I’m still working on reducing my power demands. Getting all of my ‘leccy from the sun and living at a latitude of about 50 degrees means I often run out of power by evening, especially during the shorter, darker days of winter.
I can handle things like laptops and screens running out, but having no light is harder to deal with. When it gets dark outside at 4:30pm and your indoor lighting goes out a couple of hours later (and it’s cold!) it becomes pretty hard to stay motivated. Also you bump into things a lot.
So I’ve been looking into cheap, simple ways of making sure I always have access to lighting, even when my main leisure batteries (which the solar panels charge each day) run out.
Thankfully, we’re living in the LED era. LEDs are amazingly efficient – the power/brightness balance is really good. Also, the technology is constantly improving and ridiculously cheap. I’ve settled (for now) on a combination which works really well for me.
[PIC OF LED WHITE AND WARM] These little USB LED sticks are very bright and smoothly dimmable via a simple touch-mechanism (‘smooth’ meaning they fade up and down smoothly rather than in steps – so you have a lot of control over exactly how bright they are). They are also available in a ‘warm’ option. One of the not-so-nice things about a lot of LED lamps is that they are often very white, which is quite harsh and uncomfortable especially in the evenings. The warm version provides a much nicer kind of light which feels more like traditional indoor lighting.
These sticks cost about £3 each (at time of writing) on eBay in the UK but by putting up with a long wait and buying them direct from China I was able to get 5 for less than £3 in total – literally pennies apiece. I also bought 5 of the white version – as mentioned above the light isn’t as cosy, but it’s great for painting or any work where colour is important (the yellow/warm light causes a distortion in hue which means if you paint under yellow light at night you’re in for a mildly depressing surprise when you look at your painting in the morning daylight and realise all the colours are wonky).
[PIC OF BATTERY HOLDER] Another silly-cheap item, these battery holders are made for 18650 cells (they look similar to AA batteries but are a bit bigger and can be found inside old laptop batteries). I salvaged 6 of these from a ruined laptop (I fried the motherboard with my slack electrical skills – I’ll save that tale of woe for another time). When inserted into these holders the batteries can be charged via an extremely common micro-usb cable (pretty much all non-Apple phones and tablets use them). The LED stick can then be slotted in the top and BO! – you have yourself a bright, dimmable, warm, cheap, lovely little light.