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Posts Tagged ‘outdoor lights’

CFL’s vs. LED’s – What you need to know!

April 14th, 2011 No comments

Mercury in new light bulbs not being recycled, escaping to environment

 

 

Are the energy efficient CFL bulbs creating a bigger problem than they are solving?

 

 

 

Most homeowners today are aware that incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient and they only convert 10% of the energy used into light with the rest of the energy wasted as heat.  Many of us have made the switch to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs that are four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and have been rewarded with lower electric bills each month.  But each CFL contains 3-5mg of mercury and they need to be properly recycled to minimize their negative effect on the environment.  New studies show that only 2% of home owners properly recycle their used CFL bulbs and only 33% of businesses properly recycle all fluorescent light bulbs.  Large home improvement stores now offer free CFL recycling drop boxes, but do you recycle every one you purchase?  How many have been accidentally dropped while being changed?  When the bulb shattered, mercury was released into the immediate environment.

So is there an energy efficient option that has less environmental impact and less direct health risks to homeowners?

 

 

Yes.  LED replacement bulbs have made great strides in recent months and it is now possible to find 60W equivalent bulbs that closely match the light color and output of the old incandescent bulbs.  LED bulbs contain no mercury and most are now RHoS compliant which means that they contain no harmful materials.  LED lighting is 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 50% more efficient than CFLs.  They also last an average of 50,000 to 60,000 hours versus CFL’s average life of 7,500 hours and an incandescent bulb’s average life of 1500 hours.

 

 

Let’s compare specifications of the three major bulb types and then get back to the issue of mercury in CFLs:

Specification

Incandescent

CFL

LED

Color

2700K, 5000K, 6500K and Full Spectrum

2700K, 5000K, and 6500K

Wattage Range

3w to over 200W

15W to 200W equivalent

3W to 100W equivalent

Efficiency

Avg 15 lumens/watt

Avg 40 lumens/watt; 2.5W CFL = 10W Incandescent

Avg 75 lumens/watt; 1.2W LED = 10W Incandescent

Bulb Life – based on 3 hours of use a day

Avg. 1,000 – 2,000 hours

Avg 7,500 – 10,000 hours

Avg 50,000 – 60,000 hours

Instant On

Yes

Optional, but still have a warm up

Yes

Dimmable

Yes

Most are not, newer bulbs tend to be dimmable but must read packaging

Yes

3-Way bulb option

Yes

Yes

No

Health and Safety

Bulbs can shatter

Bulbs can shatter and release mercury, emit more UV light which can fade or damage art and photographs

Most are plastic with limited risk of shattering, no mercury

Life Cycle Cost

High due to inefficiency and frequent replacements

Medium costs, lower energy usage and longer life

Lowest over lifetime due to lowest energy use and very long life

Availability

Widely available now, but production will be phased out in 2012 and bulbs will be obsolete in 2014

Widely available

More limited availability, but continuing to increase

Using the table above we can draw some conclusions and further investigate the advantages and disadvantages of CFLs and LEDs:

 

LEDs:

Advantages-

+ Use much less power resulting in even lower electric bills and less pollution from power plants

+ Very long life, 10X or more longer than CFLs

+ Generate less heat than CFLs for less load on air conditioning systems, reduced danger of burns from touching bulbs, reduced fire hazard

+ LEDs are typically RoHS compliant so there are no hazardous materials in the bulbs, minimal environmental impact and no risk of personal exposure to mercury.

+ LED emit no Infrared or Ultraviolet light, so no risk of damage or degradation of   artwork, photographs, or other sensitive items from exposure to the light.

+ LEDs are instant on and not damaged by frequent power cycling.

+ LEDs operate in freezing temperatures

Disadvantages –

– Initial cost.  Though much cheaper over their total lifetime, the initial cost of the LED bulbs prevents most home owners from a full conversion at one time.  They need to be swapped in as CFLs fail or replace hard to reach bulbs where their long life is an immediate benefit.

– Less bulb style options, lower equivalent wattage, and no 3-way bulb options mean that certain applications like chandeliers or decorative globe bulb applications have no LED substitutes at this time.

– LEDs are much more directional, which part of the reason they are so much more efficient, but true omnidirectional incandescent equivalents are just reaching the market and they are more expensive than the spot and flood bulb equivalents.

