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New LED Traffic Lights Too Cool.. and thats not cool December 21, 2009

Posted by Dr. Z Bulbs in Controversial information, LED Lights.
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Zoinks! LEDs have been all the rage as of lately but seems some applications are working out so smoothly. Check out this article from the Detroit Times that discusses the danger of LED traffic signal lamps.

Dr. Z


New traffic lights too cool
They save energy but emit less heat, so snow may block signal
Tom Greenwood / The Detroit News
Some northern states are reporting a problem with light-emitting diode traffic lights: The cool burning LEDs don’t generate enough heat to melt ice and snow that accumulates in front of the lenses on the signals.

Although there are no LED-related reports of crashes or deaths in Michigan, the problem has reportedly led to dozens of accidents in other states.

But the situation is still being addressed, said Utpal Dutta, professor of traffic engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“We are working on the problem,” Dutta said. “We may put a longer shade on the light to shield it from ice and snow, but we’re not sure about putting a heater into the light. A heater would cost us money to run the lights, which we don’t want to do.

“But we will come up with something down the line. In terms of energy and life cycle savings of LEDs, this is a tiny problem.”

On the rare occasion when an LED signal is covered with snow, responding work crews simply clear it with a blast of compressed air.

Longer lasting lights
Road Commission for Oakland County spokesman Craig Bryson said LEDs are still better than traditional lights because they need to be replaced only once every seven years.

“There were a lot more times where there were traffic signals with burned-out bulbs than there are signals with snowy LEDs,” Bryson said.

The LEDs used in traffic signals aren’t really a single bulb but are actually arrays of hundreds of individual electronic lights about the size of a pencil eraser.

The appeal of the lights is that they use up to 90 percent less energy, last longer and burn brighter than traditional bulbs.

For Franklin residents George and Madeline Haddad, snow on LED traffic lights hasn’t been a problem.

“We’ve never encountered that problem when we’re on the road, and it really isn’t something I’m worried about,” George Haddad said. “I can’t ever remember seeing traffic signals blocked by ice and snow.”

Bryson said a number of circumstances have to merge for the LEDs to be obstructed by ice or snow.

“The wind has to blow at a certain speed and a certain angle to end up in against the lens,” he said. “Plus the snow has to be wet and heavy. This problem happened with the old bulbs as well.”

Cost only factor in switching
William Taylor, professor emeritus of civil engineering at Michigan State University, understands how the LEDs can be driving problem in snowy weather.

“It kind of makes sense that they could cause a snow problem because they’re so efficient that it doesn’t make all that much heat,” Taylor said.

“But should we switch back to the old incandescent bulbs? Only if it eventually costs more for crews to clean off the LED lights than they would save in energy costs.”

LED traffic signals are common on the MSU campus, Taylor said.

“But as a driver, I’ve never noticed any problems with them,” he said.


Christmas Light Show Meets Guitar Hero December 15, 2009

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Zoinks! Dig this kids Christmas style. Christmas lights meet Guitar Hero!

Dr. Z


What do you get when you mix a Christmas Light show with Guitar Hero? Christmas Light Hero! A real game you play with a wii wireless guitar controller. Optional TV screen is available if you get in trouble, but if you use the screen, you don’t get your name in the high score lis

The History and Mystery of Christmas Lights! December 14, 2009

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Merry Chrizzmazz! Did you ever wonder where the tradition of hangning christmas lights came from? Well the folks at Gizmodo have laid out the history in the brief article below! Enjoy!



Thomas Edison was known for his wacky publicity stunts, but during the Christmas of 1880 he went for the sentimental rather than shock value. That year, instead of electrocuting an elephant, he brought us the first electric Christmas light display.

The Wizard’s Light Show

By the time 1880 rolled around, Edison had his incandescent light bulbs pretty well figured out, and was on the lookout for a way to advertise them. To display his invention as a means of heightening Yuletide excitement, he strung up incandescent bulbs all around his Menlo Park laboratory compound, so that passing commuters on the nearby railway could see the Christmas miracle. But Edison being Edison, he decided to make the challenge a little trickier by powering the lights from a remote generator 13km away.

