1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Little More Eco Friendly?

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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

A Little More Eco Friendly?

When I came to live on Lewis the township (England/Lowland Scotland/Wales = village) I lived in had a main road running through it (on which the house in which I lived was situated) and many side roads which had grown up in accordance with the shape of crofts and the need for access.

There was very little street lighting outside of Stornoway and we lived 7 miles from the town so we had nothing except the occasional light at a crossroads perhaps. Given that the midwinter hours of daylight were only about 6 or 7 that meant a lot of time outside the house was spent in the dark.  

That had the benefit of fabulous starry nights (reminiscent, more recently, of living in semi-rural New Zealand) and a highly visible Aurora borealis (in the case of the Hebrides).  

Now most of my readers will well remember that a torch with a bright light was likely to be a fairly bulky object with big expensive batteries. We all carried torches when we went out at night and, indeed, they were a very important part of life in the '70s. Then people grew hungry for street lights and if a Councillor could not get at least some street lights for his constituents he risked being replaced at the next local election. 

Houses also started having outside lights as a matter of course. Very tiny very bright torches and head lights also became the norm.

In the last 10 to 15 years it became easier to fit battery operated LED lights in difficult places outside. At the same time all my indoor lights have been replaced by LED ones and the total wattage in the house is probably less that the wattage in my living room 15 years ago.

Last Spring I started replacing the outside battery operated lights with solar lights. So now my house is  well illuminated outside by movement operated solar panel lights.  

When I was 3 and my Dad taught me how to wire 1½v  bulbs and batteries and switches in parallel and series and later how to deal with 13amp electrics I could never have believed that the outside of my house would be illuminated by solar power lights installed for little more than the cost of a year's supply of dry batteries. 

31 comments:

  1. A delightful look through the years.
    Cats have always known the benefit of solar power.
    My old flashlight has a kinder softer light with no fancy flashing settings that starts at the wrong moment.

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    1. Maywyn, cats do have the advantage of excellent night vision. If we did we wouldn't need all the artificial light. I had to make sure when I put LED lighting in the house that it was warm light because some can be really blue and cold.

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  2. I used to love connecting bulbs and batteries and switches, and when I learned about serial and parallel it was mind blowing. My brother, being a few years younger, had the benefit of a much wider range of toys, and I was jealous as anything when he got a Philips Electronic Engineer kit for Christmas, with transistors and resistors, etc., and was able to wire up things like light sensitive gadgets with timers.

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    1. Tasker, my Christmas gift for a few years was Meccano. I'd have loved some of the more sophisticated electronic kits but I think they must have come 'after my time'.

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  3. We have tried some, admittedly cheap, solar powered outside lights but have been disappointed by their short lives. I am interested to know where yours come from as I would like to give them a try.

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    1. We have had the same experience with external solar lights as JayCee. Ironically, because of their failures, they have all been environmentally unfriendly. Perhaps we should have bought better quality solar lights in the first place.

      These days it is very hard to experience night's true darkness.

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    2. JayCee and YP, my solar powered lights have only been going since last winter but have so far stood the test of time and Hebridean weather. This winter will be the test. However I should say that all the mains floodlights with sensors that I fitted never lasted more that 5 or so years before the wind, rain and salt from the sea corroded them. My battery ones were good ones but, again, didn't last more that 4 or 5 years. I'll keep you posted if these solar ones that I have now last the winter.

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  4. I had an arbor added to my front patio and my younger son added outdoor solar powered lights to it, about 20 on a wire, we call them fairy lights here in the USA. The lights are programmed to come on only when it is dark. They are still working two years after purchase. Amazing how little electricity your house lighting uses now as compared to years ago.

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    1. Terra, we to have lights called fairy lights which sound the same as yours. I don't have any but a friend in the village has had her outdoor BBQ area and bushes strung with them for years. I don't know how often they are replaced.

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  5. I hardly ever use it any more, but I still have an old flashlight that could serve as a lethal cudgel. In a battle with a policeman armed with only a truncheon, I would win hands down! It has a pretty powerful beam and served me well when I used to do surveys of nocturnal birds. Many an owl has been illuminated by its beam.

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    1. David, that sounds to me like a huge Maglite (I think that was the name). A friend had a collection of them.

