Here's A Bright Idea!

A blog about lights, and how they can save energy, money and the environment

For Most Light Problems, Here’s A Light Solution

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 28, 2010

 

Working in the lighting industry for over 25 years, I’ve had, and heard, my share of problems with fluorescents and incandescents.

The dumb light

With incandescents, it’s pretty simple – the light’s burned out, the glass shell is broken or the light isn’t getting juice. They’re what I call the “dumb” light of our industry, which is one of the many reasons why I’m so pro-fluorescent.

Yet with CFL’s higher IQ – like most smart people – comes more challenges. From pre-heats to instant on, there is a long list of things that can go wrong; light won’t come on, light flickers, light comes on at the ends but the middle stays dark, light glows then fades, light has dark rings around it, light hums when it shouldn’t, light is strange color when lit – the problems are endless.

Luckily for me and all my brethren in the lighting and electrical industry, there are fewer reasons that cause these fluorescent problems than there are problems themselves, and even fewer solutions that solve those problems.

Yet that doesn’t mean that figuring out the reason or solving the problem is always a piece of cake.

Fluorescent - smarter light, more issues

It can be as simple as no power getting to the fixture or a burnt-out bulb to more complex issues, like a bad circuit, bad starter, bad socket, bad ballast, grounding issues, low line voltage, bad connection to the metal reflectors…and the list goes on.

As any of you light pros can attest, it can sometimes be challenging when we’re trying to help solve a problem for a customer who doesn’t live in our “light” world and therefore may not know a ballast from a breaker. I personally love these customers, because they inevitably allow me a “teachable” moment, to explain what’s going on in terms they can understand and shine a little light on this industry that I so dearly love.

For contractor or laymen, there are lots of trouble-shooting resources on the internet. Even though I may be relatively new to the web and all the very powerful tools it provides (and, let’s face it, all the silly time killers that I generally avoid) when I find something I like, I want to share it with you – particularly if it pertains to our industry.

I’d like to recommend one, in particular, that I think does a great job of explaining the lighting problem, the potential reason and the possible solution.

Leave troubleshooting to the pros

Before I offer it here, I do want to send out one warning to untrained consumers who read this blog – never ever ever under any circumstances attempt to do any troubleshooting or do-it-yourself lighting fixes yourself. There’s a reason electricians have to go through all those years of training and apprenticeship in order to be licensed and bonded in the state of Iowa. Leave it to the pros!

Having said that, I wanted to share with you this very smart, concise, handy guide to fluorescent lighting troubleshooting that I stumbled upon recently. It’s actually an older web site, from 2006, but I love the way it’s laid out and easy to understand. Just click the URL below:

http://nemesis.lonestar.org/reference/electricity/fluorescent/trouble.html

Whether you’re a an experienced electrician or don’t know a thing about lights, this guide can either be a great resource, or just very interesting reading. Happy problem solving, and let me know if it helps.

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

LED Linear Light Replacement – Hype Vs. Fact

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 25, 2010

I always want to pass along great information, even if I didn’t think of it.

For what I”m about to share with you, I’ll gladly pass credit on to Jim Brodrick, Lighting Program Manager for the U.S. Department Of Energy. Jim probably knows more about LED technology than any other person in the world. So when he says something on the subject, we in the light business treat him like the old E. F. Hutton commercials – when he talks, we listen.

One of the things Jim has been talking about recently is LED linear light replacement, and in particular, research done through the U.S. Government’s Caliper program, which analyzes the latest and greatest lights to hit the market, to see if they live up to their marketing hype. What he’s uncovered through the testing, is something that all of us in the industry, should know.

One Caliper report that Jim shared from last year, showed that LED linear replacement lamps may not be ready to replace T12 and T8 fluorescents.

“LED technology is not yet ready to displace linear fluorescent lamps as replacement light sources in recessed troffers for general interior lighting.”

 

I’m no word smith but I get the drift – we probably need to pull back a bit before we anoint LED as the greatest thing since sliced bread, at least in its current form, as applied to replacing office fluorescents.

Linear LED may not be ready for the bigtime.

Some of the problems included:

1. CALiPER found that the light output from LED replacement lamps only amounted to half, at most of fluorescent it was supposed to replace. Their lower than expected light output, performance and efficiency meant that testers had to add extra lights, in order to maintain standard fluorescent output. Which kinda screws up the whole idea of using them.