Two years later, an Edison crony named Edward Johnson displayed the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree at his home in Manhattan. The then-impressive 80-light display girded a very unimpressive Charlie Brown Christmas tree (I mean really, look at that thing). And as you might expect, Johnson’s feat was also intended as an advertising tool.

The tradition of stringing electric lights may have started as a Christmas thing in the Western world, but now it’s a global phenomenon used for all kinds festivities. It’s a practice we take for granted – come December, they’re everywhere. The evolution of the Christmas light parallels that of the light bulb, with some remarkably ornate – OK, tacky – variations. But regardless of how they look, one thing’s for certain: They’re a much better option than sticking a candle in a tree.

In the Beginning There was Fire

Today we look at Christmas lights and think, “Oh, those are pretty.” But the tradition of lighting lights didn’t start off with aesthetics in mind. December is the darkest month of the year with the shortest days (if you live in the northern hemisphere). People living without central heating in the 12th century were understandably unhappy when the sun went down and plunged them into the cold depths of night. Way back during the winter of 1184 was the first recorded lighting of the Yule Log [PDF] in Germany. The burning log was seen as a symbol of the sun’s promise to return. It probably didn’t hurt that a big burning hunk of wood makes for a pretty good heat source.

The Christmas tree has a whole story behind it that we won’t get into here. (Fun fact: They were originally hung upside down from the ceiling — hilarious!) Long story short, Christians had lights, they had trees, and in the 17th century, they decided to put the two together.

Unfortunately, the only way to add Christmas lights to a tree back then was with candles. Obviously, this was a pretty bad idea. So bad that, unlike today, the tree would only be put up a few days before Christmas [PDF] and was promptly taken down afterwards. The candles would remain lit only for a few minutes per night, and even then families would sit around the tree and watch it vigilantly, buckets of sand and water nearby. It’s kind of like the old-timey equivalent of deep-frying a turkey: People knew it could burn their house down, but proceeded to do it anyway.

By 1908, insurance companies wouldn’t even pay for damages [PDF] caused by Christmas tree fires. Their exhaustive research demonstrated that burning wax candles that were loosely secured to a dried-out tree inside your house wasn’t safe. At all. Electric Christmas lights were becoming a viable option for some. They weren’t perfect – incandescent bulbs can get plenty hot, and sparks from malfunctioning strings can still light up a dry tree – but it was a much safer option than lighting multiple fires so close to their favourite fuel.

Keep in mind that by “some”, I mean the extremely rich. In 1900, a single string of electric lights cost $US12 [PDF] – around $US300 in today’s money. It would take the magic of mass manufacturing to create the Clark Griswold-esque neighbourhood light displays that would become a Western tradition.

The Dawn of Tacky Lights

In 1900, eight years after General Electric purchased the patent rights to Edison’s bulbs, the first known advertisement for Christmas tree lights appeared in Scientific American magazine. Like I said, these suckers weren’t cheap. They were so expensive that the ad suggests renting lights for a holiday display.

Twenty-five years later, demand was up. There were 15 companies in the biz of selling Christmas lights, and in 1925 they formed a consortium called the NOMA Electric Corporation, the largest Christmas light manufacturer in the world.

Even though NOMA was formed three years prior to the Great Depression, their appeal was great enough to pull through, becoming a juggernaut that was synonymous with Christmas lights from the Depression clear through to the US Civil Rights Movement. NOMA didn’t just further Edison’s vision, though. They worked hard to bedazzle, giving birth to the bubble light – arguably the first great mass-produced tacky Christmas decoration.

Though NOMA is no more, these psychedelic bubble lights are thankfully still in existence. These colourful round plastic cases hold an unseen bulb, while a candle-shaped vial of clear liquid protrudes upward. As the bulb heats up, the liquid – usually methylene chloride, a chemical with a low boiling point – also heats up, so that the vial would bubble, flickering like the candle it was supposed to replace.

Alas, in 1968 the NOMA Electric Company stopped manufacturing lights, and the bubble lights became more of a novelty, soon to be joined by a host of ridiculously shaped Christmas lights, including chili peppers, flamingos, beer cans and a miniaturised version of that leg from A Christmas Story.

