Posts Tagged ‘LED lighting’

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.

Connecticut “House of the Year”–More Energy Efficient

November 28, 2011

One of the reasons GreenHomes has been staying so busy is that so many homes weren’t built well to begin with.  A splash of granite here, a whirlpool tub (that never gets used) there.  But no attention to the pesky details that really make a home comfortable and efficient in the long-term.  You know, those boring things we keep talking about like insulation & air-sealing, efficient heating & cooling, high performance windows, LED lighting, and so on.

From the NY Times, the Connecticut "House of the Year" is Greener

Eventually, a lot of people get frustrated with drafts, rooms that are too hot or too cold, mildew smells, ice-dams in the Northeast, stinky crawlspaces in the South, $800 air-conditioning bills in California, and so on.  So they call us to fix the problems.  And we can.  That’s good business for us, but it’s unfortunate for homeowners, especially in newer homes.  Forget the bamboo floors or the fiber cement siding.  If the house doesn’t work, it’s not green.  And you aren’t as likely to be as comfortable as you should be.

It’s much easier to make a home perform well by building it right the first time.  And less expensive, too!  It’s encouraging to see builders moving to more efficient practices, as mentioned in this story from Connecticut about the “House of the Year”.  Meanwhile, though, we’ve got a lot of houses to fix.  Most homes could use performance improvements.  And 70% of the homes that will be standing in 2050 are already built today.  Let’s change and start building all new homes the right way—and let’s fix the homes that we’re living in already.


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.


Good looking lighting?

October 31, 2011

I have to say I’m a sucker for good design.  Something that catches my eye is sure to draw me in, but more important is whether or not it works.   Like a book jacket that promises an exciting story, I want it to actually read that way.  A wise man in my family once said, “life is too short to read bad books.”  I have to add, especially with bad lighting.

 How about LED lighting?  You heard Mike rave about some of the CREE and Halo products.  Not coincidentally, both are ceiling recessed lights and this is where the directional nature of LEDs shine.  (Sorry, Bad pun).  And as far as good looking design, when it’s off, we don’t see recessed lighting, it is recessed after all.

I’m still waiting for that perfect regular ol’ light bulb replacement, and a good looking one.   More important may be another drawback to LED lighting which is the brightness “ceiling”.  As incandescent bulbs are phased out and my eyes get worse, I’d like to see more bright LED lights come to the market.  And the directional nature of LEDs means there are design challenges trying to get them to throw light in every direction.

I have found some bulbs which are pretty cool looking but just like the dust jacket of a book, what is inside?  I hope to not be looking at the bulb when it’s on because it’s shedding some good light!  What catches my eye is the promise of better light so far, the bulbs out there brighter than the 60w comparison look funny or they are big and clunky and well as pricy!

Exciting to me are the ones that promise the same light as a 75w or 100w incandescent like the Switch, and they don’t look like a prop from Star Trek.   If it looks good and works, count me in!  They are due out this coming year, and I look forward to trying them out, good book in hand.

Efficiency guru Amory Lovins once said all people want is “a cold beer and a hot shower” I say” a good book and good light” too!

“Amish Heaters”: Hogwash in a box

October 28, 2011

Mike’s mentioned those “Amish Heaters” lately. Here’s a video clip from a few years back from Consumers Reports, an unbiased source. Nothing wrong with these heaters per se, but you have to read pretty carefully not to be mislead.  I do have to say they are awfully expensive for what they do.  You might be better off with a $20 dollar electric space heater.  As the video points out, you won’t save any money unless you turn the heat down in the rest of the house.  Hmmm, sounds uncomfortable. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

Stay warm, 


A few more great uses for LED lighting: defense against zombie attacks!

October 19, 2011
 While we have talked about LED primarily in the efficiency sense, it seems to me that another great use for LED lighting is defense against zombie attacks!

