YALEDLB – Yet Another LED Light Bulb! Philips 75W Replacement!

Great news for all us energy geeks! Now Philips has an LED bulb that puts out 1100 lumens – in technical terms, that’s a bucket load of light! For comparison, most of the other screw-in LED lights I’ve been commenting on put out the equivalent of a 40w-60w light bulb, maybe 600-800 lumens. For more info, see this press release on Engadget.

Note, the Engadget folks were WAY off in the lifetime. These bulbs last 25 times as long as a conventional bulb (as shown in the press release).

LED Bulb under $10 at Lowes!

A friend just turned me on to this special deal at Lowes in Pennsylvania. The bulb, which he noted is manufactured by Feit (a highly reputable brand) is currently available for $9.98 at this link.

I just bought five more of the $20 Feit bulbs, so I was a bit chagrined to learn about this. But I’m happy for the rest of you. At under $10, there’s really little reason not to try a few of these around your home.

Keep in mind, this is a 40 Watt equivalent, so it’s not the brightest bulb around. However, it’s directional, so it’s good for those areas where you have downlights or other areas where the light output pattern doesn’t have to be totally uniform.

If you get one, please post your comments here. I’ll pick one up myself when I get a chance, but I’d love to hear your feedback.

update: I just looked at the ad more closely – it’s 50% off until 5/9/2011 so buy now!

How to Increase the Energy Efficiency of Your Existing Home

This post by an energy auditor in central PA summarizes a lot of the information required to make your home more energy efficient, all in one spot. It’s like you took all my posts to date and wrapped it up into a single article! Definitely worth a skim.

For those of your unfamiliar with ChrisMartenson.com, Chris is a scientist who, several years ago, started investigating peak-oil – the fact that at some point, you can’t extract oil from the Earth any faster, and from there, it’s downhill. As he investigated it, he got more and more worried, because pretty much everything we do depends upon having essentially an unlimited supply of oil.

Chris is passionate about this cause. So passionate that he produced a series of videos and is traveling the world giving lectures about how to prepare. At first it seems nutty, especially if you’re of the mindset that “technology will always find a solution”, but if you listen carefully and do your own research, you may find yourself buying in to what he says.

I started following him a few years ago, and combined what he said with what I learned from various investment newsletters and other sources. That gave me an advanced warning to shift from classical stocks into metals and mining a few years ago, before the market tanked and mining stocks skyrocketed.

Whether you agree with him or not, his “Crash Course” is well worth viewing as it provides additional insights that you can use to better understand the complex, resource limited world in which we’re now living.

Energy Geek Video – New CREE CR6 LED Downlight Replacement

The CREE CR6 is the latest in a line of energy efficient LED lights made by CREE. This light addresses some of the issues of the earlier lights, allowing dimming down to 5% and having a compact, light-weight package at about half the cost of earlier models.

It draws only 10.5 Watts yet produces as much light as a 65W incandescent bulb, so it’s definitely an energy saver. That’s a 55 lumen/Watt rating, putting it in the same ballpark as a normal CFL spiral bulb. But the fair comparison is with dimmable fluorescent downlights. Those range from 40 to 50 lm/W, so on average, you get 10%-25% more light from the CREE than you would the equivalent fluorescent.

Continue reading

Pharox Dimmable LED Bulb

Pharox 300 Dimmable LED

Just got a Pharox 300 dimmable LED bulb after my nephew (thanks Jason!) reported success with his. Guess what? It actually works as advertised! The thing dims right along with a conventional incandescent bulb – finally!

This is a standard Edison bulb, so you can use it in just about any fixture. The light is bright white and it stays that way as it dims. I know we’re all used to the dull yellow-orange light from an incandescent as it dims, so seeing a dim white might at first be a little disconcerting but over time, I suspect people will get used to it.

The Pharox is surprisingly bright for a bulb that only uses 6 watts. Remember that the output of LEDs is somewhat directional, so you’ll get the most light if you use this in a desk lamp that points towards your work surface or put it in a light fixture above you that’s pointing down. In this application, it works really well.

The dimmability is really impressive. I’ll have to do a video showing how it dims along with a conventional bulb. I’ve never seen an efficient bulb work this well. Every other one that I’ve used cuts out after it dims just a little bit but this one actually provides useful dimming. Very cool!

