5 L.E.D. Projects Sure To Enlighten

As a Canadian I’m reluctant to admit we use more energy per capita than any other nation in the world and although we have plenty of cheap, renewable electricity, it’s wasteful, both in cost to the environment and the family’s budget. It’s true we’ve been making the switch to compact fluorescent (CFLs) from incandescent bulbs, but they still cost more than standard bulbs and contain mercury which is an environmental concern if not disposed off properly.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, however, uses a fraction of energy compared to conventional incandescent or even CFLs. They last up to 50,000 hours, compared to 6,000 for a CFL or 1,000 for standard incandescent bulbs. LEDs convert more electricity into light, with very little waste heat produced, making them the most efficient lighting technology available on the market. Here are five eco friendly ideas with step-by-step instructions that shine a light on LED technology.

1. Make a Joule Thief that runs off dead batteries.
In case you haven't heard of this, a Joule Thief is a tiny little circuit that lets you drive a white or blue LED from otherwise dead batteries, squeezing every last drop of energy out of them! If you decide to embark on this project, check out another Instructable on how to recycle parts from dead CFL bulbs. Once your done, turn them in to Cyborg zombies.

2. Grow year round with LED
Create a simple light system to keep houseplants thriving during the short winter days. You can even power it with the JouleThief. If you're looking for something with a little more power, check out }{itch's Instructable using high power Phillips Lumileds for his grow light. Incidentally, the same technology is used in chromotherapy to treat seasonal affective disorder and other ailments.

3. Let your artistic side shine through
Photographer Stuart Nafey and artist Lori Stotko create Light Doodles with custom-made LED pens. Check out their work on Flickr, and a step-by-step Instructable on how to make your own LED pens, then let your imagination run wild.

4. Burn the midnight oil ecologically.
Quick and easy steps to making a USB powered LED Light perfect for late nights in front of the computer. For something more powerful check out this halogen fixture retrofit that uses less than 10W, lasts 50,000 hours, and produces just much light as its counterpart.

5. Make a statement with LED Throwies
Developed by the Graffiti Research Lab, LED Throwies are an inexpensive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface in your environment. A Throwie consists of a small lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together. Throw it up high and in quantity to impress your friends and city officials. Don't forget to pick up.

Summer is a good time of the year to harvest Christmas LED ornaments lurking in the discount bins of department stores for these projects. Likewise, winter is usually when I find the best bargains on solar path lighting gadgets which will be the topic of another post. It's incredible what you can do with a solar garden light and a disposable camera - automatic racoon zapper! Stay tuned...

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