LumenCache: Bright, Safe, Efficient lighting w/Open Controls

by Derek Cowburn

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LumenCache: Bright, Safe, Efficient lighting w/Open Controls

by Derek Cowburn

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Replaces traditional 110V AC power in buildings with a new standard more appropriate to the low power needs of LED lights.

Install your own super-efficient lighting and control system?  Is that safe?  Totally.

Inspiration

LumenCache was inspired by three important factors all coming together at the same time.

  • LED lights became so efficient that the light output equivalent to a 65W incandescent bulb could be achieved within the PoE (Power Over Ethernet) power capacity.  
  • LED driver chips and components were inexpensive and readily available.
  • The general population was accepting LED lights thanks to their [finally] great white color and efficiency.

Something about what we saw still didn't make sense.  If all LEDs need constant current DC power, why are we still running high power AC voltages to each fixture, then converting the power at every light location to DC for the LED chip?

We also saw an opportunity for more people to free themselves from the shackles of the utility grid.  Independent solar power panels can provide more than enough energy to power these new efficient lights.  A small battery can store the daylight energy and release it at night when it's needed.  So the name Lumen Cache, for "Light Storage", was born.

This is a technical topic so we made this cool video to get the idea across in under 2 minutes.  Please show it to your friends and see if their jaws drop too.

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Perspiration

After four years of planning and experimenting, the first prototype for the Epoch product was produced last year.  With an advanced feature set and higher connector density, we estimated it would cost over $200,000 to get to market and was priced similar to AC lighting systems.  We had 3 new construction prototype homes wired with only Cat5 to the lights and we needed to start turning the lights on soon.  (One home was Derek's parents new home and you don't mess with Mom!)  Without the Power Distribution Modules, we had to either stuff the original AC/DC drivers in the lighting cabinets, or come up with another solution--FAST.

LumenCache LED Lighting at prototype #1 house (Founder's Parents)
LumenCache LED Lighting at prototype #1 house (Founder's Parents)

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Revelation

Nothing succeeds like desperation.  In order to get the houses lit, we created temporary PDM boards and from there the system architecture for the Legacy PDM's was born.  The Legacy PDMs were originally designed to be inexpensive expansion modules for the Epoch line but the Smart Keypad Puck allowed them to be a completely standalone solution (watch videos below).

"Desperation Boards".  But they work!
"Desperation Boards". But they work!

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Creation

We've created a dozen PDMs and KeyPad Pucks and have been testing them extensively in our prototype homes.  They work perfectly so it's time to scale-up production and get UL approvals.

Legacy Power Distribution Module
Legacy Power Distribution Module

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Regulation

We have estimates from UL and ETL safety testing labs.  Each company said the LumenCache system would be rated as "Network Devices" because of the unique and patent-pending design that avoids unsafe high voltages.  By staying completely in the Class 2 Low Power realm, we avoid any dangerous electrical situations.  Cool huh?  No electrician required!

The incredibly efficient LED lights are what really make this possible.  With street ready LED array chips exceeding 150 Lumens per Watt, a typical 65W incandescent bulb takes only 240 mA (under 8W) to produce the same amount of light.  Amazing!

While UL certification is not required for the product because of its inherent safety, many architects and builders will not specify a product that does not carry at least one of these testing lab marks.  A good chunk of money will go toward completing this certification testing.

Integration

How cool is it that you can control your lights from your smartphone, tablet, or PC?  TOTALLY COOL!  That's why we designed remote access and control into the system design from the start.  There are MiniBrain, and MainBrain modules planned that will add advanced automation features, but the most exciting is the integration with the Electric Imp modules.  The ImPuck module allows you to add Cloud control over your LumenCache lighting system.  This open system allows homeowners to create their own user interfaces and controls.  Expect to see this in August if we're fully funded in June.

Infiltration

We set up a tiny 4' wide booth, in a remote corner of the Light Fair International Show in Las Vegas, just to see how the industry would react.  WOW.  There are a few Cat5 and low-voltage wired systems on the market but everybody who saw the unique LumenCache design was blown away by its simplicity and price point.

I've been told many times this is an "industry disruptive product" and we got some interviews from the press as well as some articles soon to be released in prominent industry magazines.  Lots of jaw-dropping at the LumenCache booth and more every day as we show people the system.  Wouldn't it be fun to see a "Closet Environmentalist Geek" and three Interns change the lighting industry?

Collaboration

Even though we were a tiny booth, several fixture manufacturers saw the light (pun intended).  They are now making the first low-cost LumenCache compatible fixtures and will be broadly available in July and August.  These fixtures are designed to last and look great while doing it.

