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Changing the flicker of artificial lights could mean big savings

November 12, 2012|By Karen Kaplan
  • Americans could reduce their collective energy bill by 13% if artificial lighting sources were tuned to flicker at a rate that's more in line with the limits of human visual perception, scientists say.
Americans could reduce their collective energy bill by 13% if artificial… (West Elm )

Vision scientists have a small suggestion for big energy savings -- change the rate at which light bulbs flicker.

If lights were to flash "on" for about 67 milliseconds, then stay "off" for about 10 milliseconds before turning "on" again, the cycle would happen so quickly that human beings would not be capable of registering it. But that gap between "on" and "off" would cause the brain to register enough contrast to make objects appear brightly lit, according to a report published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Widespread use of this "optimal duration of pulses" would allow lighting sources to use 13% less power with no perceptible loss of lighting quality, according to a team from the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix and the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Those savings would add up, because about 22% of the energy used in the U.S. is devoted to keeping the lights on, the team wrote.

You can read a summary of the study online here.

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