Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hey buddy, got a light?

After participating in "Dark Hour" at the end of March, I got to thinking about lighting. I have a couple books on solar energy and related topics, including a study of the Amish "Living Without Electricity" and I inherited a storm lantern from my grandfather. But I seem to have accumulated many more other portable light sources than I realized.

In order to make a little visual sense out of this, I collected every flashlight and at least 1 liquid fueled lamp, ignoring candles and a few other oddities, like battery operated Christmas lights and took a few family portraits.

The lamp in the center is rechargeable, either through a solar panel or a 110v transformer. It includes 2 lamps - 1 fluorescent and 1 LED based. Either or both can be switched on. I've found that the LED bulb will start when the battery is weak and the other won't. However, it is difficult to read by. I've been using it for getting ready to go to work in the morning, where in the past I would have lit the bathroom, kitchen and other lights just to move around with stumbling into something. The solar panel now sits in our front window. I take it on trips with the Scout troop.

The other "big" light in the picture background is a double 6-volt lantern battery with a fluorescent bulb. I have another one, not pictured, that also uses 2 6V batteries, but has 2 bulbs and switches to light 1 or both. But it isn't working.

In the left side of the picture are a non-working single 6V lantern (incandescent bulb I think), and a small LED flashlight that uses 3 AAA batteries. I got this from Broad Creek Scout camp last year, and have found it much more useful than prior gifts of mugs and knives. The original batteries wore down and it now works great with 3 rechargeable NiMH ones.

Also on the left side is my camping flashlight, a headband model with 3 levels of brightness. It runs off 3 NiMH batteries. Colin Fletcher's The Complete Walker advises not to get cheap versions of this style. As I've dropped mine several times, I can attest to the worth of this advice. When I first saw Scouts walking around looking like the 7 Dwarves I though it was a bit odd, but after using this in the deep dark woods I was a fast convert.

On the left side of the picture are several D cell flashlight models. I have 2 dead double cell versions, and 2 working Mag Lites - one 2-D and one 3-D battery versions. They have krypton bulbs, or something like that, but I have seen LED bulbs on same at a big box store. I have a 2 AA model that I formerly used when camping, and now just take it along for backup.

Will using rechargeable portable lights end our oil dependence? Probably not, but carrying a lantern that was juiced directly from the sun is a charge!

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