Author Topic: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy  (Read 9195 times)

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Offline LektroiD

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Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« on: November 02, 2014, 11:31:48 am »
After watching The Lightbulb Conspiracy last year (link ), I was blown away by the way companies build stuff to barely outlast the warranty. It would be interesting to summarise some of Dave's teardowns to see which companies clearly employ this unethical practice, so we know who to avoid, and also highlight companies who have clearly built their products to last (Fluke :-DMM etc).

I know from doing a few repairs on iPhone 4's, Apple use some kind of soluble solder which disintegrates the moment it makes contact with water (it turns black after a few hours), never to be repaired again. I'm not sure of the composition of the solder in question, but I've never seen a reaction like this to water with any other solder. This, in my opinion is another example of planned obsolescence

Even an oldskool drive-time rant would be enough to raise awareness of this unethical problem within electronics manufacturing.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2014, 11:51:06 am by LektroiD »
 

Offline Yago

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2014, 01:42:16 pm »
I suppose Dave is careful to get his points across without spending all his in court.

If you "read" between the lines, expressions like "built to a price", or "belt and braces" are the indicators.



 

Offline Refrigerator

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2014, 05:42:18 pm »
My Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has it's front glass smashed to oblivion, audio jack and micro usb jack almost broken out, headphone output barely makes any sound, full of trojans and various other viruses, never had a singe cleanup, same old lipo, had quite some water over the three years it's been with me, still going strong and i hope it will since i don't have the money to buy a new phone.  :D
So yeah, i guess they make their stuff last longer than the couple weeks after warranty. :-+
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Offline Tandy

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2014, 05:25:35 pm »
The lightbulb conspiracy is somewhat misleading like most conspiracy theories.

With most things you build there is a tradeoff, a car engine for example can give you 0-60 in 3 seconds but to do that it will use fuel at an alarming rate. You can have car tyres that last many thousands of miles but they have poor fuel efficiency and poor breaking performance.

With a lightbulb you can increase brightness or life or efficiency but not all 3. So light bulb manufacturers were producing dimmer less efficient bulbs that lasted longer than their competitors. It was decided among manufacturers that this was a poor way to market bulbs and it was better to produce bulbs that would burn as bright as possible for a given lifetime.
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Offline saturation

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2014, 06:57:40 pm »
Planned obsolescence appears less prevalent in products today.

It wasn't so back in the 1950s-1980s when technology wasn't changing as fast as it does now, planned obsolescence was fairly obvious, but many "tech-knowledgeable" people could work around those product life cycles.

For example, in the 1950s, as Tandy suggest, a simple incadescent light bulb dimmer [ rheostats in those days] would prolong a light bulbs life, later in the 1990s triac based dimmers did the same thing.  I have incandescent light bulbs in my home over 20 years old because they are powered by triac dimmer circuits and I use a simple engineering rubric of derating the item, so I run 100 watt light bulbs at 50 watts or less.  The dimmer circuits also prevents surge currents which cause most incandescent bulb deaths.

Using the same rule, buying industrial or commercial grade products provide longer life than consumer grade because they were designed for higher duty cycles, typically those were kitchen appliances like blenders, washers, etc., or cleaning appliances like vacuum cleaners.  The price differences between an commercial vacuum cleaner more than made up by its very long lifepsan and endless spare parts.

When a product has a customized consumable such as printer cartridges, toothbrush heads, batteries, filters, etc., they become obsolete when those consumables cease to be made, often third party industries grows around the fault to supply that obsolete part such as with iPhone batteries, LCD screens, and printer cartridge re-fillers.

Items in recent past easily outlive their functionality to show not every product is built for planned obsolescence, even in the consumer sphere: PCs, CD/DVD players, POTS telephones, analog TVs, etc.,. 

In electronics, DMMs, analog oscilloscopes, and a lot of true HP T&M gear, are extremely durable and are many decades old still working, or can be made working with simple repairs but are obsolete in industry due to speed, network incapable or that it doesn't support new safety regulations [ e.g. CAT ratings for DMMs.]

