Let there be light

One of the things we’ve been able to change in our new house is the lights. The house, being only 9 years old has been fitted throughout with halogen down-lights. Very much the modern lighting and effective at lighting, particularly in a house with low ceilings where hanging chandeliers or even normal light shades are not practical or safe. However, halogen light bulbs have a bit of a bad reputation for being hot and expensive. They were also all pretty grotty so they needed changing and we decided to make the change to LED. LED or Light Emitting Diodes are not particularly new technology, having been used in electronics for decades but their ability to create white light is much more recent and hence their use in lighting is still pretty new.

Advantages

  • Efficiency: LED’s emit more light per watt than incandescent light bulbs. Their efficiency is not affected by shape and size, unlike fluorescent light bulbs or tubes.
  • Color: LED’s can emit light of an intended color without using any color filters as traditional lighting methods need. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
  • Size: LED’s can be very small (smaller than 2 mm2) and are easily attached to printed circuit boards.
  • On/Off time: LED’s light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in under a microsecond. LED’s used in communications devices can have even faster response times.
  • Cycling: LED’s are ideal for uses subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that fail faster when cycled often, or HID lamps that require a long time before restarting.
  • Dimming: LED’s can very easily be dimmed either by pulse-width modulation or lowering the forward current.
  • Cool light: In contrast to most light sources, LED’s radiate very little heat in the form of IR that can cause damage to sensitive objects or fabrics. Wasted energy is dispersed as heat through the base of the LED.
  • Slow failure: LED’s mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt failure of incandescent bulbs.
  • Lifetime: LED’s can have a relatively long useful life. One report estimates 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life, though time to complete failure may be longer. Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 to 15,000 hours, depending partly on the conditions of use, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000 to 2,000 hours. Several DOE demonstrations have shown that reduced maintenance costs from this extended lifetime, rather than energy savings, is the primary factor in determining the payback period for an LED product.
  • Shock resistance: LED’s, being solid-state components, are difficult to damage with external shock, unlike fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, which are fragile.
  • Focus: The solid package of the LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner. For larger LED packages total internal reflection (TIR) lenses are often used to the same effect. However, when large quantities of light is needed many light sources are usually deployed, which are difficult to focus or collimate towards the same target.

Disadvantages

  • High initial price: LED’s are currently more expensive, price per lumen, on an initial capital cost basis, than most conventional lighting technologies. As of 2010, the cost per thousand lumens (kilolumen) was about $18. The price is expected to reach $2/kilolumen by 2015. The additional expense partially stems from the relatively low lumen output and the drive circuitry and power supplies needed.
  • Temperature dependence: LED performance largely depends on the ambient temperature of the operating environment – or “thermal management” properties. Over-driving an LED in high ambient temperatures may result in overheating the LED package, eventually leading to device failure. An adequate heat sink is needed to maintain long life. This is especially important in automotive, medical, and military uses where devices must operate over a wide range of temperatures, which require low failure rates.
  • Voltage sensitivity: LED’s must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current below the rating. This can involve series resistors or current-regulated power supplies.
  • Light quality: Most cool-white LED’s have spectra that differ significantly from a black body radiator like the sun or an incandescent light. The spike at 460 nm and dip at 500 nm can cause the color of objects to be perceived differently under cool-white LED illumination than sunlight or incandescent sources, due to metamerism, red surfaces being rendered particularly badly by typical phosphor-based cool-white LED’s. However, the color rendering properties of common fluorescent lamps are often inferior to what is now available in state-of-art white LED’s.
  • Area light source: Single LED’s do not approximate a point source of light-giving a spherical light distribution, but rather a lambertian distribution. So LED’s are difficult to apply to uses needing a spherical light field, however different fields of light can be manipulated by the application of different optics or “lenses”. LED’s cannot provide divergence below a few degrees. In contrast, lasers can emit beams with divergences of 0.2 degrees or less.
  • Electrical polarity: Unlike incandescent light bulbs, which illuminate regardless of the electrical polarity, LED’s will only light with correct electrical polarity. To automatically match source polarity to LED devices, rectifiers can be used.
  • Blue hazard: There is a concern that blue LED’s and cool-white LED’s are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1–05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems.
  • Blue pollution: Because cool-white LED’s with high colour temperature emit proportionally more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LED’s can cause more light pollution than other light sources. The International Dark-Sky Association discourages using white light sources with correlated color temperature above 3,000 K.
  • Droop: The efficiency of LED’s tends to decrease as one increases current.

Taken from Wikipedia.

Now I don’t entirely understand each and every one of those points but the positives seem to out-weight the negatives to my reading.

I can definitely vouch for the higher cost though. It has cost us quite a bit to replace the down-lights to LED compatible ones, but now that we have, the cost of lighting in our house should be considerably lower, with a lower environmental impact too. Hopefully we can recoup our costs in just a few years by saving on our electricity bills.