2. Another problem the Caliper testing uncovered, says Jim, is that troffers fitted with LED replacement lamps had “narrower light distribution, which could compromise illumination uniformity and vertical illumination in existing installations.”

3. The news gets worse – further testing in three of the four LED’s required bypassing the fluorescent ballast. If you’re retrofitting, that means more labor, higher cost and more of a pain in the ballast. Efficiency was also diminished, wattage became uncertain, lighting colors became too cool to match other lights – you can see where Jim is going with this.

More testing last year pretty much verified the earlier research. Light output in the LED replacement lamps performed below the T8’s and T12’s they were replacing, at almost every benchmark – output, efficiency, color, additional labor you name it.

And then there’s the additional cost. We all know that LED replacement lamps are expensive – they average upwards of $100, even $150, compared to the miserly $3 T8 standard fluorescent. And, as the report noted, nobody knows how these LED’s hold up, long-term, because there ISN’T any long-term – they haven’t been out long enough. Whatever the lights are promising in terms of lifetime usage hours – I’ve seen some at over 50,000 hours – that’s nothing but an educated guess by the manufactures.

Of course the other issue revealed by the testing is that the fluorescents themselves have their own sets of problems. Low temperatures negatively affect their performance. There’s the mercury issue, although Philips has done a fantastic job of reducing it, by over 30% compared to competitors bulbs, in most cases. The report is highly critical of manufacturer’s over-hyped claims on their products – as if this is anything new to us who distribute them.  T8 technology still is one hell of a light!

T8's Still Rule the Lighting World.

As for LED’s – if they live up to the hype, great, we’ll be on the front lines, singing their praises to our contractor clients. But for now we’ll hang onto our incredibly efficient stringently tested high performing T8’s – unless and until the truly “next best thing” comes along.

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com

Posted in LED's | Leave a Comment »

What’s The Right Light For Your Room?

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 22, 2010

 

A lot of us are working on Spring cleaning and remodeling projects, as we get our homes and businesses ready for more friends, family and foot traffic.

Improving the lighting is as important to the look of the areas where we live, work and shop as anything, and a lot of people come to us at Adventure Lighting seeking advice on the proper way to light these areas. While we don’t pretend to be professional light designers, we’ve certainly seen our share of lights and lit space, enough to be able to offer these simple tips for you.

1. Dare To Be Different

I tell home owners and business owners all the time – experiment with your lighting! Let your imagination run wild! And it doesn’t matter whether your talking about lighting in a residential living space, or retail shopping area – let your hair down.

Bold can be beautiful

Why? Think about how much lighting we’ve seen throughout our lives – literally hundreds of thousands of lit bulbs in uncountable situations, most of it set up in very common, standard ways. And there’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes, as the saying goes, a cigar is just a cigar, and a light is just a light…regardless of how much it pains me to say that.

But even though our eyes are drawn to light, it takes a lot to really grab and hold our attention – since our eyes think they’ve seen it all. Well we’ll show them a thing or two! 🙂 Be bold, innovative, playful – use lights and fixtures that are interesting and unusual (I’m sure we have a few among the 100,000 we stock in our Adventure Lighting warehouse) to illuminate areas in ways you’ve never seen before. Mix traditional with unique, be willing to experiment – the visual space you light up is like a canvas, so be the painter and have fun!

2. Use multi-bulb dramatic lighting to show off

 Whether you want to show off a new painting, plant or retail display, try fixtures that use several lights. In residential environments, this is most common in bathrooms and kitchens but don’t feel limited to these areas. In retail settings, try isolating the multi-light fixtures in corners, to showcase particular merchandise – this can also create some very interesting shadow effects, depending on how you position the display.

Multi-fixture lights really dress up an area

Of course, depending on the retail setting, you may have to make due with traditional flourescents and fixtures. But even so, don’t be afraid to experiment by adding other smaller, more intimate light fixtures – when properly positioned, this combination can create dynamically lit areas that that will grab the attention of your customers.

3. Pay attention to lighting color

 More than anything else, the color of the lights you use will dictate how the light is reflected in the room, be it residential or retail. Using off-white colors – from tan to blue or red –  will give the room a warmer, more inviting tint. Yet this needs to be balanced, particularly in a retail setting, by what people are looking at in the room and how they need to see it. Obviously, if your customers need to read a lot of small print on labels, then white, bright colors becomes a necessity.

