrow viewing angle of an LED would be something like 15 degrees. That would be a very narrow light output that looks a lot like the flashlight.
A wide viewing angle might be something along the lines of 120 degrees. That would look more like a floodlight. Mr. Beams’ spotlight that you have actually has an optical lens that takes an LED that has a 120 degree angle and it changes the viewing angle to be closer to 75 degrees. We thought, when we were designing the product that you have, that the viewing angle needed to be somewhere in between the 15 degrees and 120 degrees. So it really needed to be a spotlight that had a tighter angle, but it couldn’t be so tight that it looked like a flashlight. So a lot of thought is put into the optics behind a LED product. In that particular case, we did a lot of testing and we felt that the optics in the product that you were testing needed to have a wider light beam. We are actually very pleased with how the product turned out, with respect to the light output.
AH: Is typically all the products that Mr. Beams carries have that wide angle output?
MR: Not necessarily. In some cases we want a tighter beam or a wider beam based on the application. We are coming out with a ceiling light that we felt needed a wider coverage area. The output of the ceiling light is wider. It’s closer to 100 degrees or greater because we felt that if people were mounting it in the ceiling of their closet or above their shower or what have you, it really needed to light up the whole room. So, we try to target either a narrow or wide beam of light out of one of our products based on how we think the customer would want to use it. A lot of thought goes into that and we do spec those differently for different applications.
AH: One thing that I wanted to point out that you just mentioned. I’m glad you talked about closet lights because actually a report just came out recently that talked about not having CFL’s in closets because they’re saying that you turn them on and you turn them off, and that shortens the life of a CFL’s. So, it’s good to hear that you are creating a closet light because that’s something I think is very much needed.
I noticed the color is always been an issue with me with LEDs. A lot of colors that I’ve tried, and I’ve talked about it on my website, they tend to be very blue, and that really bothers me. I am so used to incandescent…that nice yellow, that a blue bothers me. The particular light that I have, which maybe is an old version of what you’re making now, had a tinge of blue. Are there going be any changes to that light?
MR: When David and I started the company several years ago, one of the things that bothered us, when we did our early testing with LEDs was the bluish tint. We felt that it was very artificial, and we just didn’t like it. We didn’t feel like it was a real product until color better matched what you’d get with a normal light bulb in effect. The spotlight that you have may have a slight bluish tint. The reason for that is typically LEDs have colors that range from what you’d call warm white, neutral white to a cool white. The spotlight is somewhere closer to a cool white color, and that is because it’s typically used as an outdoor product. Cool white tends to have a little more blue in it than a warm light which would be more yellow. So, the spotlight, although there’s a little bit of blue in it, it was intended to still be a cool white. As we go forward, there will be more of a neutral white color in that spotlight and I think its going take the blue out of the light. What you have, I think, is one of the very early versions. A warm white light, often times when we were designing our product, like the ceiling light that would be used in the closet, we used either a warm white LED, which is a lot closer to an incandescent light bulb color, or neutral light so it’s got more of a yellowish color to it…like you said, nice warm white that comes out of it.
AH: Now, what is the estimated life of your products? And if you could tell me also with answering that, if you put ordinary batteries in your products, how long do you think that it would take to need to be replaced with another set of batteries?
MR: Our goal is always greater than one year of battery life under normal use. We have products that are spec’d for one year. We have other products spec’d for 18 months. The spotlight, for example, uses three D Cell batteries. It’s got a motion sensor in it. We would expect a customer not to have to change the battery within a year and that would be for alkaline batteries. I have also been doing testing with rechargeable batteries, as an example a nickel metal hydride is a good option also. Nickel metal hydride battery might not have the same life as an alkaline in the product used but it is rechargeable. An alkaline battery fresh is typically one year or more. A rechargeable battery would be along the lines of either nine months to fifteen months depending on the type of batteries and the type of products that we offer.
AH: What is the estimated life of the product?
MR: We have spec’d our products based on the LED’s which have a usable life of greater than 50,000 hours. A 60 watt incandescent light bulb for example is often spec’d for somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 hours. But an LED, just the nature of LED technology because its a solid state device, …and this is a great feature of LED’s, typically the usable light is far greater than 50,000 hours.
AF: That’s 400 years. [Laughs.] If you use some our light for like only 20 minutes a day, I think at 50,000 hours it’s somewhere close to almost 400 years.
AH: Are there any plans, I know it’s a far-fetched question, to take back these LEDs? Will there be a way for someone to just to buy the LED’s and pop it back into the fixture?
MR: At this time we don’t have a plan for any kind of take back program or retrofit. We don’t expect our products to fail based on the LED in the near future. But at some point it’s certainly something that we’ll consider, but at this time we don’t have any plans for anything like that.
AH: Now here’s the most important question. Which one of the products are each of your favorites. Ashley you go first and tell me why.
