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Home » Energy saving

LED lighting can be off the grid and FREE

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 August 2009 Loading Add to favourites  7 Comments
Solar power for homes

Solar power for homes. Free lighting anyone?

After my article yesterday on LEDs a new generation of lighting I had a nice email from Jeff at EternaLeds.com Jeff Detailed how his company had progressed through similar issues of low powered LEDs with poor quality of light. They are now providing an excellent range of LED lights for the US market (110-120 volt) that provide genuine retrofit replacements for incandescent and CFL units. Eternaleds provide genuine replacements for the 25w, 35w, 50w and 100w light bulb. It would be great to see a supplier like this in the UK. Any offers? Amongst other items they also sell the new water cooled LED and decorative lighting strips.

Your mains electricity is too powerful

How would you like all your lighting for free, generated from readily available renewable sources like sunlight and wind?
Jeff’s email got me thinking: All LEDs currently only require between 3 and 4 volts DC and yet we are all locked into a mains voltage electricity supply. In the United states and other regions this is 110 -120 volts AC while here in the United Kingdom its 220-240 Volts AC. With this high mains voltage it’s like using a fire hydrant to fill a milk bottle! True we can use electrical circuits to ‘transform’ and reduce the voltage but this is often a waste of power and sometimes there is more energy lost in the reduction circuit than used by the LED itself to produce light. Now that’s crazy and defeats the whole point of economy and ecology. I have used power circuits that claim to be 95-97% efficient, but I still measure plenty of heat off these boards. All heat is wasted power. In addition, to this energy loss, we are still divided by national voltage supplies and tied to the mains grid for lighting. Think about it … would you use a 6 inch high pressure water hose to fill your drinks bottles?

A low voltage lighting supply

All my own research and development on LED lighting is done on a low voltage 12 volt bus, generated from solar PVs, as I can’t see the point of using a mains feed transformed for LEDs. This proof of concept demonstrates clearly that every home could run all their lighting for free from solar or other microgenerations. If politicians opened the way for microgeneration- LED market, the technology could easily fill this gap, prices of materials and manufacture would tumble and a huge debt would be paid back to the environment.

12 – 24 volt lighting systems have a whole stack of advantages

  • Low, safe DC voltage
  • No electrical shock hazards
  • Less fire risk from circuits and wiring
  • Easily stored in accumulators and batteries
  • Ideal for use with microgeneration like wind and solar
  • Universal voltage bus can be used globally
  • Portable power supplies
  • Less energy lost in voltage conversion for lighting
  • Provides self contained, independent, off grid supply

Lots of other benefits… but I will detail these in a later article.

Light for life!

Sure, on a large scale, there are some technical challenges but that can be engineered successfully. Everyone is a winner. How would you like all your lighting for free, generated from readily available renewable sources like sunlight and wind? How would you like to say “good-by to power cuts/ power outages ?” How would you like to enjoy “light for life” and forget about changing a light bulb for the next 11 to 20 years!

Mmm, maybe not everyone wins: I’m certain the CFL producers would have to change their products and there would be a substantial loss in electricity sales. There is a usually a certain political fear and reluctance associated with consumer independence.

In my series on LED lighting, I’m going to focus on off the grid lighting derived exclusively from microgeneration like wind and solar power. You will see videos and pictures of real LED lighting in our home that is not only superior in light quality to my old CFLs, but is run from totally free electricity derived from solar microgeneration.

Thanks for your email Jeff from Eternaleds,  for those who like a quality consumer product that’s plug and play, this is a good site to visit.

If you want to go it alone follow my series of articles here where I’m going to combine some of the best resources of DIY LED technology. Be prepared to get your soldering iron out and learn some interesting things about low voltage electricity and LED lighting.

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7 Comments »

  • Jeff Chan says:

    Thanks for the Plug “Mr. Green”! 12V is definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, we do need the transformer in our bulbs to make them truly “plug and play”. Just the idea of “light for life” is amazing. Imagine the huge amount that alot of commercial buildings, hotels etc. are sucking down everyday, not to mention the amount of bad bulbs that they need to throw out into landfills….looking forward to seeing the project completed!

  • Mr Green says:

    Hey Jeff, thanks for the comment. At the moment most people have a standard grid mains electrical supply, so we do have to cater for their general needs. In time, I would like to see builing design include a low voltage bus, (ideally micro-generation driven) not just for LED lighting, but a whole range of low voltage appliances.

    I have an article coming up on this, but when you think about the countless mains plug-in transformers for mobile phones, PDAs, laptop computers, sat-navs … the list goes on. All these plugin “power blocks” produce heat and waste energy just to reduce voltage for low powered appliances.

    I wonder how much power loss and heat is produced globally from these things …?

    Most of the work is done on my LED projects and I’m in process of documenting the details before I publish here.

  • Sam says:

    Thanks for this Mr Green, this is fascinating. Lighting for life and for free sound good to me :-)

    Not sure about the soldering iron(!) but I shall follow your articles and maybe I’ll have the courage to give it a try myself.

  • Mr Green says:

    Hello Sam, thanks for your comment. Part of my series of articles will be do it yourself guides, as this is by far the best and cheapest way to maximise LED lights. However, I’m also going to highlight some recommended retailers both here and abroad that sell LED lighting. These will focus on genuine incandescent replacements and also those that give the best colour quality.

    Stay tuned, more interesting LED details coming up in the next few days.

  • [...] seems too ironic to be true. But as our friends at the Little Green Blog point out, the green technology’s there – we need only take advantage of it. LEDs can long [...]

  • Cameron Benz says:

    So, would the decrease in efficiency by converting from 120v to 12v outweigh the decrease in efficiency from charging batteries on solar and “storing” the electricity? Without actually measuring, I have no idea exactly how the 2 would compare.

    I tend to favor 24v systems if for no other reason than being able to use smaller gauge wire.

  • Mr Green says:

    @Cameron Benz: Hello Cameron, yes, any form of voltage reduction produces losses somewhere along the line. Show me one step down device that does not get warm. That heat is wasted power. I suspect the world receives thousands of kw every day on wasted heat from all the power blocks and step down devices that are left on and running needlessly.

    I agree, 24v system have advantages: the higher the voltage the less power loss through a conductor. I use very heavy guage copper wire and that gets expensive, but reduces losses over distance of long runs. The challenge is that LEDs generally have a low forward voltage about 3.2v per module. One way to deal with this is to wire them in series/parralel to achieve a cluster that happily runs off 12 or 24v. There are drawbacks, if you lose a module, the current gets increased for the others and it’s burnout time.

    Thanks for your comment