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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Monday, 28 September 2009

OK, I'll admit it - I really like LEDs.

I've long been a fierce advocate of LED technology - especially when it comes to replacing incandescent bulbs, since they are very low voltage, and far more efficient, even than the compact fluorescents that have mostly replaced them in domestic use.

One of the projects on which I embarked earlier in the summer was to create an LED house number light, so that delivery companies and emergency vehicles could easily identify the house by day and night. I'm sure I'm not the only person for whom finding a particular house on an unfamiliar road has been a challenge - who knows, maybe it could catch on! Since (for the first time in my life, I think!) I had to dial 999 for an emergency ambulance when Beth was rushed into hospital just a few weeks after the light was completed (see the video I made in an earlier blog entry) I like to think the sign helped them find the house quickly!

I'm also really pleased that another little challenge I set myself - to convert a cheap D cell torch (such as that available in Poundland) into a super-bright LED light (using the remaining LEDs from the house sign project) was successful. The 'mark 1' had twenty 14 candle-power LEDs, but its successor (the "Mark II Ubertorch") boasted twenty-five 20 candlepower LEDs, which is wonderfully bright (although not a patch on my current LED object of desire - the £210 LED Lenser X21) casts as strong a light as I've seen in a conventional torch.
In celebration of this success, I created my first Instructable.com builder's guide - for less than a tenner it should be possible to build an impressive torch. The bonus is, since the LED module is removable, if the cheaply build torch body gets damaged, it can easily be transplanted into another one.

Ubertorch LED Flashlight - before and after
Übertorch LED Flashlight: before and after

Once again, there were LEDs left after this project, so I used them to replace the failed fluorescent bulb in Christopher's bedside light - another inexpensive hangable lamp. Although the light is a lot bluer than the yellow cast by the traditional bulb, I think this was a success, as well. The only downside is that the main switch is on the light body, which is on the 'low voltage' end of the mains transformer. Therefore, when it was switched off, the power supply remained on - something definitely worth considering when a conversion of this sort is carried out. Here's a "before" and "after" image of the bedside light.

Fluorescent bedside lampReplacement LED bedside lamp
Bedside light conversion: before and after

Most of our domestic lights are the low-power compact fluorescent variety, including the main lounge 'candle bulbs' which were something of a white elephant, since they claimed to be dimmable using a conventional dimmer, but turned out to be flickery and noisy (and I would definitely like to replace them, but we've only had them for just under two years so that wouldn't be economical). However, almost all that remain are those low-voltage halogen bulbs, which are bright, but inefficient.

It's now possible to buy MR16 lamps (replacing those that we have here) containing three powerful Cree LED modules, but they are still very expensive (Electricity-Monitor.com has them at £25 each!) - I calculated that it would take nine years to save as much money as it would to replace a £1 50W halogen downlight that's on for two hours a day with a £25 4W LED, so it's not economically viable yet. I will certainly keep my eye on the prices, though, since they're bound to come down as LED technology is (hopefully!) more widely adopted.

Yup.. I definitely like LEDs!

Posted by james at September 28, 2009 8:03 PM

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