I’m Dreaming of A Green Holiday

P1080447Thanksgiving is this Thursday and the blur that is the holiday season is now officially upon us.  But before the calendar gets all filled up with shopping dates and the usual ho ho ho, allow me to suggest that you join me, my friends and many members of the Southern California green community – along with everyone curious about solar energy, alternative energy vehicles and living sustainable lifestyles – at the blowout eco-fest of the year, Renewable L.A. on Saturday December 8, 2007 in Van Nuys.

It might even be worth a trip from out of town, because if you’re there we can get a rooftop tour of a brand new, state of the art solar panel panel system and learn all about it.  It’s a 100kW system.

We can test drive electric cars, hybrid cars, plug-in hybrid cars, biodiesel cars, and electric scooters.  

We’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with electric conversion vehicles like:

The eBox from AC Propulsion…

The electric Vectrix Maxi Scooter the world’s first high-performance electric two-wheel vehicle to offer all the benefits of a traditional gasoline-powered scooter but without the noise, pollution, expensive maintenance, frequent oil changes, and regular trips to the gas station. 

The company turning already extraordinary Prius hybrid cars into beyond extraordinary PLUG-IN Prius hybrid cars, Plug-In Conversions Corporation, will have cars there for us to test ride and find out about.

I’m talking about stuff like the breakthrough Nilar NiMh batteries they’re using today while the big auto companies are still keeping us waiting for our Plug-Ins…

And we can test ride the electric car you can buy right now, the Zenn from Zenn Motor Company

We can also watch a special, digital screening of “Who Killed the Electric Car” in a luxury screening room and participate in a live, in-person Q&A with the director, Chris Paine and former GM EV-1 employee, Chelsea Sexton.  

Chelsea Sexton, Executive Director of Plug-In America.

 We’re also going to be able to attend expert seminars on how to finance our home’s solar system, how to purchase green power from our electric utility, the basics of biodiesel and much more.

 We’ve all got questions, and Renewable L.A. promises to have answers from the people who know best, all in one very convenient location.

And you’re going to want to bring the kids and their friends too for the safest, most sustainable and greenest Kids Fun Zone ever with the Armory Center for the Arts Solar Print Making Using the Sun…

An innovative and irresistible Toy-Making from Recyclables workshop with Cy Tymony, author of “Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things”… 

There’s going to be face painting with non-toxic paints and plenty of other non adult good times to be had as well. 

This promises to be one of the greenest, safest, most creative events for both kids and their favorite adults.

 And just in time for holidays a Green Holiday Gift Fest will feature eco-friendly gifts from green vendors as well as the easy opportunity to fuflill your holiday gift needs by donating in your recipients’ names to a long list of environmental and animal rescue organizations.

Renewable L.A. is the brainchild of Zan Dubin Scott, a remarkable member of the Southern California environmental movement.  After 15 years as a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, Zan struck out on her own and has run a very successful and highly effective public relations, marketing and writing agency ever since.  

 She has leveraged her media and marketing skills and expertise to promote clean transportation and alternative energy use.  Her best known efforts include the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car.” Zan not only helped to organize and execute some of the hit film’s key media events and other activities, but is also one of many grassroots activists featured in the movie.

 Now Zan is calling attention to one of the largest and newest solar installations in the San Fernando Valley – that  100kW system I mentioned.  It’s at a facility housing  entertainment industry leaders American Hi Definition and Sweetwater Digital Productions.

 Both companies are not only leading the way as they walk the green walk, they’re also co-hosting Renewable L.A. to help get the word out and give the green community a place and event to come together and build our momentum.

 The third sponsor of the event, Energy Efficiency Solar is the company who installed the 100kW solar panel system for American Hi Def and Sweetwater and they’ve been installing commercial and residential solar systems since 1989.  I’m looking forward to talking with them about what’s possible for my own home.

 I’d like to talk to them about doing what Zan Dubin Scott already does – charging an electric car exclusively from solar.  For anyone concerned about using coal fired power plant energy to charge their electric car or plug-in, solar charging is the answer that quiets any and all critics.