But you also don’t have to light the entire retail space like a grocery store, either – unless it is a grocery store! The lack of light can be more interesting to a shopper’s eyes than the usual highly illuminated space they’re used to seeing in stores. So again, be willing to play with the color of the lights, to create a more soothing, relaxed retail experience. 

4. Add LED lights to add dollars at the cash register

LED's really dress up a retail space

 Retail studies over the years show that when planned out, properly illuminated retail environments can dramatically increase store traffic and sales. In particular, the use of LED lighting – for floor displays, window displays and to indicate different departments and product categories – can have a powerful impact at the cash register.

People who shop your store obviously don’t know your store like you do. Lighting is the perfect way to “illuminate” them, at least as much as signage can and sometimes when your employees can’t. 🙂 These lights can focus on particular merchandise or even help guide shoppers in the way they walk through your store – and how you want them to experience it.

The right lighting brings a room to life

The right lights – whether for a residential or retail setting – are critical to creating the perfect environment for you, your family, your guests or your customers. Finding the right lighting look means knowing what works best, and being willing to play with it. In the end, lighting really is like paint and your room, a canvas – so have fun, and paint!

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com

Posted in Room Lighting | Leave a Comment »

Buying Local – A Bright Idea

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 18, 2010

 

Let’s talk about buying local.

Sure, this may not seem like it has anything to do with lighting, on the face of it. But at the risk of leaving my area of expertise (at least the one I claim some knowledge in) the concept of buying local can be illuminating.

None of us needs a business degree from Harvard to understand that spending our money with locally owned companies is probably good for our local Central Iowa economy. Yet I admit – as a local businessperson, my personal stake in this issue may cloud my opinion. So I decided to do what all of us do when we want to know more about something that we think we know a lot about already, but aren’t sure.

I googled it.

Here is what I found.

 

Click it to see the whole picture

Of the major and not so major studies done over the past 10 years, one thing is clear – buying local is not just some sort of feel-good idea invented by an ad agency to boost sales. Buying local has a profound economic impact on the towns and cities where it is practiced by residents. In fact, more and more research strongly indicates that buying local is literally the life’s blood of our communities – it keeps our communities alive.

One study, by the New Economics Foundation, a London think-tank, found that when people purchase produce at a local farmer’s market vs. a chain supermarket, up to twice the money stays in the community. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle.

Boyle compares the money we spend to blood – “our life’s blood” as I said earlier. When we buy from big box and on-line retailers vs. locally owned Central Iowa businesses and suppliers, that “blood” flows out, and away, from our Des Moines community.

That means we run the risk of bleeding to death – one dollar at a time, one transaction at a time – until there is nothing left, what researchers call “ghost towns” or “clone towns,” in which almost all the businesses are national franchises and big box stores.

Can we imagine what this would look like? Yes – we’re already seeing in, on city blocks and entire mile-long stretches of businesses throughout Des Moines.

So what about the perceived higher cost of local goods and services, to shoppers?

If I had a nickel…lol.

First, let’s look at the big picture.

Any difference in the purchase price of merchandise we buy from local businesses vs. big box stores, disappears when we look at the increase in local employment, plus the relationships that grow when people buy from people they know. We know who we’re  buying from therefore we know what we’re  getting – there’s name and a face that is now accountable to us for what we just purchased. If it doesn’t work, if it tastes bad, if it fails to live up to our expectations, we go straight to the source, who almost always will deal with it immediately, to our complete satisfaction. Good luck getting that with a big box store.

On behalf of our company, Adventure Lighting, I can look our customers in the eye without blinking and tell them point-blank and categorically that we are not only cost-competitive with the big box stores, but we blow them out of the water on quality, knowledge, service and resources. We have over 100,000 lights in our warehouse, and I know for an absolute fact that employees at big box stores all over town send customers to us, because they ain’t got it and know we do.

Buying local means our money flows through our community – faster and in more hands, more often. Money spent locally has a greater impact on everyone than money spent in big box stores – it supports local charities and civic projects. It sends our kids to college, builds new homes, keeps our neighbors and friends and family members employed. It keeps our core values, our way of life, alive.

