ISLAMABAD: Electronics shopkeepers and repairmen in the garrison city have proved yet again that necessity is the mother of invention.
An affordable LED or light emitting diodes emergency light, assembled at the College Road market, has become a hit with residents wishing to light up their houses during loadshedding hours. The innovative emergency light, which neatly fits in the palm, uses three LED bulbs soldered on the outer surface of a rectangular battery.
It can be recharged using an old Nokia cell phone charger, said Sohail Shaukat, an electronics shop salesman and manager. “Charge it for an hour and it will work for almost four hours,” Shaukat said. “People are buying it by the dozen because it is small and inexpensive.” He has sold over 100 pieces in the past month.
The light is available in two-bulb and three-bulb varieties which cost anywhere between Rs150 to Rs250, depending on the customer’s bargaining skills.
The spell of warm weather, interspersed with rain, has worsened the menace of loadshedding in the twin cities. In some areas of the garrison city, hour-long power outages occur every two hours during the day. Electricity was shut off only once every 12 hours during the winter months.
Over the past two years, the markets around Raja Bazaar have been flooded with a varied range of LED-based emergency lights imported from China. These emergency lights have replaced the older and more expensive fluorescent tube emergency lights which were popular in the late 1990s.
LEDs are energy-efficient semiconductor light sources which provide constant light. But the Chinese-made rechargeable emergency lights — which usually use around 20 small LED bulbs — cost no less than Rs500. So they are facing stiff competition from the indigenous alternative.
On Saturday, Chaklala Scheme 3 resident Rameez Sajjad was bargaining with a shopkeeper near Imperial Market for the light. “I saw it at a relative’s house,” Sajjad said. “The light is slightly strong for the eyes but for the price, it is a good alternative.”
Pakistan does not manufacture LEDs and two of the main components of the emergency light — the battery and the LEDs — are imported from China, said Sohail Iqbal, an electrician who assembles the emergency lights at a shop on College Road.
“It is indigenously developed,” said Iqbal proudly. “We have tremendous problem-solving talent and innovation but it often goes unappreciated.” He said the supply of the imported components is disrupted sometimes, but the demand is as high as ever.
It takes around 15 minutes to assemble one light. Two diodes and a resistor are used in the light’s circuitry to rectify the alternating current voltage from the mains to direct current, which then recharges the battery and lights the LED bulbs. A switch is connected in the circuit to turn the device on and off. The device also has a small LED bulb to indicate the charging status when it is being recharged. The circuit is then soldered on top of a battery which has a heat sink, said Iqbal.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2013.
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