Averting Disaster With Portable Lights

Lost in the Woods
Summer is the season of fun in the sun, for relaxation and adventure. But whether you’re camping, road tripping, enjoying calm nights at home, or off in the far corners of the earth, accidents can happen.

While it’s impossible to prevent some misfortunes, you’d be amazed at how much a small light can help you avert disaster. Here are a few instances when a portable lamp would come very much in handy, so you can be prepared for whatever you do:

Power Outages

If you live in any area with intense weather, you know you may be at risk for a power failure. Instead of scrambling to find candles or flashlights when a storm hits, check out these power outage lights. They ensure you’ll never be caught in the dark. The lights automatically detect when there’s a power outage via radio signal, and immediately turn on to keep you comfortable and safe. This clever and versatile lantern even includes a built-in USB charger for your mobile phone.   Read More

The Saga of the LED

LED Light BulbLEDs are everywhere. Over past years they’ve crept into our cell phone screens, the headlights on our cars, the display boards in our favorite sports stadiums, and even into our household light sockets.  With their minimal energy consumption and extra-long rated lives, these babies are on the rise. But in this heyday of LED innovation, have you ever wondered how they came about?

Disclaimer: the history of LEDs is crazy.

(But what would you expect for a light source that we use to light our streets at night AND zap the tattoos off our arms?)

In the beginning was Henry J. Round, a British experimenter at Marconi Labs. In 1907 he was unsuspectingly at work on a cat’s whisker detector for radio made with carborundum (SiC) when suddenly he witnessed a yellowish light—and lo! it was electroluminescence. With increased voltage the light turned brighter yellow, then green, orange, and finally blue. Round was so stoked he wrote a letter to Electrical World about it, and then went back to his radio. Read More

Hope is Here for the Rare Earth Elements Crisis

Molycorp's Rare Earth Mine in California
Molycorp's Mountain Pass Mine, Producing Rare Earth Materials in California. Photo Courtesy of Molycorp.com.

If you’ve read any of our previous posts on the rare earth elements situation, you know that China’s stranglehold on the market has caused the prices of fluorescent light bulbs to increase dramatically.

Today, China controls more than 95% of rare earth elements—some of which are crucial in the making of fluorescent light bulbs. China’s production cap on the mining of rare earth elements is meant to crack down on illegal manufacturing, but by doing so it’s also limiting the output of the green tech industry, among others.  See: Why are CFLs Becoming More Expensive? and Will the Future of Fluorescent Lighting be Shaky?

But now there’s light (no pun intended) at the end of the tunnel. According to this article on Forbes.com, an end to China’s monopoly might finally happen. It seems China’s latest increased export restrictions have caused the U.S., E.U., and Japan to spring into action.

As I write, 35 new rare earth projects are taking shape beyond Chinese borders, including mines in California and Canada. The possibilities are exciting—up to 20% of rare earth materials may be produced outside of China in less than 10 years. Additionally, domestic production of these elements has the potential to increase product innovation in the U.S., reinvigorate our manufacturing industry, and lower prices for consumers.

Valuable Advice for the Green Electrical Contractor

Green Construction Market Growth 2005-2011
The green construction market has grown 41% or $58 billion over the past five years. Graphic courtesy of blog.softwareadvice.com.

Software reviewer Derek Singleton of Software Advice is at it again—this time letting us know just how important green skills are to today’s electrical contractors. The market for green construction has increased exponentially in the past 5 years, by over $58 billion in revenue. Any savvy contractor should take advantage of this booming (and lucrative) opportunity.

In his article, Derek details the abilities necessary to transition from being an electrical contractor to what he calls an “energy contractor.” It’s important to know how to install green energy systems in new structures, and also how to increase an existing building’s sustainability.

He addresses how to adapt to working with the following:

  • Solar PV (or Solar Photovoltaic) Installations
  • Wind Turbine Installations
  • Energy Auditing
  • Building Management Systems (or BMS)
  • LEED

Here’s the link to Derek’s article: Green Skills You Need to Become an Energy Contractor

The Colorful History of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent Light BulbWhen you think of fluorescent light, what first comes to mind? Some might think of hideous, headache-provoking office lights. Others might conjure up images of neon signs à la Vegas. For Galileo in 1612, upon witnessing fluorescence in nature, it was motherhood. He wrote:

“It must be explained how it happens that the light is conceived into the stone, and is given back after some time, as in childbirth.”

Whatever impressions you might have about fluorescent lighting, we think it’s time to set the record straight. Fluorescents have had a colorful, quirky, and sometimes uncomfortable past, but they certainly have a bright future.

Conception: 1850s

Heinrich Geissler, a German glassblower and physicist, created his famous Geissler Tubes during this time. Geissler filled the tubes with different gases to be excited by metal electrodes at each end. They came in many intricate shapes and bright colors and were used as art for their very brief lives. Today they are considered the early ancestors of both fluorescent and neon lights. Read More

Food Photography Lighting Tips to Savor

Lighting food photography Ever wonder how food photographers can have you salivating at the first glimpse of a strawberry? A lot of what makes food look so tasty in pictures is the way photographers use the light. Observe the seafood medley to the right. How does the photographer achieve such a clean yet colorful image? Often times it isn’t enough simply to place a plate by the window and snap a few frames—it takes planning! Here are a few ways to use the light to document your next culinary masterpiece:

Consider the time.

The brightness of the light you use should depend on what meal you’re photographing. Use a light bulb with a measure of 1,000+ lumens if you’re taking shots of breakfast foods like these cappuccino doughnuts. An evening meal on the other hand should be photographed in lower light, channeling the elegant ambiance of the dinner hour.

Cappuccino Doughnuts Food Photograph by Ann Stratton
Cappuccino Doughnuts courtesy of Ann Stratton from CountryLiving.com

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