 But more than anything else I’m looking forward to being there with all of you and so many other kindred spirits and like-minded green people.

 If ever there were a time for the gathering of this clan, it’s this holiday season and it’s here in Southern California, the world capitol of both conspicuous consumption and conservation consciousness. 

 The time is especially opportune in light of last week’s news from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global  warming is “unequivocal”  

 That’s right, no more wiggle room for even the looniest of right wing fruitcakes or Fox News personalities.  The UN report says climate change will bring “abrupt and irreversible changes.”  That’s “will” not “might.”  It’s no longer just an Inconvenient Truth it’s now an Inescapable Truth. 

The report, a plain spoken, high-level message for the world’s politicians distilled from three other IPCC panels convened throughout the year, read like what Time Magazine will call it next week: “A Last Warning to Humanity. 

“Today the world’s scientists have spoken clearly, and with one voice,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Climate change “is the defining challenge of our age.”

One thing is certain – that challenge is not going to be met by anyone in Washington DC, it’s going to be met by people like you and me and the other kinds of people who will be attending Renewable L.A. on Saturday, December 8.  We all need to meet and get to know each other.  We need to be talking, sharing experiences and working together even more closely.  People like me have got to do more.

Because we’re the people who ARE going to change this world, the same way we changed ourselves, and our families and our friends.  The same way so many of you have already made a difference.

The same way citizen volunteers in the Bay Area didn’t wait for the “authorities” to take the necessary clean up action from the oil spill last week. They got out there and did it themselves. Read about the Kill the Spill efforts if you haven’t already.

I’ve never found my own friends more responsive, more engaged or more passionate about any other issue we’ve had in common.  And it’s not because of me – that fire is already burning inside them and I’m just discovering it now.

I know it’s burning in you too.  And as in nature, when the winds of change bring all those individual fires together they combine to conflagrate into an unstoppable wildfire that cannot be contained.

I know it’s dangerous and maybe even crazy to be making fire analogies during these drought dry, red flag warning, Santa Ana blowing days – especially for this greenest of holiday events – but the heat is on, and I’m just saying how cool it would be if you were there.

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Visiting NEPTUN – Source Of A New Light

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If you’ve been following our CFL journey of learning so far, you know that I’ve replaced over 30 different incandescent light bulbs in our home with their equivalent CFL bulbs.   

NEPTUN-Catalog-10After making the switch I had questions about my new light bulbs and their performance – and so too did many of you. 

To get the answers and learn more about today’s CFLs I reached out to four different CFL manufacturers.  Neptune Light, Overdrive Lighting and Technical Consumer Products (TCP who make the DuraBright brand), all of whom make the new bulbs I installed.  I also wrote to Greenlite, a favorite of our friend Burt. 

One of the four companies got back to me less than 24 hours later.  It was Jeff Beck writing on Neptun Lighting’s behalf.  

63f175b0Many of you know that Jeff Skunk Baxter, formerly of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, is today an expert on counterterrorism and  missile defense, but who knew that guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck was now an expert on energy saving lighting?

 As it turns out, Neptun’s Jeff Beck does his rocking as the company’s Director of Sales, which put him in an even better position to answer our questions about their new dimmable bulbs and to fill us in on Neptun’s story and place in the industry.

 Beck told us that Neptun Light is the leading manufacturer of dimmable CFL’s with more than 25 models in various wattages and numerous shapes.  You can see some of those bulbs in the photos throughout this post.

 From doing our green homework we knew that Neptun’s CEO, Andrew Bobel, is also the company’s founder and its Chief Engineer and we were intrigued by the 40 patents their website says he holds.  We wanted to know more and Beck filled us in on Bobel’s background and Neptun’s history.

 NEPTUN-Catalog-117“Andrew has been in the lighting industry for more than 25 years and holds key patents on linear lamp ballasts, CFL ballasts, dimmable CFL ballasts and many more. He is the inventor and patent holder of the End-of-Life Protection Circuit that has now been mandated in all Electronic Linear Lamp Ballasts,” Beck told us.

