This post was written by Amy Garbis
Five years ago, my husband and I bought a new house. New for us; and new by New England standards. However, this new house was a 60 year old, minuscule 1200 square foot multi-level. The previous owners had done quite a bit of work installing new Andersen replacement windows, a new furnace and water heater, and new insulation. We wanted to make some long-term modifications of our own to give it the homiest feel possible for our family.
We knew when we bought the tiny house that we wanted to put on an addition and remodel the main living spaces. So, we set a goal of living in our tiny spaces for one year to best determine our needs for a remodel and addition. After only six months of tolerating the tiny-ness, we began our project. We managed to hold out for just six months before deciding to begin our project.
We met with Leslie Saul, a LEED accredited architect familiar with small spaces. She also took the contemporary approach to design that we wanted for our not-quite-temporary-anymore home. We spent months working on plans. When it came to lighting, she worked up a plan for placing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs in the addition as well as the remodeled parts of the house. This was our opportunity to choose between inexpensive, standard incandescent recessed lighting or something much more technically advanced—LED lights.
We explored the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of using LED lights versus incandescents and compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs). The thought of having to stand on a ladder to frequently change incandescent bulbs in the 14 foot ceiling was not appealing. LEDs, we learned, can last up to 50,000 hours per bulb. Wow, we might not have to change a bulb for years!
LEDs use even less electricity than CFLs; they are sturdier than CFLs; they are not susceptible to temperature or humidity changes. And, finally, LED lights do not contain mercury. We were sold on LEDs even though the initial cost was quite high. For example, the recessed canister fixture for our LED lights was $175 per unit, not including the bulb; that price has dropped dramatically in the past five years. According to Leslie Saul, there are now fixtures selling for $55-85 each.
We encountered a couple of bumps in the road regarding installation of our lights. LED lighting was very new to the residential market; in fact, we were Leslie’s first residential LED project. Our electrician had never installed LED recessed or under-cabinet lighting. I routinely heard the mumbled sounds of choice curse words as he made repeated calls to Phillips engineers to learn about how to install LEDs that could be dimmed or how to connect all the under-counter LED strip lights so that one switch would activate them all at once.
Sometimes the ballasts hummed rather loudly, but after several conversations with engineers, the problems were resolved. And the lights only came in two colors: warm and cold. While the market for bulbs of different quality and consistency has become much more diversified over the past five years, we haven’t had much use for it yet. Because best of all for our project, we still have yet to change a light bulb.
For a different take on CFL bulbs, check out this 360Chestnut post from last spring.
Amy Garbis is new to blogging, but has been writing for years. She has written PR and news updates for Arlington-Lexington Hadassah. She has also taught freshman writing at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and now teaches a private writing course and tutors one-on-one. Amy is devoted to philanthropic work and has recently co-founded the Community Fund of Lexington. She is also committed to trying to create an environmentally friendly lifestyle for herself and her family.