With NOMA, the tacky Pandora’s box had opened, and even people who didn’t spring for bubble lights or their Tex-Mex successors have done wonders with the decidedly more standardised sets we all know today. Once they were weatherproofed for outdoor use, it was only a matter of time before they were stapled to every square inch of house, hearth, tree, even truck.

The Lights You Know and Love

Incandescent lights are the ones that started it all. Even though they’re well over a hundred years old now, the technology largely remains the same. The shapes and sizes of the bulbs, on the other hand, have been in constant flux. Now we’re left with three major types of incandescent Christmas light bulbs:

The Mini/Fairy Light: This is the big kahuna. If you haven’t seen one of these by now, then you’ve probably never seen Christmas lights. Traditionally, the set is wired in series, hence the age old problem where if one bulb goes out, the rest won’t light. But it’s not hard to find sets that are wired in parallel nowadays.

These guys also have a lo-fi twinkle method built in. That little red-tipped bulb that comes with each set is made in a way that as the filament heats up, it rises and breaks the circuit. That, of course, shuts off the rest of the lights. When it cools down, it falls again to complete the circuit, and the lights (wait for it…) come back on. Physics 101.


C7: Again, an incandescent light that comes in a different-sized glass housing. These are about the size of your thumb, and work in almost exactly the same way as a mini light.


C9: You get the picture by now. Same shape as the C7, but slightly bigger.


LED lights have been growing in popularity for the past few years. Regardless of what you think of their light output, there’s no denying that they’re much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, and they give off less heat. And who knows, maybe someday they’ll match the colour temperature of good-ol’ tungsten lighting. Until then, here’s what you’ll be looking at:

5mm: These are the LED equivalent of incandescent mini-lights. They’re small LED bulbs in a plastic enclosure. Usually the “white” level is waaaay off from the “white” of incandescent lights.


G12 and G25: Just like with incandescent lights, you’re going to find a whole lot of the same with LEDs, just in different shapes and sizes. These are globe-shaped plastic enclosures, G12 is pictured.


C7: You’ve seen these before, except this time there’s an LED inside.


You’ll find a bunch of crazy light designs out there, but 99.9 per cent of them are just plastic enclosures that are illuminated by these types of bulbs.

A Long Way From Candles

The basic foundation of the Christmas light, the incandescent bulb, hardly changed for nearly a century, and is only now undergoing its first major revolution as we start replacing our old tungsten lights with energy-efficient LEDs. Yet in that same time, we’ve gone from sticking burning candles in a tree to creating massive, computer-controlled – and completely excessive – light displays like this:

One thing’s for sure: No matter what the technology at hand, no matter what the reason to celebrate, the human desire to light up trees and houses in December will forever be a source for amazing – and often hilarious – innovation.

Are LED Christmas Lights the New Christmas Tradition? December 10, 2009

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Gadzooks! LEDs are getting press everywhere and now they are becoming part of our biggest Holiday! Our friends at Elights.com posted this interesting little article on LEDs and how they are changing up our Christmas lights!

Dr. Z


Santa is getting the LED out!

LED Christmas lights: A burgeoning American holiday tradition? Wednesday, December 09, 2009 LED holiday lights are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the American landscape this holiday season. Americans might notice that the holiday lights on the Washington Monument shine a little brighter this holiday season. That is because Baltimore Gas and Electric has helped Washington D.C. switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs this year. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Washington monument will be illuminated by 84 strands of 200 LED bulbs, consuming only 12 watts of energy per strand. This corresponds with the city’s efforts to conserve energy, even in the midst of holiday decadence. The country’s beloved monument is not the only major American attraction that will glow green this year. According to a report entitled “LEDs lighting the way for Hawaii,” it seems LED holiday lights are as fine a way as mele kalikimaka to say Merry Christmas in the tropical state, while the Detroit city Christmas tree will glow green this season. President Obama used LEDs to decorate the White House Christmas tree this year and the energy-saving light bulbs also adorn the tree in New York’s Rockefeller Center. Moreover, LED lights are becoming more popular with homeowners nationwide; the prices of the LED lights are dropping and consumers can use them to cut power bills and help the environment. According to Michael Van Camp of Light Visions, a commercial and residential holiday decorating service, Americans have gone wild for LED lights this season. “LED lights are the buzz of the decorating biz,” he told the source. “They just look phenomenal!” LEDs are 10 times more efficient than conventional bulbs and it reportedly cost Americans just pennies a day to light up their homes for up to six hours with three strands of 100-bulb strings of LED lights. ShareThis

taking down christmas lights..Safely! December 4, 2009

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Zoinks! Christmas is or going to be over soon and you need to get those lights down! Here are a few tips I got from writer Dave Donovan of ehow.com. I would like to add my own 8# No EGGNOG.
Dr. Z

