The Eddie Bauer Opto E-light

as anyone seen this thing in the store? I can hardly believe that no one is talking about it. It appears to me to be perhaps the greatest advance in lighting technology since Edison invented the light bulb. Read this package.

Eddie Bauer Opto E-light - 33kb

OK. I bought it. I'm a sucker for new tech (provided it doesn't cost too much). It was just $12.99 in Target in the camping equipment area. I just had to check it out.

After playing around with it for a few days and using about twenty minutes of the 200 hours, I decided to take the plunge and just let it go to see how long it would last.

Well, it's now dying on me ... after 10 freaking days of giving useful light.

I arbitrarily defined "useful light" as
Could I walk down a path in the woods on a moonless, starless night with confidence?

The answer was an unqualified "Yes" for 9 days ... that's about 220 hours of reliability. And you must know that a conventional battery powered light lasts about 2 1/2 - 3 hours. My GE rechargeable emergency light (now in the wall socket) is rated at 2 1/2 hours. What's the gimmick?

Well, to start with this is an LED light that never needs to be replaced. An LED is just a blob of glass with some bit of gas in it and a couple of electrodes ... something like a mini-florescent light without the cheap, leaky end pieces. Now, the gas gives off certain wavelengths of light and these folks apparently have chosen just those gases which give off only visible light. There is no heat. That's where the energy savings comes from. NO HEAT at all as far as I know.

The light is pure white. There is no "yellow" in it like an incandescent bulb ... very soft and evenly distributed by the cylindrical reflector headpiece. Here's the other side of the package.

bauer2.jpg - 43kb

Here is the way it discharged. This is my subjective observation ... not a scientific quantified experiment ... but I think it's fairly objective. After all, I don't work for Eddie Bauer ;o)

Discharge curve - 7kb

This is the normal curve for an Alkaline battery as I discovered on the internet. The surprising thing to me was the stabilization for about seven days. During this time it appeared (again subjectively) to have stayed just about the same and I would not have hesitated for a moment to trod down the garden path at deepest, darkest, dead of night using this light (though I wouldn't run ;o).

Addendum 01/11/02 :

I'm officially declaring my Opto E-Lite "Discharged" today. I've been waiting for a little over three months (since 10/08/01) for the damn thing to stop emitting noticeable light and during this past week it underwent a significant decrease. For two months (and more) I could easily see it in a dark bathroom "Yup, still on.". The last couple of days it got so dim, I have to wait till I get accustomed to the dark to see any light and then I have to hold it no less than about a foot from my eye.

So ... it was useful for 9 days and then ... was good company for someone buried by a cave-in (presuming you could survive on rain water and rats for three months). Now, I shall install new batteries ... if they fit! and take it to work.

My research into optoelectronics didn't turn up much. I believe this is different than other LED penlights which I think last about 4 or 5 hours before dying. I checked out Eddie Bauer's site and found nothing ... not even a way to order the damn thing. A search for "" (on the rear package) showed a web site not changed in about 4 years.

There are three types for sale

bauer3.jpg - 24kb

There is the one up top as well as a larger version about twice as long ... rated at 300 hours and "10 times as bright as traditional lights", i.e. it appears to be as bright or slightly brighter than a regular flashlight ... which uses three "N" type batteries.

bauer4.jpg - 8kb

And ... a little swizzle stick of a thing rated at 20 hours which uses a lithium ion battery. A lithium battery supposedly gives a near constant voltage throughout the life of the battery (used in notebooks). It has a red light and I think it's suppose to last 20 hours at maximum brightness. I have one on my keychain. And yes ... I bought the big one too ;o)

If you can buy one ... get one and check it out. If people find out what they can do, they will strip them out of the stores for X-mas presents (stocking stuffers). I have only seen them in Target in the camping gear section.

What this means

Right off ... all traditional flashlights have clearly been obsoleted ... ALL OF THEM.

