Quality and Performance of LED Flashlights in Kenya: Common End User Preferences and Complaints

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Flashlights that use LED technology have quickly emerged as the dominant source of portable lighting in Kenya. While flashlights do not normally provide a substitute for kerosene and other highly inefficient fuels, they are an important early manifestation of LED lighting in the developing world that can serve as a platform - or deterrent - to the diffusion of the technology into the broader off-grid lighting market. The lead acid batteries embedded in flashlights also represent an important source of hazardous waste, and flashlight durability is thus an important determinant of the rate of waste disposal. Low-cost LED flashlights with ... continued below

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Tracy, Jenny; Jacobson, Arne & Mills, Evan September 14, 2009.

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Flashlights that use LED technology have quickly emerged as the dominant source of portable lighting in Kenya. While flashlights do not normally provide a substitute for kerosene and other highly inefficient fuels, they are an important early manifestation of LED lighting in the developing world that can serve as a platform - or deterrent - to the diffusion of the technology into the broader off-grid lighting market. The lead acid batteries embedded in flashlights also represent an important source of hazardous waste, and flashlight durability is thus an important determinant of the rate of waste disposal. Low-cost LED flashlights with prices from $1 to $4 are now widely available in shops and markets throughout Kenya. The increased penetration of LED technology in the flashlight market is significant, as over half of all Kenyan households report owning a flashlight (Kamfor, 2002). While this shift from conventional incandescent technology to modern LEDs may appear to be a promising development, end users that our research team interviewed expressed a number of complaints about the quality and performance of these new flashlights. This raises concerns about the interests of low-income flashlight users, and it may also indicate the onset of a broader market spoiling effect for off-grid lighting products based on LED technology (Mills and Jacobson, 2008; Lighting Africa, 2007). The quality of low-cost LED flashlights can contribute to market spoiling because these products appear to represent the first contact that most Kenyans have with LED technology. In this report, our team uses interviews with 46 end users of flashlights to collect information about their experiences, perceptions, and preferences. We focus especially on highlighting common complaints from respondents about the flashlights that they have used, as well as on noting the features that they indicated were important when evaluating the quality of a flashlight. In previous laboratory tests, researchers from our team found a wide range of quality and performance among battery powered LED lights (Granderson, et al. 2008).

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3638E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/985242 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 985242
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1013663

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  • September 14, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 18, 2017, 10:37 a.m.

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Tracy, Jenny; Jacobson, Arne & Mills, Evan. Quality and Performance of LED Flashlights in Kenya: Common End User Preferences and Complaints, report, September 14, 2009; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1013663/: accessed August 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.