Posts Tagged ‘CFL’

Set Phasors on Stun! Scottie, Warp Power Up to Full Capacity!

September 20, 2013


It was reported recently  that some bright folks have figured out that if you watch the current of the power grid with phasor measurement units (picture colorful layers of EKG displays),it will reveal potential disruptions in the power supply nationwide and help us catch a problem before it gets too big, like it did in the summer of 2003 when 50 million people lost power.

Knowing when trouble is coming is great but if we tax the grid with cooling and lighting, watching re runs of Star Trek, and running blenders for margaritas’ in the summer, what do we do about it?

Either generate more power (Que Scottish accent shouting “I dannae is she can’t take any more captain!”) or we change our behavior (put the blender away)  We may have escaped this summer unscathed, but reducing our electircal load year round is a great idea.

Here’s one more option:  Energy efficient appliances, lighting and homes!  When you replace appliances or lighting, make sure it EnergyStar rated or is a LED or CFL for lighting.  As for our homes, increasing your comfort can mean reducing your bills as well and using less from the grid at the same time.  Air sealing and insulation makes a big difference on the cooling bill.  Consider a home performance assessment, that way your shields will be up and ready for anything.



Can the LED Mean no More Excuses?

June 14, 2013

We have written about LED lighting in the past, and there are lots of good reasons to consider it in your home.  The recessed lighting options out there can help with energy savings as well as tackling a troublesome air sealing dilemma.

P1050845 P1050846P1050874 P1050856

But the big hurdle for me is the light bulb. We use them everywhere in our homes and in places where we really need them like to read or get down the stairs.  There have a number of bulbs making their way to market, and one of them is CREE.


It did cost me $12, but my biggest complaint is that I may have to keep the receipt for 10 years if it fails under warranty.  If it only lasts 10 years, it will have been a $1.20 a year investment and I expect to spend that much a year to keep it on about 6 hours a day since it uses only 9.5 watts produces 800 lumens.  An incandescent might cost $8 a year to burn the same hours and it sure won’t last 10 years.

What does it look like though, since nostalgia and good looks matter and have kept some of us from changing standard light bulbs to compact fluorescents.    Go figure, I think it looks like a light bulb.  I’m running out of excuses. Even with antique fixtures, something crying for an old Edison bulb I think it looks pretty good.




Nostalgic for that Old Edison Bulb? Comfort(of a kind) and Energy Efficiency in Good Design

January 3, 2012

Panasonic has released a dandy looking light bulb for the future.  It looks a lot like something from the past.  Certainly LED light bulbs have their place in our lighting future as they already do in our present.  Cree  has certainly topped our charts here at GreenHomes America, especially when it comes to recessed down lighting. 

As expected, the Pansonic LED Nostalgic Clear, promises a long life at 40,000 hours and significant energy savings at 4.4w over 20W (for a CFL) with an A-Energy rating.  At 2700k Panasonic claims the bulb produces a soft warm light, and overall it is fairly compact.

I’ve mentioned the Switch bulb which I think looks pretty neat  even when off, but with this one, your interior decorating scheme might be a bit more industrial. 

 Let’s face it, sometimes you can see the light bulb and who wants to look at some clunky piece of technology from the 1980’s Battlestar Galactica days?  I do like the look of the Panasonic Nostalgic Clear.   

The frontier is still multi-directional, bright lighting; something as yet not done well by LED lighting overall, and I am sure is lacking in this Panasonic bulb as well.  Gerry Negley, Cree’s CTO has said, “I don’t know what lighting will look like in the 21st century. I can tell you it will not be constrained with shapes and technology of the past.  It will not look like a traditional light bulb.”  Can’t wait to see, but for now give me something familiar to light the way.

The Ancestors

October 7, 2011

Old light - New light

True to form as an American, my family is a hodge-podge of ancestry new and old,  New Englanders that were Mayflower descendants, mid-western farmers who were horse thieves or ministers, to immigrants here for just a few generations scraping by working in mills.    I don’t think they ever made it to America, or if they did the left, but somewhere on my wife’s side of the family tree are Vikings.  I imagine they were probably good at plundering, lighting their way with a good oil soaked torch.  It’s good to know where you come from.

