LED Lighting for the house & yardWritten in 2000
Top photo: 27-LED light bulb. Great for general lighting and reading lamps. We also have 3-LED bulbs that are smaller for fixtures that can take 3 or 4 lights.
LED light bulbs
We are great champions of LED lighting because LED light bulbs are energy efficient (most use from 1 to 4 watts, which is perfect for our small off-the-grid solar and wind system) and they don't have heavy metals like mercury in them like compact fluorescent lamps. The downside is LED bulbs are usually not as bright as other types of lighting, so it requires getting used to. A Japanese visitor to our house commented that he liked it, it created a moody atmosphere which reminded him of the post-war years where electricity was rationed in Japan and people had very dim lighting in their houses. That was the first-generation LED bulbs that we had. Now there are brighter ones which are correspondingly more expensive.
You measure the brightness of a bulb usually by how many LED's it contains. The more, the brighter and more expensive, with some really bright ones running into the hundreds of dollars. Ours cost around $18 per bulb, which is OK considering that they don't break, don't burn out, and should technically last forever. The first-generation LED bulbs that we had, though, had a tendency to blink and all in all turned into disco lights. But the ones we have now are perfectly fine.
Our whole totally-off-the-grid house is lit by LED, including Christmas lights. We have lamp posts, garden path lights, and flashlights made with LED's; the first two have their own mini solar panels and rechargeable batteries to power them at night. A light sensor turns the lights on automatically when the sky is dim.
LED's in its native state is a dead white / blue light. That's what we got for our first-generation LED light bulbs and we didn't like the morgue-like atmosphere it imparted to our living space. But since then, colored LED's have come on the market that are much warmer. Our preferred one is warm white, with yellow/cream backing (see top photo). It gives a warm light for general use and reading. Colored LED's aren't as bright as bright white LED's, but they are more practical for us because we prefer warmer colors in our living environment.
LED bulbs are most effective used with a light fixture with reflectors, preferably white, of some kind. This really helps to enhance the the brightness of the LED's.
We love LED's and whole-heartedly recommend them. We live a pretty rustic life and the LED's are such a great part of it.
We have two solar tubes in the house, which go a long way in making the house bright and inviting. The solar tubes bring in light from the sun and moon, without the heat or the cold. It has numerous reflectors to multiply the light. On a sunny day, one solar tube is as bright as a 2 or 3 thousand watt high intensity lamp. It's a dome that juts out above the roof line and goes down through the roof to become a faux light fixture on the ceiling inside the house.
The same solar tube goes down through the roof into the ceiling, yielding nice, bright sunlight inside the home without bringing in the heat or cold. Solar lighting is simple: no moving parts, nothing to break down or fix. And the light you get is natural sunlight.