I also found this page in my googling. Of all the facts listed, the carbon emissions comparison has shocked me most of all. Carbon Dioxide Emissions based upon 30 bulbs a year works out to be 4500 pounds/year for incandescent, 1051 pounds/year for compact fluorescent (CFL’s) and 451 pounds/year for LED’s. That’s just over 10% of the emissions of a traditional light bulb!  I was concerned however about the environmental cost of making and disposing of LED lights. It’s the part of the story we are so often not told. We learned to look further into the manufacturing process when we were looking into flooring for our house. We considered bamboo and were just about to go ahead as it’s touted as this great environmental material, but creating flooring from it uses formaldehyde which means it’s not quite as green as it’s played out to be and making bamboo fabric uses a lot of chemicals to create longer fibres with which to weave. The whole truth shows bamboo as carrying a larger footprint than is apparent at first glance. So, I’ve had a bit of a look into LED manufacture and it’s coming up as not too shabby from a cursory glance. I found this article which states that LED’s come up best of the bunch but “the one area where LED’s lost was generating hazardous waste that must be taken to a landfill because LED lights include a component called a heat sink, a ribbed aluminum segment that is attached to the bottom of the LED bulbs. Aluminum heat sinks absorb and dissipate heat that’s generated by the bulb, preventing it from overheating. The process to mine, refine and process the aluminum in heat sinks is energy-intensive and creates several byproducts such as sulfuric acid that must be taken to a hazardous waste landfill.” Hopefully that component can be improved upon in the near future.

Ours are Silver-Grey Dorkings and not yet this big.

As far as things going on around here, there’s not much to report. I’m getting stuck into packing so we are down to the bare essentials (and not even that in the kitchen) which is getting very frustrating. We survived the 40 degree temperatures of yesterday and our house has cooled down to under 30 finally although it will still be a warm night. And we most definitely have 2 Dorking roosters. One of the 2 black ones, the one with the white feather collar as well as one of the other ones were shaping up in fine form yesterday. Right up on their legs, rearing right up and ruffs sticking out, they tried to scratch each other and pecking too. It was a right old barney in there. And we are looking forward to another day off tomorrow as we are off to an extended family Christmas gathering in Bendigo. Looking forward to getting the last bit of the chook pen and last veggie bed in on Sunday though.

A day off from the slog and back into it with gusto.

I’d reached the point where I was very nearly sick of the sight of Ballan. All work and no play had pushed to boundaries of my sanity and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a holiday so, when the weekend of the Kyneton Show came rolling along again we were very keen to go.

Last years show was very nearly a wash-out with showers on and off all day long. It was a day for rain coats and gumboots and yet, still a lot of fun. This year was much finer with some cloud but a goodly lot of sunshine too. Makes for a much more pleasant day. Like last year, we met up with friends from Trentham and with 4 adults and 8 kids off we went. First stop was the local politicians stand to collect helium balloons for those that wanted them and then on to the Kyneton Baptist Church stand where Jasper and Allegra got some help to build a bird house. It was well thought out and a brilliant concept – grab 2 bits of wood off this pile, 1 from here, another 1 from that pile and 1 more from the other pile then come back and nail it together. I was most impressed by the patience of the man who helped Jasper to build his as Jas, armed with a hammer, would suddenly be no longer watching what he was hammering as he was fascinated by the show train that kept whizzing past. It was a sheer miracle that fingers weren’t hammered I tell you. 🙂

We’d forgotten to bring our pram up so we were faced with the idea of carrying 2 rather heavy wooden bird houses back to the car or around the show. Fortunately the next stall offered to hold them for us until we returned. 😀 We bypassed the kids painting tent in favour of the miniature coal-fired traction engine, which of course being crazy Thomas the Tank Engine fans, my children simply adored. THIS year however, Jas actually had a ride on it. We saw the show train (again he went on it this year), the petting zoo, reptile stand (how CAN people wear snakes around their necks), the raptor exhibit (how glorious is the wedge tailed eagle!), pony rides and all the usual side-show alley amusements.

Steam powered coal driven traction engine

Oh so happy to be here

 

The wedge-tailed Eagle can have a wing span of up to 2.27 metres (7 ft 5 in) and is one of the largest birds of prey in the world.

By this time we had hungry kids and hungry adults so we sought out some shade and tipped out the contents of our bags. A pretty divine lunch of sausages in bread with all sorts of yoghurt, fruit, veggies, dip and other such yummy fare followed. MUCH cheaper and healthier option than buying lunch there, and tastier too I reckon. Ironically, last year there was a huge line for the big corn-dog hot chips van. This year its attendants all looked incredibly bored. In all fairness it was a much colder day last year too.