We also hope to create a new, Open, DC standard for plug-in LED lights.  This would replace the old screw-in Edison socket standard and be a quantum leap forward based on the new reality and opportunities LED lights allow.

Implementation

Our Kickstarter will fund certification testing (UL, ETL, CE, FCC), final refinement of the KeypadPuck firmware to work with the ElectricImp, and most importantly get the cost of producing the product down through bulk production batches.

The more funds we raise, the quicker we'll be able to add new expansion modules and accessories that make LumenCache even more convenient and efficient.

Whether your goal is to add beautiful, efficient, and smart lighting to your home, or to go totally off-grid and STICK IT TO THE MAN, we hope you'll contribute to our project and proudly tell your friends.

Conclusion

A little demo video I made in the office just to show how easy and safe it is to connect and disconnect LumenCache lights:

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FAQ

Q: Where can I use LumenCache Lighting? A: LumenCache Legacy line is ideal for residential new construction, offices, schools, restaurants, sports and theme bars, condos, townhomes, hospitals, elder-care facilities, remodels, barns, labs, machine shops, nurseries, luxury yachts, off-grid homes, bamboo huts, eco-tourism lodges, home theaters, swanky hipster clubs, … Oy! this is a long list. Anywhere you want to get lots of lights, be able to control and dim them perfectly, and benefit from having smart sensors to automate the lights and blinds.  Because the Smart Sensors have ambient light sensing, LumenCache will qualify for the new 2014 California requirements.  Booyah.

Q: Is there any application where it’s NOT recommended? A: Yes. LumenCache separates the LED driver from the luminary so it needs to send DC from the lighting panel to the light. For most lighting applications LumenCache can easily suport up to 1000′ from the closet to the lights. However, DC power does not like to go long distances at HIGH CURRENT, so huge lights that draw 48W placed at LONG distances from the PDMs are not ideal for DC distribution applications. This includes high-bay lights in convention halls and street lights that are far apart. 

Q: Lasts almost forever, inexpensive to install, safe, perfect control, super light output and color, battery backup…ok, how much will it cost me? A: While the Kickstarter packages are a super discount, we can't do those deals forever and continue to develop great projects.  Total installed cost is typically within 10% of an old-style 110V AC dimmed LED lighting package like a Lutron or Control4 system. Remember, installation is far less and because it’s all safe Class 2 voltages, you can even install LumenCache without an electrician almost everywhere. When you get above 85 lights or have a lot of small accent lights (like all the cool designers do), it tends to cost LESS than AC LED systems.

Q: LumenCache is like nothing I’ve seen before. Is it Patented? A:  oh yea. Two US Patents Pending covering everything from the modular design to the unique adaptive controls.  On the other hand, we're promoting an Open standard for LED light sockets and ANYONE can make LumenCache compatible light fixtures.  We hope this openness will spur the creative juices of lighting designers to create really sweet and beautiful fixtures that standard Driver-Inside 120V AC lights just can accommodate.

Q: I can get 110V AC LED bulbs everywhere. Where do I get LumenCache lights and fixtures? A: Kind of answered this above, but all you need to know is this: Look for the LumenCache Logo(s).  There are logos for OEM fixtures, tested fixtures, and fixtures that the manufacturer says will work.  We'll also have links on our website to anyone who has a really cool accessory or light fixture.  Plus a ranking of lights by "Most Efficient", "Most Lumens Per $", etc.  This should eliminate all the shopping confusion of current LED lights.

Q: I'm bored, what can I do for fun that involves LumenCache lighting? A: How about using the ImPuck and your smartphone to turn the lights up and down on your spouse when they're in the other room or when you're away from the house?  Pretend you're a Super Ninja and try to outsmart the LumenCache motion sensors (harder than you think).  Add LumenCache RGB color-changing lights around every window and see if you can put your Holiday Crazy neighbor to shame using DMX lighting commands and sequencing.  Slooooooowly turn the lights down on your roommate over several minutes and see when they notice it (there are over 4000 steps of dimming so it's nearly impossible to see step-changes in dimming levels).

Q: I found an old Edison socket fixture that I just love, can I use it with LumenCache? A: Most Likely--but use caution.  We're researching Edison E27 socket driverless lights that work with LumenCache Pucks but also won't let the smoke out if you screw them into an old 110V AC live socket.  We also have instructions for using our "I'm Never Going Back!" Kits that adapt old Edison sockets to the new LumenCache sockets and lights.

