Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Interesting LEDs from Cooper Lighting and Commercial Electric

November 1, 2011

There are a couple of interesting LED recessed (or sort of recessed!) lighting fixtures that we’ve tested recently that are worth sharing.  I wouldn’t consider either one the CREE-killer (the CREE CR6 is still my head & shoulders above the rest favorite residential LED fixture).  But each might be a workable option in some situations.

First is Cooper Lighting’s ALL-PRO LED.  This product provides another options for “wet” locations, and at a lower price point than the HALO fixture previously reviewed here.  The dimming seems to work.

Cooper Lighting All-Pro LED Fixture

A couple things I don’t like are the 3000K rating which means it’s in the very white (some say blue) color range.  For comparison the CREE CR6 is a much warmer looking 2700K.  The other big downside for me is the 81 “color rendition index” compared to the CREE 90.  A higher number means things look truer to their natural color to the human eye.   At a rated 14.6 watts, it’s very efficient, but not as good as the CREE.

Price wise, this is comparable to the CREE and cheaper than the HALO.  If you need a wet-rated fixture, this is a worthy choice.

Next up is the Commercial Electric Light Disk.  The light quality is similar to the above product at 3000K and a CRI of 80.  OK, but not on par with the CREE CR6.  However, it does have two big advantages going for it.  It is brighter that either the CREE or the Cooper products.  Not hugely so, but brighter.  Commercial Electric  LED Disk Light

And the big feature in it’s flexibility is the ability to fix in either 5″ or 6″ cans or, uniquely surface mounted right on a 4″ junction box–a surface mounted fixture with a recessed light look.  There might be some very useful applications for this, from closets to simple retrofits would you want a sleeker modern look to replace a clunky looking surface fixture. 

We’ll keep evaluating and reviewing as the technology evolves, and we’ll keep you posted on anything interesting.

Cheers,
Mike

“Amish” Heaters: Trick or Treat?

October 20, 2011

OK, one sign of halloween, as made clear from his zombie post yesterday, is that Jason has been watching (too many!) horror movies.

Example of an Amish Heater Ad

The ads are different this year, but the advice is the same--don't waste your money on the so-called "Amish" heater.

But the other sign, all too predictable over recent years, is that those darned full-page “Amish” heater (the Heat Surge…or it is the Heat Scurge?) ads are running again.  Miracle?  No.  But predictable and scary, maybe even scarier than one of those Zombie movies.  And from the ad, it looks like Sears has joined the game.

And although they’re now advertising the ” Heat Surge HT” with their trademarked “Hybrid-Thermic” technology, it doesn’t change what we’ve talked before (see reviews and commentary here, and here, and here, for example).  I won’t spend a lot of time on the retread except to warn people NOT to waste their money.  A lot of hype, expensive ads, and a tremendously overpriced product.  This gets my “Don’t Buy” recommendation once again.

In some circumstances, space heaters can help, but in most homes it’s usually less expensive to heat your whole house with gas or oil than it is to run even a couple electric heaters.  And even then, you can find units that will deliver the same heat at a much lower price (albeit without the goofy ad).  Save your money.  Make your home more comfortable and save energy with both simple tips and more extensive–and  smarter–home improvements like insulating and air-sealing.

Thanks,
Mike

CREE CR6 Review–A bright spot in efficient lighting!

December 31, 2010

The long-awaited full review!  And let me cut to the chase:  When it comes to LED recessed lighting, right now CREE is the top choice, and the new CREE CR6 stands strong alongside its LR6 sibling.  The CREE CR6 is a winner!  I’ve tested a dozen different makes over the last month, and the CR6 and LR6 beat all the competition hands down.  (I’ll provide a review of the others over time—but I won’t tease you waiting for the answer about which is best–CREE wins.)

Unlike some of the energy-efficient lighting involving significant performance compromise, the Cree CR6 holds its own against the 65-watt incandescent recessed bulb it is intended to replace.  In fact, I like it better!

Available in a “warm” (2700K, for you technical types), it looks great.  Its high CRI of 92, objects it lights look like you’d expect and don’t take on a ghastly pallor. 

CREE CR6Performance-wise, it came on instantly just like an incandescent.  That sets it in stark contrast from most others we’ve tested. It also seems to dim almost as well as an incandescent and better than even the best dimmable CFLs we’ve tested. In terms of brightness, it’s rated at 575 lumens, however perhaps because of better efficacy (how much light leaves the fixture v. how much gets trapped) this seemed brighter than its CFL competitors.   (Note:  the LR6 has a higher lumen rating at the same 10.5 watts.)  The CR6 has great dimmability when matched with a Lutron Diva dimmer.  Unlike most of the LED competing products, the individual LED diodes are not visible—instead we see a warm, very uniformly glowing surface.  It’s a beautiful light that I like better than the incandescent it replaces!  When energy-efficiency comes with better performance, it’s a no-brainer!

The unit is rated at 35,000 hours—something I obviously haven’t had the ability to test yet!  I can report that the CREE LR6’s are still performing great after almost two years of daily use.  The long life span makes them an excellent choice in harder to reach ceiling fixtures.