Ben fighting the good fight in Night of the Living Dead

Well, mind control may be a good tool.  The New York Times blogged about this lately, how LED lighting can be used to interfere with melatonin the hormone secreted from the pineal gland linked to sleepyness.  Brings to mind the movie “From Beyond” by HP Lovecraft the mastermind behind Re-animator  where scientists stimulated the pineal gland and opened up a parallel universe. Horrors for sure, link clickers beware.  On second thought mind control might not work on zombies.

The CDC has put out the very useful guide how to survive a zombie apocalypse, but I might add a few tools.  For one, weapons aren’t mentioned much, and I have to say very important but really a last resort grab whatever you can. 

If stranded in a farmhouse under attack, I’d want to stand beside my hero, Ben from Night of the Living Dead (played by Duane Jones a former English professor and the first African American actor portrayed as the hero in a horror film, for that matter cast in a major motion picture when the role did not specify the part had to be played by a black actor).  Ben grabbed whatever he could, and since they only had a single shot gun, the biggest problem was keeping the zombies out.  

And since I’m venturing in wild speculation, it just may be that now there is a way.  The new scientist reported a company has developed something that will come in handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse,  fingerprint activated locks.  This company Dermalog Identification Systems in Hamburg, Germany while not intending to defend us from zombie attack seems to have the perfect device.  Here’s why: Apparently their sensors check to see how a finger reacts to being scanned. Living tissue blanches or changes color being that the blood is squeezed out of capillaries when its pushes on a surface.  

From the article:     living fingers absorbed LED light at 550 nanometres on first contact and then at 1450 nanometres as the skin blanched when fully contacting the sensor (Forensic Science International, DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.05.014).

Dead fingers don’t.

Of course, if the zombies simply claw through the door, we’re right back where we started.

LED lights to the rescue, who cares about efficiency?  On second thought, I think I’m staying inside for the 31st, locks already ordered.  But I can spend that day switching to LED lighting for other reasons and (hopefully!!) leave the zombie control to someone else.

Happy Halloween!


LED lighting moves past just a bright idea: it helps to improves lives

September 27, 2011

I keep seeing new ideas and activity with lighting. 

 To my pleasant surprise I was just in a home with retrofit lighting, with both a CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs.   I liked the LED better.  (And you’ve probably heard Mike rave about them.)   Light Emitting Diode lighting is making great headway.  In an earlier post I briefly mentioned Switch light bulbs which look pretty cool even when they are off.

There’s more than a good looking light to this technology.  The New York Times reported today  about a non profit orginization  D-
which has designed a light therapy product called Brilliance for infants suffering from jaundice.  Not a life threatening situation for all, but in resource poor countries, technology like this may make a big difference.  Untreated, jaundice can lead to deafness and brain damage.

The key to Brilliance and the use of LED’s is that the lighting lasts longer and uses half the wattage of the specialty CFL’s a similar device needs.  It costs less, saves more.  That’s something in which we can all see the benefit, and it’s at the heart of what I love about energy-efficiency.  Done well, it can be about doing more with less.   I’ll talk more about this new technology and what it means to all of us in future weeks, from what it is, why it’s better and some advances that might surprise you.   

In the meantime, as readers here now, energy-efficiency in your home isn’t about “shivering in the dark”, but just the opposite.  It’s about staying more comfortable, safer, with better lighting, while wasting less energy.

image from

Easy-Bake Oven loses its bulb with 100-watt phase-out

September 14, 2011

 This brings back memories of the little baked cakes my sister would make.  It amazed me that a little plastic toy with a light bulb inside could actually make a cake.  Patience was always tried since it seemed to take forever, but I guess 15 minutes isn’t really that long though.

Surely a sign of the times, lights out for the 100 watt light bulb.  In the United States, 100 watt bulbs will be the first to go by next year.  So the easy bake oven gets a new retro design and a heating element like a regular oven.  My guess is it’s not any more efficient, but hey it’s baking a cake!  That’s important work.  As matter of fact it’s a bigger baking area so I hope it’s at least better insulated.