I’ve ordered another four to try in more fixtures around the house. At under $30, they may seem expensive (ok, they ARE expensive) but they’re a steal compared to other high quality LED bulbs. And for the energy savings, you’ll pay it back in a year if you put some in the kid’s rooms!

I’ll do more reports about it when I get some longer term tests. But for now, it’s definitely worth a try!

Other Pharox Resources

Pharox website

Inhabit.com review

KK Cool Tools review

LED Insider – review of an older version of the bulb

1 Green Product – News and reviews. One of the longer reviews of the Pharox

The Energy Geek Video 2: LED Recessed Light Retrofit

A lot of people ask me about recessed lights, so I put together this video so you could see some of the pros and cons of the best LED light I’ve ever seen.

The CREE LR6, LED based recessed light retrofit is the current one to beat. It’s simply amazing. It turns on instantly, it supplies high quality light and it’s built like a tank. Watch the video for the full scoop!

*Update: 3/13/2011*

After reading some other reviews, I decided to purchase several CREE CR6 retrofits. You can get them on the Home Depot website for $50 and they’re supposed to be dimmable down to 5% as opposed to 20% for the CR6. So there’s some hope for a good dimmable retrofit bulb.

I’ll do another video comparing the two once I’ve had a chance to play with the CR6.

CREE also has a number of other new lights that I wasn’t aware of. The new LR6 puts out 50% more light for the same amount of watts for a luminous efficacy of 80 lm/W

Other posts and sites covering the Cree LR6

Consumer Reports – preview of the CREE CR6

CREE 6″ downlights page – The official CREE page on all their downlight products. Dimmable to 20%

CREE CR6 page – The official CREE page on the CR6 “low cost” LED light. Dimmable to 5%.

CREE LR6 page – The official CREE page on the LR6. Dimmable to 20%

Dave Hultin blog post – The CREE LR6 – A Beautiful Light!

Dave Hultin blog post – The CREE LR6 – It Really is That Good!

GreenTex Builders – Commercial builder’s perspective on the CREE LR6

House+Earth – LED Lighting – CREE LR6 & CR6 Can Lights

Inside Solid-State Lighting – CREE LR6 Downlight Replacement

Ranch Remodel – A real homeowner’s blog about remodeling their ranch with CREE LR6 lights


The Energy Geek Video: Sun Tubes and Skylights

My first Energy Geek video! This is the companion video for the recent article on Sun tubes.

Don’t expect much production quality. These videos will be like this blog – unedited, not politically correct, lots of opinions. So if you’re expecting “This Old House” you better look elsewhere!


FAQ for Solatubes

Bright Ideas for Saving Energy #5: Sun Tubes

What’s better than a sunny day? A sunny day that helps illuminate the normally dark recesses of your home!

Normally, people install skylights – basically just windows built into the roof. But skylights have several problems:

  • They’re incredibly energy inefficient. Even a good, double glazed, low-e unit is a poor insulator.
  • If they’re not facing the right direction, they don’t let any direct sunlight in during the winter and too much during the summer.
  • They’re difficult to keep clean unless the roof slope is gentle.
  • They’re prone to leakage due to ice dams created because of heat loss around the windows

A sun tube works differently than a skylight. Instead of being large windows in the roof, they’re typically smaller, about one foot to sixteen inches in diameter. Right away, this is beneficial because energy loss is directly related to the area of the opening. So a 16″ sun tube has an area about one third to one fifth of a typical skylight.

Sun tubes are built with reflectors so that they bring light into the house even as the sun moves to a variety of different locations. Usually, they are set up to reflect the Winter sun optimally but they can work well year round. I’ve installed several in my own home and really like them. One is in my office, which is on the north side of the house and never gets direct sun through the windows. However, the slope of the roof is such that for most of the year, the reflectors on the sun tube can capture sunlight and direct it into the normally gloomy room. Here’s a cheesy video demonstrating how these products work.

During the summer, sun tubes brighten rooms without heating them up like conventional skylights. If you’ve ever stood under a skylight during the summer, you know what a problem this can be. You can get a tan under some skylights! That definitely doesn’t help your air conditioning bill. Solatubes bring in the light, but due to their relatively small size and the way they work, the amount of heat that they bring into this house is very low.

