Misleading runtimes in ANSI NEMA FL-1?

sirpetr

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
67
Location
Czech Republic, Prague
Hi all CPF folks,
I want to know your comments about ANSI NEMA FL-1 which I personally find very defective, specifically runtimes. The problem is that this standard published in 2009 by companies like Petzl, Coleman, Energiner, Black Diamond.. doesnt differentiate between regulated and unregulated lights. Thanks to that, many manufacturers which mostly make unregulated (or pseudo-regulated) lamps have major advantage when publishing these runtimes, not telling customer that its slowly diminishing light (not constant). Sometimes published runtimes are very absurd, one example bellow with explanation why its not possible in the current world:

F**** HM65R (very common brand/model here)
claims 22h runtime with 400 lumens from one 18650 battery

If that would be constant, its impossible! For 400lm constant light you need at least 2W (very likely more than that), one best 18650 gives you 12Wh, that equals 6h runtime. And Im not taking into account any optic and electronic losses, in reality it would be much lower. But manufacturer claims 22h runtimes. Yes, they are not violating FL-1 but should at least tell the customer that light output is not constant.


Do you think its unfair to customers and should be changed? Would the information about light output regulation (unregualted, pseudo-regulated, regulated) be beneficial to you?

I need to give you also the background, why I am asking this question. Maybe some of you know that I started building my own powerful Lucifer headlamps 8 years ago, started then regular company here in Czech, currently 3 employees. We do all our headlamps fully regulated and tell exact runtimes, even though we could specify them longer (because of FL-1). But we do not exaggerate runtimes, its pointless to provide unreal data. Very often customers call me that this F**** or another brand claims much longer runtimes, is lighter and cheaper. I must tell them the whole story that they specify untrue runtimes, not telling whole story and after that they really suprised and wonder why its possible. Therefore I really think these companies are not telling the truth to the customers and thus violating at least EU customer rights.

Tell me in comments If you think the same or not?
 

idleprocess

Flashaholic
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dfw.tx.us
The FL-1 spec is flawed, but at least it has ... some ... basis in reality unlike the bulk of what came before it - which was like a more modest, homelier version of ebay/amazon lumens.

In terms of output over time, I think that runtime charts or tables covering the basic output levels would suffice to clarify consumer confusion on light behavior over time, including phenomena familiar to enthusiasts - thermal throttling/sag, stepdowns, dropping out of regulation, etc. I.e. the Emisar D4 might be capable of hitting something close to its peak claimed output of 4300lm under FL-1 but no one that's used one for 30 seconds at max output assumes it can do that for much more than 30s before rapidly stepping down to perhaps 10% of that figure.

But... outside of demanding technical and enthusiast markets - marketers gonna market and consumers seem disinterested in assessing low-involvement purchases. I can't speak to the EU, but in the US flashlights are generally sub-$20 purchases and at that price point the decision will likely be made based on the appearance of the packaging in store or a quick glance at the photos on the amazon listing; the FL-1 data is perhaps paid attention to by the minority that glances at more than the pictures and logos.

Now, I knew nothing of your product before coming to this thread, but glancing at your website, you look to be in a technical market. Your customers are almost certainly more informed than punters searching for "brightest AA headlamp" on amazon. Independent reviews by respected reviewers should lend powerful credence to your performance claims.
 

aznsx

Enlightened
Joined
Apr 24, 2015
Messages
765
Location
Phoenix, AZ USA
Hi all CPF folks,
I want to know your comments about ANSI NEMA FL-1 which I personally find very defective, specifically runtimes. The problem is that this standard published in 2009 by companies like Petzl, Coleman, Energiner, Black Diamond.. doesnt differentiate between regulated and unregulated lights. Thanks to that, many manufacturers which mostly make unregulated (or pseudo-regulated) lamps have major advantage when publishing these runtimes, not telling customer that its slowly diminishing light (not constant). Sometimes published runtimes are very absurd, one example bellow with explanation why its not possible in the current world:

F**** HM65R (very common brand/model here)
claims 22h runtime with 400 lumens from one 18650 battery

If that would be constant, its impossible! For 400lm constant light you need at least 2W (very likely more than that), one best 18650 gives you 12Wh, that equals 6h runtime. And Im not taking into account any optic and electronic losses, in reality it would be much lower. But manufacturer claims 22h runtimes. Yes, they are not violating FL-1 but should at least tell the customer that light output is not constant.


Do you think its unfair to customers and should be changed? Would the information about light output regulation (unregualted, pseudo-regulated, regulated) be beneficial to you?

I need to give you also the background, why I am asking this question. Maybe some of you know that I started building my own powerful Lucifer headlamps 8 years ago, started then regular company here in Czech, currently 3 employees. We do all our headlamps fully regulated and tell exact runtimes, even though we could specify them longer (because of FL-1). But we do not exaggerate runtimes, its pointless to provide unreal data. Very often customers call me that this F**** or another brand claims much longer runtimes, is lighter and cheaper. I must tell them the whole story that they specify untrue runtimes, not telling whole story and after that they really suprised and wonder why its possible. Therefore I really think these companies are not telling the truth to the customers and thus violating at least EU customer rights.

