Philips 60w Dimmable LED bulb

Philips 60w Dimmable LED bulb

Woohoo, a high-quality, $10 (now $9 at Amazon), dimmable LED bulb!

Philips has been a leader in LED lighting for some time, and their new SlimStyle bulb securely places them at the front of the pack.

While there are other, sexier dimmable LED bulbs, the SlimStyle has the best price/performance that I’ve seen. If you run the numbers, for a high-usage fixture (I define that as 8-hours a day) then you’ll find that this bulb pays for itself in about half a year in saved electricity costs. In my book, that makes it a “no-brainer.” It’s inexpensive, durable, casts a lot of pleasing light and is the first LED bulb that I’d call *cute* :-)  Really, just look at it. What’s not to like? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sadly, I can no longer recommend Fujitsu due to their unacceptable support and warranty policies.

Poor product durability eliminates all cost savings gained from efficiency

A home’s heating system is a capital expenditure. That is, it’s considered a long term investment in your home. Typically, you figure that it will last 15-20 years with some cost for maintenance. And generally, that’s conservative. How many of you still have heating systems in your homes from the 1970′s or 80′s? In general, these systems are very durable. Unfortunately, with the Fujitsu mini-split heat pump, this has not been the case. Read the rest of this entry »

After the first article, Matt collected his utility bills and other background information we need to get started. Here it is:

“Colonial 3,300 square feet. 3 adults one child. 2 Electric Heat Pumps: Large one in basement is Payne, Model Number PF1MNB048; Smaller one in mud room for rooms above garage has no name. Just has large number SA11694 and Model Number BCS2M18C00NA1P-1. Thermostat at 72 now and 70 in summer. Consumption Feb 2013 through Jan 2014 – kWh 5800, 4530, 2815, 1684, 1533, 2346, 1334, 1568, 1719, 3023, 5833, 7349″

I don’t even have to make a spreadsheet for this one!

What this tells us

We have a small-medium family in an average sized development home – no red-flags there.

However, the next items contain the keys to solving this mystery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here's Ted capturing a thermal image

Here’s Ted capturing a thermal image

People keep asking me how I can do this for free. They say I should sell my services (done that) or charge for website access (won’t do that!) But it got me thinking about how people could drop a quarter in my tip jar, so to speak.

For years, I’ve heard about various systems for doing this, and now I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and signed up at Patreon.com. Patreon is a cool site set up to let people support their favorite creators. Whether they’re musicians, journalists or energy Geeks like me, Patreon lets you say “thanks” to those that bring something to your life.

I’m not much of a self promoter, so I’m not going to do this often. If you think I’m doing something useful here and feel like contributing, just head over to Patreon.

p.s. Ted’s Tips will be free for the foreseeable future. Patreon is just a way for you to provide positive feedback any time I do another post. It helps pay for the coffee that fuels this site.

Cheers!

 

 

Reduce heat loss by up to 75% using cellular shades

Reduce heat loss by up to 75% using cellular shades

Yet another day of near record cold here and I realized that most of the winter I’ve been neglecting one of the simplest things I could be doing to warm my rooms – closing the curtains!

Yes it’s true – even The Energy Geek forgets the basics.

Why is closing the curtains so important? That little air gap between the window and curtains acts as insulation and can cut the heat loss out your windows by half or more. This is pretty significant when you consider that the windows may be sucking more heat out of the room than the walls.

Read the rest of this entry »

Icicles can do real damage to your home

Icicles can do real damage to your home

Here’s a winter quickie – icicles are a sign that snow is melting from a hot roof rather than a sunny day.

Since we’ve been talking about DIY energy audits, this is one of the easiest ways of seeing if you’re losing too much energy out your roof. If you’ve got lots of icicles or notice the snow melting unevenly, usually in vertical strips, then you are almost certain to have some major energy loss. Often, this can be fixed quite easily since the icicles and snow melt will tell you where the heat loss is. In fact, this works at least as well as the expensive thermal camera that we use in energy audits. I call it the 30 second energy audit! Read the rest of this entry »

Part 1: Introduction to Winter Energy Audits

Here in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S., we’re getting hit by another deep freeze. Those in the center of the country are probably thinking we’re wimps for complaining about single digit temperatures, but hey, it’s all relative. For us, it’s darned cold!

