Shine a little light. OK, a lot of little lights.

I’m sure you’ve seen this: A summer night. After dark. The porch light is on, and there are moths and bugs swirling and swarming around it.

We know what causes this. Turns out moths and some other insects use the moon to navigate, and a lightbulb confuses the heck out of them; they think they’re flying straight by keeping “the moon” on their left, say, but they’re really swerving all over the place orbiting the bulb. There are yellow lightbulbs that are meant to be less attractive to insects. I’ve never noticed any difference in bug volume with them. They’re just annoyingly yellow.

I’ve taken a different route. I replaced my porch lights with LED Rope Light. Which presents a whole bunch of points of light instead of a single glaring sphere. Many fewer bugs swarming around. And it’s also is easier on my eyes. The light comes from everywhere under the porch eaves instead of a single spot. No harsh shadows. Soft, even illumination. Too dim? Add a second row of rope.

LEDs have a different life cycle from incandescent bulbs: instead of blowing out, they often just get dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer…. The rope light in my back porch is over 10 years old now, and you can see that they’re all quite dim (It was also not very bright to start with; LEDs have come a long way in the last 10 years). The overall effect is still sufficient to let me see where I’m going to get into the back door, but soon (maybe when it gets a little warmer) I know I will have to replace the whole rope. If I ever entertained out there it would already be too dim. The front porch is a few years newer, so it’s a lot brighter both because it’s not old and because LEDs had gotten better. But I’ve also felt since I installed that rope light that it could stand to be a little brighter; I even bought a third string of rope to add to it, but never got around to installing it. So I may take it down as well and put up more all new (so the difference in age is not glaringly obvious). Maybe I can reuse those strings on the back porch, since they’re still usefully bright.

In general, I no longer see the point in buying new lightbulbs that are not LEDs. They cost more than incandescent to install (but not spectacularly more than CFLs), they cost basically nothing to operate, and modern ones have average lifespans measured in decades. And the form factor of the actual LEDs (tiny tiny dots) is such that in the future we need not be limited to fixtures designed around traditional bulb shapes; I’m already starting to see fixtures designed around LEDs that you just couldn’t have done with traditional bulbs. Fluorescents can be made into a wider variety of shapes than incandescent, but for whatever reason there were not a lot of specially-shaped CFL bulbs (probably because the tooling costs are pretty high, and LEDs came up behind CFLs with surprising speed: CFLs were The Thing To Do for a very short time and now LEDs are already surpassing them).

Yes, the future looks bright indeed.


A guy in his 40s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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Posted in Cutting edge

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