What this really brings to mind is the importance of lighting and how we are seeing many new opportunities.  CFL’s are a good option. LED’s are even better.  We’ve talked about CREE lighting before.  There are also LED light bulbs available, and by next year some promise a replacement for the burnt out 100watt incandescent such as Switch light bulbs.   I guess we will see.

With major power outages now and then and the rising cost of everything and the increased usage of electronic gadgets, it makes sense to pay attention to electricity a little more closely.  I think I might bake a cake celebrating the beginning of the end and also new beginnings.

Keeping Cool

June 8, 2011

 There’s been a Heat wave across parts of the country, wild fires blazing and the season has just begun! So I thought it would be good to build on the tips Mike mentioned last week.  Here are a few things you can look at to keep your cool as we head into summer: 

  1. Keep the heat out!  During the day, if it’s cooler inside than outside, keep windows shut.  And keep window shades down to block out direct sunlight.  Open the windows at night if it’s cooler outside than in.  Solar shades can help. 
  2. Ceiling fans (and other fans) help you stay comfortable—but only while you’re in the room.  The fan motors actually generate heat, so turn them off when you’re not there.
  3. Use a bath fan vented to the outside to remove the heat and moisture created by showering.  If you don’t have a bath fan, have one installed its useful for many reasons.
  4. Mike recently talked about keeping cool in the kitchen; use an exhaust fan to remove heat and moisture created by cooking.  This has the added benefit of removing pollutants, especially if you cook with gas.
  5. Use efficient lighting and appliances.  Incandescent and halogen lights actually use most of their energy creating heat instead of light.  Not only does this means you’re overpaying for lighting, but in the summer you’re creating a lot of unwanted heat in the rooms you’re trying to keep cool.  Compact florescent light bulbs are good LED’s are even better.  
  6. Do you have a forced air heating or cooling system? If so, make sure to seal and insulate the ductwork in attics and crawl spaces.  As much as 30% of the air you cool can escape outside through leaky ducts.
  7. Insulate and air-seal your attic.  In the summer, temperatures in the attic often climb to more than 140o.    Proper insulation can keep this heat from conducting down into your home, but first…  Remember that your insulation only works if air isn’t moving through it.  Seal around chimneys, flues, plumbing penetrations, and recessed lighting, for example.   See our earlier post Insulate to Stay Cool .
  8. As we mentioned recently with a central air-conditioner it’s important to keep it tuned up—EPA and DOE recommending maintenance every year.   If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, one that at least qualifies for ENERGY STAR.  If you buying a window air-conditioner or dehumidifier, look for the ENERGY STAR, too. 
  9. Planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of a house can help keep your home cool in the summer.  In many parts of the country, maples, oaks, and birches are good trees to consider.  Because they drop their leaves in the fall, they let sunlight through to help warm your house in the winter.  Landscaping is about more than looks! 
  10. New low-e windows with a low “solar heat gain coefficient” (SHGC) can block the heat from the sun but may be a costly measure if that’s the only reason you’re replacing them.

To really find the trouble spots in your home, and to be sure that they’re addressed properly, get a comprehensive home assessment.  GreenHomes America can provide this, and GreenHomes trained and certified crews can even install your improvements.

And remember that after a home is tightened up, combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters should be tested to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently.  GreenHomes does this testing on every project it completes.

Staying Cool…How to Save Energy in the Kitchen this Summer

May 31, 2011

We had seven visitors this Memorial Day weekend for what’s become an annual rite—my wife’s family runs in the Burlington Marathon.  With the extra people, and the need to keep them fed, including with the pre-race, pasta-fueled, carbo-loading, I found myself thinking how to stay cool in the kitchen.  And how to save energy.  [If I can brag a bit on my daughter, this is also now an issue since she has embraced baking and is doing amazing things.  Her baking is also impacting my waist size!]

Even in the heat of the summer, you can cook, stay cool, and minimize the fighting the air-conditioner has to do.  There are a few simple strategies.  Reduce the heat you produce.  Remove the heat you do produce.  And chip away at the other energy-savings via efficient lights, appliances, and behaviors as you would elsewhere in the home.

