Despite the attention focused on alternative energies to increase available power, measures intended to conserve energy represent an equally important story. Along with "making more," the energy challenge is also to "use less."
Hybrid vehicles have received justifiable attention in the car industry's conservation effort and certainly automobiles are a big part of the energy puzzle. Home and commercial lighting also represent significant consumption, accounting for 15 percent to 35 percent of all energy use (depending on whose numbers you believe). The workhorse incandescent lamp, evolved over so many years, remains in widespread use to be sure, but abysmal efficiencies--typically well below 5 percent--have spurred change.
Enter two technologies already helping and likely to grow as pressure mounts to reduce electricity consumption--the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and LED lamp. Both are moving toward, if not being legislated into, more widespread application in the search for conservation.
The former of these two has been on a steady march toward affordability, and Planet Analog editor Bill Schweber recently sent me a pile of CFLs, now available as sub-$5 replacements for incandescent bulbs, as a not-so-subtle recommendation for a teardown.
But CFL is not alone, and Bill's hardware handout got me thinking more about the other contender in the game. LED lighting has made measured but steady progress as a viable replacement for the inefficient incandescent, and a high-brightness LED "downlight" recently brought to market caught my eye. We'll look at examples of both here.