AF: I’d definitely say that I love, love, love the stair light. There are just so many applications for the stair light. For example, my son and I use it every evening. Previously, we used to keep our closet light on at night. That way I could read books to him in the evenings and it was kept on as his night light. Well, that also uses a lot of energy and I’m constantly changing bulbs I felt like every six months. So, what we now use is the little stair light. So at night we no longer use the closet light. We get in bed, we use our little stair light to read the books, and then at night when I kiss him good night, we put the stair light on the floor. And the great feature about the stair light is that it has two brightness modes. It has a glow mode and a bright mode. When it detects night it will turn on the glow mode, which is the real soft glow, and then when it detects motion it comes on brightly, so that you can see your way. What works out great for my son is that when he wants to get up at the middle of the night to use the little boy’s room or to get a glass of water, he can just go ahead and… he can get out of his bed and the light comes on brightly. He can pick it up and take it, almost like a flash light, where he needs to go. We have a few in our hallway and our stairs as well.
What’s great about it too is that if I get up in the middle of the night, I don’t have to worry about where the light switch is, the light comes on, and it’s not so bright that it disrupts my sleep pattern. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. When I get up in the middle of the night, I never turn on the hallway light because they’re just so bright that, at that point I’d be up for the next two three hours because my sleep’s disrupted. So now I know it’s a nice amount of light that I can see where I’m going without disrupting my sleep if I need to go for a glass of water or to check on him or something.
AH: Mike, how about you?
MR: For me it’s the spotlight. We tested a lot of LED lights as we were developing our own products, and a lot of LED lights that we tested were underpowered or often had issues with how they were designed. We put a lot of thought into the spotlight. The size of the spot is actually quite a small product, I think, for function that it performs, and it’s easy to mount outdoors. You can mount it to the wall with a couple of screws. You can articulate the light… you can point the light in the direction that you want, because the spot itself swivels around on the base, and the motion detector works quite well. Like I said earlier, the optical lens puts out this very nice wide beam of light, and I think for me, the spotlight was a product that I really felt like it shows that LED lighting, especially for us, for wireless lights…battery powered light that were controlled by a motion sensor was really a very good product. So for me, he spotlight is my favorite.
AF: Now, you mentioned automation. I forgot to ask that one question. Can you control the amount of time that it stays on and turns off?
MR: In order to conserve battery life, the light automatically shuts off. So, if you walk in an area that the spotlight is in, for example, it will trigger and turn on with motion. When you leave that area, it will wait some amount of time and it will turn the light off automatically. We do allow the customer to have some control over how long that period of time is, before it will automatically shut off, and a number of our products have a switch that you can set automatic shut off time.
AH: Now is anything new coming down the pipe?
MR: Yes. As I mentioned earlier we have some three new products coming in March. We’ll offer our spotlight and our stair light also with RF controls, and an all-purpose sensor light, which is the motion controlled sensor light which will be a lower cost item. Then in May, we are going launch three additional new products including the ceiling light that we’ve mentioned earlier, which is great for a variety of applications, indoor and outdoor, including the closet light applications, which you mentioned earlier. Then, down the road, the rest of 2009 we have a very aggressive product development schedule, but unfortunately… I like to be careful about saying too much about what we plan to do for the rest of the year.
AH: Well that’s very understandable that you don’t want to let me know. But I know that Green Talk will be the first one to know about these new products. Ashley, you have a special offer for the Green Talk listeners.
AF: Yes. We are offering all Green Talk listeners and readers 25% off on our website. All they have to do is when they go to checkout, just enter in GREENTALK, as all one word, in the discount code section and they will receive 25% off on their purchase.
AH: I really appreciate you offering that to my readers. This is a great product. Speaking from the heart having used it myself, I’ve had so much fun and I really enjoy this product. I know that you guys out there will enjoy is as much as I do. So go on and check out the website, Mr Beams is definitely shedding some light here on your dark areas. I want to thank both Mike and Ashley for coming on today and explaining everything about Mr. Beams and the science behind it. It’s truly appreciated, because as I said before, LEDs are still a mystery to a lot of people. So thank you so much for coming on, and please make sure I know about those new developments in the future.
AF: Thank you so much for having us. We really appreciate it.
MR: Yes. Thank you, Anna.
In addition to the 25% discount listed above on all Mr. Beams’ product, the Company has graciously offered two Green Talk readers either a step light or a spot light. The winners can choose which one they would like.
In order to enter the contest, you must live in the US, and be 18 or older and follow the rules below:
- Leave me a comment here telling me the area in your house or apartment that you feel needs more light. If you don’t have one, just say so.
- To double your chances of winning the light, consider joining Green Talk’s Ning Forum. Come back and leave a separate additional comment that you joined my forum. If you are already a member, so say.
- To triple your chances consider joining my Feedburner email list or subscribe to my RSS feed. Both subscriptions are listed on the upper left hand column. Be sure to come back and leave a separate additional comment to tell me which one you joined. If you are already a member of either say so.
- To quadruple your chances of winning, twitter about this contest and come back and leave a separate additional comment of the url (weblink) of your twitter comment.
- You must enter by April 9, 2009, 6 PM EST time to win. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, April 10, 2009. Good Luck everyone!
Thanks to Mr. Beams, no one should have a dark area in their house anymore.