Are LED Lights Worth It?

Incandescent bulbs vs. LED bulbs

According to the Energy Star website, light-emitting diodes are “semiconductor devices that produce visible light when an electrical current is passed through them.” They rely on solid-state electroluminesence to produce light, which means they convert electricity into light through the excitation of electrons.

Incandescent lights, meanwhile, use thermal radiation to produce light, which results in a huge amount of energy loss due to heat and in turn a much shorter lifespan. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that solid-state technology could reduce national light energy usage by up to 50 percent.

LED bulbs got their start in commercial applications such as retail signs, traffic lights and children’s toys. In part, this was because they couldn’t replicate the brightness or warm color of incandescent lights. They’re also directional by nature, meaning the light emitted is a focused beam instead of diffusing out in many directions. The good news is that improved bulb coatings have largely negated this issue. Today’s LEDs can diffuse light 360 degrees.

You’ll find two common types of LEDs in home lighting:

• High power LEDs (HPLEDs). HPLEDs produce a much stronger light than familiar miniature bulbs but generate much more heat, which means they need reliable heat sinks (devices that dissipate that heat), usually in the form of metal fins at the base.

• Organic LEDs (OLEDs). OLEDs, meanwhile, use an organic material as a semiconductor rather than a crystal structure. Organic materials produce a naturally diffuse light, and their molecules allow for more variation in performance and light quality than crystals.

LED light bulb

One LED can last up to 50,000 hours, the equivalent of 42 60-watt incandescent bulbs. (Photo by Hugh Vandivier)

Light bulb cost

While a worldwide push seeks to end the dependence on incandescent bulbs, there have been several stumbling blocks. The first is price. The lowest-priced 60-watt LED bulb on the market costs around $10, which is five times more than a comparable incandescent. High-end bulbs, meanwhile, cost upwards of $80 or more. This price is often balanced out by longevity because these bulbs can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years or more depending on use.

In addition, there has been confusion over how manufacturers label bulbs. Traditional packaging reported the brightness of a bulb using watts. LEDs, however, need far fewer watts (between six and 10) to produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent. This has led many consumers to mistakenly think that all HPLED and OLED products are “underpowered.”

New guidelines, however, are focused on reporting a bulb’s brightness in lumens, effectively standardizing the market and making all bulbs easily comparable.

It’s also worth noting that LEDs can’t actually produce white light. To achieve this color, a phosphor coating is added to the bulb. First-generation LEDs, therefore, often had the problem of too-white or too-blue light that didn’t work well in spaces like living rooms or kitchens. Fortunately, major manufacturers have virtually eliminated this problem.

Pros and cons of LED lights

LED bulbs come with many benefits, and some drawbacks:

• They use far less energy to produce light, so they aren’t hot to the touch.

• They don’t “burn out” like typical bulbs, but instead start to dim slowly.

• LEDs can go from dark to full bright within seconds.

• Because they rely on solid-state components, LEDs aren’t easily damaged or broken and aren’t subject to failure due to constant switching.

• They don’t contain mercury like fluorescent bulbs. However, some LEDs may contain metals such as lead, nickel or copper, meaning you should handle broken lights with caution.

• Over time, LEDs can begin to change color due to temperature variations and age.

• Some newer bulbs may not work with older dimmer switches, instead refusing to turn on altogether or remaining very dim.

If you’re looking to switch over to LEDs but can’t make them work in existing sockets, it may be worth hiring an electrician to update your wiring and fixtures to help “future proof” your home.

 

https://www.angieslist.com/articles/are-led-lights-worth-it.htm

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Generators

If you’ve ever moved paper clips around with a magnet or killed time arranging metal shavings into a beard on a “Wooly Willy” toy, then you’ve dabbled in the basic principles behind even the most complicated electric generators. The magnetic field responsible for lining up all those little bits of metal into a proper Mohawk haircut is due to the movement of electrons. Move a magnet toward a paper clip and you’ll force the electrons in the clip to move. Similarly, if you allow electrons to move through a metal wire, a magnetic field will form around the wire.

Thanks to Wooly Willy, we can see that there’s a definite link between the phenomena of electricity and magnetism. A generator is simply a device that moves a magnet near a wire to create a steady flow of electrons. The action that forces this movement varies greatly, ranging from hand cranks and steam engines to nuclear fission, but the principle remains the same.