 “You in fact may consider him one of the ‘Fathers of the CFL Industry.’  It was Andrew that first convinced TCP (Technical Consumer Products, which sells to Home Depot under the Commercial Electric and N:Vision brand names) to enter into the CFL industry in the first place,” Beck went on to say.

Beck shared more about Bobel’s relationship with TCP, the big dog in the CFL industry, “Andrew then spent the better part of seven years (1995-2001) designing and patenting additional CFL models, licensing them to TCP as their sales grew into the tens of millions at Home Depot alone. As of last year TCP sold more CFL’s in the US than any other manufacturer.”

NEPTUN-Catalog-22It will be interesting to see if TCP responds to the email we wrote them asking our questions about their products and their company.  Jeff Beck has set a high standard in terms of responsiveness and direct, frank and thoughtful answers to our questions.  We really appreciate that he didn’t just send us the usual boiler plate corporate verbiage. 

Once upon a time, in the 1.0 era of the net, I contributed to the “The Cluetrain Manifesto” which declared:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.  

0738202444.01.LZZZZZZZJeff Beck and Neptun Lighting get that.  Beck communicated with me as if we were having a real conversation.  Clearly he got on board when the Cluetrain arrived at the station.  Not everyone does.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked. 

According to Beck, after developing a full line of products for TCP, Bobel decided he would begin designing the next generation of products using more sophisticated materials and electronics. However this time he decided to start his own company, Neptun Light.   

“He then spent the next few years in R&D designing, testing and perfecting his newer designs. We started selling standard CFL’s nearly two years ago and released our dimmable lamps in January of this year,” Beck related.

Then he answered the questions I had for him:  

NEPTUN-Catalog-85Creative Greenius – Why does my dimmer switch on the wall buzz when I dim my CFLs?

Jeff Beck – The buzzing noise comes from the RFI Inductor Choke that every dimmer has. However older dimmers seem to have more of an issue with this than newer models which is one of the reasons we recommend using our lamps in conjunction with dimmers made after 1995. To further address this issue and other performance related issues Neptun has designed a line of dimmers which will eliminate all audible buzzing. Our line of dimmers are designed for both CFL’s and incandescent and they incorporate an adjustable range to eliminate flickering at levels below 10%. 

Creative Greenius – Is there an initial burn in period for all dimmable CFLs or is it specific to the manufacturer?

NEPTUN-Catalog-28Jeff Beck – As you can imagine I cannot speak for other manufactures, but considering the large number of individual electrical components used in dimmable CFL ballasts, I would recommend a burn-in for all dimmable CFL’s. 

Diodes, inductors, and other small components are made in runs of millions at a time and though they are nearly identical they sometimes have the slightest tolerance variations. Then combining 30 components that may or may not have an initial variance causes the lamps to perform with slight variations from one another at the low end. However, as our lamps are burned in these variances dissipate and the lamps function more uniformly. 

Creative Greenius – What range of dimmability should we expect from R20 type bulbs?

NEPTUN-Catalog-127Jeff Beck – We expect a dimmable range down to 10% from all of our dimmable models. However, the obtainable low level is sometimes restricted by the range of the dimmer used in conjunction with our lamps. 

Neptun dimmable CFLs were designed to work with all standard dimmers on the market today but with the vast number of dimmer manufacturers each having multiple models with different mechanical ranges, some existing dimmers are going to work better than others. 

Furthermore, none of the mainstream dimmer manufacturers are making dimmers specifically for CFL’s, in fact many of them including Lutron print right on their box, “Not for Use with Compact Fluorescent Lights”. We often say that Lutron did not design their dimmers to work with our lamps; we designed our lamps to work with their dimmers. 

We have approved numerous dimmers for use with our lamps but when an end user is not getting the expected range we have until recently recommended the Lutron SkyLark. However, as we come closer to full production of our dimmers we will simply sell one of our models instead. Our dimmers will be available by mid December and will retail for less than, if not all dimmers currently available further facilitating the use of energy efficient lighting.

NEPTUN-Catalog-123Creative Greenius – What are the differences between Neptun’s CFL bulbs and your competitor’s products?

