Read on, there’s plenty we DIYers can learn from this topic.
Has anyone paid attention to the cost of automotive head Lamps over the past 30 years?
In my childhood, we had the ‘sealed beam’ head lamp, and in many States they were a requirement. I remember a day in the sixties when I was attempting to get a JDM motorcycle on the road in California, if my memory serves me, I had to replace the stock unsealed head lamp with the ‘legal’ sealed beam unit.
A lot of people will never stop to consider what this sealed beam unit and the standard did for America, and it certainly does offer a more noticeable advantage in some areas of our country over others.
I have lived in areas where we have considerable moisture, areas where temperature changes and condensate can pump a tail lamp on a car half full of water in a few weeks WHEN a seal fails, or other design criteria is violated.
Prior to the sealed beam, Head lights had a lot of problems, the moisture got in, soon cultures of bacteria grew, molds and algae formed a soup which sometimes literally striped off important reflective coatings. Lenses, and the inside of the protective head lamp glass sometimes grew a slime that diffused the light.
The sealed beam was an answer, and made in the huge quantities, the price was more than reasonable. Cars most often used the same part, you could have a new head light installed in near any service station in a few minutes at modest cost.
Somewhere in the 1980s, the SAE or other entity wanted to do things differently, and soon we saw more types of head lights, and the fun of white knuckled night driving began. Since I have had the experience first hand, I know how bad it can be, but I have not made the time to see if these specific hadlamps ve been studied. Here’s a WIKI page that might be a place to start.
People with early 80s headlamps came into dealers and casually mentioned that there was a rock chip in one or more and they ordered the Dealer to replace it. For some, it took no time at all to have chips in both sides with pin hole leaks. When the owners were presented with the bill, they were in shock to see a $500 charge!
Yes, these new enclosures were expensive to replace. The bulb inserted through the back, and it’s important that the ‘O’ ring seal not fail and let moisture in. How many owners migh have installed a new bulb, and forgot the gasket? But that small rock chip, the smallest of pin holes will eventually fill your head light full of condensate and the soup inside begins to brew.
Mechanics and Service Managers hear the story over and over. “ I thought I was going blind! I stopped driving at night all together because I knew I was guessing where the road was. Once you replaced those head light enclosures, I could see. I’m going to cancel that appointment with the eye doctor right now”
Out of the eighties came remedies,…… no, I should caLl it what it was, a ‘band aid’. Some dealers and private repair facilities who were looking out for the interest of their customers stocked plastic covers to put over the top of these expensive head lamp enclosures to protect them from rock chips, and soon, they were dirty on the front and back, and cut the light by more than half! If you drove in the rain, a mix of dust and oil off the road could coat both sides of the covers, and the head lamp cover giving you three or more layers that block and difuse the light.
For me, this is all a lesson in optics, the elements, and the more cost effective way to light the road per mile. There is no doubt in my mind that the added cost of these new head lamp enclosures over the old standard would boggle the mind if we were to Sum it up, but it also helped damage a huge and stable market for the sealed beam makers, and with sinking demand, the price goes up for what worked so well. The cause of deaths? Although it’s most difficult to prove who died from an inattentive moment behind the wheel, VS who couldn’t see, there is no doubt that the same studies that made the sealed beam requirement a law in past years WOULD find these specific head lamps I mention a root cause of some of the night-time driving fatalities.
According to some studies, night time driving represents 25% of the activity and half of the accidents suggesting that you are twice as likely to have an accident in night time travel.
Now why do I bring this topic up? Do I muse as to why these expensive and sometimes inferior head lamps exist? Do I ask you to check with a dealer and learn the cost of a new head light for a Toyota Prius knowing you will be in shock? No.. not at all. It’s more about optics and how we should expect a noticable degrade in performance over time when the system is not sealed.
I want you to think about optics, about focal lengths, about the environment we live in. You’ve seen a piece of fruit on a counter left there too long, and fruit flies seem to appear out of no where. On a much smaller scale there are other opportunists ready to take advantage of a food source or an environment you might help create. Man made enclosures become brewing pots all too often. An example might be how man-made containers that allow mosquitoes to migrate and thrive in areas when they otherwise might not live at all. We can study what the Health organizations have targeted to control the populations, and their recommendations.
But you know I have something else on my mind….. don’t you? Maybe you study the bacteria that feeds off iron? Some domestic wells clogged with the stuff, and even some pumps fail because of it. A man made environment and a bug ready to take advantage of it.
Today I’m thinking about the NREL, and the things they study. One being Concentrated Photo Voltaic projects, and the photo Cells they work on.
I have given you a real world example of a concentrating system open to the environment and the problems that develop, the rapid degrade in performance. I’d like you to consider the CPV systems that are NOT sealed. How do they cope with rapid changes in air temperate, pressures, humidity, condensation, wind blown dust, smoke particles and other things naturally found in our environment? Maybe a larger question, why won’t these enclosures become homes for bacteria and more? Will the soups nature makes inside them create the same problems as we find in unsealed automotive head lights?
Let’s use the two existing solar power plants now in the field for study. The one at Alamosa Colorado, and the other at Hatch New Mexico. There’s an easily found WIKI page for the Alamosa power plant, they claim it is the largest CPV power plant in the world. The NREL touts cell efficiency as if it were the only element in CPV needing improvement, It seems most difficult to find actual field data, and we know that the only thing that really counts is making a KWH cheap enough to pay off the investment and hopefully make the effort all worth while. The data we need must include parts and maintenance, meeting the PPA, tells us what?
What on earth is important about cell efficiency and KWH production measured per square foot when the so-called perfect environment for CPV is cheap desert land according to the NREL, and other entities interested in CPV.
Study the Amonix enclosures, the plastic lenses, the environment they were placed in, the rapid temperature changes, snow, hail, high winds, dust storms, blowing dirt. Now look at the WIKI page and note that they mention this system is certified to operate for 50 years, and ask yourself.. what does that mean, and what is the value of the certification to the investor?
We need ask. Where are those folks in the NREL who are curious about the overall optical system and how it performs?
My hobbyist opinion on CPV… unless it’s a sealed system, you should expect a lot of maintenance over time. If it is a sealed system, the cells better be able to handle the heat, and live long enough to deliver a return on investment.
Alamosa and Hatch ARE the perfect sites to study, but who seems to have any interest in them? And why is that ?
Here’s an old page, notice the power production Graphs, best hours I’ve seen out of hatch have been 3600KW recently, rumors are they have assigned techs there working to get the power production back up.. I’d love to know maintenance costs and labor hours..
And added Picture: Thank you Bill Knighton. In the below picture, it’s best we focus on the light delivered to the ground, it’s rather obvious that the sealed beams on the right deliver a lot more light at distance. The car on the left has the stock plastic head lights that have degraded over time. It’s likely that that there are three reasons for the degrading performance, one being caused by oxididation, or possibly UV exposure, the other, the sandblasting effect of being stuck to the front of a car traveling behind cars/trucks that naturally ‘kick up’ small bit of debris and deliver it to your head light height. Other degrading can come from broken seals, and the soup I mention earlier forming on the inside. One repair shop I know has the damage inside these non sealed unit on display in his shop to show the damage done to the reflective surface when the atmosphere was allowed in, and the moisutre followed. I would think this is a similiar situation to wind blown desert sand and dirt, and plastic CPV lens covers.