One simple way to think about a generator is to imagine it acting like a pump pushing water through a pipe. Only instead of pushing water, a generator uses a magnet to push electrons along. This is a slight oversimplification, but it paints a helpful picture of the properties at work in a generator. A water pump moves a certain number of water molecules and applies a certain amount of pressure to them. In the same way, the magnet in a generator pushes a certain number of electrons along and applies a certain amount of “pressure” to the electrons.

In an electrical circuit, the number of electrons in motion is called the amperage or current, and it’s measured in amps. The “pressure” pushing the electrons along is called the voltage and is measured in volts. For instance, a generator spinning at 1,000 rotations per minute might produce 1 amp at 6 volts. The 1 amp is the number of electrons moving (1 amp physically means that 6.24 x 1018 electrons move through a wire every second), and the voltage is the amount of pressure behind those electrons.

Generators form the heart of a modern power station. In the next section, we’ll take a look at how one of these stations works.

Generator Maintenance Tips

Tip 1: Don’t get burned by wattage ratings

Generator Maintenance Tips

Watts are not all equal

Ignore the higher rating and select a generator based on its “rated,” “running” or “continuous” watts.

Every generator lists two capacity ratings. The first is “rated” or “continuous” watts. That’s the maximum power the generator will put out on an extended basis. And it’s the only rating you should rely on when buying a generator. The higher “maximum” or “starting” rating refers to how much extra power the generator can put out for a few seconds when an electric motor—like the one in your fridge or furnace—starts up. If you buy a generator based on the higher rating and think you can run it at that level, think again. It will work for a little while. But by the end of the day, your new generator will be a molten mass of yard art, and you’ll be out shopping for a replacement.

Tip 2: Stock up on oil and filters

Generator Maintenance Tips

Keep your generator humming

Pumping out watts is hard on engine oil, and oil-change intervals are short. Store up enough oil and filters to get you through a long power outage.

Most new generators need their first oil change after just 25 hours. Beyond that, you’ll have to dump the old stuff and refill every 50 or 60 hours. So you need to store up enough oil and factory filters to last a few days (at least!). Running around town searching for the right oil and filter is the last thing you want to be doing right after a big storm.

Tip 3: Chill out before you refill

Generator Maintenance Tips

A headlight helps for tank filling

After the engine cools, strap on an LED head lamp so you can actually see what you’re doing. Pour slowly and avoid filling the tank to the brim.

Generator fuel tanks are always on top of the engine so they can “gravity-feed” gas to the carburetor. But that setup can quickly turn into a disaster if you spill gas when refueling a hot generator. Think about it—spilled gas on a hot engine, and you’re standing there holding a gas can. Talk about an inferno! It’s no wonder generators (and owners) go up in flames every year from that mistake. You can survive without power for a measly 15 minutes, so let the engine cool before you pour. Spilling is especially likely if you refill at night without a flashlight.

Tip 4: Running out of gas can cost you

Some generators, especially low-cost models, can be damaged by running out of gas. They keep putting out power while coming to a stop, and the electrical load in your house drains the magnetic field from the generator coils. When you restart, the generator will run fine, but it won’t generate power. You’ll have to haul it into a repair shop, where you’ll pay about $40 to reenergize the generator coils. So keep the tank filled and always remove the electrical load before you shut down.

Tip 5: Old fuel is your worst enemy

Generator Maintenance Tips

Out with the old

Empty the tank with a hand pump before running the carburetor dry. Reload with fresh gas next time you run the generator.

Stale fuel is the No. 1 cause of generator starting problems. Manufacturers advise adding fuel stabilizer to the gas to minimize fuel breakdown, varnish and gum buildup. But it’s no guarantee against problems. Repair shops recommend emptying the fuel tank and the carburetor once you’re past storm season. If your carburetor has a drain, wait for the engine to cool before draining. If not, empty the tank and then run the generator until it’s out of gas. Always use fresh, stabilized gas in your generator.

Tip 6: Backfeeding kills

Generator Maintenance Tips

Don’t backfeed! It’s just plain dangerous

Forget about using a double-ended cord to run power backward into a receptacle. Instead, run separate extension cords or install a transfer switch.