Jeff Beck – As far as differences between our CFL’s in general, we have incorporated a number of advancements that places us at the forefront of CFL technology. As I mentioned, we have over 25 models of CFL’s where you might find two or three from most other manufacturers. However in addition to that, all of our CFL’s, both dimmable and standard, use Amalgam rather than liquid mercury which eliminates the worry of mercury contamination if broken or when disposed. 

NEPTUN-Catalog-119Also all Neptun lamps have End-of-Life Protection Circuits and Electronic Preheat Circuits which protect the lamps from Hot Re-Strikes and prevent the lamp from over heating at end of life. 

Finally, all of our CFL’s are certified for totally enclosed fixtures, on nearly all other CFL’s you will see printed on the box, “Not for Use in Totally Enclosed Fixtures”, in the case of Sylvania you cannot even read that unless you first buy the bulb and open the package as the warning is written on the inside panel of the package.

Creative Greenius – That’s great to know.  Although I’m not surprised to hear that about Sylvania, who I consider a Legacy light maker.  Thanks so much for your time and all the great info, Jeff.

NEPTUN-Catalog-134Jeff Beck – My pleasure, I’m glad you found the information useful.  And on a personal note, kudos to you for shining a light on the “20th Century Manufacturers” that resisted this industry simply to sell lights that have a shorter life span.  Again, it is a pleasure corresponding with you, please let me know if there is anything else I can do.

Creative Greenius

I’ve got to say I dig Jeff Beck even if he’s not the former Yardbirds member and I dig Neptun Lights.  I learned a lot from him and I’m impressed with their company, their approach and their products.  I’m especially intrigued by Andrew Bobel and the talents and brainpower he brings to the operation.  I admire a man who can both create new ways to do things and successfully turn that creativity into superior, marketable products.

NEPTUN-Catalog-76Neptun lighting is located in Lake Bluff, Illinois in the Chicago area.  They manufacture their product in China through their “NEPTUN China” manufacturing facility in Shenzhen which NEPTUN Light has full ownership and full control of giving them the ability to ensure the quality and consistency of their products. 

I look forward to keeping in touch with Beck and keeping our readers up to date on Neptun’s continuing story.  I found their bulbs on www.1000bulbs.com but they’re available at other on-line retailers too.

One last note – one concern that some folks express about Compact Fluorescent Lights is mercury and how to dispose of the bulbs.  Uninformed nay-sayers declare that the energy saved is offset by the hazardous waste these bulbs are supposed to present.  Those people are wrong.

CFL bulbs do contain mercury and cannot be thrown in your garbage.  The mercury is about the amount that contained in this dot:  As you’ll read in this link to Popular Mechanics, unless you get that dot on your hands and then lick your hands you’re not going to have a problem.

cfl2prtsCFL bulbs are not as simple a device as incandescents.  Take a look at what’s inside a CFL:

That’s not a Neptune bulb on the left, but it is typical of the electronic parts each bulb uses.

All CFL bulbs need to be properly disposed of and it’s not hard to do – especially since you’ll only be doing so every 4-7 years or so.  And a growing number of retailers and city waste disposal sites and collections will take your bulbs.

The Creative Greenius says, if you’re really worried about mercury then your focus should be on shutting down all coal fired power plants – NOTHING on the planet puts more mercury into our air and environment.

We’ll have more on Killer Coal in an upcoming post.

Greenius Readers’ Lighting Reports

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Green Greetings All,

The response to last weekend’s “Greening My Lighting” report has been fabulous.  Several of our readers were kind enough to share their own experiences with us and here’s what they had to say: 

Hey Joe,

OK, here are my experiences with CF lighting. As you know I travel to Philadelphia to visit my mom. She is 87 and has the usual issues with being that age. One thing she does which bothered me is that she feels safer with lights on in the house day and night!  This habit drove me nuts because every time I would visit I would be replacing lamps since some were always burned out.  Mom is on a fixed income and was paying a high price for electricity since her 1953 original Levittown house is completely electric. 

