LED manufacturers are competing hard to make their products more and more efficient – but what if you could run an LED light for no power at all?
One UK inventor reckons he can.
Malcolm Wright has come up with a way for LEDs to piggyback on the power used by other devices, so they can be run ‘for free’.
‘I have garden and garage lighting running off my pond pump, and living room lighting when the TV is on,’ says Wright.
He calls his invention Electrical Energy By-Product Lighting, or EEBL.
It works by inserting a circuit in series with an AC mains-powered motor or other electrical load – ideally an appliance with a constant power requirement such as a bathroom extractor fan, vacuum cleaner, kitchen cooker hood or water pump, although it will also work with other loads such as a TV.
The current requirement for the motor is passed directly through to the LEDs (there’s no separate driver so there are no driver losses). In a typical motor circuit, this will result in a slight loss of power to the motor. However, at the same time, the LED circuit improves the power factor of the device, allowing that power to do more work. This frees up enough power to light up those LEDs. And the more powerful the motor, the greater the light output achievable.
It’s not that the light doesn’t use any power, or that it magics it out of thin air. It’s more that it takes advantage of the imperfections of another circuit, to do a little bit of extra work with the power that’s already being provided. If your electricity bill is calculated using a watt meter (which is the case for most users except large industrial and commercial operations), then this doesn’t cost you a thing.
So although it might sound too good to be true, it’s not misleading to say that the light is, essentially, free.
Not only is the light free, but EEBL also dramatically reduces the number of components required for the lighting. The circuit also contains overload protection and, if a particular light output is needed, the circuit can modify the current (although that would consume a tiny amount of extra power).
Wright is already using EEBL to provide some free lighting in his home. Commercial applications might include powering the lights under cooker hoods for free, adding lights to the front of vacuum cleaners to see into those awkward corners – without increasing the wattage, or powering factory lighting from the ventilation fans, which already run constantly when the building is occupied.
Wright, who was once technical director at an HVAC manufacturer, says: ‘I have always maintained that “saving the planet” is best left to science and technology and not politicians with people paying the price of green taxes. So I set out to prove it.
‘I did have problems with developing the circuits, the main problem being the LEDs were blowing up due to start-up overload. I think my wife started to think I was turning into a mad scientist with constant deliveries to the house and using the dining room table to make the circuits, then testing them on our household appliances. After some time and many circuits later, I had a “eureka” moment to use the diode properties for current and overload protection.’
Wright is now on the hunt for the ‘killer app’ where EEBL can offer really compelling advantages.
Rather than selling the product direct to users, he’s looking at licensing the technology to manufacturers of appliances that might benefit from a built-in LED light that uses, effectively, no electricity. He’ll need to convince them that the benefits of added light, and the relatively small energy savings (compared to the energy used by a motorised appliance) are worth the effort of building EEBL into their products.
Perhaps we’re about to go from the era of low-energy lighting to the era of no-energy lighting.
To find out more, contact Malcolm Wright through Philip Ingham at Wayfair Group