Are LED Lights Finally Ready?

Recently I stopped into a Home Depot in Reno Nevada. The late May snows caught me off guard while I was in Truckee working on a book, so I was looking for some foam sealant. As I strolled past the lighting aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the four packs of compact fluorescent lights for $1.00 a pack.

Nevada power was offering a rebate to cover the balance of the price in order to reduce the demand for electricity in Nevada. As I went further down the aisle I noticed that the price of LED lights had dropped slightly as well. I wondered why the LED lights didn’t have a rebate also.

Since LED lights first hit the scene a couple of years ago I have been fascinated by the idea of lighting an entire house with less energy than the 150 watt bulb my dad had in his desk lamp. When you look at 12V LED’s as a solution there is even more savings. Fry’s Electronics has solar panel kits and small wind generators that have up to 400 watts of output at 12 volts.

Using an inverter to increase the voltage to 120 loses a significant percentage of the energy produced. Using a transformer to get 12V DC out of an AC outlet also has some inefficiencies associated with the process. Since LED’s are by definition a DC light, it seems like there is an opportunity here.

Lightspeed lighting offers a low voltage lighting kit with easy to install 4” cans and standard MR16 lights. Using a Lightspeed kit and DC LED lights would eliminate all of the loss due to conversions if the switches are connected directly to the 12V circuit.

MR 16 LED Light
New LED Lights for track lighting

It is sort of geeky impressive to think that three or four car batteries will keep the lights on in a normal house and a little sun or wind can keep the batteries charged. California hasn’t increased it’s water needs in 15 years and the population has more than doubled. Can California do the same with electricity over the next 15 years?

Today, Home Depot, Lowes, Fry’s and several online companies offer replacement LED lighting for your house. Several companies like Genesis Lighting offer commercial options for businesses and large buildings. In addition to the savings of the lights, the reduced heat output reduces air conditioning demand, reducing electrical demand even further.

Until we get clean small thorium reactors, we will need to depend on technology to reduce our energy needs. Can LED lights be the first step to preventing rolling blackouts the next time we get a hot summer? Maybe we should just head to the beach and turn off the air conditioner all together.

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