Priceless.

The future is brighter, when we buy local

So thank you for buying local. It may not have a thing to do with lighting, but it sure has everything to do with creating a brighter future – for all of us.

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in Buying Local | 7 Comments »

LED Freezer Lights – Hot Topic, Cool Look

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 15, 2010

LED lighting has been a hot topic lately, particularly when it comes to their application as freezer lighting for grocery and convenience stores. 

For every day lighting use, the superior LED technology hasn’t quite pushed aside the CFL or even the creaky incandescent. (Stay tuned – it’s coming in the next few months.) For now,  consider its use in temperature controlled food displays, the LED’s first shot over the CFL’s bow. 

In fact, LED has already begun pushing aside typical fluorescents in grocery store freezer lighting and with good reason – the advantages are just too numerous for store owners to ignore.  

The average reach-in cooler at a store is lit with a 58 watt fluorescent light bulb.  Replacing that bulb with a LED strip specially designed for that application, uses only 30 watts of energy. The difference, shown below, is striking: 

Fluorescent Lighting vs. LED Lighting Energy Savings

As you can see,  not only is there significant energy savings to be found in terms of the energy used by LED’s vs. fluorescents, but an extra benefit comes from the LED’s expelling less heat, therefore the coolers don’t have to work so hard. 

Here are before and after pictures of a typical commercial cooler – with standard fluorescents, and using new LED technology.  

  

But if you’re not a store owner, you may be asking the obvious – “What’s in it for me?” Unfortunately, there may not be much. Certainly by reducing the cost of doing business for store owners via lower energy costs, it can help reduce costs for the average consumer – if owners choose to pass along those savings to their customers.  

Okay, not likely. What IS of benefit to consumers is being able to count on meats and other foods lasting longer while in freezers and coolers.  This is because there is significantly less heat, and NO UV light ruining food while it’s in the freezers or meat cases. Ultimately, then, LED’s are a win-win for both owners and the customers who visit their stores.  

LED lighting is on the horizon and coming quickly.  We think that in the next 3 years every grocery store and convenience store will be equiped with this cutting edge technology.  So the next time you’re strolling through your local grocery store, take a look and see if you notice any changes taking place in the way food is displayed in the freezer case. It could be the brand new LED, an incredible advance in lighting technology that’s going to change how we light everything.  

  

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in Freezer Lights, LED's | 5 Comments »

Finding The Right Electrician

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 11, 2010

 We get asked all the time, “Do you know a good electrician?” 

The answer of course is, yes.  We know many  electricians.   Most of the electricians we work with – and we’ve worked with dozens and dozens over the years – are highly trained, highly skilled professionals who know what they’re doing. If they’re not, then they usually don’t last long.

Having said that, there are bad electricians, just like there are bad lighting distributors!  Here are a few things to look for to make sure you get a qualified electrical contractor:

1. Make sure they’re licensed and bonded

Nothing is more important than this. And since we get asked all the time about what this means, it’s worth taking some time to explain.

A liscensed electrician is vital

To legally work in the state of Iowa, an electrician must be licensed. The types of licenses include electrical contractor license, Class A master electrician, class A journeyman electrician, Class B master electrician, Class B journeyman electrician, apprentice electrician, special electrician and unclassified person.

The difference between a Master’s and Journeyman’s license, according to the Iowa Electrical code, is that someone with a Master’s license, has “the necessary qualifications and technical knowledge to properly plan, lay out, and supervise the installation of electrical wiring and equipment for light, heat, and power.” A Journeyman electrician is “a person having the necessary qualifications to wire for or install electrical wiring and equipment.”

So what’s the difference? Experience and skill – the Master electrician has pretty much seen it all and done it all. The Journeyman, while skilled, is still learning.

The difference between Class A and Class B is that a Class A license “will not have any restrictions placed on the license.” A Class A license “requires that the electrician meet the requirements of the Board for experience and that they have passed a written, supervised licensing exam.” In other words, the Class B license will have restrictions, since you don’t have to pass a written exam to get it. Some electrical work can’t be done by someone with a class B license, some can.

So what’s an electrical contractor? It’s someone who works for an electrical business who is either certified as a Class A or Class B Master electrician or who has one on staff, who has also registered with the State of Iowa’s Division of Labor, as a contractor.

Confusing enough? 

