EarthTalk: What’s the story with LED
light bulbs that are reputed to be even more energy-efficient
than compact fluorescents?
-- Toby Eskridge, Little Rock, AR
bulbs have not been known for their brightness, but
manufacturers are working hard to change that. EarthLED
is lighting the way with its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs,
pictured here, which deliver the equivalent of 100-watt
and 50-60 watt incandescents, respectively.
the ultimate “alternative to the alternative,”
the LED (light-emitting diode) light bulb may well dethrone
the compact fluorescent (CFL) as king of the green lighting
choices. But it has a way to go yet in terms of both affordability
have been used widely for decades in other applications—forming
the numbers on digital clocks, lighting up watches and cell
phones and, when used in clusters, illuminating traffic
lights and forming the images on large outdoor television
screens. Until recently LED lighting has been impractical
to use for most other everyday applications because it is
built around costly semiconductor technology. But the price
of semiconductor materials has dropped in recent years,
opening the door for some exciting changes in energy-efficient,
green friendly lighting options.
to HowStuffWorks.com, LED bulbs are lit solely by the movement
of electrons. Unlike incandescents, they have no filament
that will burn out; and unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury
or other toxic substances. Proponents say LEDs can last
some 60 times longer than incandescents and 10 times longer
than CFLs. And unlike incandescents, which generate a lot
of waste heat, LEDs don’t get especially hot and use
a much higher percentage of electricity for directly generating
as with early CFLs, LED bulbs are not known for their brightness.
According to a January 2008 article in Science Daily, “Because
of their structure and material, much of the light in standard
LEDs becomes trapped, reducing the brightness of the light
and making them unsuitable as the main lighting source in
the home.” LED makers get around this problem in some
applications by clustering many small LED bulbs together
in a single casing to concentrate the light emitted. But
such LED “bulbs” still don’t generate
light much brighter than a 35-watt incandescent, much too
little light for reading or other focused tasks.
LEDs are going to replace incandescents and CFLs, manufacturers
will have to make them brighter. EarthLED is lighting the
way with its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs, which use multiple
LEDs in a single casing to generate light. The EvoLux delivers
light equal to that of a 100-watt incandescent, the company
says. But the $80/bulb price tag may be tough to swallow.
The ZetaLux, which retails for $49.99, delivers light equivalent
to a 50- or 60-watt incandescent, will last 50,000 hours
and costs only $2/yearly to run.
bulb makers are working on similar designs for high-powered
LED bulbs, hoping that an increase in availability will
help spur demand, which will in turn lower prices across
the board. Until then, consumers can find LED bulbs suitable
for secondary and mood lighting purposes in many hardware
and big box stores. C. Crane’s 1.3-watt LED bulb,
for example, generates as much light as a 15-watt incandescent
bulb. Check your local hardware store for other options,
as well as online vendors such as Best Home LED Lighting,
Bulbster, SuperBrightLEDs.com and We Love LEDs.
Stuff Works; EarthLED;
Home LED Lighting; Bulbster;
EarthTalk: Used motor oil is a big contributor
to the pollution in our waterways and drinking water. How
can I make sure I am not contributing to this problem?
-- John Eckerle, Jupiter, FL
Motor oil leaked from individual vehicles -–
or outright dumped by homeowners and commercial garages
-– constitutes a significant chunk of storm
water runoff, the fallen precipitation that runs off
of roads and parking lots and inevitably finds its
way into local water bodies.
© Kendrack, courtesy Flickr
Motor oil leaked
from individual vehicles—or outright dumped by homeowners
and commercial garages—constitutes a significant chunk
of storm water runoff, the fallen precipitation that runs
off of roads and parking lots and inevitably finds its way
into local water bodies.
include not only leaked motor oil—which may contain
toxic substances like lead, benzene, zinc or magnesium—but
also fertilizers, insecticides, plastic debris, cigarette
butts, paints, solvents, sediments and other hazardous waste.
Topsoil and natural vegetation would ordinarily filter many
of these pollutants out, but the impermeable pavement that
covers much of the surface where these pollutants originate
carries it right into storm drains and into streams, rivers,
lakes and the ocean where it can poison marine life—which
we might eat—as well as entire riparian or coastal
also finds its way into underground aquifers that supply
our drinking water, so reducing it is a human health measure
and could also save municipalities millions of dollars a
year in drinking water treatment facilities and operational
agencies try to craft and implement development and zoning
standards to help reduce storm water runoff problems caused
by commercial and industrial entities, there is still much
that individuals can do to reduce their impact as well.
Indeed, upwards of 40 percent of oil pollution in the U.S.
comes from the improper disposal of used motor oil by individuals.
The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping on top of automotive
maintenance to prevent and repair leaks, and disposing of
used motor oil and other automotive fluids and batteries
at designated drop-offs or recycling locations (consult
Earth911.org to find one near you). Also, it is preferable
to wash your car at a commercial car wash instead of in
your driveway. By law, car washes must treat their wastewater
before disposing of it.
and discarding your motor oil and other automotive fluids
responsibly, cutting back on or eliminating fertilizers
and pesticides from your lawn or garden will also reduce
your negative impact. Also, don’t over-water your
lawn, as that can create extra run-off as well. And if you
are embarking on a residential landscaping project, try
to incorporate permeable pavement (which allows run-off
through it into the soils below) as well as rain barrels
to collect water, and rain gardens, grassy swales and driveway-side
vegetative strips—all planted with region-appropriate
native plants of course—to help filter contaminants
out before they hit the storm sewers.
small everyday steps may seem like a hassle, but the benefits
for the environment and human health are immeasurable.
Environmental Protection Agency; Earth911.
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