Well, on one of my many visits I replaces every light in the house, which by the way cost me approximately $105.00, a high price you might think. Well I have to announce that she noticed a $20.00 dollar decrease in her bill the first month! It has been 2 years now and I have not had to replace a lamp and i estimate that she has saved almost $500.00 since the installation, great for her and the environment.

As for my own home I also did the same but was having a difficulty with the lights in the house that were on dimmers. The problem is solved “Greenlite” makes dimmable CF along with three way ones for your old style floor lamps. I found these on the web at “SmartHome.Com“, they work great. I still have a few incandescent lamps left in the house but I am planing to exchange them by the new year. I will also say that my wife, Tracy, has noticed a difference on the electric bill which by the way she pays. My investment was minimal since you informed me of the “K-Mart” program.

Thank you Mr. Joe and keep up the green work.

Your friend, Burt

Burt really knows lighting, – as well as electrical, plumbing, construction auto mechanics and probably quantum physics as well – he’s been a technical director for huge live shows and events for as long as I’ve known him.  The “K-Mart” program he mentions is actuallySouthern California Edison’s lamp exchange program where they’ll take your incandescent desk lamps and halogen torchaire lamps and exchange them for compact fluorescent lights.

Joe,

This is such a great site!!

I have trouble with the bulbs when I need to put them on automatic on and off or photocell outside. I tried to go over to a lot of bulbs at the hangar but in most of our areas we have auto on and off and I have to find one that will work with that kind of switch especially for the long fluorescent type bulbs. Then at home on the exterior I like to use a photocell and the only place I found something compatible was at this bulb store in the Valley (I forget the name) and the fixture is expensive and blows out a lot. It is very inconvenient to go to the specialty store all the time. So there is my comment. Let me know what you think. 

Love ya, Jude 

Jude owns an airplane hangar which is used for TV/Film shoots, live special events and all manner of cool gigs for the Lakers, MTV, Nickelodeon and others.  I have had the very same problem she talks about with the new Compact Flourescent Lights I used to replace my garage flood lights.  They were the DuraBrite brand.  I use screw in photocell adapters which have worked great for the last 15 years with my halogen floodlights.  But the CFL bulbs flickered when I put them in and then went dead less than 24 hours later.  It could be that they’re not compatible with my old photocell adapters.  If that’s the case there’s money top be made for someone producing photocell adapters that WILL work with these bulbs.  I’m going to contact the manufacturer and see what they say. I will say that the two bulbs I put in the motion sensor fixture on the back of my garage have worked great.  Like other CFL bulbs though they take about 20 seconds to warm up to full intensity.

Joe,

The only problem I have with the bulbs that you didn’t discuss (as an artist, I still don’t particularly like the color they give off, either) is that if you’re prone to headaches (luckily I don’t get migraines, but have several friends who do), fluorescent bulbs make them worse and in some cases set them off. That’s a bad thing. 

There’s a guy at work, for example, who works in the dark with just his desk lamp to prevent the fluorescent bulbs from setting off his migraines. It’s a serious consideration for folks like that. 

Kitte 

Kitten works for an environmental engineering firm.  Here’s what I wrote to her:

Hi Kitten,

Thanks for weighing in. You always bring up points no one else does. I know quite a few people don’t dig the CFLs because they don’t think the color is as good as incandescents. But I like the full spectrum CFL bulbs in reading lamps like the ones Deb and I use at home from Full Spectrum Solutions. We have a 55w and a 70w reading lamp. 

Here’s a link:

These produce pretty close to outdoor daylight in the color temperature. I have heard people complain about the old style of long tube fluorescent in terms of headaches and migraines but I haven’t heard anyone bring this up with the CFL bulbs.

Here’s a possible LED based solution for that I just read about on TreeHugger. 

They’re expensive but superior in a lot of ways.