In the lighting family tree, the baby of the bunch is the LED light attempting to unseat the CFL as the next best thing.  I’ve mentioned some innovations with LED’s recently, Mike’s talked about Cree lighting  and we know it’s important to conserve with lighting as well. But If I had to ask any of those family members from long ago if they would rather spend $1 or say $30 on a light bulb (accounting for inflation and converting it to the currency that makes sense, say Viking Pennigars) I can guess the response.

Over generations things change, for one thing, humans now tend to live past thirty. Light bulbs last a lot longer too, especially LED’s.   That sure is a bonus when the fixture is way up there, and requires a ladder, maybe a really long ladder!    As I think about the benefits of LED lighting, I thought it would be good to find out where it came from and how it works compared to other types of bulbs.  

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, a diode being a thing that electric current flows through.  Electrons flow, photons are emitted i.e. light. They are small and efficient but expensive.  

Most are familiar with Compact Fluorescent Lighting, a CFL has a phosphorus coating on the tube that lights up when the argon and mercury vapors inside get charged with electricity. 

The old fashioned incandescent bulb is essentially a heating element surrounded by gas which produces light.  In fact an incandescent bulb 90% of its energy is emitted as heat rather than light, not very efficient for lighting but great for heating except that for most electric heating is not very cost effective.

GE invented the first practical LED in 1962 those of a certain age will recognize them as the vibrant red of clock radios watches and pocket calculators (these things now come in smart phones almost exclusively, but that little flashing green light telling you there is a message is also a LED) They’ve gotten better since then.

So what’s good about a LED lightbulb?  Longevity:  some last 35,000 – 50,000 hours better than a CFL’s 7,000-10,000 hours or an incandescent’s 1000 hours or so.   Very inexpensive runtimes, a draw of 10w or so, a variety of color, blending different colors manufacturers can get a light that pleases the eye.  Unlike CFL’s it’s not recommended that you evacuate the room when they break, and LED’s are dimmable.  Next week I will talk about a few LED’s on the market now as well as some coming out by the end of the year that promise to be even better.  Much better than whale oil lamps and torches, that’s for sure.  My apologies to any relatives still using those, but there is a better way.



image of Match and LED’s from Wikicommons

Lutron C-L Series: A good dimmer choice for dimmable CFLs and LEDs

February 23, 2011
Lutron Diva C-L Dimmer

Lutron Diva C-L

Lutron Lumea C-L Dimmer

Lutron Lumea C-L

Regular readers have seen me rave about the CREE CR6 LED light.  (And if you haven’t—now’s the time to read more!)  I’ve had good success using standard dimmers, with the Lutron Diva working well.  However, Lutron has a new series of “C-L Dimmers” designed specifically for dimmable CFL and LED.  I’ve tried the Diva C-L, the Skylark C-L, and the Lumea C-L.  I like them.  And this line of dimmers does help alleviate some of the dimming problems one encounters with most so-called dimmable CFLs and LEDs. 

While CFLs have been around for a long time, they haven’t worked well with standard dimmers.  Frankly, I’m LESS than impressed with CFL that are claimed to be dimmable.  I found a too-small dimmable range, flicker, and shorter than expected life from the dimmable CFLs that I’ve tried.  And LEDs, I’m not ready to recommend most (the CREE and the HALO are two stand-out exceptions). 

But what if you’ve just invested in the lower quality—but still dimmable—options?  You may be experiencing some of the frequent problems with these bulbs using standard dimmers.  Things like the reduced dimming range I mentioned, sudden drop out as you dim the bulbs low without intending to shut them off, lights not coming on when the switch is in a dimmed position, or annoying flicker.

The Lutron C-L series features a "behind the plate" adjustment dial that helps optimize the dimmer for the bulbs you're using.

The Lutron C-L dimmers do a good job reducing these problems and the list is opposite the problems cited above.  Lights stay on as they’re dimmed.  Lights turn on regardless of whether they when dimmed when shut off or not.  Flicker is reduced.  Lutron handles this with some black box electronic that I’m not privy to—and with an adjustment dial that helps tailor the dimmer to the performance your bulbs can handle.  These dimmers don’t make inferior bulbs better.  But they do improve the experience of using the bulbs.

