Renovating: a word on LED lighting

For our renovation project, one thing we decided to do was take the leap to using LED-only lighting. This is a trend we started a couple of years ago, just as commercial LED bulbs were really coming available. It’s something we strongly believe in, and something I think everyone should consider.

Are they cheap? No. A standard incandescent bulb is easily 10-50x cheaper. A compact fluorescent (CFM) bulb at least 10x cheaper. Halogen (usually) gives off more light. And you’re still a little limited on options in terms of dimming and colours, and so forth.

So why do it? Because you should.

Okay, bad argument, so let me expand it a bit.

Incandescent lights are energy wasters. Big ones. Same with halogens. Yes, the produce gobs of light, but you can pretty much heat your house with them. (Remember the Easy-Bake Ovens? Guess what they use…) In terms of energy-to-light, they’re absolutely lousy.

Okay, what about CFMs? Better in energy usage, no doubt there, but there’s two issues going with them: first, they use mercury vapour — that’s the “fluorescing” part of the bulb’s mechanism. Second, all fluorescent lights need a ballast to up the voltage so that the mercury vapour will go bananas and generate light. That’s why CFM’s have that massive white base on them. I’ve seen a couple of stories (of course, links are now impossible to find…) that suggest that CFMs wreak havoc on your electrical grid, and produce significant amounts of EM within your home.

Okay, LED, then. Well, until the last couple of years … there really weren’t much of an option. Early adopters found them to be too dim, they buzzed a lot, and you couldn’t put them on dimmer switches.

That’s all changed. LED lights come in nearly ANY shape (beat that, incandescent), use extremely low amounts of electricity, and are so cool that even after an hour’s use, you can pull them out without burning your fingers (try that with a halogen). And bright? The lights we just installed in our kitchen need a dimmer, they’re so bright.

Okay, so here’s the big downer: LEDs still aren’t cheap. And they’ll never be cheaper than incandescent. They’re so much more expensive, that I’ll even wager that even with the electricity saved, they’ll always be more expensive that replacing incandescents.

So why do it? It’s not to save money, really. In my view, it’s to save electricity.

Our electrical grids are finite. We don’t have an unstoppable amount of power. We use a lot of devices that suck up and waste vast amounts of energy. Lighting is a big part of that equation, and we — as a society — really need to think about how we use that power. For example, when Castro came to power in Cuba, he ordered all the lights in the country replaced with fluorescent bulbs. Attractive? Maybe not. But the reduction in power meant Cuba could survive on what little electricity it could generate on its own.

That’s what LED brings to the table: lower usage. That leaves more electricity available for other things when its needed. Areas that need air conditioning (Calgary really isn’t one of them) should take note — it’s getting warmer every year. Already places in North America have hit massive new high temperature records, and I would be stunned if this doesn’t continue all the way to late September. I foresee more than a few power issues as more and more people turn on the A/C to try stave off the heat.

It might not seem like much, but low-power lighting can help. And if you can afford it, you really should consider your part in helping reduce the overall load.

[Additional note!]

This is TOTALLY, COMPLETELY, 100% UNSPONSORED, but is provided as an example of what you can do. That’s my disclaimer.

LED World is a local (to Calgary) provider of LED lighting. And I don’t mean just lightbulbs. They provide nearly everything. And, if I’m not mistaken, these are the guys I talked to at the Home Show a few weeks back, who had insane amounts of insight on what we should do — information imparted to our electrician, and resulted in some of the lighting we now have.

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