I’ve been getting a number of questions recently, spurred on by the low temps and associated HIGH heating bills. People are asking: “Help! I got my latest heating bill and it’s astronomical. What can I do to reduce it?” or, the other side of that coin is: “Brrr! My family is freezing. I’ve got the heat cranked up but it’s still cold and drafty in some rooms. What can I do make it more comfortable?”

We’re going to walk through a virtual energy audit “live” so you can follow the thought processes and troubleshooting with me. Hopefully, this will allow many of you to go on to diagnose your own issues and end up with a home that is more comfortable, efficient and safe.

Along the way, drop your questions into the comments below the posts, and I’ll do my best to incorporate answers into the article or answer them in the comments.

Let’s get started!

Edit: rather than doing this as one humongous post, I’m going to break each section into a different post. This should make it easier for people to find the pertinent information and step through the process without it getting too overwhelming.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Conventional incandescent (front) and G7 Retro (back)

Conventional incandescent (front) and G7 Retro (back)

The new A19 style bulb from G7 power may change the way you see LED lighting. No more big heat-sink fins, just a classic Edison bulb style without the power penalty.

With just 3.6 Watts, the bulb casts 400 Lumens, the same as a conventional (now phased out by law in the United States) 40W bulb. After some visual comparisons, I can’t see why anyone would need to use an old incandescent bulb (other than price). The bulb comes on instantly and glows with the familiar color that we’ve come to expect from incandescents. Its efficiency is amazing, at 138 Lumens per watt – more than twice as efficient as most compact fluorescent bulbs and greater than 10x more efficient than an incandescent.

A quick comment about cost. If the bulb gets high use, say 8 hours per day, it will consume just 10.51 kWh per year. Compare this with 116.80 kWh per year for the 40W bulb it replaces. At an electricity cost of $0.15/kWh, you save $15.94 in electricity per year – more than the $11.95 cost of the bulb. So this would be a great bulb for high-use fixtures around the house or places where the aesthetics and light quality are important.

Keep in mind that this bulb is NOT dimmable, so it’s not a complete replacement for the incandescent.

Check out G7′s website for more info.

 

The first thing that people ask when I tell them that we installed a solar array on our house is: “how much did it reduce your electric bills?” Now that I’ve had a full year of utility bills, I’m going to lay out how much we’re paying now versus our historical electric bills.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of different factors at play, but there’s no doubting that the savings are substantial in spite of different weather, usage and billing rates. So let’s get to the numbers!

From August 2012 through July 2013 (my billing cycle runs from the 20th of the month), my total electric bill was $1614. Keep in mind that our house runs mostly on heat pumps, so that also includes much of my heating bill. We also have a pool, hot tub, second fridge, and freezer – we’re not living a super low-impact lifestyle, as much as I’d like to. But what we do have is all very efficient at what it does.

How do past years compare? Read the rest of this entry »

Having received the just released CREE 60w warm white LED bulb, I wanted to get you my impressions ASAP since many of you are already asking about this ground-breaking bulb.

The vital stats:

  • Manufacturer: CREE
  • Cost: 6-pack, $74.82 at Homedepot.com = $12.47 each.
  • Brightness: 60w equivalent – 800 lm
  • Consumption: 9.5 Watts
  • Efficiency: 84.2 lm/W
  • Life: 25,000 hours
  • Usage: Indoor/outdoor
  • Dimmable!
  • Assembled in the USA
  • Lead free / Mercury free

For comparison, an incandescent bulb has:

  • Cost: 4-pack, $6.00 on Amazon (Philips name-brand bulb). Sylvania are close to $0.50/bulb.
  • Brightness: 860 lm
  • Consumption: 60 Watts
  • Efficiency: 14.3 lm/W
  • Life: rated 1,000 hours

Operational costs?