[And they’re great with those CREE CR6s!]


More commentary on the CREE CR6

January 1, 2011

I received a comment on yesterday’s post about the CREE CR6.  Rather than leave the comment and the response buried in a comment section, I’ll pull this out into a front-page continuation of yesterday’s post.

David B. wrote:

Mike, not to be a spoil-sport, but I don’t think a $50 light bulb is worth getting excited about. First, LED’s don’t use dramatically less energy than a CFL (the $200 savings is compared to an incandescent). Second, if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother.  Finally, the 35,000 hour life expectancy is a bit misleading. That works out to more than 20 years at 4 hrs a day (someone energy conscious enough to spend $50 for a bulb is probably obsessive about turning off lights that are not being used presently).

While LED’s offer some aesthetic and performance advantages over CFL’s, the price probably needs to drop below $10 before they make any sense.

Hi David,

The right LED lighting makes a lot of sense right now!  And I’m going to get excited anyway!   On a New Year’s morning, here’s a thumbnail version of the reason why.

I like the non-energy performance and appearance of the CR6 and LR6 better than the incandescent they replace.  And some people like “better” over “cheaper”.   When “better” is cheaper than “cheaper” that’s even better!  (Whew—try saying that fast five times.)  And over the life cycle, these certainly are less expensive.

I disagree with your statement that “if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother”.  That is a common fallacy in the energy-efficiency world, and it ignores the real reasons that most of our customers pursue energy-efficiency, namely for comfort, health & safety, durability of the home, and even aesthetics!  Energy-efficiency is often a nice way to pay for these benefits for many people.  And examples of this abound.  Windows is one—and we see payback on windows stretching to 40 years-plus in some cases.  [By the way, this doesn’t mean we don’t educate people about the low-hanging fruit of air-sealing, insulation, duct-sealing, etc.  We install more of those services than windows.]   What’s the payback on a granite countertop?  A sofa?  An Xbox?  A trip to the Grand Canyon?  What’s the payback on making your daughter’s bedroom more comfortable all summer or winter? 

As I’m sure you’re aware, many people don’t like and won’t use CFLs.  And even though I used them in recessed light applications, the quality was inferior than incandescents in characteristics including light quality, color rendition, and dimmability.  And that means that the stuck with incandescents.  I’ve noted this in the California market, for example.  In these cooling climates—and high electricity rate markets—in particular this is a shame.  Not only are people forgoing the savings on the lighting side, but the inefficient lighting is dumping heat into the space that they there pay to remove with air-conditioning.  A double whammy.  Having a product that people are willing to use is a game changer.

In new construction applications, or retrofit applications where trims are being installed (or replaced) anyway, the cost is the CR6/LR6 is actually overstated by about $10—because it includes an integrated trim already.  Plus, installation is quicker than with a two-step trim-lamp-process.  Not much, but minutes add up.

In some high-bay applications with 9-, 10-, or higher ceilings, a 35,000 hour life (or a 50,000 hour life in the case of the LR6) is a huge deal.  Some people have to pay a professional to change their lamps—and avoiding this covers the cost of the LEDs even without the energy savings!   This is certainly true in commercial situations as well.  You may be handy and not afraid of heights or ladders (and have the appropriate ladder), but for some people this is a very important factor.

I’ll note that it took me three tries to find these at the Home Depot in NY—because they’d already sold out at the first two and they were waiting on the next shipment.  So some people are recognizing the value already. 

These already make sense.  We don’t need the price to change a penny for that to be true.  I do agree that they won’t have broad market appeal at that price point yet.  I’ll expect the prices to drop steadily in the coming years.  They have already dropped over the last 18 months.   But people can feel good about starting savings today.

Happy New Year!

Compact Fluorescent Lamps – The Facts and the Fiction

November 8, 2010

I have always been a big supporter of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). I don’t see any reason not to be. They use significantly less energy than their incandescent cousins, the spectrum of light they emit is (at least now) very comfortable, and while they do contain mercury they are recyclable. I could never fathom a reason not to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescently until recently when a family member, who shall remain anonymous, proudly told me that there was no way she would risk her or her husband’s health by using fluorescent lighting in or around their home.

