Menu 1

The rise of the LED

Mass manufacturing has finally brought down the cost of various LED bulbs in to the range of consumer lighting applications. $25 bulbs are now worth it since since they save you something like 5 or 10 times that amount over the course of their 20-30 year lifespan.

Think about that for a second – there are plenty of houses with a 30 year expected lifespan. They’re built out of wood in the US and about ready for a remodel or demolition after a generation or so. In the UK they’re littered over 30 year flood plain building sites, which is about the same thing in terms of outcome.

Or, think about aircraft. A new 787 has an expected lifetime in the 30 year range.

This brings interesting economies of scale. You don’t need light sockets any more, since you’ll never need to change the bulb. You will explain to your grand children about the time when you used to change light bulbs back when TV sets were the size of a suitcase.

Philips LED bulb

Philips LED bulb

My favorite so far for standard screw-in household applications is this philips bulb currently at amazon for $23. Design-wise it is the Dyson of lightbulbs but it lights up with the right yellow hue of a black body mass at some high temperature. That is, it looks like a normal bulb when lit up.

There are cheaper bulbs but they tend to have a white/blueish tint and I actually believe Philips rating the bulbs for 20+ years whereas I’m unclear on the cheaper no-name bulbs. Those cheaper bulbs are great for outdoor applications (exterior lighting) since I don’t really care if the outside of the house is white or yellow at night since I’m not the one looking at it.

A few weeks ago I backed this kickstarter project building an interesting bulb.

Another interesting bulb

Another interesting bulb

Embedding the LEDs on the surface and leaving the interior, in theory, free for air to flow for more heat conduction is interesting. But, I don’t really understand the physics and heat dissipation issues.

The rational thing to do, given the amount of money saved per bulb appears to be to replace every bulb immediately with LEDs. even at $23 a bulb. But, I find myself replacing them as the old ones die out. I tell myself that I’m hedging the future cost of LED bulbs since they should decline in price over time.

LED dome light

LED dome light

One of the cars has (had) two incandescent dome lights. Dome lights are, apparently, what you call the lights above your head in the car. These too are now replaceable with LED solutions. The bulb you see above is something like an inch long and the metal connectors are the same, but the array of 12 LEDs replaces a glass cylinder with an element inside (like a normal bulb). These lights are much brighter, will last longer than the car will and, I’m guessing, use less electricity too. Grandpa, do you remember when you used to change lights in cars? What was that like?

This has interesting weight applications. If all the bulbs in a car are permanent and use less electricity that means it will be lighter since you don’t need the sockets. That will make the car marginally more efficient, need a smaller alternator (if driven by gasoline) and so on. That makes me wonder if Tesla already does all this.

These particular lights aren’t dimmable however. That’s another cost consideration. The Philips bulbs will apparently dim but cheaper ones tend to just crap out. There is also a noticable 1-2 second lag between turning on the light switch and the Philips bulb lighting up, probably charging a capacitor or something internally.

An LED bulb for your fridge

An LED bulb for your fridge

Household appliances are not immune. A bulb blew in the fridge and I replaced it with an LED bulb too.

Lastly, there are various kickstarter projects to make wifi-controlled LED bulbs which will turn any color you like, make you a sandwich and console you on a lonely evening, or whatever. I think that’s a great idea but right now I’m treating those as approximately unproven (lifespan) and as geek entertainment not cost-effective lighting. I’m not sure we will be using 802.11b in 30 years time but I’m pretty sure there will still be standard light sockets, and these things only amortize their cost over a 20/30-yearish span.

It’s great to be living in the future.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes