Know the truth! Are LED lights reusable? Well, the shortest answer is yes, LED lights are reusable! But, there are things ahead of yes, you should be aware of before reusing your LED light.
What are they?
First thing first, whether you’re disposing of (for recycling, never throw them as it is! Why? We’ll talk about it later in the section) or recycling your LED light, it’s advisable to handle them carefully.
Here are a few pointers that’ll help you deal with your LED bulb with safety!
The Broken Bulb:
If you have a broken LED bulb, always handle it with care when disposing or reusing it (yes, you can reuse a broken bulb even, we’ll discuss it later). It might have harmful chemicals like mercury, lead, etc., so take the precautions accordingly.
While reusing an LED bulb, never force it into the fitting, as bulbs always offer an easy install/remove option. This can lead to breakage or even a short circuit if it’s not fitted in properly. This likely happen in the case of incorrect cap or fitting.
Don’t Dispose of Your LED Bulb with This Symbol:
WEEE- the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive encourages you not to throw your bulbs; instead, send them for recycling. WEEE offers free recycling services. The lightings with a crossed-out wheeled bin symbol should never be disposed of as general waste because of the harmful substances.
Those were the points you should consider while disposing of or reusing your LED light bulb. Now, let’s move to the main query regarding reusing LED lights!
As LED lights are reusable…
But how? Let’s see!
5 WAYS TO REUSE LED LIGHT BULBS
Instead of throwing away the burnt-out LED bulbs, better reuse them via DIYs. Only for you, here are the easy-to-do five art and craft DIY projects you should do to reuse your dead LED bulb.
BUT! What to do if your bulb is a mercury or lead-filled LED bulb?
Worry not! Cleaning your LED bulb guide has got you covered!
Emptying and Cleaning the Old LED Light Bulb- Guide:
Here’s a complete guide to empty and cleaning old LED lights.
- A box knife,
- A nail or a flathead screwdriver,
- A pinch or two of salt,
- A few tablespoons of water.
- Wear safety gloves and goggles.
- In case of reusing a broken-glass LED light, never let children handle these DIYs.
Now, let the cleaning process begin!
- Pop off the edge of the brass disk on the bottom of the bulb by using the box knife.
- Finish off the job with pliers.
- Now, with the help of pliers, pull off the black glass cone attached to the brass disk.
- You can use a nail or screwdriver as a chisel, if required, to break the glass that holds the filament.
- Then throw out the filament (as you’re not going to use it in any DIYs).
- To clean the bulb, swirl saltwater inside until the glass is clear.
Note: Keep the bottom screw part of the bulb to better perform in DIYs.
The Fun 5 DIYs!
Your bulb is clean now. Now, let’s try the fun and creative LED light DIY projects.
1. The Mini garden / Terrarium:
2. The Money Bulb:
- Put gift cash inside the cleaned light bulb.
- Now, attach a tag to it with the line you wanna say, and you’re done.
- Offer it your friends and near ones- Enjoy!
3. The Hanging Vase:
- You can make cute tiny vases for plants out of bulbs by following the steps.
- Fill the bulb with water.
- Place a plant inside.
- Then hang this bulb-vase with string or fishing line, and you’re done!
4. Glass Hot-air Balloon Models:
- Paint light bulbs with bright colors and make them look like a small hot-air balloon.
- To create a hanging mobile for your child or friend, you can repeat the same step with other bulbs.
- To make them appear floating in midair, paint multiple bulbs and hang them from the ceiling with a fishing line or string.
- Attach the fishing line with a dab of glue with a hot glue gun.
5. Air Plant Bulb:
- Place an air plant inside a clean bulb.
- Dangle the bulb with string or fishing line and your air plant bulb DIY is done.
REUSING DEAD LED BULBS – AS POWER SOURCE
The usual failure mode of LED bulbs is the busted driver. Fewer are the cases where LED chips fail. This makes the salvage and reuse of LED bulbs easy. With that said, here we’re going to rescue a busted LED bulb.
How? Let’s see!
Step 1: Crack Them Open
LED bulbs are usually glued, with no components access from outside. So, hammer them up and smash way. Now, discard the driver and trace out the active-good LED chips. These chips can be hooked up to a low voltage power source like a USB or AC-DC adapter.
Step 2: The Multimeter Help!
To mark out the dead LEDs, using a Multimeter continuity would help. A Multimeter will figure out the circuit path of the designed array. But, each lamp designer has a unique way to figure out the circuit path. Some manufacturers put all the LEDs in series, while others prefer a mix of Series-Parallel matrices. A few also use Multi-chip LEDs in a single package.
However, the one acceptable way to test the LEDs is to use 3 A.A. Cells in series. Hook them up to some thin probes or needles will work too. Test each LED with the probes or needles. Now, mark the polarity of each LED. Also, don’t forget to mark out the dead LEDs that should be removed. If they shouldn’t be removed, they’ll short the array.
Step 3: Conversion to Parallel LEDs
After identifying good LEDs and removing bad ones, it’s time to redesign the array. How? Let’s see!
- LEDs can be used in parallel only if a low voltage source like USB 5v is used.
- LEDs can be used in a series string of 4 LEDs if a higher voltage like 12v Adapter or a car battery is used.
In this project, all the good LEDs are converted to parallel. This is done by soldering thin telephone wires on them. Now, to make LED individual and isolated from others, circuit traces should be cut.
It’s time for precaution. Coat the whole array in hot glue to ensure safety and longevity. But, LED emitters should be kept open.
Step 4: Adding USB Cable & Resistors
Now, it’s time to add a wire with the length depending on your application. In this project, a USB cable from an old printer is used. Do this by cutting off the ‘B’ end of wire and solder one lead to an LED array. At the same time, the other lead will have a series resistor to limit the current. In this project, 12 ohms, a 1-watt resistor is used to keep the current comfortable and the array brighter.
ARE LED STRIPS REUSABLE?
Yes, LED strip lights are reusable. If you can connect wires to strips or find a matching connector, LED strips will work well at a rated voltage, usually at 12V-DC, but will draw a lower current.
DISPOSING OF LEDs TO RECYCLE THEM!
NEVER Throw LED Bulbs!
LED light bulbs are hazardous wastes containing lead and arsenic that shouldn’t go in the garbage. Instead, they should be taken back to any of the stores that sell them. Such stores take them back for free recycling. Or you can take them to any of the HHW facilities or at Alameda County Hazardous Waste facilities, where they’ll be dropped off for free.
Why Recycle LED Light Bulbs?
According to GreenTech Solutions, 95% of an LED bulb can be recycled in which the main recyclable componentry is glass and metal. To conserve Earth’s resources and to reduce needless waste, the best practice is to reuse and recycle these finite, non-renewable resources as much as we can.
But, before disposing of your LED bulb for recycling, make sure you’ve done the recycling preparation. Here’s how you can do it:
Recycling Preparation of LED Light Bulb:
- Before removing the LED bulb from the fixture, please turn it off.
- A few recycling drop-off locations may ask you to wrap each LED bulb separately in a plastic bag. This reduces the breakage and will protect workers if bulbs do break. But, this is not likely to happen always. However, the best thing you can do is ask your recycler for requirements before dropping off your LED bulbs for recycling.
- Remove LED strip or string lights from displays like a pine tree wire or wreath if you’re going to recycle them.
Places to Recycle LED Light Bulbs:
You can drop off your old LED light bulbs at places like:
- Big-box stores, e.g., Lowes, Home Depot, and IKEA. They may offer in-store recycling bins for recycling LEDs. Contacting your local store for details would be better.
- Municipal safety departments where they offer recycling of both LEDs and CFLs on specific days and set locations. You can check with your city.
- Batteries Plus stores and some hardware stores where they accept old LED bulbs for free.
THE QUESTION GUIDE TO RECYCLING LED LIGHT
Is it okay to recycle LED bulbs in the curbside recycling bin?
Yes, it’s okay to recycle your LED bulbs in the curbside recycling bin if you have a drop-off location nearby. Your municipality or local solid waste district will help you in the process.
How are LED bulbs recycled at the recycling bin?
Here’s how LED bulbs are recycled at the recycling bin:
- A shredder is used to break the LED bulbs and their components.
- Now, the crushed LED lights are run through separators. Separators can be eddy current sorters or photopic separators separating glass, plastic, and metals, or a magnet that removes metals.
- To recover metals, circuit boards are sent to a smelter. A smelter uses heat or chemical extraction methods to remove metals like aluminum, nickel, gold, and copper.
- The rare earth metals that are used to coat the inside of LED bulbs are not recoverable.
Are LED light bulbs HHW- Household Hazardous Waste like CFL bulbs?
No, LED light bulbs are not HHW like CFL bulbs. Because they don’t contain mercury and argon like CFLs, so shouldn’t be disposed of as HHW.
Is it against the law to throw away LED light bulbs?
No, it’s not against the law to throw away LED light bulbs in the U.S. Because they’re not considered hazardous waste and can be disposed of with your trash. But, In Europe, recycling of LEDs is mandated.
Are LED bulbs considered e-waste or universal waste?
Yes, LED bulbs are considered e-waste or universal waste because of the LED electronic circuitry- the circuit boards they use. These circuit boards are similar to computers and other electronics and are often salvaged by recyclers that process e-waste or universal waste.
Can I reuse LED lights?
Yes, you can reuse LED lights in several ways, like doing LED bulbs DIYs, re-operating them, or using their functional componentry in making a new electronic device.
This was all we’ve got you for today. We hope this guide on reusing LED lights might have helped you in your journey. You can either reuse your burnt-out LED light bulb in fun DIY projects or reuse and recycle them in the other best ways.
With that said, do let us know how you reused or disposed of your LED light in the comment section below. We’ll be waiting!
Till then, Happy New Lighting!