Your friend, Joe

One of my good friends who I first met in high school in New Jersey, Bets is a museum curator now living in London, England and provided this trans-Atlantic report about lighting there.  She’s only been there about a year:

Hey friend,

Well…more complicated here, I think: we have little halogen spots in our rental flat, which probably eat up more energy than a resurrected jesus. The builder was obliged to have 10% ‘energy efficient’ lighting, which means that the lights in our hallway (only!) are of that type–I don’t know if they are CFL or what. I don’t know what sort of bulbs are available here–they’re still using a perplexing variety of methods to fit the bulb in the socket–some screw in (different sizes), some are ‘torpedo’ or ‘bullet’ fixtures, some have two little pins that you line up and turn to lock… If I can figure this stuff out and find bulbs that are compatible with whatever weird fixtures we have, I’d do it. If we owned our own home, I would try to ensure that all were green fixtures.     Recycling is pretty well the norm here (papers, plastics, cans and glass), and there’s a lot of concern about one’s ‘carbon footprint’. For ex., in the travel section of the paper travel articles are accompanied by an estimate of carbon output the journo expended and what the paper did to offset that. And lord knows Britain’s never been real strong on central heating so we’re ahead of the curve there.

Looking forward to reading more on the website. 

Love– Bets

Interestingly England hasn’t standardized their lighting the way we have in the USA.  They have many more types of bulb connectors as Bets reports.  But one thing they are doing in England that we are not is by legally mandating better energy efficiency.  Here’s a great article about what’s going on over the pond.  

“The most energy-guzzling light bulbs in Britain will start disappearing from shop shelves early next year as part of efforts to cut CO2 emissions, Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn said this week.

The voluntary initiative, which is being led by major retailers and energy suppliers, will see energy efficient light bulbs replace their least efficient equivalents on shop shelves over the next four years”

Thanks again to those of you who wrote in to tell me about your experiences.  I’ll keep you updated on this issue and pass along other comments as they come in.

Greening My Lighting

P1250258

JP1250244ust one month ago today I started this blog with a report on my own personal green efforts.  I wrote about changing all the dimmable spot and “can” lights throughout our home and offices.  The 27 old bulbs I took out can be seen above.  That’s one of the new PAR 20 dimmables in my office to the right.

If changing just one bulb really helps change the world, then I’m doing pretty good

In a moment of lunacy I reported that we’d be saving over $300 per bulb in in electricity costs over the bulb’s life.  As if… If anyone were actually reading this stuff and thinking about it, they would have set me straight, but maybe you were all too busy laughing.

P1250261The savings are more like $36 per bulb (for the PAR 30 size on the left) which still ain’t bad, but still my math was way off.  After changing fifteen PAR 30 and eight PAR 20 interior lights (saving $34 per bulb) and my four exterior flood lights (saving $45 per bulb) my savings should add up to about $992. 

So we’re saving lots of energy and we’re saving significant money, but what’s the quality of the lighting like?  Can I tell the difference?  Are today’s CFLs indistinguishable from the incandescents they replaced?

 In a word, no.  The new lights take some getting used to. But I’m already over it – mostly.  Hey, I’ve got to tell it like it is, and I’ve learned a few things I can pass along to you.

First off on the dimmable Par 30 can lights we replaced in our kitchen, living room, and home office:  We went from 65 watt incandescents to 15 watt CFLs.  But the wattage only tells part of the story because the quality of the lighting comes from the color temperature.

P1250262If you want a warm white/soft white light, the kind most comparable to incandescent bulbs that accentuate warm colors,  (the look preferred in homes and restaurants) then you want a bulb that’s in the 2500k to 3000k temp range.  We went with 2550k temp bulbs in the living room and 2850k in my office/studio.  

So how do I like the light?  I love it.  It looks great in the kitchen, the pantry, the living room, the bathroom, and the offices.  The color temperature feels warmer and more pleasant than the bulbs they replaced.  I do not miss the old bulbs.

P1250257For white/natural white/bright light comparable to halogen bulbs, the kind that will show accurate colors and the best light for bathrooms, showing artwork and retail displays, then you’ll want a bulb in the 3000k to 3500k temp range.

 4000k gives you cool white light often used for hospitals and big office lighting.  

And finally, 5000k gets you daylight-like lighting best for reading and working on fine detail projects.