For a more in-depth explanation, go to the Iowa Department of Public Safety web site, at:  http://www.dps.state.ia.us/fm/electrician/license_verification.shtml

2. Check the referrals

Any electrician worth his wire cutters will have a long list of customers you can contact. Make sure you call at least half a dozen. Ask them about their experience – was the electrician prompt, did he do the job he said he’d do, was his pricing fair, would you use him again? There are also multiple review sites on-line. Most electricians who’ve been in the biz long enough will have racked up multiple customer comments on several review sites. Overall, good electricians leave a path of satisfied customers, who will be more than happy to share their experience with you.

3. Make sure they look the part

 Looks can be deceiving. But in the case of electricians, the way they look and carry themself, usually tells a pretty accurate story.

An electrician who takes pride in their work will usually take pride in their appearance. Look for a company logo, or at least a business card with pertinent information including phone number, web site and license number.

4. Good electricians don’t cut corners

 We like to save money as much as you do, but cutting corners, especially on electrical work, is no place to pinch pennies.

Duct tape = cutting corners

 Be weary of electricians who will do things that seem unsafe, in order to accommodate your budget. Instead, a good electrician will be willing to modify plans but still stay within code, in order to save you money.

5. Good electricians use good materials

 The quality of the products your electrician uses, make a difference. When trying to stay within your budget, a less than scrupulous electrician may suggest he use sub-standard equipment. That’s not a red flag, that’s a race stopper.  Good electricians insist on using the best materials, because they want your project to be safe and to last. 

6. Trust your instincts

 If you meet an electrician and get a “bad vibe,” then trust your feelings and look elsewhere. There are literally hundreds of electricians in the phone book – a lot of skilled fish in the contractor sea. So don’t feel obligated to use the first one you find.

There are plenty of good electrical contractors out there. Do your due diligence and you’ll find one. And if you need a referral, just ask us. We’ve got ’em. 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in Electrician | 9 Comments »

Occupancy Sensors For Today’s Offices

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 5, 2010

 

More companies are going green - especially with their lighting

Being Green and Saving energy is a big topic for companies. Not only because it saves companies money but also because it’s the right thing to do. And let’s face it, it’s great PR for them – consumers like to know that the companies they buy from, care about the environment.

Hands down the best way to save energy is to not use any at all – call it light abstinence.

And one of the things that can really help is occupancy sensors. They’ve been around for some time, but newer versions have taken the technology one step further, to create a more user friendly product.

Occupancy sensors turn out the lights when nobody's around

Occupancy sensors work the same as a normal wall switch. Except in their case, they can detect when nothing is moving in the room. At that point, they shut off power to the lights. 

There are some minor drawbacks.

One of the most annoying things that can happen is when we’re in a bathroom that has an occupancy sensor in it, and the dumb thing shuts off after a few minutes of inactivity, while we’re still there, behind a door. Hello! I’m right here! 

Well no more going potty in the dark. (My wife claims I’ve been doing this since we got married.)

New sensors incorporate sound sensitive technolgy that reacts not only to the infared heat of a body when it walks into the room, but also to a person in a bathroom stall yelling, “HEY!!  Who shut off the lights?!”

One thing to consider – and this relates to a previous post – when installing occupancy sensors in bathrooms that have fluorescent Lights, make sure you set the sensor to turn off on the longest time available on the unit. When the lights turn off and on a lot, the life of the lamp is greatly reduced AND people get stuck in stalls without lighting – kind of a double whammy.

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in Occupancy Sensors, Save energy | 3 Comments »

Feeling Blue? Turn On Your CFL!

Posted by adventurelightingblog on March 3, 2010

Many of us start to feel a little blue this time of year – a bit down in the dumps, sluggish, tired, even a little sad. Chronic gray skies, bitter cold and a record 61 inches of wind-blown snow over four months will do that! We also have a human genetic tendency to want to sleep more, stay in more, that whole “hibernating” feeling. 

The medical term for varying degrees of the winter blues is Seasonal Affect Disorder, also known as Seasonal Depression, or SAD. 

Feeling a little SAD?

!AD is a medical diagnosis – I don’t pretend to be a psychologist, no matter what my wife says! My degree is in electrical wiring, not brain wiring. But I’ve read and researched enough to know that one of the ways a person can help reduce the symptoms of  Seasonal Affect Disorder, is right in our Adventure Lighting warehouse. 

