Sustainable Lighting Ideas for Your Kitchen


Green Kitchen LightingThe Value of Green Lighting Ideas When Remodeling 

So you want to remodel your kitchen. Great Idea. Smart Investment.

In the bay area, in particular, a kitchen remodel will often recoup its value and make a tidy profit for the homeowner when it’s time to sell.

But let say you also want to incorporate green building practices, for instance, install sustainable wood flooring with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval, add  countertops made from recycled material, or include cabinets that are formaldehyde-free to mitigate potential health risks. All good.

But kitchen lighting and electrical practices to promote an eco-friendly home?
Yes, there are indeed many green lighting practices besides LED lighting systems that save money and promote a healthy environment. And the kitchen is a good place to start. A kitchen is the most energy-intensive room in a house.

Here are five energy efficient lighting-related ideas:

1. Fix Air leaks. Free flowing air is a Pandora’s box of potential energy issues, which can increase a homeowner’s energy bill  make home life less comfortable than it needs to be.  When remodeling  your kitchen take the time to limit air flow by tightening  seals or limiting gaps.

A recent Department of Energy study underscored this by examining energy loss associated with everyday object in the home. Their findings are startling, pointing to a host of energy-leaking sources: ceilings, wall and fans, ducts, fireplaces, doors, windows, electrical outlets and more.

Dishwasher After Cleaning Process. 2. Install Energy Star Appliances. Since 1992, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program has helped to identify and promote energy efficient building and products. For consumers who are looking to remodel, add a new Energy Star washer and/or dryer or dishwasher. An Energy Star product is a great way to go green by conserving water and reducing electrical use. And Energy Star product evaluations extend well beyond home appliances.

Energy Star also examines energy consumption for electronic components such as TVs, computer monitors, windows, HVAC systems and more. Appliances—any home-related device—can receive an energy-star ratings based on off-the-shelf testing and a strict verification process.

3. Eliminate Phantom Loads. There is an energy ghost in your home. It’s called a phantom load and it works covertly, unknowingly, against homeowners each month to increase their energy costs. A phantom load is quite simple the energy consumed by leaving appliances, electronic devices and other home apparatus plugged in when not in use. Yes, even your coffee maker needs to be unplugged.

For those who haven’t yet purchased surge suppressors, now is the time.  After buying one, or multiple devices, effortlessly plug all major household appliances or electronic devices into it. A surge supressor will mitigate damage from occurring during a power surge. It’s really that simple. At night, turn each suppressor off and you’ll be well on your way to defeating phantom loads.

4. Use Lighting Controls. When you can manually dim a light or have an automated light turn on, needless electricity isn’t wasted. Dimmers, a simple device, can be added to most lighting design systems. Dimmers are a smart green investment when remodeling your kitchen.

Inexpensive. Efficient. Reliable. These are the three hallmarks of a dimmer switch. It can also create the right mood or ambiance and, of course, install LED lights—the most energy efficient type of bulb, which can burn brightly for 15-25 years before needing to be replaced. Indoor motions censor lights, and timer lights, are also terrific energy savers . . . triggered to go at specific times, or with censors, lighting up an area only when someone enters a room.

5. Apply Passive Architecture. The notion of using available daylight or natural light to illuminate a room as been around for centuries. When remodeling, pay strict attention to the direction the room is facing and you’ll recognize many options for using natural light. Changes to a room’s architecture will change lighting dynamics. Be mindful of layering lights, too, that is,  combining lights in different ways to generate the right illumination.

For daylight to serve as the main lighting source, a minimum of 5% of the room floor should be a window area and include a low-
emissivity (Low-E) coating to reduce glare. Low-E will play a role a crucial role in heat gain during the summer and heat loss during winter.

Interview with Mr. LED, Winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics: Part 1

LED Light BulbMr. LED: First, I must say, the title of your piece is some­what mis­lead­ing. Although I’d like to claim credit for all the bright white light out there, I must give credit where credit is due. I, the LED, did not win the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. The award hon­ors the inno­va­tion of three physi­cists, one Amer­i­can, a pro­fes­sor atUC Santa Bar­bara, and two Japan sci­en­tists, who invented the blue-emitting diode in the early 1990s. Blue diodes in com­bi­na­tion with red– and green-emitting diodes have enabled the pro­duc­tion of energy-efficient white LED light.

Lumiere Elec­tric: I stand cor­rected. But it was the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of YOU, your ben­e­fit to human­ity, which con­vinced the Nobel Com­mit­tee, right?

Mr. LED: Yes, it was Alfred Nobel’s mis­sion to have the prize be awarded for work ben­e­fit­ting mankind, some­thing of soci­etal value. To be sure, in 2014 the Nobel Com­mit­tee rec­og­nized the accom­plish­ments of a sci­en­tific break­through that does indeed have far-reaching, prac­ti­cal significance.

Lumiere Elec­tric: Yes, it’s almost rev­o­lu­tion­ary. The blue light-emitting diodes com­ple­ment the red– and green-emitting ones, the blend of which cre­ates white light.

Mr. LED: Yes, that’s right. Seems like a light just went off above your head, n’est-ce pas?

Lumiere Elec­tric: A bright one, I’m hop­ing. But jok­ing aside, on a much grander scale, the impli­ca­tions of LED white light are trans­for­ma­tive for our cul­ture. Like Ein­stein receiv­ing a Nobel Prize in 1922 for his dis­cov­ery of the law of the pho­to­elec­tric effect.Albert Einstein E =MC2

Mr. LED: Ein­stein, I wouldn’t go that far. But yes, I would have to agree with you that the dis­cov­ery of the blue-emitting diode will have dra­matic impli­ca­tions for our planet, espe­cially as a light­ing tech­nol­ogy that can help reduce our depen­dency on fos­sil fuels. But let’s back up a bit. Peo­ple may be curi­ous about the back­story of my life, that is, in con­text of the heavy-hitter of the light­ing game, the incan­des­cent bulb.