The Internet is full of articles explaining how to “backfeed” power into your home’s wiring system with a “dual male-ended” extension cord. Some of our Field Editors have even admitted trying it (we’ll reprimand them). But backfeeding is illegal—and for good reason. It can (and does) kill family members, neighbors and power company linemen every year. In other words, it’s a terrible idea. If you really want to avoid running extension cords around your house, pony up for a transfer switch ($300). Then pay an electrician about $1,000 to install it. That’s the only safe alternative to multiple extension cords. Period.

Tip 7: Store gasoline safely

Generator Maintenance Tips

A better gas can means less spillage

The trigger valve on this gas can gives you total control over the fill. There’s a separate refill opening so you never have to remove the spout.

Most local residential fire codes limit how much gasoline you can store in your home or attached garage (usually 10 gallons or less). So you may be tempted to buy one large gas can to cut down on refill runs. Don’t. There’s no way you can pour 60 lbs. of gas without spilling. Plus, most generator tanks don’t hold that much, so you increase your chances of overfilling. Instead, buy two high-quality 5-gallon cans. While you’re at it, consider spending more for a high-quality steel gas can with a trigger control valve (Justrite No. 7250130; through our affiliation with amazon.com).

Tip 8: Lock it down

Generator Maintenance Tips

Stop crooks and prevent shocks

Protect yourself from accidental electrocution by connecting the generator to a grounding rod. Then secure the unit to the eyebolt with a hardened steel chain and heavy-duty padlock.

The only thing worse than the rumbling sound of an engine outside your bedroom window is the sound of silence after someone steals your expensive generator. Combine security and electrical safety by digging a hole and sinking a grounding rod and an eye bolt in concrete. Encase the whole thing in 4-in. ABS or PVC drainpipe, with a screw-on cleanout fitting. Spray-paint the lid green so it blends in with your lawn. If you don’t want to sink a permanent concrete pier, at least screw in ground anchors (four anchors; No. WI652775; from globalindustrial.com) to secure the chain.

Tip 9: Use a heavy-duty cord

Generator Maintenance Tips

Long cords let you get some sleep

Invest in some long extension cords to put some distance between you and the noisy generator. But don’t exceed 100 ft. between the generator and appliances.

Generators are loud, so most people park them as far away from the house as possible. (Be considerate of your neighbors, though.) That’s OK as long as you use heavy-duty 12-gauge cords and limit the run to 100 ft. Lighter cords or longer runs mean more voltage drop. And decreased voltage can cause premature appliance motor burnout.

More information available on our site:

  • Storms do more than cause power outages. Search for “disasters” and check out our prevention tips.
  • Small-engine frustration? Search for “start up tips” and get running.
  • Survive any weather in a reinforced room. Search for “storm shelter.”

Real World Advice From Our Field Editors

Exercise your generator
“I start my generator up every three months as recommended by the manufacturer and let it run for about 20 minutes to charge the battery for my electric starter.”
Larry Meacham

Build a generator garage
“For a portable generator, we poured a small concrete pad and basically built a doghouse over the unit that is hinged to the pad. It worked better than a blue tarp.”
Al Cecil

A door for cords
“Most people run extension cords into the house through an open window or door. But our fireplace has a small cleanout door on the outside, so I run extension cords through it.”
Charles Crocker

Unplug the freezer
“Freezers and fridges are power hogs. But you can disconnect them from your generator and free up power for other stuff. First, turn the temperature settings way down. When they reach the lower temperature, unplug them and don’t open their doors unless you have to. They’ll act like coolers and stay cold for a long time. Freezers usually will keep food frozen about 24 hours. During that time, the generator is free to power tools or your big-screen TV.”
Rick Granger

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Posthole digger
  • Sledgehammer

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 4-in. plastic pipe with cleanout fitting and screw lid
  • 5-gallon gas cans, 2
  • Chain and lock
  • Concrete, 2 sacks
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • Ground wire connector
  • Grounding rod
  • Heavy-duty 12 gauge cords
  • Large eyebolt
  • Oil
  • Oil filters

 

https://www.familyhandyman.com/smart-homeowner/generator-maintenance-tips/view-all/

Learn About LED Lighting

The Basics of LED Lighting

Bulb

What are LEDs and how do they work?