On our way to our picnic patch we had arrived at the one and only even I wanted to see. The fowl sheds. 😀 Chooks galore! I tell you though, you can hear them a mile away, with roosters of every size, colour and shape imaginable all crowing their little hearts out! I was mightily impressed with several of the birds in there. Firstly was this GIANT and I mean absolutely HE-UGE Australorp Rooster who I would have to say is the most impressive rooster I have ever set eyes on. He stared regally down from his cage like a haughty king surveying his domain. He really was exquisite. I reckon he was the size of a good-sized turkey just to give some perspective. On the other end of the scale were the Old English Game roosters and there was this one little fellow who was about the size of Honey, our smallest Pekin Bantam hen who strutted around like he owned the joint. For anyone who has ever read the Belgariad, this fellow was DEFINITELY a Prince Kheldar of a rooster. And the crow on him! Far bigger than you would credit his tiny body for. He must have got stage fright as I walked past though because he muffed it at the end which made me giggle. There were also geese which honked at us as we wandered past, 1-5 day old chicks, including quail chicks which were much bigger than I would have thought, ducklings that I would guess would have been 6-8 weeks of age and some ducks too. I got to see my first real Muscovy duck and I am most definitely impressed with them. The 2 drakes were also very regal looking and unlike all the roosters and ganders all making their presence known, the stood there silently surveying the chaos around them. The duck also just stood and watched and not a sound did any of them make. It backed up one of the reasons I had for choosing Muscovy ducks – they are known sometimes as quackless ducks as they only quack in times of extreme stress. I’m sure our neighbours will appreciate that.

Anyway, once lunch was over the kids all had a lovely time in the kids tent painting plastic bottles upcycled into pin wheel fans.

Upcycled bottle pin wheels – sorry about the dodgy photo

We headed off after that with 3 very tired kids and 2 almost as tired parents, but back to Ballan where Martin continued to work on Trevor whilst I made further progress on the chicken run before heading home for an ultra early night.

Today was a huge progress day. As we’d collapsed into bed very early last nigh, we of course woke early so Martin made the most of it and took off on the bike some time just after 6 whilst I lay in bed awaiting the bombardment of 2 children that never came. Jasper and Allegra actually slept in, 7:15 and 7:30 respectively! If a day at the show is what it takes to get a sleep in past 6:30 I reckon we need to find a show to attend every day! BRILLIANT! 😀 We dragged slowly through the morning, mostly due to me suffering a junk food hangover (I’d eaten some chocolate and chips (crisps) on the way to Ballan) as well as a raxed neck from lugging 14 kgs of baby on my back for most of the day. By the time we finally got to Ballan it was nearly 11 so Martin hauled off with the trailer and a sleeping bubba to pick up some tires whilst I got to work with my new tool.

I’d been dreading the need to sew together the different rows of wire we’d used to create the fence. Weaving in and out with wire then pulling it taut was likely to become tedious and extremely labour intensive very quickly and I’d been procrastinating all week about going up to the house to do it. A chance meeting and conversation with a lady I’d met at a Kyneton Transition Hub wicking bed workshop a few months back which was overheard by a friend of hers, resulted in me getting a huge get out of jail free card! She described to me a wonderful tool that would help me crimp C-rings around wire which would work perfectly to close up the layers of wire. A quick google search and a husband in Bunnings at 7am this morning meant I cut several hours worth of work down to about 45 minutes! Only need to finish securing the wire around the water tank, fitting the door and then doing up their accommodation (new roof, nesting boxes and perches). Hopefully the kids play ball tomorrow and I can get it done.

Crimping pliers

Pliers holding the C-ring…

… The ring holding the top and bottom of the chicken wire together…

 

… Crimping the C-ring…

 

… And done!

Due to some predicted low temperatures, my final job before heading home was to frost-proof my frost sensitive plants which so far, is pretty much everything I’ve planted. 😦 The beans (all 27 of them so far), the tomatoes, capsicum, corn, watermelons, pumpkins and zucchini are all buried under straw and even some dried grass from mowing and the spuds have been buried under compost. The kids and I will go up again tomorrow and I’ll move the mulch to go around the plants, not on them and then help the potato plants to come through a little more. They may be a little too buried for optimum levels, but protection was the main aim here.

The temperature in Ballan was forecast to drop to 3 degrees tonight which puts it in to the zone possible for frost. I don’t really understand yet about the conditions needed for frost but I do know that 4 degrees or under is the frost range but I’m not taking any chances. I’ve used whatever straw is available to bury my tomatoes, capsicums, beans, zucchini, pumpkins and watermelons. This is the tomato and capsicums under their bed of straw. I hope it’s enough.

Peekaboo capsicum

 

The spuds, also sensitive to frost, received a different covering – compost! If you bury their leaves they will turn into roots and potato roots grow spuds. I’ll go up tomorrow and dig out the tops of the leaves to allow them some more sunlight but tonight they rest warm under composted horse poo. Toasty!

Here’s a couple of other photos from around the place too.

Exciting times. This is my kitchen buried underneath its plastic whilst the house is painted!

The first harvestable item! A currant! Could be a black currant only half-ripe but I think it’s a red currant. They’re all mixed in together so it’s hard to tell.

 

Onions popping up and doing their thing

The radishes I planted in between the carrots are popping up. Here’s hoping they do better than the failed milk carton pot ones.

Mulberry flowers.

The tyre edging/garden being filled with compost

A temporary measure to contain the kids when we’re driving the car around or for safety around Trevor.

 

Orik in the animal nursery

No photos of Allegra from the show – she wasn’t so much into doing things this year and I didn’t get a photo of her building her bird box. 😦

Well, bed time for this little black duck. See you on the green side.