Things You’ll Need:

  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • Zip ties
  1. Step 1

    The first thing you have to avoid doing is pulling on the wires when you are taking down your Christmas lights. This is the primary reason for wires being pulled out of their sockets.

  2. Step 2

    When removing Christmas lights from your Christmas tree, use the following technique:

    In one hand, keep coiling the lights while the other hand is maneuvering the string of lights from the point at which they enter the tree. More than likely, the strands of lights have gotten tangled with each other or within the branches and it may be tempting to tug on them to get them out. Rather than pull, get your hands in there and move the branches to gently untangle the wire.

  3. Step 3

    The same applies to taking the lights down from the ceiling or any other difficult-to-reach place, like a rooftop. When you decorated your home, you took as long as you needed to make sure that the Christmas lights were solidly in place, so don’t cheat now when you’re taking them down. Get the ladder out or get on the roof (ice permitting) and take down the lights, so nothing gets damaged.

  4. Step 4

    When storing Christmas lights, I take the cheap approach (it IS after Christmas). I wrap up each string of lights individually, so they are not a tangled mess and keep it assembled by using a zip tie (be sure the zip tie is not too tight, just tight enough to hold the bunch together). Then I place it inside a brown paper bag, the kind used for sack lunches.

  5. Step 5

    Next, I take a sturdy box and line up all of the bags of Christmas lights. I don’t store anything else inside the box, just lights. If you have an excess of space left in the box, just fill it up with extra newspaper.

  6. Step 6

    Label the box “Christmas Lights” and store it some place where a heavier box won’t be set on top of it.

  7. Step 7

    I know this seems like a simple task, but when you’re ready to get your home’s decorating back to normal–or you’re trying to get the decorations down in time for the big game–it can be easy to forget about preserving your Christmas lights for next year. Taking a few minutes now, will allow next holiday’s decorating to go smoother–and you’ll be saving money by having your lights safely stored and ready to go.

Tips & Warnings
  • When taking down your Christmas lights, double-check that all of the bulbs are still attached and unbroken (especially if you have curious cats or dogs in the home).

Wearable Technology LED Kimono Reacts to Music, Motion to Create Interactive Light Show December 3, 2009

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Zoinks! It looks like LEDs aren’t only the future of general lighting.. They also the future of stage performance! Check out this great article and video below from ecouture.com!

Dr. Z


RAZZLE DAZZLE Depending on the pitch of the accompanying music, or the angle and rate of motion of the sleeve, the LEDs turn on and off to create a fluid light show. And here’s where it gets technical: The LEDs, which are connected with conductive thread to eight 9-volt batteries underneath the fabric, are driven by tiny Arduino processors that are sewn into pockets on each side. The processors, in turn, can be hooked up to a computer via Bluetooth wireless or USB. More than a dress, the LED kimono is an interactive light-and-sound instrument. Eventually, Masoaka plans on running LEDs throughout the entire kimono, an endeavor that will require more than 5,000 hand-sewn LEDs. If each point of light is considered a single pixel, the dress can function as a low-resolution video monitor that evolves with its environment.

Light therapy can relieve symptoms of seasonal depression December 1, 2009

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Light Bulbs Always Make Me Happy!

Zoinks! Here is a great article on using light help treat seasonal depression. It comes from the Cleveland.com website. Useful info!

Dr. Z


Light therapy can relieve symptoms of seasonal depression

By Angela Townsend, The Plain Dealer

Kim Sherwin’s recent two-and-a-half week trip to Europe, made partly to watch the Cleveland Orchestra performances in Vienna, Austria, was perfect except for one thing.

She forgot her portable light therapy device.