This appears to be about 100 times as efficient as the incandescent bulb ... They are necessarily obsoleted as well as soon as screw in opto e-lights are available. Florescents are history too. Even if they can't be made to fit existing fixtures, the cost of changing them out could be amortized with extreme rapidity. In short, I see no reason not to state the obvious conclusion. Imagine you pay $100 per month for light now ... you change your lights ... and then you pay $1 per month ?!!

Photoelectric lighting may now be economically feasible. I mean, you put a little photo cell on a stick along your sidewalk and the energy it collects is sufficient to light your path all night ... at no further cost to you. What took a square foot of photo cell now takes a square inch. Use your imagination. Why am I not hearing bells and whistles about this? Where are the headllines?

I know of only three instances where a two orders of magnitude improvement in technology has been made at one swipe. They are: in munitions - the invention of the atom bomb over conventional explosives ... again in munitions - the invention of the hydrogen bomb (a hundred times as big as the atom bomb). That's it. Do you know of any more?

This is the oddest thing presently available for retail sale on this planet.

Every light on Earth must be changed out ......


PS. It doesn't tell you on the package but ... to turn the light on so it stays on without holding the button down ... push the button in farther. To turn off, push in farther once again. Otherwise, it just works while you hold the button down.

Addendum 10/22/01:
Went to WalMart today and found three more "new" long lasting lights on display right next to the obsolete incandescent and krypton bulb lights in the camping gear section. I do not believe they were there two weeks ago. There was one cheap looking florescent type thing with no batteries included (by Energizer) for about 9 bucks rated at 100 to 200 hours depending on one or two LED bulb use ... and another imitation florescent camp light thingy which lasts for 40 hours or 20 depending on one or two LED light use for ten dollars or so.

I bought a Dorcy waterproof (4 common AA batteries included) stubby looking rubberized yellow and black flashlight rated at 200 hours for $7.94 . Yup, these things are right next to Maglites (now obsolete). I suppose MagLite will come up with their version soon ... but ... they must be stuck with a huge inventory of now suddenly obsolete flashlights. Of course, who will buy them when a new style will last 100 times as long. What a dilemma!

I guess we don't have to worry about anything in this genre now. It will be fun to watch the show ... all occuring out in the open but without the participation of the media. Yet, this is possibly the biggest event in energy conservation since the "Green Party" was formed ... hah!

Here are some package pics from the Dorcy. I expect many more players to get in on the act before X-mas. Keep a watch on your local Walmart, Kmart, Target, etc.

dorcy2.jpg - 11kb dorcy1.jpg - 13kb dorcy3.jpg - 12kb

Addendum 10/25/02:
Over the past year I've been monitoring the increase in these types of lights in stores. This year Eddie Bauer has a few new models to choose from. The now have a three bulb opto light that's the same length as the 300 hour one above but a little fatter. It's $24.95 and I don't need it ... but ... I'll probably get one anyway because it's sooooo cool. They also have a three light head lamp with straps rated at 100+ hours if you're working in ... a coal mine? Whatever.

The Dorcy light pictured above has disappeared from Wal-Mart possibly because of pressure from other vendors like Mag-Lite which curiously has not fielded any competitive device. Perhaps their inventory is so excessive that they are in trouble from the optolight folks. Anyway, if I owned stock in Mag-Lite, I'd dump it ... fast. The fact that they have nothing on the market indicates trouble, i.e. either inventory or an extremely stupid CEO.

I read an article in either Discover or Scientific American about the coming revolution in LED lighting and it is definitely coming. No amount of pressure will keep this bottled up for long. Though Dorcy has been "offed", other companies are nipping at the heels of Eddie Bauer (Brinkman and a few others). I can't believe that consumers will look at flashlights of equal cost and brightness and choose one rated 2+1/2 hours over one rated at 300 hours! There is a qualitative difference between these lights. The new optolight will outlast any lighting emergency in my memory (a few days), while the others crap out before the first night is over.

I shall continue to monitor the situation and root for the 'opto' variants.


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