Posts Tagged ‘Energy Efficient’
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) are a great alternative to traditional incandescent light bulbs. They are more energy-efficient, which means that they are more affordable. They last longer so they don’t require the hassle of frequent replacement. And in theory they are greener for the earth because they aren’t thrown out as often. However, CFL bulbs do contain mercury, which can be bad for the earth if the bulbs aren’t properly disposed of when you’re done using them. This guide tells you all that you need to know about the threat of mercury from CFL bulbs, how to recycle the bulbs properly and what your alternatives are if you don’t want to deal with recycling CFL bulbs.
Understanding the Mercury Issue
Each CFL bulb contains approximately five milligrams of mercury. If the bulb breaks then the mercury is released. This can be dangerous to the individual if the bulb breaks in the home. If it breaks in the landfill then it can be dangerous to the earth because the mercury then makes its way into storm water and the air. The Association of Lighting and Mercury Retailers reports that four tons of mercury leak into the environment each year because of improperly discarded CFL bulbs. Mercury dangers are cumulative so the more bulbs that end up in the landfill the more dangerous it is for the environment.
Does Your Bulb Contain Mercury?
CFL bulbs are the only household light bulb that currently contain mercury. You can always check the light bulb label before you purchase it to find out if it does have mercury, though. That’s because the new light bulb labels will specifically say if mercury is in the bulb.
How to Handle a Broken CFL Bulb at Home
Follow these tips if a CFL bulb breaks in your home:
- Immediately open all windows to help ventilate the room. Leave the room for at least fifteen minutes after doing this. If your central heating / AC is on then turn it off during this time to make sure that the mercury doesn’t circulate through the rest of the home.
- Put on gloves before handling the broken glass. Scoop all visible glass and powder into a glass jar with a metal lid. Alternatively you can scoop it into a sealed plastic bag.
- Use a thick tape, such as duct tape, to pick up the remaining shards and powder that you haven’t been able to scoop up by hand. When finished, place the tape into the glass jar or sealed plastic bag.
- Use a damp paper towel to go over the surface again to pick up any remaining remnants. Put this into the glass jar or sealed plastic bag.
- Never use a vacuum for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb. You run the risk of spreading the mercury throughout your home. You can vacuum as normal after the area is cleaned up but you should remove the vacuum bag immediately after doing so just to be on the safe side.
- Contact your local recycling center (see resources below) to find out if you can drop your broken CFL bulb. If not, check with your local government to find out what the proper disposal method is in your area. In the meantime, keep the glass jar or sealed plastic bag outside in a safe area.
When shopping for lighting, you might notice different types of compliance listed on the packaging. You might guess that ADA Compliant, Energy Star, and Dark Sky all refer to good things, but what, exactly, do they mean? Are all of these different compliant standards something that the average homeowner should be worried about? The short answer is, it depends.
ADA refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes regulations pertaining to wall and ceiling light fixtures in public places. Private residences aren’t required to comply. For commercial zoning, the restrictions state that wall fixtures need to be mounted between 28 and 80 inches above the floor and shouldn’t extend more than four inches away from the wall. Ceiling fixtures must hang at least 80 inches above the floor.
Energy Star is the label developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to denote compliance with governmental standards for energy efficiency. Besides the fact that more and more state and local laws are requiring newly-constructed homes to comply with these standards, you will probably want to look for the Energy Star label for more personal and practical reasons: it will help you save money on your energy bills, and will also help to reduce your carbon footprint by consuming less energy. Energy Star-labeled lighting products are also rigorously tested to meet national fire safety standards, all of which makes them a good choice, regardless of whether they are required by law.
Dark Sky Regulated, also known as Good Neighbor Lighting, is a term referring to lighting fixtures that are designed to cut down on glare, prevent bright lights from shining in your neighbor’s window, and reduce the phenomenon known as “urban sky glow”. It applies to outdoor lighting, and, like with Energy Star compliance, whether it’s a legal requirement depends on where you live, so check your local zoning laws to be sure. But, also like Energy Star, Dark Sky Regulated products are generally desirable whether they’re required or not. For one thing, they also help cut down on energy waste; and, like good fences, they help make good neighbors.
