Monday, September 17, 2007

Wind Up Flash Light

Utahns are supposed to turn their lights off at 9:00 PM on September 19th as some sort of praxis in the environmental revolution. I like that the event is raising awareness for conservation. However, I doubt that the event itself will really do anything. It is not like the state will be able to turn a coal power plant off early because we turned our lights off.

Real conservation happens when we figure out how to consume less in our day to day lives. Turning off lights is good. Figuring out how to live without turning lights on is even better.

A few months ago, I got a wind up flashlight. These flashlights have a small generator that charges a capacitor which fuels an efficient LED. The lights are basically run by human energy. So, other than the environmental damage done during manufacture, the flashlight is sustainable.

I got the flashlight for camping; However, I found that by keeping the flashlight with me at night, I can pretty much go without turning any lights on at home at night. The flashlight I have seeems durable enough to last several years.

It is strange, but having a the flashlight on the night stand encourages me to not turn on any lights at night.

LightingThe only problem, of course, is that I filled all of my light sockets with expensive (and toxic) flourescent bulbs. Having a low wattage bulb in a socket doesn't really save anything when they are not turned on.

Lets see. If a kilowatt hour costs a dime, and the standard light fixture in my house consumes 50 kilowatts. I would have to replace about 400 hours of light consumption to save $20. It is on the outside of doable. Of course, I can now retask the flourescent bulbs (ie, give them to a charity).

Add that to the fact that I now have a flashlight (with no batteries) I figure it is a pretty big environmental plus.

Anyway, if you are going to participate in the Lights Out program, I believe that the real energy savings comes not simply figuring out how to turn lights out. But figuring out how to turn fewer lights on.

1 comment:

Scott Hinrichs said...

Not only do we have crank flashlights, we also have some that recharge by shaking. The mechanism in them fascinates my electrician father. Of course, he admits that they put off so little light that you have to light a match to see if the flashlight is on or not.

The Lights Out campaign is more of the politically correct symbolism, which is favored over substance. It's a meaningless gesture that will likely cost more than it saves. Like you say, actually consuming less in our daily lives amounts to substance.