Tell me in comments If you think the same or not?

I found this presentation (link below) helpful for my own understanding of the basis of the standard, and specifically, some of the reasons why it is designed as it is.

This presentation is a fairly basic document, like the standard itself, but there are a few key phrases which helped me understand what the standard is designed to be, and by default, what it is not designed to be.

Keep in mind that the standard does not address, nor does it obviate the need for or replace output / time graphing, which today is increasingly provided by many of the better manufacturers whose market segment calls for more information.

The standard isn't a limitation, it is a very basic foundation. Many manufacturers provide additional documentation and data that's required for them to further differentiate their products from others, and your organization likely will as well. That is expected, and is often beyond the scope of the standard as defined. This situation is neither unfair or misleading, but the full scope of info that manufacturers may need or choose to provide is simply not covered under this standard - by design. Manufacturers need to do that outside the umbrella of what's covered by the standard. I imagine each member of the drafting committee would have designed the standard a bit differently for their particular market segment, but that's the point of having a committee draft something which can suffice as a basic standard for all.

One big key is that it defines a basic standard 'yardstick' (or meter stick) for customers to use compare products directly, and its value isn't so much determined by its exact length as it is by the fact that it is standard. Few individuals likely feel the standard is perfect, but it serves a basic need for all - and most importantly, their customers.

The big key is simply that it exists. Although perhaps not 'perfect' to any individual contributor, it is one of those cases where one should "never allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good". I was around pre-FL1, and I would not want to go back to that world. The standard is periodically revised (the last being 2019), and will likely be revised further. Companies should probably join PLATO and participate! Anything can be improved, and I'm sure FL1 is no exception.

Here's an example of the simplicity of some of the standard's objectives:

  • Run Time: The duration of time from the initial light output value (that's 30 seconds after the light is turned on with fresh batteries) until the light output drops to 10% of the initial value.
  • Purpose: To determine the amount of time elapsed (under continuous operation) at which the device's light output reaches a level when users will commonly replace the batteries.

 

bykfixer

Flashaholic
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Aug 9, 2015
Messages
17,598
Location
My own little Idaho
Well said AZ!!

I personally do not take issue with the FL-1 standard even though it is a bit dated. Consumers need to have something to go by or many companies would be even more dishonest.

I'm also not much into charts and graphs as a hard and fast truth teller but do understand it is at least a good indicator. So packaging for sellers who use physical stores for their products should have room somewhere to place something that shows the general characteristics. On the left lumens or percent output and on the bottom of the graph minutes or hours depending on how "thirsty" the light is. And a clear, easy to understand designation of the fuel source(s). Same info should be available for web purchases as well.

Are there companies manipulating the current standards to create a false impression? Certainly. But changing the standards to be more defined won't change their mindset. They'll figure out ways to manipulate that too.

Fact is the general consumer wants what it wants. Bright and cheap. The flashlight industry is a dog-eat-dog business these days. So, many companies use gimmicks to lure in customers. That won't change by changing the FL-1 standards. And now that many companies build in regulation into their lights it may seem to put them at a disadvantage in some ways, but integrity plays a role in the long term. Trouble is in a dog-eat-dog industry integrity is like an honest politician……pretty rare.

I used to promote for a company that broke barriers on a regular basis that provided regulated outputs never seen before. Yet other companies came along and sold products even brighter……for a few seconds……then settled down to way below the output of the company whose products put out their numbers steadily. Lesson learned was "lumens sell", honest or not.

The company moved from consumer lighting to a niche market. It was down right frustrating to watch the market change from honest, steady output numbers to flat out gimmickery in order to survive. It is now an accepted behavior, almost standard because physics requires companies who choose to promote their "even brighter" products have to use those boosted for a short time numbers for consumers to even notice them anymore.

PT Barnum once said "a sucker is born every day"… he was correct. The average consumer is not very informed, nor do they want to be.
 

idleprocess

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Joined
Feb 29, 2004
Messages
6,574
Location
dfw.tx.us
The company moved from consumer lighting to a niche market. It was down right frustrating to watch the market change from honest, steady output numbers to flat out gimmickery in order to survive. It is now an accepted behavior, almost standard because physics requires companies who choose to promote their "even brighter" products have to use those boosted for a short time numbers for consumers to even notice them anymore.
This is why at about the $50 price point I look for independent reviews by competent reviewers.

The average consumer is not very informed, nor do they want to be.
Nope. A ~decade ago I listened to more than a few people complain that they swapped out all their incandescent bulbs for "more expensive" CFL and they didn't see an immense change in their electrical bill - either in the spring as temperatures crept up steadily or they were on an annual average billing scheme.
 
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