For most of us, there’s just no getting around the necessity of light. There’s also no getting around the fact that most forms of lighting take electricity, or the impact that electricity has on both our budgets and on the environment. Fortunately, nature blessed us with a free light source to get us through the day; but once that sun goes down, the electric lights go on and the energy drain begins. As the summer winds down, the days are growing shorter, and the need for artificial light is growing longer. Here are a few tips for conserving energy in the process of lighting up your nights.
- Switch out incandescent light bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs. This isn’t the first time we’ve made this suggestion. It probably won’t be the last, either, since it’s such an easy change to make, and it carries such a heavy return on investment: their longevity and efficiency make them far less expensive to the consumer than incandescent bulbs. Plus, replacing just one bulb with a CFL will prevent half a ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over the life of the bulb.
- Turn off lights that you aren’t using. This may be common sense, but it can be a difficult thing to remember. To help with that, you can install motion or occupancy sensors that will automatically turn the lights on and off as needed. It’s another small investment with a big return.
- Install dimmers, like we discussed in last week’s post, to reduce wattage and make sure you’re not using more than you actually need.
- Instead of lighting up an entire room, opt for targeted task lighting to focus light where it’s needed the most.
- Consider hanging mirrors throughout your home. They’ll not only make your space appear larger, but also brighten it by reflecting light.
It’s hard to imagine here in the dog days of summer, but winter will be here before we know it. If you start making these little changes now, you’ll be able to enjoy a cozy, well-lit holiday season without breaking the bank.
As we’ve demonstrated over the last few weeks, there are several alternatives to the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb, all of which will save on energy use and, ultimately, save you money. But we have yet to discuss the most popular alternative: Compact Fluorescent Light, or CFL, bulbs.
Apart from being the most widely available and affordable alternative bulb, there are a few other facts you should know about CFL bulbs before finalizing your lighting plan.
CFL Bulb Facts:
1, Although CFL bulbs cost a few dollars more up front than incandescents, CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy and last almost ten times as long as regular incandescents. Eventually, they pay for themselves.
2, Less fossil fuel is required to power a CFL bulb, which means fewer emissions are created in the process. According to the U.S. Government’s Energy Star fact sheet, “If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars.”
3, Their brightness is measured in lumens instead of watts. However, most CFL packaging lists the equivalent wattage that would be required by a standard incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, making it easy for consumers to choose the right CFL to replace their old bulbs.
4, The color of light they produce is measured in Kelvins. The fewer the Kelvins, the warmer and yellower the light.
5, They also come in multiple shapes. You can find small, candle-shaped bulbs suitable for chandeliers and decorative lamps, globe-shaped bulbs that are perfect for vanity mirror lighting, and several other shapes in bet
6, Though they can take a moment to start, better quality CFL bulbs light quickly with no noticeable flicker. If the flicker bothers you, then it’s a good idea to test a bulb in your home before investing in more of that particular brand and model.
7, They contain small amounts of mercury. Although this seems counter-intuitive to the claim that they’re better for the environment, each bulb contains less mercury than is found in an old-fashioned thermometer, and it’s only released into the air if a bulb is broken. To cut down on the risk, some states forbid disposing of burned-out or broken bulbs with your regular refuse and have special recycling and disposal programs available. Check with your local garbage collector to find out if any such restrictions or programs exist in your area. You can also check EnergyStar.gov for advice on how to properly dispose of a broken CFL bulb.
If these facts haven’t convinced you to make the switch, then maybe this one will: many incandescent bulbs are gradually being phased out of production, and within the next three to five years will become illegal in Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States. So sooner or later, there won’t be a choice. But why wait? The sooner you switch, the sooner the savings start adding up.
California residents who are planning lighting solutions for new homes or additions must be sure to consider the Title 24 lighting code, which is the strictest state-enforced energy mandate in the nation. First established in 1978 in response to the energy crisis, the standards are updated every few years to keep up with evolving technologies and expanding options. The current standards went into effect in October, 2005, and will remain through the end of this July. For residential buildings, the rules break down as follows:
- Incandescent lighting is allowed in most rooms, provided they are controlled either by a vacancy sensor that turns them off when no one is in the room, or by a dimmer switch.