Based on simple lifetime cost, the LED lasts 25x as long as the rated life of the incandescent and is roughly 25x the cost of the inexpensive Sylvania bulbs, so by that measure, these are the “same cost.” However, that doesn’t figure in inconvenience of having to replace the incandescent 25 times, going to the store, or paying for the electricity! It doesn’t take a physicist to see that the CREE LED bulb is the big winner.

For the 25,000 life of the bulb, the CREE saves 1262 kWh or electricity. That’s a LOT of energy savings! How much? That’s about a month of your home’s entire electric usage. Compare that with your electric bill and you’ll immediately estimate your cost savings. For me, this electricity costs about $200. 

Subjective comparison

The bulb feels different from any other bulb. It must have some sort of rubberized coating on the translucent housing. It almost sticks to your hands. In fact, I felt the urge to wash my hands after touching it. Very strange. The positive thing about this is that you’re not going to drop this bulb., unlike normal glass, which is slippery.

I immediately replace the bulb in my desk lamp, which is an old CFL. That works fine once it warms up, but it always seems to be a dim yellow for the first 10 minutes, by which point, I’m about to leave the room. Note however that I strongly recommend that you use this in fixtures with good reflectors on the back surfaces. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of light that doesn’t reflect off the back of the fixture. I learned this the hard way in my downlights (recessed light fixtures). Standard incandescent flood lights have internal mirrored surfaces to project the light forward. These LED lights are omni-directional, so you’ll waste a lot of their light output if they’re used in fixtures without good reflectors.

The CREE, being an LED light, is essentially instant-on to full brightness – very nice.

As for the color, it does appear to be a “warm white.” If you don’t tell someone that it’s an LED, they probably wouldn’t know, which is exactly the effect they’re looking for. In fact, combined with the shape of the bulb, I’m guessing that the only way one would know that this isn’t a regular bulb is when you dim it. Incandescent bulbs grow very warm at lower dimmer settings, whereas LEDs maintain their color temperature throughout the range or brightness.

The next replacement was in one of the downlights in my bathroom. These are particularly important because you want to maintain a neutral skin-tone. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and see a strange skin tone! In this case, the yellowish cast is definitely noticeable compared to the incandescent. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s quite obvious.

I then replaced the LED in my closet, which was a bright blue (my wife says it looks like s dentist’s office or something). The change in color was very apparent – definitely yellowy. I’m not sure it I like it or not. It’s definitely “warmer” but perhaps not as natural. I need to try some of the whiter versions of the CREE bulb which is supposed to be off-white. Here’s a comparison photo:

Which is which?

Which is which?

The container is very white while the counter tiles are almond. The photo was taken using the camera with manual white balance that is tuned for incandescent bulbs, so it will make the incandescent image look as white as can be. If you used a spectrophotometer, you’d get a more accurate image. However, it’s not how you’d perceive the colors.

Looking at the color spectrum, I found what would be expected, the light from the LED bulb consists of three distinct peaks – red, green and blue, whereas the incandescent is a smooth spectrum. In theory, you should be able to come up with a close color match using the three primaries, but contrary to popular opinion, you will not be able to perfectly match the color produced by a continuous spectrum source.

Perceptually, these images are a fairly close match to what I was seeing. Pretty good colors but not exactly what I’m used to. Your mileage may vary!

Here’s a striking comparison between the LED and the CFL using my desk lamp. Again, I kept the white balance on the camera set to “incandescent”, meaning a pure white would match an incandescent (which really isn’t white, but it’s what we perceive as white in our ordinary indoor experience).

Using the same camera settings, the LED is much closer to an incandescent

Using the same camera settings, the LED is much closer to an incandescent

Keep in mind that perception changes our reality. The CFL doesn’t really look that yellow, because our brain tries to color balance things. However, the camera is good at showing things without this bias. The main take-home message is that the LED bulb is a vastly better match for what we normally think of as household lighting.

As you try out different bulbs, let us know what you think. The CREE, at only around $10 has broken new ground for quality and efficiency.  It’s well worth a try.