S-A-D? Meet C-F-L! 

So how do compact fluorescents help Season Affect Disorder? 

The breakthrough in light therapy came in 1980, when the National Institute of Mental Health showed evidence that intense light can have an impact on the release of melatonin in the brain, which affects our mood. There is much research since, supporting the use of bright white light, blue light and low intensity green light, for symptoms of SAD

In the middle of it all is the beautiful, versatile, and therapeutic compact fluorescent. 

Many so-called light therapy “boxes” are made of a set of fluorescent bulbs put inside a box with a diffusing screen. The box is then placed on a table where the person with SAD can then place their face within proximity of the light array. The treatment can last from a few minutes to several hours. The person doesn’t look directly into the light but instead goes about their business, reading, writing – as the light shines on the objects the person is looking at, the light box is doing its thing. 

The early light boxes needed “full-spectrum” bulbs producing light similar to the outdoors – regular fluorescents didn’t cut it. But with advancements in light technology, positive effects can be felt using cool-white, tri-phosphor and bi-axial lamps – all of which we stock in our Adventure Lighting warehouse.  

Light boxes specifically designed for SAD are manufactured and sold all over the internet. Considering they typically start at $350, the question then becomes, can you make your own light box? 

Yes you can! 

We've got your light box right here!

There are several ways to accomplish this. The simplest is to purchase a standard 4 lamp 2′ x 4′ Troffer (a Troffer is a recessed fluorescent) which is a standard office fixture stocked at Adventure Lighting. 

The light threshold for an effective light box is 10,000 lumens. To get there, you’ll have to decide what types of lights you want to use. We’d recommend a 4-light, F32T8 with an electronic ballast. It’s much more energy-efficient, and will produce 9,600 lumens per fixture. 

If you’re handy, you can also construct an actual light “box” using wood, standard CFL’s and multiple light sockets. An 18w CFL produces 1100 lumens, so you’ll need 10 to get to 10,000. 

Build your own light box

If you think you have SAD, please see your doctor. Again, I’m not a trained therapist.

But if you’d like help in building your own light box, then email us, call us or stop in and see us. We may not know the brain, but we do know lights – and we’d love to share a few “bright” ideas that can help you have a brighter winter, starting with the incredible, versatile, energy-efficient, therapeutic, miraculous, CFL!

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in CFL's, Season Affect Disorder | 5 Comments »

Turn Out The Lights? Read This Before You Flip The Switch

Posted by adventurelightingblog on February 26, 2010

 

We’ve been told over the years – by our parents, spouses, bosses and even the U.S. Government – to “turn the lights off when you leave the room.” The reasons are simple – turning off lights conserves energy, saves money and prolongs the life of the light. Right?

On or off? Here's a bright idea

Well not always. Believe it or not there are some very good reasons to leave the light on

First, let’s make it clear – if the light is an old-school incandescent, go ahead and turn it off. And leave it off. Forever. Only 10-15% of the energy consumed by incandescents, actually goes towards illumination. The rest is wasted as heat. So the first step is to replace all of your inefficient incandescent bulbs with modern CFL’s (from Adventure Lighting) – a longer lasting, more energy-efficient, better for the environment, better light, period. 

Now to the great fluorescent debate – to turn off or not to turn off? 

Fluorescents, when turned on, are like me when I’m watching an NFL game on Sunday afternoons – they really like to be left alone. CFL’s were designed and built to be energy-efficient and thus, happiest when they’re doing their job, providing light. In general, the more you turn a fluorescent on and off, the more you shorten the life of the lamp. The rule of thumb is, if you’re going to be gone more than 15 minutes, go ahead and turn off the light. If it’s less, leave them on. 

But there are other considerations. 

Fluorescents (and incandescents) require a relatively high “inrush” current when they’re first turned on. The amount of extra electricity required depends on the type of light and the ballast, which provides the initially high voltage needed for igniting the lamp and also regulates the current during the light’s illumination. 

There are three basic types of ballasts and three basic forms of ignition, but we won’t go there. Instead, just remember that the amount of electricity used to “start” a fluorescent is roughly equal to operating the light for around five seconds or so.  It’s similar to the “should I keep my car running or turn it off” question. In other words, every time you turn on a light, it’s taking you five seconds worth of cost to do so.

