Hi All

I wanted to talk about my recent realization that LED Lights are great for preppers, and not just for the reasons your thinking.

Before I get started, I know there are many out there that just cannot swallow the upfront cost, and loath a nanny government that would outlaw the regular light bulb…. Some of the more “environmentalist” among us even think its a travesty that they essentially forced CFLs everywhere, since they contain some mercury (although i wonder if regular tube florescent that most of us work under ever day also contain mercury, so the freak out may not be warranted, quick google doesn’t seem to definitively answer that question.) Anyways, in my opinion, each type of light seems to have its purpose. If its an attic that gets turned on once every three months. I want the cheapest 100 watt, instant brightness bulb out there. Dam government regulations I will get the bulb. Normal everyday lights, CFLs are fine and I generally shrug off the mercury thing and just don’t worry about it. The cost of CFLs is pretty darn cheap, and I have seen Lowes just give them away at a table as you walk in.

So on to LEDs. Startup cost doesn’t really bother me, as long as I know I make the money back in the long run. Until recently though, in the long run, by my math, CFLs were still cheaper in the long run. Now adays though, LED bulbs are getting pretty darn cheap and I have started transitioning over. The first place to transition is any dimming bulb. CFL dimming just sucks… They also don’t have instant brightness like LEDs, so places like a dark garage, or bathroom, where you run in and out of real quick should be switch over. Also, if you have young kids, definitely switch over. Most LED bulbs are plastic and much less dangerous should the kids knock over a lamp in their room while your not there. Last place to switch is the small socket bulbs. That seems to be the last place where prices are coming down. Probably just because its hard to fit the electronics and heat dissipation into a small package.

All these are great reasons to switch over, but there are some drawbacks.

LED manufactures claim 25,000 hours plus, but we all know what “selective” or false advertising is. For the longest time I hear utilitech bulbs can’t be trusted. Honestly so far I haven’t had much of an issue…. I think I may have over a dozen LED bulbs, maybe half of them Utilitech, and only recently had my first failure…. Its annoying to have a high dollar bulb fail, but then I had an idea…

I wondered if I could convert this bulb from AC to DC voltage, and I wondered if the actual LEDs had failed.

Some googling quickly led me to understand that the LEDs in these bulbs almost never fail, its almost always the LED driver boards (Converting 100+ V AC down to 17 ish or less DC). Evidently alot of these driver boards bite the dust around 3 years, which is pretty bad.

So I took a hammer and knocked the top of the bulb to get to in innards. Be careful doing this, although my bulb was plastic so it was a relatively safe process. Be careful of any large capacitors on the drive boards, large capacitors can potentially be dangerous if charged. I don’t think my bulb had anything I needed to worry about. After looking over the board, there was nothing blatantly wrong, so there was no easy way to repair it, so I just clipped the wire and threw the board away. Soldering on some new wires was real easy. Hooked up to a variable power supply and wahlay, about 15-16 volts lights up the LEDs real bright. At this point I just hot glued to plastic top back on and called it a day.

IMG_20141229_173406349

Now its a bit annoying that it takes over 15 volts to drive the LEDs. That’s higher than a car battery, so post SHTF, getting 15+ volts DC may not be trivial. You could just put a 1.5 Volt AA battery in series with a car battery, that should work. But what I really should have done, to make this more useful, is jumper out one of the LEDs or more of the LEDs. All these LED bulbs are, without the drive board, is a bunch of LEDs in series. Each diode take a certain voltage level to light, so removing one will lower the voltage required to light the bulb by a set amount (the amount depends on the LEDs). I assume the current limiting resistor was on the driver board, but not sure. In any case it seemed to light up fine, and not get to hot. Your results may vary. If your electrically inclined though, this is a really simple hack.

http://www.instructables.com/id/LEDs-for-Beginners/step7/Wiring-up-multiple-LEDs-in-series/

So now your broken bulb is turned into a really low wattage DC bulb that is perfect for post SHTF living with a battery bank and solar collection system. I could totally see wiring a bunch of these on a long wire and stringing them up as temporary work lights. Just need to wait a few more years till more fail. Also worth mentioning to family and friends who will just throw out there bulbs, to give them to you.

So there you have it, a short little hack to turn overpriced LED bulbs into a backup prepper item, and get your moneys worth while shifting to “instant on” lights that use the minimum amount of electricity possible. Heck post SHTF, I could see changing over good bulbs to DC, just because maintaining DC is just easier and less wasteful than running an inverter or generator.