I especially dig buying these bulbs from manufacturers other than the bad boys of GE, Phillips and Sylvania.  These legacy light makers have been raking in billions by producing one of the most inefficient products ever made.  

light-bulb-glowing-filament-light-blue-uncropped-lores-3-ahdThe average incandescent light bulb loses more than 70% of the energy it uses in heat.  How’s that for helping to warm the globe?  Those bulbs not only waste money and produces more carbon in the air, but all that heat comes with other high prices.  It deteriorates the materials that surround the light bulb and worse than that, during the summer that heat drives up cooling costs. 

Legacy light makers could have given us energy saving bulbs many years ago but they dragged their heels and stayed behind the curve because their priority has always been healthy profits over a healthy planet. And now these same Legacy light makers are pushing their new CFLs -but they’re also pushing their old planet cooking bulbs just as hard.  I say cross them off your list and do not buy CFLs made by GE, Phillips, Westinghouse, Sylvania or the other names you know form the 20th Century.

LINEUP-dim

I recommend buying your bulbs from manufacturers like Neptun, Overdrive, Durabright and MicroBrite all of whom are leading the way with CFL technology that keeps improving, and all of whom have made CFLs and energy saving lighting their priority and specialty.

I ordered my bulbs at 1000bulbs.com.  There are plenty of other retailers on line so you can search for the best prices.  Lowes and Home Depot are both now carrying a wide selection of CFL bulbs.  The selection at OSH (owned by Sears) sucks and the shelves are typically in disarray.  Maybe it’s different where you live.

P1250254One thing you’ll lose by making this switch is the full range of dimmability you get with incandescent bulbs.  These lights seem to dim to about 50% of the full power.  The box says it’s actually 20%, but I don’t know how they’re measuring that.  Either way, I can live with the dimming because I don’t dim my lights more than that anyway.  But the more you dim your lights, the less energy they use, so dimming is important.

And I’m definitely not digging the buzzing sound that comes from the light switch when I do dim the lights.  I don’t know if it’s caused by my new bulbs or my existing fixtures.  The info on the bulbs says they’re compatible with all dimmable lights made from 1995 onward.  That’s right around the time I had all these lighting fixtures and dimmer switches put in.  So maybe it’s my fixtures giving me the buzz.

bee-movie-0The buzzing isn’t on the level of a swarm of bees, (which means that idea I had about a cross promotion with BEE Movie won’t fly) but it will make the bulbs a tougher sell with the average American.  So far I haven’t seen this complaint from other users – but maybe now that I’m putting this out there, I will.

Another big difference is the fact that these bulbs take about 20-45 seconds to warm up to full power.  I’ve read comments from others who’ve made this switch and some of them talk about how cool and mellow it is to have the lights gradually get brighter instead of the instant full intensity.  That’s a nice way to spin it, but I’m not sure that will fly with the average consumer either.  

P1250246This is a tough creative challenge because the whole concept of time today has become so condensed.  Less than a minute was a short period of time 15 years ago, but today 30 seconds is dial-up speed and that won’t cut it for anyone under 40.  Make that under 50.

So I don’t think we’re going to sell people on the concept of “it’s not too long to wait in order to help save the planet” no matter how much sense that makes.

Right now the CFL Manufacturers are using phrases like “FastStart Technology” but the technology will need to cut or eliminate that warm up time and I have no doubt that they will.  They’ve already made huge advances in just the last couple of years. 

In the meantime, I’d focus on the cost savings and the green benefits and target homeowners over 50 as well as kids in grammar and junior high schools.  I’d push the kids to “Make your parents do the right thing to help save YOUR planet and help save them lots of money at the same time.”  We can easily activate those kids into advocates armed with the simple facts and have them evangelize the issue with their parents and grandparents.  Today’s kids can guilt their pushover parents into anything and I say turn them loose.

ledhalogenstyleFor me these bulbs should work for the next five to seven years and save us at least a grand in electric costs – probably a lot more than that because electric rates are just going to keep going up.  When the time comes to replace them I’m betting we’ll do so with LED bulbs.  That will cut my lighting energy use by 70% over these fluorescents.  More about LED bulbs in another post to come.

Check out this  Madison, Wisconsin Gas and Electric web based PDF page on residential lighting and your green choices.