The lighting industry has been trying to find new ways to be more environmentally friendly over the past few years. The biggest initiative has been the use of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to help save money on both current electric costs and future bulb purchases since these bulbs can last up to five years in some cases. This past year saw an increased push to get LEDs into the market as an even better way to save money. The up front cost of these lights is much greater than CFLs or traditional incandescent bulbs, but their power and lifespan (up to 15-20 years) more than makes up for the initial investment, especially in larger facilities.
LEDs will be on the world stage tonight when the newest New Year’s Eve ball drops in Times Square as part of the festivities to bring in 2009. The 12 foot geodesic sphere weighs 11,875 pounds, is covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals, and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs. The ball can produce a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of possible patterns. This year’s LED count is more than three times the number used a year ago. This year’s ball 10% to 20% more energy efficient than the one used to ring in 2008—equivalent to the same amount of energy per hour as needed to operate two traditional home ovens.
The ball has come a long way since first debuting in 1907. The original sphere was constructed of iron and wood, featured 100 25 watt light bulbs, was five feet in diameter, and weighed 700 pounds. Other changes over the years include:
- a 400 pound ball of wrought iron replacing the original in 1920
- an aluminum ball tipping the scales at 200 pounds in 1955
- the ball resembling an apple in much of the 1980s to reflect the “I Love New York” campaign
- an aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls featured in 1995.
- for bringing in the new millennium a completely new redesigned crystal sphere was created.