What? Health risks? I never heard anything about health risks.

So I did what any self-respecting scientist would do – I googled it.

It turns out that CFLs have inherited the bad reputation of their dinosaur grandparents – the traditional fluorescent. Traditional fluorescent bulbs have a host of problems that can cause symptoms such as headache and fatigue, such as a perceptible flickering, a humming noise, and an unnatural wavelength of light. Luckily technology has improved in leaps and bounds and CFLs do not display any of these problems.

When people talk of the health risks of using CFLs they usually cite 3 major problems:

1.              Radiation of UV light: UV light refers to light with frequency between 280 – 400 nm (nanometers), low enough that it cannot be seen by the human eye. The sun emits UV light, and it is what causes your skin to ‘burn’ if you stay exposed for too long. It is true that all fluorescent bulbs emit some UV radiation, but in order to measure the UV radiation emitted from a standard CFL very sensitive equipment is needed. The FDA does not consider the UV radiation emitted by CFLs to be a health risk.

2.              Magnetic Fields: A magnetic field is created around any electrical device when electricity flows through it. Like all other electrical appliances in your home CFLs emit an magnetic field, but these fields are well below the international guidelines.

3.              Mercury Poisoning: Mercury (a.k.a. quicksilver) is a metallic element that is toxic to humans and animals at high enough doses. CFLs have a small amount of mercury in them – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. If the CFL is intact there is no danger of mercury poisoning. If the glass of a CFL is broken, special precautions need to be used (see below) to ensure you and your family are not unnecessarily exposed to mercury vapors.

There is a small portion of the population who unfortunately suffer from medical conditions that make them particularly sensitive to UV or even visible light (some forms of lupus). Unfortunately, some of these people report undesirable symptoms during and after exposure to the light emitted from CFLs. If you have such a medical disorder, CFLs may not be the best solution for your home, but for the rest of the population there is no reason to shy away from CFLs.

Clean-up procedure: Breakage of a CFL should always be taken seriously and dealt with immediately. If you break a CFL follow these guidelines, set by the EPA.

Recycling CFLs: Check out this great resource that the EPA put together on how and why to recycle your spent CFLs.

CFLs and Dimming

July 20, 2010

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have gotten a bad rap. And in many cases, because they deserved it. Ugly light quality, annoying humming, and much shorter-than-rated lifespans plagued CFLs of yesteryear.     

But thanks in part to improved technology and higher ENERGY STAR standards, today’s CFL are excellent.  Good quality, good light, good performance, and still energy-efficient.    

One of the challenges with CFLs has been dimmability—or rather lack thereof. And most CFLs still aren’t dimmable. However, some are. And when connected to a high quality dimmer, these dimmable CFLs are efficient and good quality. I won’t geek out on the technical issues that have been addressed here other than a couple of short points. Dimmable CFLs have a different ballast than standard CFLs—the ballast are designed to operate as the power level drops, and the ballast sends a decreasing amount of juice to the bulb. And quality dimmers adjust to current to the light.


Philips Marathon dimmable CFL

If you want CFLs that dim, get a dimmable CFL! You’ll get better results with a good dimmer. I like the  Philips dimmable bulbs and the Diva dimmer by Lutron.   But don’t expect the full range of dimmability you’d get with incandescents.  There are some decent ciculine and GE’s double-U shaped bulbs, especially in dedicated torchieres.   [You can get even better results with T-5 linear flourescents with dimmable ballasts–but you won’t have the flexibility of a variety of fixture types.]

When buying CFLs you’ll also want to pay attention to the “temperature” and this works the opposite of what you might expect. A higher temperature number gives a whiter light—often advertised as “cool”. A lower temperature number gives a more yellow “warmer” light than we associate with incandescent lighting and which most people prefer in their homes. Higher/cooler, lower/warmer—hey, I don’t decide this, I’m just reporting! And look for ENERGY STAR. Their spec includes quality standards, and their website includes buying guidance.   



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