Use Patterns of LED Flashlights in Kenya and a One-Year Cost Analysis of Flashlight Ownership

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Flashlight usage is widespread across much of sub-Saharan Africa.1 In Kenya in particular, over half of all households report owning a flashlight (Kamfor, 2002). Aside from household use, flashlights are also widely used to perform income-earning jobs in Kenya. Lumina Research Note No.4, the first report in this series documenting flashlight use in Kenya, highlights flashlight use patterns of night watchmen and bicycle taxi drivers. Both of these are occupations that rely on the use of flashlights on a nightly basis (Tracy et al., 2009). Also highlighted by Research Note No.4, flashlight users in Kenya have reported being highly dissatisfied ... continued below

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Tracy, Jennifer; Jacobson, Arne & Mills, Evan February 16, 2010.

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Flashlight usage is widespread across much of sub-Saharan Africa.1 In Kenya in particular, over half of all households report owning a flashlight (Kamfor, 2002). Aside from household use, flashlights are also widely used to perform income-earning jobs in Kenya. Lumina Research Note No.4, the first report in this series documenting flashlight use in Kenya, highlights flashlight use patterns of night watchmen and bicycle taxi drivers. Both of these are occupations that rely on the use of flashlights on a nightly basis (Tracy et al., 2009). Also highlighted by Research Note No.4, flashlight users in Kenya have reported being highly dissatisfied with the quality of the low-cost LED flashlights that are available, and they identify several reoccurring problems they have faced as flashlight end-users (Tracy et al., 2009). The fact that there exists a substantial dependency upon flashlights in Kenya and that users are disgruntled with the available products suggests reasons for concern about flashlight quality. This concern is present despite two recent technological transitions in the flashlight market. First, LED technology has quickly emerged as the dominant source of portable lighting in Kenya, outpacing incandescent flashlights (Johnstone et al., 2009). LED technology has the potential to provide efficiency and performance benefits relative to incandescent bulbs, and low-cost LEDs have achieved price levels that make them cost competitive with conventional lighting sources for a number of applications (Mills, 2005). Second, rechargeable sealed-lead acid (SLA) batteries are also becoming more prevalent alternatives to disposable dry cell batteries. Flashlights using rechargeable SLA batteries tend to have a lower total cost of ownership over a two-year period than a flashlight using dry cell batteries (Radecsky, 2009); however, as this current report highlights, this may vary depending on the intensity of use patterns. To avoid a potential market spoiling effect for off-grid lighting products based on LED technology (Mills and Jacobson, 2008; Lighting Africa, 2007) a better understanding of flashlight use-patterns is crucial (Tracy et al., 2009). In addition, the economic implications faced by rural flashlight end-users provide further incentive for a move toward higher quality low-cost flashlights. In this report, our team uses interviews with 46 end users of flashlights to collect information about their use patterns and costs associated with owning and operating flashlight products. While flashlights used in their portable mode typically do not represent a substitute for kerosene or other forms of fuel-based lighting, at times they are used in stationary applications in place of a fuel-based lamp. In either case, these products often represent end users first exposure to LED technology and rechargeable dry cell batteries, and thus stand to either provide a positive or negative impression of these technologies for a diversity of lighting applications.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3637E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/985241 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 985241
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1012492

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  • February 16, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 18, 2017, 12:53 p.m.

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Tracy, Jennifer; Jacobson, Arne & Mills, Evan. Use Patterns of LED Flashlights in Kenya and a One-Year Cost Analysis of Flashlight Ownership, report, February 16, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1012492/: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.