In the a-ha department: Little-known facts about lighting

I went outside about an hour ago to put out the trash, and was astonished to see how bright the house looked from the road. We have some family arriving shortly for the holiday week, so we are lighting a beacon for them to find the way.

I went outside about an hour ago to put out the trash, and was astonished to see how bright the house looked from the road. We have some family arriving shortly for the holiday week, so we are lighting a beacon for them to find the way.

This reminded me of the conversation I had about various lighting technology earlier in the week with Frank Shinneman, CEO of Lamina, which makes LED light engines.

Earlier this year, the company announced a couple of breakthroughs in brightness, including a product that is designed to produce more light than a 60-watt bulb—while using one-quarter to one-half the power. One thing holding back LED usage in homes, aside from the price, was the fact that they couldn’t produce enough light to replace standard incandescent bulbs. Shinneman believes the tide is turning. “The first time you don’t have to change your regular light, you’ve paid for the LED,” he says.

Admittedly, Lamina’s first real focus right now is retail stores that might invest in its technology for display uses as well as engineers and architectures that might incorporate them into building designs. Retrofitting for LEDs isn't something that's very easy to do for the average homeowner.

Still, I know from firsthand experience that a lot of you are reading about LED technology, so I offer up this information. After all, my previous posts about Christmas tree lights as well a Michigan city experimenting with LED streetlights generated a gratifying amount of traffic.

So what, you ask? And what about compact fluorescent lamps, which are more established as an alternative? Well, although they save energy, Shinneman claims that their mercury content not only poses a health hazard, they also make them challenging to recycle. Certainly, that’s not something I knew, although I imagine there is a flip-side counter when it comes to LED technology.

To get people thinking, regardless of their position, Lamina has started a Web site called “Truth in Lighting” to cover ongoing in developments in energy-efficient lighting of all types.

Among other things, the site provides these 5 Fun Facts. (You’ll have to visit the Web site for more details on each of these stats. I can’t crib them all. Plus I want to give credit where credit is due.) Here goes:

1. Approximately 22 percent of the electricity used in the United States goes to lighting lights. 2. If each U.S. household replaced five of their most frequently used light fixtures with more efficient lights, we could collectively save up to $8 billion annually in energy AND cut the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of 10 million cars. 3. The simple act of convincing people around the world to adopt more efficient lighting would have larger impact on energy consumption than the positive impact offered by current wind and solar projects. 4. Switching 25 percent of the light fixtures in the United States to an LED format would thwart the release of roughly 5,700 pounds of airborne mercury annually. 5. Finally, the site reports that about 600 million pounds of fluorescent lamps make their way into landfills each year, translating into about 30,000 of mercury waste.

OK, seriously, sounds like time for me to go shut off the lights.

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