Q: I know little about electricity.  Can I test some fixtures I modified to see if I wired them correctly? A: There's no way we can protect you against every possible hazzard (have you watched TV lately?) but we do have some cool Tools that will help you check your wiring.  Even seasoned electricians would enjoy knowing they won't damage anything or pop a fuse due to a dead short they missed.

Q: I'm a Kickstarter Addict.  Can I control LumenCache from my Pebble when it is released? A: We don't see why not.  The controls are totally open to developers.  I'm sure some creative person will make a LumenCache Pebble Control app to show you what your energy consumption is or to make a totally custom Disco system by tying the accelerometer into RGB color-changing lights.

Q: The MainBrain you're developing to control the lights ahead of me sounds a lot like the HAL9000.  How can I be sure it won't go mad and send me out into the vacuum of space?  A: How many airlocks to space does your home or office have?  (ok, this isn't really a First asked question but more than one person referenced HAL)

Q: Can LumenCache work in a Luxury Yacht? A: Absolutely, but you have to give us a ride first.

Q: I have a boathouse and a chicken coop with no power to either.  Can LumenCache provide lighting?  A: Sure can!  Put a solar panel and battery into the PMM with a Solar Charger Module and Voila.  For the coop, add a MiniBrain module and configure it to turn the lights on and off on the ideal schedule. Set the dim rates to match sunup/sundown.

Q: Is there a special Cat5 wire required? A: No, in fact, we have adapters to use other types of wire, even your old heavy Romex wire (be REALLY sure the 110V AC disconnected first).

Q: Can I control more than just lights with LumenCache? A: Yes. Roller shades are planned for 3Q12 and a handy USB phone charger plug.

Some Reward Details

For a donation of $50 or more, we'll photoshop you holding a PDM.  Just send us a photo with a big smile and your hands up like you're holding the coolest product in the world and we'll virtually put one in your hands.  Ladies, you're welcome to get creative here but remember, even though each PDM supports up to 16 lights, they are kind of small.  Guys, we know what you're thinking and let's not go there.  Keep it clean please.

MyLumenCache photoshop gift
MyLumenCache photoshop gift

The cool little LumenCache logo block lights look like this:

LumenCache handy block light (Hand not included)
LumenCache handy block light (Hand not included)

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Follow us and Stay in touch

Please follow LumenCache on Twitter and Facebook or contact us for email newsletters.

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Derek Cowburn

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    THANK YOU. We are passionate about bringing LumenCache to market and empowering everyday people to install safe, reliable, long-lasting lighting. Every pledge counts.

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    We don't like the "throw-away society" epidemic either. Get a great reusable LED flashlight that simply clips on a standard 9v battery. If you have LumenCache lights in your home they won't go out so you can give this flashlight to a friend (we know it's cool so go ahead and keep it or do the $50 pledge and get a couple of them). Add $10 for international shipping.

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    Make a new friend by having your name laser engraved onto a keypad puck. You don't get the puck, someone else does when they support at least $300 and get a system, but your name on the puck will proudly show your like-minded goal of conserving energy. Also get the cube light. Add $10 for international shipping.

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    Send us a photo of yourself holding an imaginary PDU and we'll photoshop the hardware into your hands. Publish the returned image on your favorite social media sites and show your love for the coolest new product since Edison's original heat orb, I mean, Light Bulb (see example to left). We'll also send you 4 cube lights! Add $15 for international shipping.

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    Complete PDM with 1 KeyPad puck, 2 350ma drivers, and 2 4" recessed light fixtures. See how easy and safe it is to install beautiful LumenCache lighting in your home, office, barn, chicken coop, or doghouse (very spoiled dog). Just add a 12v power supply and you're ready to add lighting to any room. Complete instructions included. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Autographed PDM with 3 Keypad Pucks and 8 drivers. Derek affectionately calls them "The Babies" and will personally autograph a limited number of PDUs. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Complete, Turn-key LumenCache System: 1x PDM, 4x Keypad Pucks, 8x drivers, 8x 6" 11W (65w incandescent equivalent) recessed lights, 1x 28" In-wall Enclosure, 1x 50W AC-DC Power Supply. Add $250 for International shipping.

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    Complete House, Office, or Restaurant package for typical 2000 sqft home (36x 6" lights w/drivers, 4x PDMs, 10x KeyPad pucks, 1x Power Supply, 1x PMM (Power Management Module), 1x 40" Enclosure. Perfect for a builder looking to demonstrate the benefits of LumenCache or a homeowner looking to save on electric bills and have California 2014 compliant lighting today. You just need to add Smart Sensors for CA-2014 but at least you don't have to change out a whole traditional lighting system to achieve it. Add $500 for international shipping.

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