LED: Making the Switch

Wow, I just crunched the numbers. I just reduced my reduced my wattage consumption by 77%.

The bulk of our blog has focused on using less, reusing, zero-waste, reclaimed, etc. etc. One of my favorite catch phrases comes from the gorgeous Elsie Green House and Home reclaimed home goods store in Concord, CA, states,

Not making something new is the greenest thing of all.

During my home remodel, this catchphrase was often an inspiration. Not making something new made the case for my rustic reclaimed wood floors, funky 1960’s vintage light fixture, and delightful antique cabinet bin pulls. But when is it time to break up with the old and embrace the new? In terms of lighting, if I replace a working lightbulb, isn’t that wasteful? Shouldn’t I just replace an incandescent bulb with an LED as they go out? 

Answer: Switch! When? Yesterday! No time like the present to reduce energy consumption, most of which is derived from the burning of fossil fuels. Most of the incandescent bulbs I replaced today with LED bulbs were inherited from previous owners. I’ve lived my my current home for 6 years. How many more years would some of those burn at maximum wattage? If you are considering the ‘replace it as they go out approach,” consider that after crunching the numbers, I wish I had made the switch years ago.

Novato has rather strict green building codes. They require all new light fixtures be LED. Not just the bulb, the fixture itself. I’ll be the second person to complain that most LED fixtures are fu-gly. The first person, in case you are wondering, is Lily, who spent countless hours with me scouring the internet for stylish LED fixtures. I get the building code… most house flippers which are crawling like cockroaches in our area, will buy a home, install whatever cheap lights are available, put in an LED bulb, only to have the real homeowner replace with lights with incandescent bulbs later. All of that energy saving potential is lost. However, I’m not flipping my home and plan to stay for some time, it makes energy and cost-saving sense to switch out bulbs, even in fixtures I didn’t replace.

In some ways, we already had some energy efficient lights. I replaced my old can lights with LED bulbs in the past, so replacing them with LED fixtures was pretty much a wash. Compact fluorescent light bulbs were the way to go a few years ago, but LED bulbs have come leaps and bounds, with a variety of esthetic options. Some of the bulbs I replaced that were already compact fluorescents didn’t offer nearly the wattage savings I was craving as I got all nerdy with my excel spreadsheet as other bulbs. Quite frankly, I look better under lighting that is NOT fluorescent, so you know, another reason to upgrade. You couldn’t see it, but I just batted my eyelashes.

Beyond energy and money savings, I’m much more confident on the safety of my home. One bulb I was extremely grateful I replaced was the bulb in my daughters’ room.

200w in a 60w max fixture. Yikes!

It had a whopping 200 watt bulb where there should have been a 60 watt max! The glass globe and interior chamber of the light was discolored brown and the paint was peeling from the heat. A reminder of the previous homeowners, that bulb has been there well over 6 years. My bathroom vanity light wasn’t initially slated for replacement during the remodel, but I admit I did a happy dance when the painter removed the fixture and that sucker tipped over into shards of glass.

Hallogen: don’t touch but replace often for maximum wattage. 

That fixture took three halogen 150 watt light bulbs. Halogen bulbs have an extremely short lifespan as far as bulbs go (2,000 hours on the bulbs I was using vs. 5x-7x that for their replacements), and are terribly dangerous. If you touch the bulb while installing it, the oils from your fingers will heat up and melt the bulb itself! I would use gloves to install them more frequently than I was happy about and clean off any potential finger oil with alcohol swabs. So long! Farewell! Perhaps long overdue, however, was replacing the lava hot and reachable light bulbs in my kid’s playroom. They had burnt a friend’s kid’s finger, and last night I stood and hit my back into it, and have a huge burn on my back to show for it. LED lights will warm, but don’t get hot, with less potential to cause burns. With all of the wildfires burning around us in Sonoma and Napa counties, I was happy to rectify these fire and burn hazards.

With a burn on my back, I decided to go 100% LED and today was the day to really finally do it, once and for all. To make quick work of this project, I used:

  • Empty jam jar box with its organizer
  • Permanant marker
  • Screwdriver
  • Ladder
  • Soap and water (to tidy up your fixtures)IMG_0139

As I opened each fixture and unscrewed each bulb, I wrote on the bulb itself with the marker indicating location and quantity to buy for replacement. For example, I needed four bulbs for my fan, but I didn’t need to haul four bulbs to the store. I marked it “Fan x4.” I collected my samples in my box and cleaned all of the glass from the dismantled fixtures.

Ever a glutton for punishment, I took the kids to our neighborhood hardware store, IMG_0141because, you know, shopping for light bulbs with a bunch of loose light bulbs in a cardboard box is more fun than a scope enema so why not??? Really though, I was hoping to involve them a little more in the process of what we were doing because isn’t the point of this experiment to educate our children? Alas, the “hardboiled” store (as Maryclaire called it, haha), had one lone single solitary solo uno mini shopping cart for my two kids to fight over and nearly trip the elderly with their fragile hips so the lesson was probably lost in translation.

Okay, enough griping. We made it out alive. Barely. IMG_0142I replaced the bulbs and had tiny helpers to hand me the bulbs. When I set out to see my energy efficiency improvement, I started a spreadsheet of all of the lights in my house, the old wattage and what I replaced it with. One fixture was left with a compact fluorescent, as its LED equivalent was not available. I was able to reduce the wattage of all of my bulbs by 77%. I was able to buy a 60 watt equivalent dimmable bulb for about $3.75 each, so depending on usage, some bulbs will start to pay for themselves within two months. IMG_0146.jpg

Make the switch!



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