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LED Lighting for the Holidays

LED Christmas LightsThe  hol­i­days are here!  And this means there will be an abun­dance of hol­i­day lights light­ing up the night well into the new year.

Of course, with all the fes­tive cel­e­brat­ing there are light­ing risks, safety concerns—and  many rewards. To be sure, it’s a time when home­own­ers and busi­nesses use a lot more elec­tric­ity. And there is a smart way to think and act when bulbs are burn­ing bright to reduce costs, min­i­mize safety risks and still get the light you need.

First off,  for any­one still parad­ing out the old incan­des­cent hol­i­day lights now is the ideal time to trade them in for LEDs. I  can’t sing their praises enough for their last­ing value, energy effi­ciency and long-term sav­ings they can bring. This same holds true for hol­i­day LEDs. So if you haven’t already done so trade in your incan­des­cents and string up your new LEDs. For bay area res­i­dents con­tact Ris­ing Sun Energy, a renew­able energy non­profit located in San Fran­cisco. In years past, and pre­sum­ably for 2014, Ris­ing Sun will let you swap your old Christ­mas lights for energy-efficient LEDs—and there is no charge for the exchange.

Garden Of LightsThe ben­e­fits of LED light­ing include:

  • 90% less energy con­sumed than incan­des­cent bulbs
  • A 25,000 hour life span, which  is 25x longer than incan­des­cents and 2.5 times longer than com­pa­ra­ble CFLs
  •  Made of 95% recy­clable material
  • A gift that keeps on giv­ing (light)—sometimes for 30 years or more
  • They are afford­able: a strand of  hol­i­day lights from the big box stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal­mart run between $20-$30 per strand
  • Hol­i­day LED lights come in a vari­ety of inter­est­ing styles and colors

Make LEDs your gift to your­self this year. If you don’t already have them in your home, make the change. They will cost a bit more than other lights, but LEDs make up for it with energy effi­ciency and long-term savings.

Show The Love: Get Your Home Ready for the Rain

Woman with Umbrella in RainWith the onslaught of wet weather we’ve been expe­ri­enc­ing lately you might want to pay a lit­tle more atten­tion your home. Show it some love by mak­ing it wet-weather ready.

Rain water (any water) can dam­age your home’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem and be quite incon­ve­nient and costly to fix. Out­lets and wiring that are exposed to water can dam­age appli­ances. Rain water always takes us by sur­prise and, among other things, can cause dis­rup­tions in your home’s power sup­ply. Storm dam­age can def­i­nitely be a nui­sance and suck up time bet­ter spent on other things.

So what should you do?  Dur­ing fall and win­ter, there are cer­tain things you should con­sider to keep your house hum­ming along before a downpour.

First, be mind­ful if you have an older home, say, one that was built in the 1940s or 1950s. Things def­i­nitely wear out in older homes and insu­la­tion to pro­tect wiring is no excep­tion. You may also have bad joints or faulty seals, or tape that has come loose that exposes old wiring. For new home­own­ers become a good rain cop: find the prob­lem early and fix it before it gets out of hand.

Sec­ond, water can short cir­cuit an elec­tri­cal sys­tem or impede its func­tion­ing. H20 can be a slip­pery vil­lain in your home’s win­ter story. Water can sit with­out caus­ing any harm. Then, water vapor can spread to other areas and cause seri­ous problems. So, if you see water on an appli­ance or elec­tri­cal com­po­nent out­side, wipe it off thoroughly.

Third, when lights begin to flicker while it’s rain­ing and then go out, what should you do? Well, if your power doesn’t come back on soon, say within 20–30 min­utes, call the power com­pany. Gen­er­ally power will be restored quickly. Some­one from the power com­pany will even come to your home to check on things at no charge and hope­fully resolve the prob­lem. But if the issue remains, it’s up to you, or a pro­fes­sional you hire, to do some detec­tive work. It could be a loose wire, a faulty breaker, or an issue with wiring from the meter to the panel, or some com­bi­na­tion of these things. Full length of a young businesswoman in overcoat with umbrella s

Per­haps you’d rather be singing in the rain rather than wor­ry­ing about it. Well, take some sim­ple pre­cau­tions to pre­pare your home before the next storm, and strike up your favorite tune!

 

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 nest.com.
  • 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.

How Can You Maximize Winter Light?

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The shorter days of win­ter offer plenty of daz­zling light, and the brac­ing tem­per­a­tures this time of year often cre­ate a feel­ing of excite­ment in the air. But, hon­estly, most of us would pre­fer a few more hours of sun­light at the end of each day.

Decem­ber 21 marks the win­ter sol­stice, the short­est day of the year. So what can you do to max­i­mize the fad­ing light and make your home more “light friendly” and comfortable?

You could jaunt off to a coun­try where it’s sum­mer right now and make a hotel your home. By fly­ing off to Chile, for exam­ple, you could even get the added bonus of get­ting your Chilean fruit directly from the source. But a trip to the south­ern hemi­sphere to chase the sum­mer sea­son is not real­is­tic for most of us. So what are the staying-put options for off­set­ting these shorter win­ter days?

I would first sug­gest look­ing at the string of hol­i­day lights in your home and con­sider rethink­ing their pur­pose. Some can be used to brighten up an oth­er­wise dark cor­ner of a room—strung around a man­tel and lay­ered with exist­ing lights in a room. Hol­i­day lights can be placed ver­ti­cally along a wall, posi­tioned diag­o­nally or even framed around a door way.

Lay­er­ing is a con­cept that cer­tainly applies to win­ter light­ing. Lay­er­ing is about rely­ing on mul­ti­ple types of lights to illu­mi­nate a room. It typ­i­cally starts with an ambi­ent (gen­eral) light­ing, which may include recessed lights, chan­de­liers, track lights, out­side lights, and torchieres (lights with a tall stand). Wall-mounted lights can do won­ders for cast­ing warm light into an oth­er­wise dark­ened room, and accent light­ing can also high­light a dimly-lit area. For a sub­tle effect you can even add lights under a kitchen cabinet.

That unpleas­ant feel­ing of enter­ing your home from the pitch-black night can be mit­i­gated by installing an auto­mated light­ing sys­tem. Set it up, fig­ure out which lights you want to turn on before it gets dark– the kitchen, a hall­way, the liv­ing room or even a bathroom—and you’re good to go.

Exte­rior light­ing is also a wise choice for those who want to avoid singing the win­ter blues. The fad­ing win­ter light can be bal­anced out by installing attrac­tive land­scape light­ing. Land­scape light­ing will increase your home’s curb appeal, add to its finan­cial value—and pro­vide a mea­sure of secu­rity; motion-sensor lights can illu­mi­nate a garage, walk­way or entry way. For pro­mot­ing win­ter light, our Edi­son Out­door Light­ing pack­age is a good place to start. It offers:

  • A com­ple­men­tary design con­sul­ta­tion to dis­cuss the light­ing affects you want to achieve
  • A custom-lighting plan with the tech­ni­cal know-how to meet your aes­thetic preferences
  • A pro­fes­sion­ally installed, low-voltage LED light­ing sys­tem for energy savings

What­ever solu­tion you choose for off­set­ting the shorter win­ter days, remem­ber there are a wide vari­ety of light­ing options to extend that com­fort­ing feel­ing of a well-lit home environment—even as the days get shorter and the sea­sons change.