Our best advice is to keep your car – and your lights – on. 

The last consideration is when you’re operating the lights. Peak times – when energy companies charge the most because the most consumers are using the most electricity – vary from state to state, to country to country.

Wow - glad we don't watch TV in India

For example, in India it’s all peak electrical time – there are no off-peak hours. (Glad we’re not running our 50 inch plasma TV over there.) Here in the U.S., peak or “on-peak” hours generally start in the afternoon and last through the early evening. So if you’re going to turn off your fluorescents, do it during this time – but only if you’ll be gone more than 15 minutes. 

Otherwise, leave those beautifully stingy, energy-sipping wonders of technology on, let them do their job.  They’ll be happy, because they get to light up the room, and so will your smile, because you’ll be happy, too. 

And now we want to make you even happier, by giving you something for free!  

As we’ve talked about in previous posts, your response to “Here’s A Bright Idea” has been amazing – we can’t thank you enough for your comments, calls and shared interest in saving money and the environment. 

To say thank you, we’d like to give you two free CFL’s. No purchase necessary. All you have to do is subscribe to our “Here’s A Bright Idea” blog by email. We’ll then send you an email, telling you how to pick up your two free CFL’s. It’s that easy! 

As an email subscriber you’ll also receive other great offers from Adventure Lighting. So sign up, get your two free CFL’s and other great offers from us at Adventure Lighting – and thank you! And if you have a topic or question you’d like us to address in a future blog post, please let us know!

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in CFL's, Save energy, Save money | 3 Comments »

Countering The Rap That LED’s Aren’t So Hot

Posted by adventurelightingblog on February 24, 2010

LED’s have been taking a bum rap recently and we want to set the record straight.

Unlike CFL’s or incandescents, LED, or Light Emitting Diode, create light by running a current through a small computer chip which then emits light. There’s no gas, no mercury, no moving parts – making it one of the most energy efficient and durable lights in the world.

Can LED's keep up with Ole' Man Winter?

That incredible energy efficiency, however, has LED to some problems. (excuse the pun) In Des Moines and other cold weather cities, incandescent traffic lights are being replaced with high energy efficient LED’s, which are 90% more energy efficient and can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for cash-strapped cities. The downside is the very advantage that LED’s have – they produce far less heat than their predecessors, which allows snow and ice to build up, particularly during this record breaking winter. That has created visibility issues for drivers and headaches for the city road crews who have to clear the snow and ice by hand.

Truth be told, on the coldest, snowiest, windiest days, no traffic light – incandescent, LED or burning caveman torch – can keep up with the snow and ice. Otherwise there are solutions. Plastic covers can be placed over the lights, or they can be coated with a special moisture repellent substance. Airports usually add heating elements to their energy efficient LED’s and still see dramatic savings.

But many businesses also use the cooler running characteristic of LED’s and CFL’s to their advantage.

New LED's chillin in the cooler

 Adventure Lighting is currently retrofitting the cooler lights – literally the lights in the coolers, where beverages are kept cold – at all Short Stop Convenience Store locations, as well as other businesses where refrigerated products require display lighting. These new energy efficient LED’s produce 60% energy savings by themselves, plus their lower operating temperature means refrigeration units don’t have to work as hard. That energy saving one-two punch is great news for business owners looking to pinch every penny in this economy.

This type of savings also holds true for businesses where there are lots of lights in general – replacing wasteful incandescents with more energy efficient, cooler running CFL’s means lower lighting costs year-round plus lower cooling costs in the summer. There’s also a safety factor for residential customers who switch to CFL’s – they generate less heat which means they won’t burn your kids’ (or your) hands or create the high heat of incandescents that can, and do, ignite nearby cloth and other combustibles.

Incandescents, out. Roaring fire, in.

And while we probably wouldn’t mind a little extra heat from our lights during this coldest of winters, think about it this way – you can put your hands around an old 100 watt incandescent bulb to stay warm, or you can replace it with an energy efficient CFL and use the money you’ll be saving to pay for turning up the furnace a bit. Or to buy extra fire wood for your fireplace. Or an extra blanket. 🙂

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 

Posted in CFL's, LED's, Save energy, Save money, Traffic lights, Winter | 1 Comment »