- In kitchens, energy efficient light sources such as CFL or LED bulbs must make up at least half of the lighting, and incandescent lights must be wired on separate circuits.
- For outdoor lighting, all light fixtures that are attached to the main building or to any outbuildings on the same lot must either use energy efficient bulbs, or must be controlled by light and motions sensors.
- These standards apply to permanently installed light fixtures and not to plug-in lamps.
Title 24 was updated again in 2008, and the revised standards will go into effect on August 1st, 2009. They differ from the 2005 in the following ways:
- Home lighting is divided into three distinct zones: the kitchen; bathrooms, garages, laundry and utility rooms; and hallways, dining rooms, family rooms, home office, and bedrooms.
- Kitchen lighting requirements remain much the same, with the added provision that internal cabinet lighting cannot exceed 20 watts per linear foot of cabinet space. There is no penalty for use of low-efficiency incandescents for low-wattage cabinet lighting.
- The second zone will now require vacancy detectors to have a manual “on” switch, rather than an automatic motion-sensor, to prevent lights from coming on automatically in rooms that are well-lit by daylight.
- The third zone, which comprises all of the main living areas, also remains much the same, with the requirement that low-efficiency lighting be controlled by a dimmer switch or a vacancy detector.
The good news about these standards is how easy it is to comply. Simply switch out all of your old light bulbs for a more energy efficient option such as CFL or LED bulbs. Even better, since energy efficient bulbs also have a longer lifespan than incandescent’s, the long-term savings more than make up for the short-term expense of upgrading your lighting. It’s a small change that can make a big impact on both the environment and on your wallet, no special wiring required.
In the quest for more energy-efficient home lighting, it can be difficult to keep up with the trends. Advances in lighting technology seem to be happening constantly, and the trends are evolving at almost the same pace. The latest trend is moving toward LED lighting. It’s efficient, it’s affordable, and it’s not just for flashlights anymore.
LED, which stands for Light Emitting Diodes, is a type of Solid State Lighting (SSL). Unlike filament lighting, which uses gas or plasma to conduct light and heat, LED bulbs emit light from electrons moving along a semiconductor. The technology isn’t new; LEDs have been in use for decades, and are probably even in use in your home right now, lighting up your digital alarm clock, transmitting commands from your remote control, or even making this blog visible on your computer screen.
What is fairly new is a recent trend toward using LEDs for home lighting. Thanks to a decrease in the cost of semiconductor material, it has become much more cost-effective to use LEDs in more common lighting applications. LEDs have been showing up in Christmas lights and outdoor security lights, and are now also being used in landscape lighting designs and as indoor task lighting. With LED bulbs now being clustered together in larger bulbs made to fit standard light fixtures, the possibilities for lighting your home with LEDs are practically endless.
Though LED bulbs cost a bit more than incandescents, the advantages more than make up for the extra initial expense. Because they don’t use a filament to produce light, they don’t burn out like incandescents do, and they don’t produce heat. This, of course, makes them much more energy efficient than even CFL bulbs, and also longer-lasting. They come in warm and cool tones, and also in various colors, providing a wide range of possibilities to add dramatic lighting to your home decor
Once upon a time, choosing a light bulb was simply a matter of deciding on wattage. Today, however, light bulbs come in a much wider range of options, with differences that are both subtle and not so subtle and can make a huge impact on your design and budget.
The old standby, traditional incandescent bulbs come in both cool and warm tones. They work by igniting a tungsten filament surrounded by an inert gas such as argon that conducts heat and prevents the filament from burning out immediately. Although this is still the most widely used type of bulb, it is also the least energy efficient and has the shortest lifespan, which is why it is gradually being phased out in favor of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. CFL bulbs put out the same basic type of light as incandescents, but their heat and energy output is much less, making them a desirable alternative for ordinary lighting.