The CR6 was very easy to install, and it worked great in the three different 6” housings that I tried it with.  Both the CR6 and the LR6 (and the LR4—which I also like!) come with an integrated trim.  The only downside of this is that if you have an existing trim you really like, you can’t use it with the CR6.  The CR6 trim looks great, though, better than most of the trim kits it replaces, and I would gladly remove existing trims to use this.

The price may shock some.  It’s going to be in the $50 to $65 range.  I purchased mine for $49 at a Home Depot in New York, where NYSERDA subsidizes the cost.  But at 10.5 watts, it should save you an estimated $200 or more over its life, depending on your electric rates. 

I’ve had trouble locating the CR6 locally.  And it’s still hard to find.  But it is available through Amazon.  I got mine at a Home Depot under what appears to be their Ecosmart house brand.  (They also sell other LED products under that branding—so make sure you get the right one “powered by CREE”).

As mentioned previously, the CR6 and LR6 are not yet rated for wet locations—although I’m told those products are on the way.  If you have a wet location application (like a shower), the Halo LED Module product is a good, albeit more expensive, choice.

I heartily recommend the CR6 (and the LR6), and I’ve installed it in my own home!

What do others think?

[See more commentary on the CREE CR6.]

Thanks,
Mike

Renewaire’s new bath fan is a winner!

September 11, 2009

As mentioned previously, Renewaire has a new line of bath fans.  As promised, I’ve installed one in my own home, and the preliminary results are in.  The fan is a winner.  Solid performer.  While I obviously don’t have longevity data on it yet, this is a fan I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend or install for our clients.  The one is definitely worth checking out.

Thanks,
Mike

Panasonic Bath Fan Recommendation

July 28, 2009

Must be product review day!  Some friends just had a question about what fan to get for their bathroom.  Great question.

Bath fans are important because they can remove the tremendous about of water vapor created by showing and bathing before it has a chance to create mildew or mold issues.  And they can be part of your home’s overall ventilation and indoor air strategy.

Too often, though, the cheapo fan—rattle boxes or noise makers, I call then—make a lot of noise, but don’t really move much air.  And some older fans can suck a lot of electricity even while they’re not helping much.

We use the Panasonic Whisper Series fans.   First and foremost, they work!  They have a great energy-efficient motor that really moves air very close to the nominal rating.  And as the “Whisper” implies, they’re very quiet—some models you really have to listen hard to hear at all.   And they’re reliable.  They are built to last and run a long time—continuously if needed.  An excellent choice.

I should mention that regardless of the type of exhaust fan you use, the fan should be ducted to vent directly outside.  Do not vent them into your attic—that’s a potential mold farm waiting to happen.  And even venting out a soffit isn’t a great idea, especially soffits designed to pull air up into the attic.

Thanks,
Mike

Addendum, Sept. 11, 2009:  I’ve just finished an initial evaluation of Renewaire’s new bath fan line, and it appears every bit as strong as the Panasonic line.  I can recommend it, too.

LED Lighting–Some of it is ready!

July 28, 2009

I’ve mentioned LED lighting before.  Again, based on our reviews, most of the stuff you see on shelves in the stores right now (like the Lights of America bulbs at Costco) isn’t ready for prime time.  The colors are ghastly, the light output is underwhelming, and the design is such that I doubt will lead to long lamp life (LED fixtures need a way to dissipate heat to work properly and to retain their life).  You can try them in your garage or an outdoor fixture, but I wouldn’t buy too many of them.

CREE LED Lighting is a great choice for residential applications.

CREE LED Lighting is a great choice for residential applications.

Having said that, I continue to be very impressed with the CREE’s LR6 lighting—enough to install it in multiple prominent locations in my own home.  The2700K fixture is warm and very suited to a residential application.  It’s bright, dimmable, and just plain looks good.   It’s one of the few that has thus far earned the ENERGY STAR label.  The 50,000 hour rating is certainly intriguing, too.  Right now, CREE LEDs are only available as recessed fixtures—but it you’ve got recessed lighting, this just might be the ticket for you.

[Note–see review of the CREE CR6 posted on Dec 31, 2010.]

Thanks, Mike

 

Beware: “Amish” Heater Mythology

March 9, 2009

I just pulled out a copy of USA Today from a recent trip.  In it there is an ad for the “Amish Mantle and Miracle Invention”.  This reminded me of a recent conversation about this baloney.  The bottom line is that this advertising is misleading at best.  What they are selling is an expensive electric heater—and nothing better than you could get for $40 at your local hardware store.  The Amish?  Electric heat?  Please give me a break.

An example of the silliness, the ad states that the heater generate an “amazing 5,119 BTUs on high setting.”   If you crunch the numbers, you see this is simply a 1,500 watt heater—not so amazing.

If you really what to save on your heating bill, air-seal and reduce drafts, improve your insulation levels, and invest in high- efficiency furnaces or boilers—the basic home efficiency measures.

For more discussion and reviews debunking this so-called Amish heater foolishness, see

Buyer beware!

Thanks,
Mike


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