I’ve had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Chang Han, the CSO of Light Power, which is based in Vancouver. I’ve found him to be a great source of information on lighting design and asked him to put pen to paper (figuratively) and share some of his wisdom with us here…
To Renovate Yourself or Hire Someone – the lighter side of energy efficiency –
Do you like numbers? Ten years ago, the average Canadian homeowner spent $2,580 on home repairs and renovations. (Natural Resources Canada)
Ten years later, the average cost of home renovations is $12,972. (Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation). That’s five times higher than ten years ago – ridiculous!
We are clearly knocking down walls and putting in ceilings at an alarming rate – or are we? What these numbers don’t reveal is who is doing the work.
Most professional tradesmen will scoff at the DIY die-hard and insist on a difference in quality of work when comparing a home handyman and trades professional. However, some of the best home handymen have built rooms, barns and even houses that stood firm far longer than many paid-for tradesmen have managed to cobble together.
All this is my introduction. I’m not really writing about whether it is cost-effective to do-it-yourself when building your dog house, or what factors to look for in order to ensure you are hiring a quality contractor.
No – no matter who does the work, it is clear that you are spending a lot of money doing it.
And sooner or later, you will be faced with a ‘lighting decision.’ What types of fixtures, IC or non-IC, 3-D mapping of lighting design, how many lumen, how many Kelvin? When did lighting become so complicated?
The days of Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb are over. Long gone – and they’re never coming back. Did you know that in Canada, incandescent light bulbs are federally ‘regulated out’ by 2012? That’s right – those bulbs you have at home become illegal after your new year’s party is over in a mere couple of months!
Don’t worry – you won’t go to jail. They are no longer allowed to be sold. That means you can keep what you’ve got, but you won’t find them in stores anymore. In fact, you probably haven’t been able to find them for several months already – most Canadian stores stopped buying them in the Spring earlier this year and if they are still selling any at all, it is their left-over inventory.
The funny thing is that the original incandescent light bulb that Edison came up with was supposed to last forever. And it may actually last that long, despite today’s popular belief to the contrary. There’s at least one bulb in Southern California that has stayed on constantly for over 90 years in a row! So why don’t all incandescent light bulbs last so long? Well, it all started at a meeting on Christmas Eve in 1924 by the Phoebus Cartel – representatives from the big electrical companies of that time, including Osram, Phillips, Tungsram, General Electric, and Compagnie des Lampes.
This discussion actually goes down a deep rabbit hole – allow me to just say that the lightbulb and the lighting industry is responsible for the concept of ‘built-in obsolescence.’ This is the reason you car, your fridge, and your printer has a limited lifespan, an artificial one in fact – it never used to be that way before the Phoebus Cartel meeting!
Ok – coming back to our discussion – we are talking about lighting in your renovation. Sooner or later you will be faced with lighting utility, design and fixture options. However, in most cases you will not be thinking about the environment, saving on your electricity bill, or even getting some extra cash in your pocket from your lighting choices!
In British Columbia, you don’t even have to build anything to get money for lighting choices. If you ‘draw in’ LED lighting into your new construction design drawings – or even a substantial retrofit! – B.C. Hydro will cut you a cheque for $1,000. And you don’t even have to build it afterwards! That’s because LED lighting gets you way over the 10% efficiency requirement over other, more standard options.
In fact, there are now programs that allow you to entirely finance all your lighting by paying for the light fixtures and the installation (you can now hire a professional AND not have to pay for it!) from the savings in electricity, after you get your B.C. Hydro rebate. Actually, if you are located in another province or state outside of British Columbia, I haven’t researched all the rebates and incentives, but there will surely be some available. Ontario has them, and most U.S. states do as well. Even federal and local programs are available through-out North America.
Look – typically the Canadian home may spend between $300-$500 in electricity from the lights. Dropping the electrical use by using state-of-the-art LED lights will save you anywhere from $100 to over $400 a year. In addition, you won’t have to buy more lightbulbs because LED’s last so long. The payoff to you is clear – and if there are ways for you to avoid paying anything at all?
Well, why wouldn’t you want to know more?
Here are some renovating tips from Natural Resources Canada.
Happy House Renovating!
- When you hire a contractor for your renovations, make sure he/she is familiar with energy-efficient lighting systems and can recommend design options that utilize the wide range of ENERGY STAR qualified products.
- Determine lighting needs and desired effect before renovations begin. Note the need for brightly lit workspaces versus leisure areas that are better suited to such energy-saving devices as dimmer switches and accent lighting.
- Use fluorescent or ENERGY STAR labelled compact fluorescent bulbs to retrofit rooms requiring lighting for more than three hours a day, such as kitchens and family rooms. Since CFL bulbs last an average of seven years, they are also perfect for hard-to-reach places. CFLs can be screwed into traditional lighting fixtures. Better still, in your retrofit plan, opt for lights or fixtures that are designed specifically to hold a CFL to get the most benefit for your bulb.
- If you are buying a new lighting system, consider buying a fixture that complements the lamp for the intended purpose. For example, when installing linear fluorescent lighting, insist on tubes marked T8 rather than T12. T8 lamps use 25 percent less power for the same amount of light output as a T12. Recessed CFLs should have a properly designed reflector, otherwise the light will be trapped inside.
- Create different effects with decorating tricks such as using linear fluorescents for indirect light or using efficient track lighting or valances with CFLs to create wall washes for a softer feel.
For more information on the ENERGY STAR international symbol or tips on energy-efficient products, call Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) toll-free at 1 800 387-2000 or visit the OEE’s Web sites or ENERGY STAR’s Web site, or write to Energy Publications, Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada, c/o S.J.D.S. Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L3.