Apple's iPhones epitomize "planned obsolescence" today by fielding a new feature set with each new model, but its not really 'obsolete' since the older model still works compared to the incandescent light bulbs of the 20th century.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2014, 07:01:00 pm by saturation »
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Offline Rufus

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2014, 07:32:09 pm »
For example, in the 1950s, as Tandy suggest, a simple incadescent light bulb dimmer [ rheostats in those days] would prolong a light bulbs life, later in the 1990s triac based dimmers did the same thing.  I have incandescent light bulbs in my home over 20 years old because they are powered by triac dimmer circuits and I use a simple engineering rubric of derating the item, so I run 100 watt light bulbs at 50 watts or less.  The dimmer circuits also prevents surge currents which cause most incandescent bulb deaths.

A 100W lamp running at 50W produces about 1/4 the light output so you would need 4 of them and 200W to replace one 100W lamp running at 100W. Assuming 100W lamps cost $1, electricity $0.15/kWh and your 100W lamps at 50W last forever, then, a 100W lamp at 100W only has to last 67 hours to match the cost of running 4 of them at 50W.



 

Offline IanB

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2014, 08:05:37 pm »
A 100W lamp running at 50W produces about 1/4 the light output so you would need 4 of them and 200W to replace one 100W lamp running at 100W. Assuming 100W lamps cost $1, electricity $0.15/kWh and your 100W lamps at 50W last forever, then, a 100W lamp at 100W only has to last 67 hours to match the cost of running 4 of them at 50W.

This is not really the case. I have all the lamps in my house running on low dim all the time. In order to walk around my home without bumping into things I only need candlelight levels of illumination, I certainly don't need the blinding arc light of a bulb on full power. Very infrequently I need local bright task lighting for short periods of time, for example for reading or cooking. I can provide this either with dedicated task lights, or by temporarily turning up the dimmer switch to brighter levels.

This is one reason I cannot use CFLs. When I see CFL lamps on demo in the store, they are almost too bright to look at. They are engineered for brightness, not for comfort. I cannot replace incandescent lamps with CFLs and run them on my triac dimmer circuits because they are not compatible. Even with dedicated dimmers (for example with LEDs), they lamps do not reproduce the comfortable orange firelight glow of a dimmed incan.
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Offline Rufus

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2014, 08:08:56 pm »
This is not really the case. I have all the lamps in my house running on low dim all the time.

Then you should be using smaller lamps.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2014, 09:33:00 pm »
Then you should be using smaller lamps.

I have 25 W and 40 W. It is hard to go smaller.
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Offline saturation

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2014, 10:10:07 pm »
... yes Rufus, a good analysis based on its lumens output.

 But what of the labor cost of replacing a bulb whether 67 hours or even 1000 hours, compared to a bulb that doesn't need replacement, ever? 

If we consider Rufus' assumption of the lumens/watt and if I needed the total lumens of 100W in this application I could use 200W bulbs instead and derate them.  However, a dimmer circuit removes the turn-on shock of a toggle switch and increases lamp lifespan even if used at full 100W.  If operated near 100W, it would still increase its lifespan substantially over its natural state.

Another key analysis worth considering is the cost of the dimmers over the labor cost of replacing bulbs which, IMHO is more than the cost of the bulbs.  The convenience of never having bulbs blow is priceless  ^-^

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb#Light_output_and_lifetime

The key issue here as the OP brought up is the idea of a cartel fixing the lifespan of a bulb to 1000 hours to insure a continuous market for light bulbs, my point is such actions can be overcome at the consumer end with tech-knowledge.

A 100W lamp running at 50W produces about 1/4 the light output so you would need 4 of them and 200W to replace one 100W lamp running at 100W. Assuming 100W lamps cost $1, electricity $0.15/kWh and your 100W lamps at 50W last forever, then, a 100W lamp at 100W only has to last 67 hours to match the cost of running 4 of them at 50W.

If these lamps were incandescent without a dimmer you'd still get incandescent lifespans of 2,000-5,000 operational hours versus a higher wattage bulb operated at reduced voltage such as run with a dimmer instead of a toggle switch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamp_rerating

This is not really the case. I have all the lamps in my house running on low dim all the time.

Then you should be using smaller lamps.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline Rufus

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2014, 11:40:12 pm »
If we consider Rufus' assumption of the lumens/watt and if I needed the total lumens of 100W in this application I could use 200W bulbs instead and derate them.  However, a dimmer circuit removes the turn-on shock of a toggle switch and increases lamp lifespan even if used at full 100W.

