Posts tagged ‘LED’

Jealousy

The Internet is full of examples of the humble brag.  You know the type of thing -- "I am such an idiot, I cannot find the fusebox on my Bentley" or "I must be a real loser, Kate Upton ditched me after only sleeping with me twice."  So I am not going to be coy, and am going to straight out brag about this new bad boy I acquired -- A Tetris light.  Each piece has a light inside, but only turn on when stacked with the others (the blue one is the one that plugs in and acts as the based, which is why it is on in the first picture).

photo (12)

standing

Obviously they can be stacked in about any manner, and my family spent most of yesterday rearranging it over and over.  The metal rails on the edges act as the conductors, which is why they light when stacked.  No way to change the bulbs that I can see, but they are all LED so hopefully they will last.

I got it here but they sell them a bit cheaper on Amazon now.

 

CFL Bulbs Suck. However, I Like LED's

A number of years ago, there was a push by many Leftish technocrats for the government to mandate a standardized cell phone power cord.  Beyond demonstrating that there is no personal irritation too trivial for some to demand government action, this would have been an awful idea.  Why?  Because when these demands for action came, cell phone power cords were just that, power.  If a standard cord had been mandated, then current designs that use a USB connection for both data and power would have been illegal, at least without the vendor also putting in a connection for the government standard connector as well.  There is always danger to the government setting arbitrary standards, but these dangers are an order of magnitude higher when the technology is still in flux.

So enter light bulbs.  The government has decided to ban incandescent light bulbs and while not mandating them, it has actively encouraged people to purchase expensive CFL bulbs.  The only problem is that CFL bulbs suck.  The light from them has bad color qualities, many take a long time to warm up, they are hard to dim, and they contain toxic substances.  They also have nothing like the multi-year life we are promised.  I have tried CFL bulbs of many, many brands and none have consistently achieved their promised life.

But as much as I hate CFL's, I am coming to love LED-based lights.  LED lights use even less energy than CFL's and last a really long time.  The technology allows for color tweaking better than CFL's, and already the warm white LED's I am buying (color temperatures around 2900K) are better to my eye than CFL's, and there is no fast-flicker problem that gives some people headaches.  Dimable versions are coming out, and prices are dropping but they are still expensive.   About half my house is LED now, and I am told that landscape lighting is quickly going all LED.

The main cost to LED's is that they all have to have a transformer.  LED's run at low voltages, like 5v, so house current has to be stepped down at every bulb.  LED's in theory should run cool and be cheap, but they are expensive and run hot because of the transformers.

Which leads me to wonder whether we may start wiring houses for 12v in parallel to 110v.  When I grew up, nearly everything I plugged into the wall -- lights, motors, appliances -- ran on 110V.  Now, most everything (other than appliances) that I plug in the wall actually needs 5-12v  (computers, cell phones, all my audio equipment except big amps).  I don't know enough about power lines to know if this is feasible.  I am pretty sure the resistance losses for 12V DC would be too high, so it would have to be 12V AC, but a diode bridge and some capacitors is a hell of a lot smaller and cheaper than a full blown transformer.  I know my landscape lighting has long runs of 12V, that seems to work OK.  It is also a hell of a lot safer to work with.

Answer: 36 to 38

Question:  How many years does it take for a typical government / green investment to pay off?

Example 1:

Mesa got $1 million in federal stimulus money to replace 2500 traffic lights with LED's. That's $400 a light which probably includes the cost of installation. Once they are operational, Mesa expects to save $0.028 million per year in electricity costs. At that rate, it will only take 35.7 years of savings to get the $1 million back.

Example 2:

Nine turbines from seven manufacturers, including Reno's Windspire, are being installed to test their performances in different environments. The first turbine was installed at the sewer plant in Stead and the second at Mira Loma Park.The nine turbines and several solar projects together are a $3.5 million investment, before $1.7 million in energy rebates are applied to reduce that cost. The projects are expected to save 788,932 kilowatt hours a year for an annual savings of $91,000 a year [a 38-year payback].