Lumiere Elec­tric: Sure, for our read­ers, please put the LED—yourself—into his­tor­i­cal context.

Mr. LED: As you may know, the iconic shape of the incan­des­cent bulb and its tech­nol­ogy remained vir­tu­ally unchanged for more than a century—ever since Edison’s time. Red and green LED light have been around for about 50 years, and with the dis­cov­ery of blue-emitting diode in the early 1990s the LED became the light­ing tech­nol­ogy of choice in hos­pi­tals, air­ports, edu­ca­tional facil­i­ties, road­ways, and more.

But for res­i­den­tial use the incan­des­cent has always reigned supreme. Recently, how­ever, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary incan­des­cent has gone the way of other once-great inven­tions. And theLED, which on just about every level is a supe­rior tech­nol­ogy, is fast becom­ing the light­ing choice in Amer­i­can house­holds. The rest of the world started fig­ur­ing this out some time ago. The world-wide phase out of incan­des­cent bulbs started in 2005.

Incandescent Light BulbLumiere Elec­tric: Yes, con­gress finally got wise to the fact that turn­ing off the light to the incan­des­cent, so to speak, was long over­due. A recent ban in the U.S. of the 100-watt incan­des­cent and 60– and 40-watt bulbs took effect on Jan­u­ary 1, 2014. What impact will this have on  homeowners?

Click here to read An Inter­view with MR. LED, Part 2

Energy Savings for Your Home: The Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest ThermostatIs  Google is mak­ing a play to get into your home and stay there? Homeowners, you may have noticed … Google’s con­sumer foot­print has got­ten a bit wider  lately.

A few weeks ago, Google acquired Nest Learn­ing, a Palo Alto-based man­u­fac­turer of auto­mated ther­mostats and smoke detec­tors for $3.2 bil­lion.  And at that price, Google may be bet­ting on home automa­tion being the next big thing. If home automa­tion grows by leaps and bounds a door will be opened to Google to expand its Nest prod­uct line, nest­ing in our homes, if you will, in a much dif­fer­ent way than we are cur­rently accus­tomed to.

Whether its scour­ing the net for a Groupon dis­count, look­ing up our favorite sports team’s recent score, or shop­ping for shoes, clothing, or a vaca­tion rental, the prod­ucts and ser­vices avail­able to us via a Google search seem endless.

And per­haps we are all abet­ting this online shop­ping trend by becom­ing a soci­ety of overzeal­ous users, who seem­ingly need access to goods and ser­vices 24–7. But don’t mis­un­der­stand me, I’m not against it. Mind­ful inter­net use can be a good thing.

Does Google Want Its Nest in Your Nest?

I’ve installed a few Nest Learn­ing Ther­mostats over the past year, and it wouldn’t sur­prise me if the Nest helps to reshape the ther­mo­stat mar­ket, much in the way the iPhone trans­formed the cell phone indus­try.  But a note of con­sumer cau­tion here: I’m not imply­ing that a Nest ther­mo­stat as some­thing you should run out and buy right away.

Still, it is an appeal­ing device with some nice ben­e­fits, and it may be some­thing to take a look at if you appre­ci­ate what home automa­tion has to offer. The Nest Ther­mo­stat, how­ever, doesn’t come cheap. But at $250 for one device I believe it’s a good value. Here are a few of Nest’s benefits:

  • The design is sleek and attrac­tive. The round, slightly domed shape is nice to look at. Plus, when it’s heat­ing up it glows orange and blue when it’s cool­ing down.
  • It can be pro­grammed online. You can down­load your energy use, get updates, and make changes to your set­tings by merely going to
  • It’s a smart device and learns. There are sev­eral auto­mated ther­mostats out there. But the Nest is the only one that can “learn,” and pro­gram itself. After one week, Nest will have learned how to man­age your com­fort zone: It cre­ates a pro­gram based on your heat­ing and cool­ing preferences.
  • Energy Savings. The man­u­fac­turer claims the Nest ther­mo­stat will recoup its cost within two years. After, it can help reduce energy con­sump­tion as much as 20%.

Nest Learn­ing is the brain­child of ex-Apple iPad design­ers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Appar­ently the stan­dard ther­mo­stat design, which hadn’t changed in sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, wasn’t cut­ting it for these guys. And in 2011, they came up with Nest, a sharp look­ing, easy-to-use, energy-saving ther­mo­stat, which is help­ing to trans­form the industry.

The Nest has two prox­im­ity sen­sors to detect if some­one is in a room. If it detects no one is home it’ll drop in tem­per­a­ture; vice-versa if some­one is there.  If you for­get to turn it off while rush­ing out the door, for exam­ple, it responds accord­ingly by low­er­ing the temperature.

Nest brings com­pe­ti­tion and inno­va­tion to the heat­ing indus­try. Other com­pa­nies pro­duce auto­mated ther­mostats, such as Honeywell’s Pres­tige and Ecobee’s Smart Ther­mo­stat, but Nest is the only device that can “learn” on the job. Mainly, though, I appre­ci­ate Nest for what it offers home­own­ers: poten­tial cost sav­ings,  sim­plic­ity of use and per­haps a slight respite from the com­plex­i­ties of mod­ern life.