Installation of sun tubes is easy. I installed one  myself, and I’m no carpenter. I just followed the directions and it went in easily. Granted, I am pretty good with a saw and don’t mind crawling around the attic. However, if you’re not up to it, there are usually “factory certified” contractors who have been trained to do the installation.

There are a variety of manufacturers of sun tubes, but my favorite is Solatube. They have residential and commercial versions are well made and easy to install. Please note – I have no business relationship with them. I’m just a happy customer!

Another nice feature of sun tubes is that they can act like light fixtures when you need electrical lighting. A simple bulb holder can be installed into the tube. Yes, it blocks a little of the light, but I’ve found this to be well worth it in the rooms where I’ve installed them.

Are they perfect? No. If you don’t like white, round plastic portholes in your ceiling, you’re out of luck. Additionally, the tubes are fairly cheap and easily damaged if you’re not careful. However, you only handle them during installation, so that’s not a big deal. They also need to be installed in rooms directly below the attic or roof because it’s a sun tube! It only directs light a few feet from the roof into the room. So they’re ideal for ranch houses or upstairs rooms but of no use on the first floor of two or three floor homes.

Other than that, I love these things. There are some rooms in my house where I almost never have to turn on the lights. If I could have, I would have installed several in my kitchen and living room.


Bright Ideas for Saving Energy #3 – Light Bulbs Add Up

The pie chart shown here should look familiar by now. We’ve already talked at length about the big slices of the pie – heating and cooling. Now it’s time to move on to lighting, shown here as 12% of the typical household energy usage.

In my experience with real homes occupied by living, breathing families, that 12% number may considerably underestimate the actual energy consumed. I’m sure that I’m biased because in my area, there are lots of large homes with modern amenities like ceilings filled with recessed lighting.

Fortunately, this is one area where homeowners can easily assess their own energy use and take actions that immediately reduce their energy use.

I have a good friend who moved into a new house. After the first few months of living there, he was about ready to move out because his monthly electric bill was averaging around $750! Fortunately, being a good engineer, he quickly noticed that this house was well lit – very well lit! There were dozens of recessed lights on each floor of this home. And with two children active at home, most of these lights were on all waking hours.

At first, he would follow the family around, grumbling as he turned off light switches. But this was a losing battle. He simply could not keep up with this round the clock. It was frustrating to him and annoying to his family. What to do?

My friend decided to start changing light bulbs. Week by week, he replaced the high usage lights with high quality compact fluorescent bulbs, each using about one quarter of the energy of the original bulbs. Pretty soon he had a box of old 90w flood lights, replaced by 23w CFLs. He was happy knowing that the house was still well lit and safe for his family but every bulb saved 67w. He also was glad not to have to replace the bulbs as often because his home has high ceilings making changing bulbs inconvenient.

A few months later, my friend came to me with a big smile on his face. “Got my latest electric bill!” he said happily. I looked at him curiously, wondering why he would be so happy about an electric bill. “It was under $250” – he beamed. “Holy cow”, I said – “you knocked $500 off your electric bill?” “Yup – it was all those damned light bulbs. I still follow them and turn off the lights, but I don’t worry about it so much any more.”

While this was an extreme example, it is a real one. Light bulbs do make a difference – the more you have, the greater the potential savings.

I’m not going to argue about the pros and cons of compact fluorescent bulbs. There are more than enough sites that discuss mercury. Instead, I’m going to show you how much energy you can save and teach you how to prioritize bulb replacement.

Step 1: Monitor Your Usage

Spend a week just paying attention to how the lights are used in your home. Which lights are left on all day? Which to you tend to turn on and off frequently? Do you have outdoor “safety” lights that stay on all night? Are there lights where the “color” is particularly important (like above a dressing table)?

I highly recommend keeping a notebook where you log each area of the house, how many bulbs there are, the wattage of those bulbs, and the number of hours they are on each day. This will make your job even easier later one.

