LED Flashlights are everywhere these days...but just how many of them are in use and how many are sold each year? I want to tap the collective wisdom of LuminaNET to try and answer this question...
Please respond to this thread with information you have about the ownership and use of flashlights wherever you have lived / worked / visited...answering the questions below will be helpful:
1) In a particular country or region: How many flashlights or other low-quality LED products (in working condition) are owned per household? How often do they need to be replaced?
2) Are low quality LED flashlights and other form factors the dominant or secondary light source?
3) Are you aware of any datasets or studies that document these products?
Why care about this?
Most of us on LuminaNET are focused on delivering off-grid lighting that is powered by solar energy and lasts years but LED flashlights are also a big part of the story in many places. A recent study from Lighting Africa found that in three towns in Kenya there has been fast growth in the availability and sales of solar LED lighting and this has also been accompanied by growth in the “cheap flashlights” segment of the market as well. It makes sense, of course, that people are interested in low-cost LED flashlights. They perform better than incandescent lights, can have similar operating costs as kerosene lighting, and are safer and more portable than fuel.
There are lots of reasons we should care about how big the market is for these flashlights:
1) The spending in this segment represents an opportunity to reach people with better quality alternatives.
2) While switching from kerosene to flashlights may have important benefits on public health and even economic grounds, it is not clear that it helps the climate. Dry cell batteries take lots of energy to manufacture so it is possible we are burning more oil and coal to power flashlights than was burned in the lamps they replace.
3) The toxic waste stream from lead in rechargeable flashlights may be a bigger story than we expect, particularly if they are treated as a disposable good and are disposed of in the “customary” way.
The flashlights we have in mind are: 1) cheap, 2) bright at first but generally do not last long, 3) widely availble, 4) either dry cell battery powered or have a low-quality sealed lead-acid battery inside with grid charging plug built in. The photo below shows a range of examples we’ve seen in Kenya, but as far as we can tell these are widely available across the developing world.
EDIT: Should have included this in the original post: Our findings in Kenya were that the market volumes we saw indicate there were about 1.7 flashlights sold in Kericho per person! This isn't outside the realm of reasonableness though...if each household has 1 flashlight in working order and 5 people, selling 1.7 flashlights per year per person is about 8 flashlights per year in each household. We have anecdotal evidence they only last on the order of months, and this would be in line with the estimates (at least the order of magnitude).
Quite a bit if info in the attached study in the Philippines.
Thanks Evan...looks like flashlights are pervasive in the Philippines as they are in Kenya. About 70% of households use them as a baseline level.
Hi Peter, perhaps Kenya (or other countries) customs have statistics about that?
If anyone knows where to find these kinds of import data (or even better, can provide them) it would be very helpful! Good idea...
Good study..I am in Kenya..was in Lithuli market today...the way these initally bright LED lights are priced it becomes more or less impulse buy no one really has time to educate.
Thank you for the insight...I agree that the low-cost LED lights seem to have become fast-moving (and disposable) goods in a sense.
If you can provide some information about what you saw (or are willing to ask around a bit next time you're there)....How much volume would you estimate passes through the Lithuli market each day? What were the prices like at wholesalers?
Sorry...but I moved on to Uganda...I was more focussed on solar products than just lights...
Here are a couple of links that might help....
The first one is a paid research report.....
Here's another one - Uganda. They say 79% use flashlights on a "regular" basis and 59% say it's the "primary" source (?!).
Thanks Evan...is there a source for this? The paid report (above) would be interesting to see...
Hmmmm. The PDF was supposed to have an attached PDF.
Let me try again here.
Unfortunately, I don't have access to the paid report.
People are loyal to price. In the developing world if there is a cheap solar torchlight that works well people will buy it. They might like the more complex lanterns and solar charging systems but at the end of the day, money is an issue.