– LEDs are sensitive to heat.  Very hot locations do not allow the bulbs to cool properly and their life is shortened, though no exact data is available at this time to give clear upper temperature limits as it applies to residential applications.

CFLs:

Advantages-

+ Available in 3-way bulb configurations with 50W-100W-150W equivalents with a maximum consumption of 37W.

+ Better in omnidirectional lighting applications like the incandescent bulbs they replace.

+ CFLs in dimmable candelabra form are now available that are 40W equivalent outputs, finally making CFLs a viable option for chandeliers and other decorative lighting, though the aesthetics of the CFLs is still much lower than the incandescent bulb they replace.

+ CFLs have more temperature or color range options and the warm white now closely matches the incandescent bulbs they replace.  CFLs are also available in full spectrum output which is a benefit to individuals who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Disadvantages-

– Mercury, all CFLs contain between 3mg and 5mg of this heavy metal which is a neurotoxin.  It poses a high threat to the environment when failed bulbs are not recycled properly and it is an immediate, local danger when a CFL is broken.

– While they last longer than incandescent bulbs, CFLs light output diminishes quickly over time and can be reduced by more than 50% over a year’s time.  By the time they fail, their output may only be 20% of the original rated output.

– CFLs, have unpredictable failure modes.  Most emit smoke or odors and there are numerous reports of CFLs catching on fire or exploding when failing.  Many tend to pulse or strobe as they fail which can trigger headaches or seizures in those sensitive to rapid changes in lighting.

– CFLs lifetimes are rated for very specific conditions.  They are not intended to be cycled on and off more than a couple of times a day.  The more a CFL is cycled on and off, the shorter its overall life will be.

– Most CFLs will not even turn on in near freezing conditions and if they do, then the warm up time is much longer and their light output is greatly reduced.

 

The Clean Energy Act of 2007 set new standards for energy efficiency requirements and incandescent bulbs do not meet the new standards.  By 2014 incandescent bulbs will be phased out of the US and their production will begin to cease as early as next year in 2012.

This really leaves only two energy efficient options for lighting in residential applications, the CFL and the LED bulb.  As advances in LED technology continue to reach the consumer market, the future for CFLs will begin to fade faster than their light output over time.  However, the 5mg of mercury in each CFL bulb is still one fourth to one half the amount of mercury released into the environment versus the emissions from the coal-fired power plant needed to produce the 60 watts of light with an incandescent bulb.  So a CFL bulb is still better for our environment than incandescent bulbs.  However, Americans need to do a much better job of properly recycling their fluorescent bulbs.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C., offers information on fluorescent light recycling at www.lamprecycle.org.

As incandescent bulbs are phased out, the LED bulb will continue to be the better choice for home owners and the environment since it is 50% more efficient than CFLs and it contains no mercury within the bulb; offering a greater than two for one reduction in amount of mercury released into the environment.

 

What Is Your Commercial Lighting Telling Your Clients?

December 1st, 2010 No comments

Days are short right now, it’s dark A LOT.  Its dark during the morning commute to work, and for most people dark on their way home.  Combine that with the crazy number of commercial business spaces that are closed up and sitting empty these days and you have a golden opportunity to make your place of business really stand out.

 

So what does your current lighting say about your business?  Does it say “take a look at us, we are in it to win it”?  or are you projecting another image, one that makes people ask “is that place even still open”?

So here are a few points to consider:

  1. Signage – do you have lighted signs that are clearly visible at night and working properly.  Nothing says “we don’t care” quicker then a place of business that does not keep their own company singe in good repair (or working at all)
  2. Parking lot lights – do you have pole mounted parking lot lights that are sufficient and functional?  Do they flicker or come off and on at random intervals?  Maybe they hum really bad…
  3. Building Lights – does your building or space have wall pack lighting, soffit lighting, or specialty feature lighting – is it working?  Are there lamps out all over the place and a general state of disrepair, or are things squared away?
  4. Lighting Controls – how do your lights come on?  Is the photo eye or automated controller working correctly and set to the correct time?  The seasonal time on / time off settings change by as much as 4 hours over the course of the year.
  5. Store front lights – do you have adequate store front lighting that is showing off the features of your building as well as your products and / or services.  The need(s) and type(s) of store front lighting can be a petty wide range, you don’t light an industrial building the same way as an art gallery – but in either case you are sending a message.  What does your message say?
  6. Display Window Lighting – this is typically that first impression you give at night… even more important if you have a destination business that is open late or located in an areas with high visibility and high foot traffic.  Are you making your potential clients take a glance or a long hard look?
  7. Safety – are you providing adequate lighting for your clients and staff to safely get to and from your place of business on those dark winter days?  This can tell your team a lot about how you are dong business.  Are  you telling them you “really care” or “good luck in the dark”?
  8. Fun and Unique – what does your lighting tell people.  Are you in a type of business that fun, unique, and interesting lighting might make a significant impact on your image and the overall “feeling”?   Do you need to project an industrial or “squared away” no frills image – is that what you are getting from your lightning plan?