The contraption is what helps Sherwin endure the overcast, dark and dreary days from September through March.

Sherwin, 70, of Cleveland, suffers from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

SAD is a form of depression marked by its consistency of almost always occurring in late fall or early winter.

The decrease in sunlight, compounded by shifting the clock back one hour, can affect an individual’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake rhythm.

And that, in turn, can do a number on energy levels. Symptoms include sleeping more than usual, eating more, particularly carbohydrates, and having an overall tendency to hibernate deeply.

For Sherwin, that meant staying in bed most days until afternoon.

“It just gets grimmer and grimmer, and I don’t want to get out of bed,” she said.

That’s where light therapy comes in. Five years ago, Sherwin, who takes antidepressants for other forms of depression, started using light therapy every morning.

Light therapy is the best form of treatment for seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. George Tesar, chairman of the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.

Light therapy is not about sitting in a room illuminated with regular or fluorescent bulbs.

Nor is it jetting off to a warm, sunny climate for a few days, although that might provide fleeting relief.

Rather, it’s exposure to a special light with a particularly high intensity.

“Your eyes have to be open, and the back of your eyes need to see this light,” Tesar said. “The light that hits your retina triggers the changes in the brain that result in a positive response that relieves the depression.”

The light helps regulate one’s internal alarm clock, or circadian rhythm. It also helps regulate melatonin, the sleep hormone, and serotonin, the chemical in the brain that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Changes in serotonin levels can affect a host of things, such as mood, appetite, sleep and memory.

The best time for light therapy is first thing in the morning, for about 30 minutes a day. Most people start to notice subtle changes in the first couple of weeks. But “the moment you stop using it, the effects start to wear off,” Tesar said.

Antidepressants (such as Wellbutrin, the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the specific treatment of SAD) are also available for more severe cases if light therapy isn’t effective.

“It’s best to avoid medication if you can,” Tesar said. “But if other treatments don’t work, it’s shortsighted not to try medication. Sometimes that’s the only thing to help re-regulate the chemical environment of the brain.”

Experts also recommend reducing carbohydrate intake, exercising more, staying social and getting fresh air whenever you can.

Light therapy, which has not been approved by the FDA to treat seasonal affective disorder, isn’t designed for everyone (extra caution is needed for people with pre-existing eye disease and certain mood disorders).

It’s easy to order devices online or buy them in stores, but using them should be done under a doctor’s supervision.

A couple of years ago, Sherwin stopped using a big light box and switched to a newer product the size of a compact disc holder.

Today, Sherwin eats breakfast and reads the newspaper while her Litebook sits off to the side, providing her light therapy for 30 minutes every morning.

“It just starts to grow on you,” Sherwin said. “So many people complain about the problems they have, but I just don’t think people know about these machines.”

The Litebook Co. is collaborating with Harvard University, Yale University and universities in Canada and the Netherlands on a clinical trial that started last December to explore how the product can be most effective in treating SAD.

“People have always acted like broad spectrum light is important, but it’s the pattern of light that’s important,” said Dr. Paul Desan, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University who is coordinating the study.

Desan and his team are testing to see how the Litebook affects a person’s circadian rhythm. “Right now, [no device] that has been developed has been approved by the FDA to treat seasonal affective disorder,” Desan said. “We’d like to change that. We think this is the direction that the field is going in.”

Finding the right light

At least a dozen companies sell a wide variety of light therapy products — visors, alarm clocks, floor lamps, big light boxes — even though the Food and Drug Administration has not approved their use to treat seasonal affective disorder. Here’s some things you should know before buying.

What to look for

A good starting point for picking a product is to look for the unit of light intensity, or LUX. Special light therapy products often have 10,000 LUX, versus 500 LUX of a standard light bulb.

It’s important that the product emit little or no ultraviolet light. Some newer products use blue light instead of the standard white light found in most light therapy boxes. Some research suggests that blue light is more effective at reducing SAD symptoms; however, the retina is much more sensitive to blue light than it is to white light and could be damaged if directly exposed.

Check your insurance

Light therapy usually isn’t an item that insurance companies uniformly cover, but it’s worth checking with your provider; sometimes providing documentation of a SAD diagnosis from a physician is all you need.