Friday, May 4, 2007

Sweet Light Bulbs

I've been listening to the debate about light bulbs recently, and I think I need to insert some hardcore-ness into the conversation. A lot of people really like CFL's, and I would agree, but there is that mercury problem and all that, but let's see where we can go with this.

Incandescent bulbs are outmoded, that much is sure. Think about this, you live in an average house, you have air conditioning. When you use a regular 100W incandescent bulb, a good majority of the energy that bulb is using is being converted directly to heat. Where does that heat go? It must be removed by your air conditioner, and that costs money. For every 100 watts of power you use in your house that doesn't get washed down the drain, you use another one third as many watts to remove the left over heat from the house, so suddenly now instead of using a 100W bulb, you are using a 133W bulb.

Enter compact fluorescent bulbs CFL's. They use one fourth the power of an incandescent bulb for the same light production. That means one fourth the heat because remember, for every watt you use, it gets turned into heat somewhere in the process due to the law of conservation of energy. So for the same amount of light, you have to remove from the house one fourth the heat. A 100W equivalent bulb is now 25 watts, which due to air conditioning is now about 33 watts. Unfortunately, with CFL's comes mercury, a highly poisonous vaporous or liquid metal. If you were to break a CFL in your house, it would expose you to somewhere in the range of six times the recommended dosage of mercury. On the flip side of that same arguemtn is the mercury created by the generation of electricity from coal power plants. Each CFL saves far more mercury from being dumped into the environment than would be released if it were improperly disposed of. So the conclusion here is, use them, but just don't break them.

Enter light emitting diodes, LED's. LED's are to CFL's as CFL's are to incandescents. LED's use in the range (wide range) of one fourth or less power for the same amount of light as does a CFL. Congruently, they cost in ratio to CFL's as CFL's cost to incandescents, but the price will come down. LEDs on the other hand produce virtually no heat, they operate at quite a low temperature, and to think that they use only a couple of watts, it's no wonder. I have LED taillights in my little pickup, and they replace 23 watt incandescents while using only about 4 watts and they are so much more intense than the originals. I can look in the rear view mirror and see intense red light reflected all over the place.

More and more house style LED's are coming on the market, and all you need to do to find them is just do a search. Also, if you get creative, you can make your own fixtures with LED's because they run at very low voltage. I know of a guy who made custom LED taillights for his electric car that tell him when it's plugged in, or charged. Like I said before, the price will come down, there is alot of research going into LEDs right now, jumbo trons, LED computer monitors, and a great new idea, LED head lights for cars.

Conclusion here, push for LED's, they are the sustainable solution for lighting.

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