empty sign faceSigns and lighting say a lot about you and your business.  If your not happy about that image let us help!

Electrical Tip of the Day – Fall outdoor light fixture maintenance

October 13th, 2010 No comments

Its that time of year again and (gasp) bad weather will be upon us soon.  This weeks tip is a simple one… it will save you a bundle to deal with outdoor light fixture repairs before the snow flies and things freeze… in some case, like in ground landscape lighting, if a problem occurs after it has hard frozen for the winter we have little choice but to put the repair work off until spring thaw

In other areas, like commercial parking lot lights, wall packs, those pesky motion detector sensor lights – getting fresh lamps in and checking out the systems before winter is money well spent.  Things break when it gets cold, and planning for bucket truck / large ladder use during those bad winter months will always cost more then doing the same work during favorable weather.

And of course – PLANNED maintenance is always more cost effective then emergency or unplanned repair work!

Electrical Tip of the Day: Updating your lighting, 5 things you must know

October 14th, 2009 No comments

In many of the homes built in the late 80’s and 90’s little attention was paid to the lighting.  Likewise, historic homes and one-of-a-kind custom homes often share a common problem… bad lighting design and layout.  So here are 5 tips to help you out with some potential lighting updates.

#1 – There are no rules! You can do whatever you want… like anything else the lighting in your home can and should be a statement about you.  Some folks prefer lighting that stands out and is a point of interest in a room, others prefer lighting that is ambient and becomes “part of the space”.  Either way is fine – but do not be afraid to be daring.  Chandelier in the bathroom?  Why not!  Really like that historic fixture?  Get it restored!

#2 – Sconce Lights and table lamps can be your friend! Lighting in a room tends to look better and more interesting when it comes from multiple sources.  A combination of ceiling lights, wall mounted sconces, and table lamps can really help get the look and feel of a home dialed in.  I am a big fan of adding sconce lights to living rooms and dining rooms.  This can be a very cost effective way to spruce up a space and really change the look of a room, both with the fixtures themselves and the layering of the light.

#3 – Kitchen lights can be cool too! As I said earlier, there are no rules.  Nothing says that you have to keep that old fluorescent  surface mount light in the center of the kitchen anymore…  and those old can lights over the bar with the yellow stained “eye ball” trims, maybe it’s time to retire them.  A combination of under cabinet lights, pendant lights, reseeded can lights, and hidden “nook” ambient lighting can make a huge difference in a kitchen.   Many of these changes can be done on a tight budget, and in most cases can be done in several phases to spread the cost out into affordable bites.

#4 – Outside lighting sets the mood! No matter what time of year it is the exterior lighting on your home is the mood setter.  At night when you come and go it is the most striking visual feature of your home, embrace it.  There are a lot of considerations for exterior lighting… be it security, landscape lighting, architectural feature lighting, lot lighting, path and drive way lighting, and so on.  As with lighting in the interior of the home “layering” your exterior lighting is the secret.  Using the structure of the home, the landscape, the decks and garages, and any other building feature to get varied elevations of light really brings things to life.  Here is another quick tip – landscape lighting always looks better when done in non-symmetrical layouts, with several different types of fixtures and lamp types.  If you are sporting the “runway” landing strip lights down your front sidewalk let’s talk.

#5 – Dimmers, Dimmers, Dimmers! The amount of ambient light that comes in a home changes with the seasons, the weather, the time of day… and so too does all of our moods.  Being able to dim the lights in a given space is one of the quickest affordable changes that can be made to dramatically affect the lighting in a space.   The light level needed in a room to play a quality game of RISK with the family is certainly not the ideal amount of light needed for movie night (especially if it is scary move night) – dimmers to the rescue.  I also find that installing dimmers for your exterior lighting is a very cool and helpful way to dial in the look of a patio or outdoor living space.