The latter example actually over-estimates the payback, because it ignores the substantial maintenance costs of wind turbines (what percentage have you actually seen running?) as well as the systematic over-estimation of their power output.  Incredibly, the SF Chronicle's green writer/blogger actually brags up the Reno boondoggle.

Postscript: In the comments of the wind turbine article I added, in response to the projects green credentials:

But, you say, its not about return on investment but CO2 reduction. OK, lets look at that, forgetting for a minute whether Reno taxpayers should be paying extra for electricity to reduce global temperatures by 0.00000000001C.

Let's consider an alternate investment in gas turbine electric generation, and assume it and the wind turbines are displacing coal-fired power. Per Kw-H, gas turbines are going to, even including the fuel, produce power for a fourth or less the cost of wind with these relatively small turbines. And gas is plentiful and most of it comes from the gold old USofA (or at least North America).

But it's not zero emission you say. OK, but if it is 1/4 the cost that means that it can displace four times as much coal power for the same investment. And it is as low of CO2 emissions per btu as you can get in a fossil fuel. In fact, 4X of gas generation would reduce CO2 emissions more than 1X of wind. So even in terms of CO2 emissions, wind here is a bad investment.

Coolest Stuff I Have Worked With In A While

Electro-Luminescent wire.

el-wire-light

I am a little late to the game on this stuff -- apparently hobbyists have been using it for crafting.  For example, who wouldn't want a Tron outfit?

To date, I have mostly sheltered readers from the geekiest of my hobbies: model railroading  (Yeah, I know what you are saying -- how can anyone who spends hours a day at a computer writing on arcane bits of business and economics issues possibly be anything but cool?)  This may soon change, as I am starting a new N-scale layout and I will probably inflict some in-progress photos on you folks.  To get an idea just how crazy I am, I build my own track from wood strips and bundles of rail and tiny, tiny spikes -- so we are not just talking about putting the old Lionel out on a green table cloth.

Anyway, for some time I have wanted to build a layout that is primarily meant to be run in the dark as a night scene.  So I am experimenting with a lot of technologies, from florescent paint to tiny LED's to small bulbs to get ideas for various scenes.  The EL wire turns out to be a dead ringer for scaled down neon, so I expect to use a lot in the city part of the layout.

I will leave you with a photo of the layout that probably inspired more people (including myself) into the hobby than any other  -  by the master, John Allen:

s1_020_b4squaw_sep64

If you get intrigued with his work, more photos are here.

I wish I had more pictures of my old work, but they seem to have been lost in a move.  All I have left is a few poor-quality, poorly-scanned under-construction photos of my first layout from years and years ago.

rr3

rr1

Postscript: Can a hobby be geeky if Rod Stewart shares it?  He has built an absolutely stunning layout - one photo below and more herestewart-layout

And yes, the work really is his own, he didn't just pay someone to build it for him.

I Like the Way My District Does Voting

I have voted in a lot of different states, but the way we do it here in my current district seems to work well.  I got my ID checked against the voting record -- the lady may an explicit check to make sure the addresses matched.  Then I got a paper ballot and a black magic marker.  Next to each name is an arrow pointing to the name with a gap in it.  One fills in and completes the arrow pointing to the candidate one is voting for.  Then, when done, the voter takes the ballot to a machine that looks like a big shredder.  She/he feeds the ballot into the slot, and the ballot is automatically read and counted right there.  There is a LED readout on the front with a total ballot count that increments by one if the ballot is read correctly, providing a psychologically satisfying feeling that one's vote has been counted.  At the end of the day no further counting is required, and I presume they pull the vote counts out electronically or with some kind of summary report.  The ballots stay in a locked vault in the scanner and provide a paper trail if the count has to be checked later. 

By the way, no line at all.  Glad I didn't wait 2+ hours last weekend to vote early in order to avoid the lines.  One has to wonder at the decision-making ability of folks who waited hours to vote early to avoid lines that couldn't possibly be any longer on election day.  Good to see such folks out voting ;=)