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  6. I live in a "dark sky" area and not only are there no street lights but any neighbor who dares to install outside lighting will have the wrath of the HOA come down upon their heads. Lately we've had a rash of strange happenings, mail box plunders, homes broken into, things stolen from yards and drives, at night, so I expect the lights will come. That will be a huge disappointment to the many of us who cherish our high elevation magnificent New Mexico night sky.

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    1. Jill, that's so sad to hear. When I cam to Lewis crime against personal property in the form of theft was virtually unknown (outside the usual kids trying to pinch sweets from the local Woolworths). It's still a pretty safe community. People here never really appreciated what they had because they accepted it as normal. Now they've lost it in some places it's too late.

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  7. Nice history of artificial light. We've continually added light so that now we have light pollution. Funny how a young people we had no difficulty walking in the dark.

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    1. Red, you are absolutely right. We went everywhere without thinking about it. Perhaps one day those times will return.

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  8. I have just recently installed three outdoor solar powered lights. They are super efficient; in fact too much so. They come on when branches blow in the wind, etc. I've since had to spend a day cutting back a lot of foliage that might set them off.

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    1. Cro, that is one problem with any motion triggered lights. It's cats and wildlife that triggers mine in the night.

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  9. Light pollution is a problem in many places, including my town. But I admit that I'm glad about the movement-sensitive lights leading up to my front door; it faces away from the street and so in the winter months, coming home from work or anywhere else late afternoon in the dark is easier than before, when I was always in danger of tripping over some toy or other left on the path by the neighbour's little boy.

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    1. Meike, not many people carry torches now so if the come to my house set back off the road they can't see the steps unless I have lights.

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  10. Solar lights in the garden have replaced the dark night skies and call of the morepork on the farm. I still have my long time habit of stepping outside to check on the world before I go to bed at night. There are no morepork calling here and the soft light of the solar lights doesn't quite make up for the brilliance of a rural night sky but I now find them comforting. Mind you, like YP I don't think they are very environmentally friendly as they don't seem to last long.

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    1. Pauline, the lasting long thing may well be an environmental problem simply because they are so cheap now. A brilliant night sky was and is wonderful but I have to say that the long horrible dark Lewis winter nights could be a real trial. I used to love sitting on the deck of The Cottage listening to the morepork in the huge Beech trees. Sigh.

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  11. A photovoltaic array ought to last thirty years plus. I know the posh word for solar cell so township wasn't a problem for me. However from the mining of quartz to it's refinement to metallurgical grade silicon is not ecologically friendly.
    It then has to be further processed to polysilicon which produces at least three times the quantity of silicon tetrachloride which is vile stuff. Hence production has moved to China and Malaysia where I suspect the waste is chucked into rivers and landfill. No worries, out of sight out of mind.

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    1. Yes, Adrian, everything has its environmental cost and most of us have no idea what that is.

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  12. Just this week I have charged up my bicycle lights. They are so small and yet can light the road almost as bright as car lights. The days are growing shorter and I already need to use them on darker mornings. X

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    1. Jules I'm so glad that you have those lights on your bike. I had strong ones and very powerful back ones too. I so often come upon cyclists with rear lights that are virtually invisible on a dark rainy night.

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  13. My memories of lights are when we were on electricity rationing in the 1970s we had lights rigged up in the house from a car battery and a bulb hung over a beam shone all around us. The cows had to be milked an hour early before the electricity went off and they didn't like having their routine upset.

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    1. Rachel, you've reminded me about an era I'd quite forgotten. Imagine if that happened now. We'd be even more aware of it with no wifi even! As it happens I'll be without mains electricity tomorrow because of work on the local system. However I have a generator and a cross-over so that I can isolate the mains from my fuse box when the generator kicks in.

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  14. Since we completed our front lawn into "rooms" with curving paths leading to all sorts of little surprising statues, benches, and plantings...and placed solar ground lights all along the paths....they've never disappointed. I love looking out in the evening seeing the subtle lighting and flowers. To me it's been magical - so easy to do. Makes all the efforts worthwhile and brought lots more butterflies and hummingbirds to visit. Stay well!

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  15. Living in a city it's been a very long time since I last saw a proper 'unpolluted' starry night sky. (I remember it from visiting friends out in the countryside with no streetlights - decades ago...)

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    1. Yes, Monica, it's one of the sadnesses of city life.

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