For a brighter light, such as you might want in the kitchen or bathroom, halogen bulbs are a popular choice. Halogen bulbs work much like incandescents, except that the inert argon gas is mixed with halogen to extend the life of the filament. This also allows the filament to burn hotter and brighter than regular incandescents, which means a brighter light is obtained at a lower wattage, making them 10 to 20 percent more efficient than incandescents. They cast a warm light and can be used with dimmer switches, which makes them great for mood lighting. They require careful handling, though, and require glass coverings which can make them hot enough to raise a room’s temperature and create a potential fire hazard if placed too close to flammable objects.
Xenon bulbs are becoming a popular alternative to halogen lighting. These bulbs use xenon gas instead of argon, allowing them to burn very brightly at cooler temperatures than a halogen bulb. They cast a cool, white light and don’t require the special handling that halogens do, nor do they need a glass covering, which reduces their heat even further. Xenon bulbs generally cost more, though the extra cost is offset by their longer lifespan and increased energy efficiency.
In developing a lighting plan, decide which factors matter most: mood, brightness, cost-effectiveness or energy efficiency? The answer to this question will help determine which type of bulb is best suited to your lighting needs.
1. CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs) save energy two ways: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program estimates that Energy-Star-qualified CFLs use up to 75% less home energy than their incandescent counterparts. They can last as long as 10 times longer than conventional light bulbs and often come with partial-time warranties (you are guaranteed, for example, that the bulb will last at least 2 years or longer).
Since lighting can amount to between 15 and 20% of the average electric bill, using bulbs that require much less energy will show up on your utility bill. To see real savings, the Energy Star program suggests that you replace your 5 “busiest” light bulbs with CFLs.
This might include lighting fixtures in the bathroom, kitchen, family room, your porch light or security lights (if you burn them all night). Watch for the “busy” use patterns in your house and replace the light bulbs that always seem to be turned on—or left on.
Energy Star points out that the real savings in terms of the environment happen outside your home. Using just one CFL in every home in the U.S., Energy Star asserts, saves greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to the emissions of 800,000 cars. Recapturing cleaner air, plus your own personal savings, are excellent reasons to use CFLs.
2. CFLs can do the things conventional incandescent light bulbs can do: CFLs are relatively new technology, meeting challenges one at a time, so you may still have a brief wait before you see CFLs that respond to all you needs and wants. Rest assured, however, that technology is moving quickly to answer consumer concerns.
How about an outdoor-quality CFL? Coming along nicely, thank you—including yellow bug-lights. What about three-way CFLs—already on the shelf. Manufacturers of CFLs are well aware that consumers want keep their favorite fixtures and need as wide a variety of choices as they have in incandescent bulbs. If you don’t see what you want, ask your retailer—probably your CFLs are already on order.
3. You don’t have to hide funny-looking bulbs under shades any more: One of the strongest objections to CFLs has been aesthetic—the light’s okay, but the bulbs look so techy. Picture a flame-tipped, soft-white bulb that fits the small receptacles of your chandelier—and reach out to take it off the store shelf! Use it with a dimmer switch? You bet! The variety of covered CFLs is expanding rapidly in response to consumer demand.
4. It’s easy to get the same amount of light from a CFL as an incandescent: After years of counting 60-75-100-150, consumers find the new wattage numbers confusing: how much light can you expect from a “13-watt” CFL? (Even the most penny-pinching of landlords used 25-watt bulbs in the hall.) Surprisingly, a 13-watt CFL produces the same light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
To determine the amount of light from incandescent bulbs and CFLs, you need only change the number you read. The amount of light you see, as opposed to the energy used, is expressed in “lumens,” from the Latin word for “light.” You can find the lumens generated by both kinds of lights printed on the packages—quick and easy.
5. CFL light looks just like . . . light! The old put-down of fluorescent lights—see great, look awful—is definitely a things of the past. CFLs have been engineered to produce warm light, soft, diffused light, and enhanced-spectrum light that resembles daylight. Put an enhanced-spectrum incandescent bulb into one lamp, and put a comparable CFL into another—you will find it very difficult to tell which is which without peeking under the shades.
Long-lasting, energy-saving CFLs are a great way to save money and energy while enhancing the look of your home. It’s time to get acquainted with CFLs.