You would have to run a 400W lamp at 50% power and still be using twice the power of a 100W lamp. Turn on surge makes almost no difference to lamp life we already had a long thread about it here.

Another key analysis worth considering is the cost of the dimmers over the labor cost of replacing bulbs which, IMHO is more than the cost of the bulbs.  The convenience of never having bulbs blow is priceless  ^-^

Yes long life lamps or extending the life of normal lamps may be justified when lamp failure and replacement has a significant cost. We were talking about break even in 67 hours, for 1000 hour lamp life the saving is about $14.

For the majority of lamps I would be rather happy to get $14 each for swapping them.
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2014, 05:48:48 am »
I started using discharge lamps in the 1990's, and have been using them even before CFL lamps were in use. You can use a lamp that has a larger surface than a CFL lamp, which has the appearance of a dimmer lamp.
 

Offline T3sl4co1l

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2014, 06:04:02 am »
I say it's not a moral issue, it's a simple misunderstanding.  That, and straight up confirmation bias.

The underlying issue has always been: how tight can we (as engineers) minimize cost, given the constraints of process variation and such?

Back in the day, everything from raw materials to design and production were poorly controlled systems, so the design margins were necessarily wide.  Costs were high, too; the price structure was very different back then (something we today have no intuitive feel for), as far as which commodities cost more or less relative to today.

That e.g. electrolytic capacitors can be designed and operated at such razor-thin margins that they tick almost like clocks, as the 90 day warranty expires, shouldn't be scoffed at as shady business practice,  but hailed as a triumph of engineering and production optimization.

After all, you, the buyer, are entering into a contract with the seller of the product, who offers certain conditions (e.g., 90 day warranty) on goods of a certain price.  If that warranty was insufficient for you, it's your own damn fault*, and you should've got the extended warranty, or shopped for more expensive products (which offer longer warranties).

*Which probably pisses people off more than anything else, because why would anyone want to be wrong, in this entitled day and age? ;)

Not to start a rant about "entitlement" or anything, or accuse the OP of anything, just that that's a possible opinion on the matter. :)

As for confirmation bias, remember: there's nothing new under the sun.  Damn near everything was just as shoddy back then as it is today; easily moreso!  Who remembers the Edsel?  Who remembers Muntz?  No one, that's who: and that's why the collective memory of past products is favorable, because only the enduring have endured!

Tim
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Offline saturation

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2014, 03:52:25 pm »
Yes, on the bold item, if you want the same lumens.  The relationships between longevity, power, lumens, etc., are well known for this technology.   Yes, if the designers factor in changing the bulb every 67 hours, worse case, or ~6 days in an 12 hour duty cycle, $14 is savings.

But to remain on topic, others can read the thread you mention. 

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/ac-soft-start-incandescent-lamp-switch/

The enclosed chart summarizes the issue.


You would have to run a 400W lamp at 50% power and still be using twice the power of a 100W lamp. Turn on surge makes almost no difference to lamp life we already had a long thread about it here.

Yes long life lamps or extending the life of normal lamps may be justified when lamp failure and replacement has a significant cost. We were talking about break even in 67 hours, for 1000 hour lamp life the saving is about $14.

For the majority of lamps I would be rather happy to get $14 each for swapping them.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline classicalQbit

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2014, 01:09:21 pm »
There is a typo in the chart. The top line should read 65%=40.000%life. It is a good chart.

When different lighting alternatives is compared it is common to only consider efficiency as a property disconnected from the system it is a part of. Sometimes only the light matters, but often the excess heat either provides a benefit or is a problem.

In the case of lighting a home that is heated with electricity and that have normal ventilation, a filament lamp saves electricity. The reason is that air is transparent for the radiated energy, and the radiation heats people, furniture and other stuff directly. A lower electricity bill, lower exhoust temperature for the expelled air, and a higher comfort is realized at the same time. Radiation here refers to all radiated energy from the filament lamp, visible or not.

In the case of lighting a home that is cooled by an air condition system, a filament lamp cause a loss beyond its use of electricity. As the air has to be cooled to a temperature low enough to offset the heating of objects and people that the filament lamp provides.

This effect is usually several hundred percent. (Beyond half a magnitude). As a geek I consider it peculiar how often this is ignored.
 

