More Heat, Then Light: Randolph Firm Charged Up About Woodstove Lamp

  • Thomas Farnham assembles an LED light system at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Thomas Farnham assembles an LED light system at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014.
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  • The Stove Lite lamp, by  LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., turns heat from a woodstove into enough energy to power an LED light and a USB charger. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    The Stove Lite lamp, by LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., turns heat from a woodstove into enough energy to power an LED light and a USB charger.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Sparado, Director of EverLed Sales, demonstraes an LED tube light used to replace a flourescent light at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Bob Sparado, Director of EverLed Sales, demonstraes an LED tube light used to replace a flourescent light at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tomato breeder Alan Krivanek checks plants at a Monsanto greenhouse on March 11, 2014 in Woodland, Calif. Illustrates SUPERSEEDS (category a), by Adrian Higgins (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Max Whittaker/Prime)

    Tomato breeder Alan Krivanek checks plants at a Monsanto greenhouse on March 11, 2014 in Woodland, Calif. Illustrates SUPERSEEDS (category a), by Adrian Higgins (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Max Whittaker/Prime) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thomas Farnham assembles an LED light system at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • The Stove Lite lamp, by  LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., turns heat from a woodstove into enough energy to power an LED light and a USB charger. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Bob Sparado, Director of EverLed Sales, demonstraes an LED tube light used to replace a flourescent light at LED Dynamics in Randolph, Vt., on April 17, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Tomato breeder Alan Krivanek checks plants at a Monsanto greenhouse on March 11, 2014 in Woodland, Calif. Illustrates SUPERSEEDS (category a), by Adrian Higgins (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Max Whittaker/Prime)

Randolph — A cadre of engineers has come up with a way to recycle heat from woodstoves and bring light to dark winter nights.

The engineers at TEGpro, a new division of Randolph-based LED Dynamics, have developed technology that converts excess heat from woodstoves to electricity, and they plan to have lamps that use the technology on the market in the fall.

The hurricane-style lanterns, black with brass trim, sit on top of the stove. Within a few minutes, the stove’s heat activates a thermoelectric generator that lights a soft, but bright, light-emitting diode, or LED, bulb.

The lamps come in two styles — one that remains on the stove and one that has a built-in battery, a dimming switch and a USB port for charging cellphones and tablet computers. On that model, after two hours of charging, the lamp can be removed from the stove. The battery will last up to eight hours.

The lamps, called Stove Lite, have a small cooling fan, like the ones used in computers, that also helps circulate the woodstove’s heat.

After nine months of research and development, the lamps were beta tested with friends and others who have woodstoves. From those results, more improvements were made, said Shane Clarke, TEGpro’s thermoelectric products manager who is heading up the Stove Lite project.

“When you look at it, it looks very simple, but it was difficult to find the materials that would be able to stand the heat from the stove and still work properly.

“For example, you wouldn’t believe how many plastic fans we melted before we found one that would hold up to the heat,” he said.

To help fund the launch of the lamps, which will be made primarily from U.S. and Vermont materials, TEGpro officials have recently launched an $80,000 Kickstarter campaign that will wrap up on June 7.

As of last week, the campaign had generated just over $5,000 from almost 50 backers, but Clarke said the company also has launched a national marketing campaign that he hoped would generate more interest in the Kickstarter effort.

“If we don’t make the Kickstarter goal, we’re still going to produce the lamps,” he said.

As part of the campaign, the company is offering 99 of the basic lamps for $99 and 99 Stove Lite Pros with the batteries for $149. The lamps will be delivered in October, Clarke said.

The primary market target for the lamps is woodstove owners who live off the grid or who have deer or fishing camps that are off the grid. Stove Lites also would be useful for areas that face regular power outages, he said.

LED Dynamics was started in 2000 in Rochester, Vt., in a farmhouse by Peter Rahm. He was joined not long after by Bill McGrath, who is now the president, but was then a full-time professor at Vermont Technical College. In 2004, the company moved into the old Ethan Allen furniture building in Randolph, and after Tropical Storm Irene flooded part of the building, LED Dynamics moved into a larger remodeled section in the center of the building.

Throughout its 14 years, the company and its engineers have maintained connections to Vermont Tech, Clarke said.

The firm now has about 55 employees and is expanding the staff to just over 60, said Bob Sparado, director of EverLED sales, the company’s lighting division.

LED lighting, research and innovation is the foundation of the company, which has contracts with the U.S. departments of Energy and Defense. LED Dynamics developed and is marketing a LED tube that is a replacement for conventional four-foot fluorescent bulbs that are used in most commercial buildings.

“(The tube LED bulbs) are twice as efficient as a fluorescent bulb and last much longer — we market them as having a lifespan of 10 years — and they’ll work in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees. Fluorescents start spluttering at 32 degrees and below,” making the LED bulbs good choices for lighting ski lifts and the inside of walk-in freezers, Sparado said.

Another aspect of LED Dynamics’ business is to design and provide lighting solutions for customers with specific needs, such as the Blue Man Group and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The company’s entryway conveys an orderly appearance with abundant natural light from tall windows, a proper first impression for the privately held corporation.

A conference room and offices are off to the sides, but straight ahead is where innovation takes shape, problems are solved and the work is done. It’s also where the tidiness of the reception area fades into organized chaos — in a large space, stacked with papers, plans and computers, engineers figure things out and keep track of everything in the room; behind is the “Craft Shop” that looks like a fun, busy workshop with tools, parts and failed and ongoing experiments cluttered about on benches and shelves, and the floor salted with the metal filings and discarded scraps of a recent job.

There’s a room that provides total darkness where lights are tested, and there’s an assembly area busy with workers moving about a warren of complicated equipment, producing circuit boards and assembling products. “We need more room. We’re basically falling over ourselves,” said Product Development Engineer Jay Orzell, whose domain is the Craft Shop and who is part of the Stove Lite team.

“When we started out, everybody knew everybody. There were eight of us in a room. Now, it’s hard to keep up with all the new people,” Orzell said. He started with the company 11 years ago.

Although the Stove Lites were tested to work with woodstoves only, TEGpro is working on an adapter that would allow the lamps to be used on open flames. The adapters are expected to be available some time next year, Clarke said, noting that future designs will take into consideration other ways of using the lights during seasons other than winter.

The company also has a lineup of other products that will convert excess heat to electricity that will be coming out in the future, he said.

“We’re not saying anything about those until we have the patents.”

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.