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LED


LEDs for the Holidays By Tom Tate


“LED, LED, LED’” (imagine this being chanted the way “USA” is at the Olympics.) While LEDs won’t necessarily anchor a relay to victory, they are most certainly the current champions when it comes to energy-efficient lighting. So, let’s discuss using LEDs for your holiday decorating enjoy- ment.


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When I was a kid, we en- joyed decorating with large painted incandescent bulbs. My dad would hang them around the front door, and we’d deck out the tree with a couple of strings. They were glorious! And hot, posing a real danger when used on a dry tree. Fast-forward a couple of de- cades, and the energy con- servation movement created a demand for more efficient options. Enter the mini incan- descent light strings. These are still widely used today and dramatically reduced the power consumed by their predeces- sors.


As is true in our technologi- cal age, manufacturers didn’t stop looking for even more efficient alternatives. This led to the introduction of LED lights. The first incarnations gener- ated less than appealing gar- ish blues, greens and reds but quickly softened into a more eye-pleasing spectrum. To- day, LEDs are the undisputed champs of holiday lighting. You could literally wrap your


home in LED light strings, become visible to the Inter- national Space Station and still have a pleas-


antly manageable power bill at the end of it all. Now there is no reason to let concerns over cost of operation limit your decorating genius.


LEDs are also showing up in other forms and places. They are available in clear tubes that you can wrap around objects for extra interest (the tubes glow), and many yard figures are constructed with these as the main structural element. Imagine the possibilities! Now if that isn’t enough for your holiday pleasure, how about wearing some holiday LED bling? Yes, the tacky (but ever so popular) holiday tie with tiny lights that illuminate has been around for years. But, combine the advances in LEDs with conductive paints and micro controllers like the Arduino or Raspberry Pi and you can create some truly memorable fashions for the holidays. Just imagine the sensation you can cause at the office holiday party arriving in a coat of many, many colors. You could even spell out


special holiday greetings with the proper display or simply glow all night long.


Don’t worry about need- ing clunky power supplies or treacherous extension cords to keep your fashion style il- luminated. These displays sip electricity from batteries like a fine wine. Just be sure to turn yourself off before driving home. Two of my favorite sources for such goodies are www. sparkfun.com and www. adafruit.com (click the “wear- ables” link on both sites). You have worked hard all year to reduce your energy consumption to save money and slim down your carbon footprint. Now reward yourself with a splendid holiday display that will be the envy of all who see it while still being miserly with power use.


Tom Tate writes on cooperative is- sues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arling- ton, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.


“LOOK UP & LIVE” 3


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