Don’t generate as much heat in the first place.

If you don’t heat up the kitchen, you don’t have to cool it down.  Here are some things you can do, none of them hard, all of them useful.

  • Grill outside.  People love this!  And if keeps you from heating the stove, oven, and room!
  • Try to limit pre-heating the oven.  You can’t do this which some baked goods where rising might be impacted.  However, you make find that getting the oven up to temperate doesn’t take as long as the recipes might suggest.  And if you’re cooking that baked macaroni and cheese, you don’t really need to wait for the oven to heat all the way up—although you may have to leave it in a couple minutes longer.
  • Don’t “peek” if you don’t need to.  Opening the oven door dumps heat into the room, drops the oven temperature, and increases cooking time.
  • Shut the oven off a few minutes early.  An oven will retain the heat for a while after you shut it off, and the food will continue to cook.
  • Check the oven door seal, and clean it with a bit of degreaser if needed.  A good seal keeps the heat where it should be.
  • Boiling water for that pre-race pasta?  Keep the cover on!  And as tempting as it is, the don’t peek rule applies here.  The water will boil faster AND you’ll reduce the amount of steam and hot water vapor you dump into your house.  Speaking of pasta, you may be able to get good results reducing the amount of water you use, as suggested in the NY Times article.  Some folks even suggest turning the heat off after adding the pasta and returning it to a boil.  I’ve done this with rice with good success.
  • On the stove top, match the pan to the element.  Don’t use a small pan on a large element because much of the heat just goes into the room.  (Induction stove users—you’ve got an advantage here!)
  • Sometimes a small toaster oven will do as well as a large oven—and require less energy and dump less heat in the process.

Evacuate any extra heat if you can.

  • Here’s where an exhaust fan with a good range hood comes in handy.  If it is vented to the outside—as it absolutely should be if you have a gas stove or oven—you can remove the heat and cooking-related moisture from the house.  Remember, as you suck air out of the house, you’re bringing in air elsewhere, and you don’t want to do that if the air is hotter and more humid that you like.  In this case, though, it’s well worth the trade.  [BTW, this same principle applies in the shower—get the steam out rather than using your A/C to cool in and remove the humidity.]
  • Safety first.  Any time we’re talking about exhaust fans, I like to remind people that they be vented outside and NOT into the attic.  And you should make sure you test your combustion equipment (including water heater and furnace) to make sure the exhaust fan doesn’t impact proper venting.

Other smart things–they add up.

  • Kitchens often have a lot of lighting, including recessed lights and track lighting.  Incandescent, including halogen lighting, actually use most of their energy creating heat, not light.  A kitchen full of mini-space heaters disguised as lights will be harder to keep cool.   Switching this to CFL or LED lighting (see previous posts on the CREE CR6, for example!) can move a huge difference.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, and don’t use the “Rinse/Hold” feature for just a few dirty.  It uses several gallons of hot water each time you use it.
  • Do the dollar bill test—the seal on your refrigerator door should snug hold a dollar bill in place when closed.  If not, the seal may need to be replaced.
  • Mom was right.  Don’t stand with the refrigerator door open FOREVER.  Minimize the time with the door open and the number of times you open it.  This saves energy in its own right.  And remember, refrigerators don’t magically create “cool”.  They remove heat from inside the compartment, and dump it—and waste heat—outside, which just happens to in your kitchen.
  • You probably don’t have a lot of flexibility with your current appliance locations, be it generally makes sense to keep the refrigerator out of bright sunlight and away from the stove—remember, you’re trying to keep it cool.   Keep it in mind if you’re remodeling, though.
  • And at new appliance time, think Energy Star!

You can also explore more general cooling tips for not just the kitchen, but your whole house.

And to really find the trouble spots in your home — and to be sure they’re addressed with the right solutions, we recommend that you get a comprehensive home energy audit.

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