Step 2: Prioritize Your List

Once you’ve monitored your usage and created your list, find the area with the highest usage. The highest usage is defined by the number of bulbs times the wattage of the bulbs. For example, if you have two, 100 watt  flood lights on each of the four corners of your home and those lights are on from 8pm to 8am every day, that equals 100 watts times two bulbs times four corners times 12 hour. Arithmetically written: 100 x 8 x 12  = 9600 watt hours

If you’re not familiar with spreadsheets, this is the time to learn. Plug your list into a neat spreadsheet and you’ll be able to do all these calculations really easily and then automatically sort the list by watt-hour consumption figures.

Step 3: Replace Bulbs

Assuming that you want to keep the light output from the bulbs the same, find appropriate high efficiency replacement bulbs and start replacing lights! I highly recommend checking out the EFI Store. I’ve been buying most of my energy efficient lights, fixtures, etc. from them for years and they’re amazing. Their entire business is built around helping people save energy. And, they sell quality products unlike the “big-box” stores that sell a lot of poor quality items.

A Few Considerations

  • I mentioned earlier that there are some fixtures, like above a make-up table, where you might not want to change the bulb to a CFL because color quality is important. I don’t want to sound sexist, but there’s no way around it – if you have a place where you or your spouse puts on makeup or gets dressed, don’t use CFLs. Most modern CFLs don’t have the color quality needed for this critical need.
    However, some of the LED lamps, like the CREE units sold by EFI, do provide excellent light quality.
  • LED bulbs are expensive, there’s no way around that. However, in high use areas, they can pay for themselves in a few years. They also last forever (25,000-50,000 hours) so there’s a good chance that you’ll never have to replace them.
  • If you are going to replace a light controlled by a dimmer, make sure that the replacement bulb is “dimmer compatible” or “dimmable”
  • Do not use fluorescent bulbs in areas where they’ll be on for short periods. The life of a fluorescent bulb decreases the more often it is switched on and off. So a bulb rated for 5,000 hours of life might only last 2,000 hours if flipped on and off frequently. Fluorescent bulbs are best suited for those areas where they’re left on for hours at a time, such as living space lights or outdoor safety lighting.
  • Fluorescent bulbs take a long time to warm up in cold weather, making them inappropriate for outdoor lighting that must come on quickly. For example, if you have motion sensors, this is not an appropriate place for fluorescent lights. However, this is a good place for LED lights since they come on to full brightness immediately. On the other hand, I use 13w CFL bulbs in my outside post lights that I have on a timer to come on at sunset and turn off a few hours later. They’re perfect for this application.

How Much Can You Save?

Remember the spreadsheet I had you to make earlier? Well, now’s the time to look at it more carefully.

The example of outdoor lighting I walked through showed that those outdoor bulbs use 9,600 watt-hours per day. Divide that by 1,000 to get the kilo-watt hours of use per day. In this case, 9.6. Electricity is sold by kWh, so this lets you easily compute the cost.

You’ll want to look at the rating of the bulb you buy to replace the inefficient one and do the calculations again. For example, if you replaced those outdoor lights with 23 watt CFL bulbs, the calculation is: 23 x 8 x 12 = 2,208.

Now, subtract this from the original to get the daily savings: 9,600 – 2,208 = 7,392 or 7.392 kWh per day.

Let’s calculate the yearly savings. Multiply the savings by 365: 7.392 * 365 = 2,698 kWh

And, determine your real electric cost per kWh. Do this by looking at your total electric bill and dividing the cost by the total kWh on the bill. This will include all charges for generation, transmission, taxes, etc. and will give you a rough true cost of electricity. For example, if your utility bill was $200 and you used 1,500 kWh, your cost per kWh is: $200/1,500 kWh = $0.133/kWh.

Finally, multiply these numbers together to get the yearly savings: 2,698 * $0.133 = $360.

So there’s a complete and realistic example – replacing eight 100w bulbs that are on for twelve hours a day can save $360 per year, assuming you’re paying 13 cents per kilowatt hour. This is pretty typical. Add up your savings for all your fixtures and you can see how significant the savings can be.


Where to buy your bulbs:

As noted throughout this post, EFI.org is the place I buy my high efficiency lights. Yes, if you click through these links, I’m part of their affiliate program, so I profit from your purchases. But that’s not why I recommend them. I recommend them because they’ve devoted their lives to helping consumers live more efficiently. They’re not some Johnny-come-lately store that’s just doing it because it’s the latest trend. Check out their blog and “about” pages and you’ll see. They deserve our support.