LED stands for light emitting diode. LED lighting products produce light approximately 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs. How do they work? An electrical current passes through a microchip, which illuminates the tiny light sources we call LEDs and the result is visible light. To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink.

Lifetime of LED Lighting Products

The useful life of LED lighting products is defined differently than that of other light sources, such as incandescent or compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). LEDs typically do not “burn out” or fail. Instead, they experience ‘lumen depreciation’, wherein the brightness of the LED dims slowly over time. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED “lifetime” is established on a prediction of when the light output decreases by 30 percent.

How are LEDs Used in Lighting

LEDs are incorporated into bulbs and fixtures for general lighting applications. Small in size, LEDs provide unique design opportunities. Some LED bulb solutions may physically resemble familiar light bulbs and better match the appearance of traditional light bulbs. Some LED light fixtures may have LEDs built in as a permanent light source. There are also hybrid approaches where a non-traditional “bulb” or replaceable light source format is used and specially designed for a unique fixture. LEDs offer a tremendous opportunity for innovation in lighting form factors and fit a wider breadth of applications than traditional lighting technologies.

LEDs and Heat

LEDs use heat sinks to absorb the heat produced by the LED and dissipate it into the surrounding environment. This keeps LEDs from overheating and burning out. Thermal management is generally the single most important factor in the successful performance of an LED over its lifetime. The higher the temperature at which the LEDs are operated, the more quickly the light will degrade, and the shorter the useful life will be.

LED products use a variety of unique heat sink designs and configurations to manage heat. Today, advancements in materials have allowed manufacturers to design LED bulbs that match the shapes and sizes of traditional incandescent bulbs. Regardless of the heat sink design, all LED products that have earned the ENERGY STAR have been tested to ensure that they properly manage the heat so that the light output is properly maintained through the end of its rated life.

How is LED lighting different than other light sources, such as incandescent and Compact Fluorescent (CFL)?

Light bulbsLED lighting differs from incandescent and fluorescent in several ways. When designed well, LED lighting is more efficient, versatile, and lasts longer.

LEDs are “directional” light sources, which means they emit light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent and CFL, which emit light and heat in all directions. That means LEDs are able to use light and energy more efficiently in a multitude of applications. However, it also means that sophisticated engineering is needed to produce an LED light bulb that shines light in every direction.

Common LED colors include amber, red, green, and blue. To produce white light, different color LEDs are combined or covered with a phosphor material that converts the color of the light to a familiar “white” light used in homes. Phosphor is a yellowish material that covers some LEDs. Colored LEDs are widely used as signal lights and indicator lights, like the power button on a computer.

In a CFL, an electric current flows between electrodes at each end of a tube containing gases. This reaction produces ultraviolet (UV) light and heat. The UV light is transformed into visible light when it strikes a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb. Learn more about CFLs.

Incandescent bulbs produce light using electricity to heat a metal filament until it becomes “white” hot or is said to incandesce. As a result, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat.

Comparison

Why should I choose ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting products?

There are more lighting options available today than ever before. Despite that, ENERGY STAR is still the simple choice to save on your utility bills.

LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR are subject to very specific requirements designed to replicate the experience you are used to with a standard bulb—so they can be used for a wide variety of applications. As the graphic on the right demonstrates, a general purpose LED bulb that does not qualify for the ENERGY STAR may not distribute light everywhere and could prove to be a disappointment if used in a table lamp.

ENERGY STAR means high quality and performance, particularly in the following areas:

  • Color Quality
    • 5 different requirements for color to ensure quality up front and over time
  • Light Output
    • Light output minimums to ensure you get enough light
    • Light distribution requirements to ensure the light goes where you need it
    • Guidelines for equivalency claims to take the guess-work out of replacement
  • Peace of mind
    • Verified compliance with more than 20 requirements to address performance and labeling
    • Long-term testing to back up lifetime claims
    • Testing to stress the products in operating environments similar to how you will use the product in your home
    • 3-year minimum warranty requirement

And as with all ENERGY STAR products, certified LED bulbs are subject to random testing every year to ensure they continue to meet the ENERGY STAR requirements.

For more information on how to select an ENERGY STAR certified bulb for each application in your home, view the ENERGY STAR Light Bulb Purchasing Guide (PDF, 1.49 MB) or use the interactive online Choose a Light tool.