Offline xDR1TeK

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2014, 10:42:39 am »
The lightbulb conspiracy is somewhat misleading like most conspiracy theories.

With most things you build there is a tradeoff, a car engine for example can give you 0-60 in 3 seconds but to do that it will use fuel at an alarming rate. You can have car tyres that last many thousands of miles but they have poor fuel efficiency and poor breaking performance.

With a lightbulb you can increase brightness or life or efficiency but not all 3. So light bulb manufacturers were producing dimmer less efficient bulbs that lasted longer than their competitors. It was decided among manufacturers that this was a poor way to market bulbs and it was better to produce bulbs that would burn as bright as possible for a given lifetime.

True goes the proverb: There is no such thing as a free Lunch.
 

Offline gildasd

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #16 on: December 25, 2014, 11:39:26 am »
It's getting more and more illegal in Europe:

Memory chips on Ink cartridges that stop their use when there still is ink is illegal since 2006:
http://www.gel-ink.com/10-puce-des-cartouches-puce-des-cartouches.html Sorry link in French, use your web page translator of choice.
But that did not stop manufacturers from still selling them in breach of said law: "looks at Samsung BW printer on desk".

So instead of having a nice simple law or code, our legislators had to get the big guns out and make it a criminal offence!
As in 300 000 Euros fine and 2 years in the slammer:
http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2014/10/15/l-obsolescence-programmee-des-produits-desormais-sanctionnee_4506580_3244.html In French too, helping you learn languages.

Other countries are going forward but it's a slow process.
I remember that the French auto manufacturers got into very deep problems when they unilaterally decreed that cars must not last more than 100 000Km or 4 years...
Bright move that one was. Shooting foot on full auto methinks.
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Offline Fungus

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2015, 10:13:46 pm »
Then you should be using smaller lamps.

I have 25 W and 40 W. It is hard to go smaller.

LED nightlights... I have a few dotted around the house (for sneaking around at night). They use a tiny amount of power.


 

Offline donotdespisethesnake

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2015, 02:27:08 pm »
IME, products are designed to a price, and an expected lifetime. Actual performance is tested with Accelerated Life Testing, e.g. high duty cycle. The warranty period is then set so that 0.5% (or whatever) of products are expected to fail within the warranty period, and effectively the cost of these returns is built into the price of the product.

So the manufacturer appears to be giving a bonus to the customer, but in fact what they are getting is built into the price, and the warranty period is almost guaranteed anyway by the design.

What the customer does get is some protection for "Friday afternoon" effect, or if the manufacturing facility is too quickly moved to a "low cost environment" (mentioning no names :)).
Bob
"All you said is just a bunch of opinions."
 

Online helius

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2015, 12:16:58 am »
Sitting on my bench I have a 90W incandescent that has been lit over 30,000 hours. It was installed in an outdoor fixture on a timer that switched it on for 6 hours a day for 15 years. The filament still works; it was removed because the cement around the plug crumbled. This bulb was average priced and was made in 1986 in Taiwan.

For comparison I recently installed a new GE 100W made in Mexico. It is marked "Double Life White" and was about double the average price. It burned out instantly the first time it was turned on.

In my opinion a warranty on a light bulb is basically a joke. Who is going to spend the time to get the manufacturer to send them another $4 bulb? In the US, and likely elsewhere, manufacturers of primary batteries are liable for damage caused by leaking of their products. Sometimes they advertise this warranty, to repair or replace any product damaged by leakage, as if it was a selling point and not a legal requirement. And primary batteries, in particular alkalines leak all the time. But who do you know that has used this warranty? Probably no one.
 

Offline David_AVD

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Re: Planned obsolescence & The Lightbulb Conspiracy
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2015, 12:35:15 am »
In the US, and likely elsewhere, manufacturers of primary batteries are liable for damage caused by leaking of their products. Sometimes they advertise this warranty, to repair or replace any product damaged by leakage, as if it was a selling point and not a legal requirement. And primary batteries, in particular alkalines leak all the time. But who do you know that has used this warranty? Probably no one.

About 10 years ago I had a 6V lantern battery leak and ruin a nice torch.  I took the battery and torch to the place I bought the battery from and asked them about the "no leak warranty" on the battery.  They organised for the battery supplier to replace the torch and provide a new battery.
 


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