LED, color temperature, light source, lumens: it’s easy to get confused by all the acronyms and technical jargon used in the world of energy-saving lighting — but trust that you won’t be stumped by the Color Rendering Index, or CRI. CRI for LED Bulbs is simply another measurement of brightness and color. But if you are to get the best out of your LED bulbs, it’s important to understand what CRI is, what it means for LED lighting, and how it stacks up against the incandescent competition.
What is CRI?
The Color Rendering Index (also referred to as Color Rendition Index) at the most basic level expresses how close the light in the bulb matches the “reference light,” or the light it’s trying to replicate. In the case of LED light bulbs, the reference light is the sun.
How to Determine CRI
CRI is detailed in percentage numbers, with higher numbers meaning that the bulb’s light emission is closer to the sun. For example, a Color Rendering Index of 75 means that the bulb’s light shines 75% like the sun would. It’s better to purchase LED bulbs with high CRI percentages, because it will be closer in lighting to its source.
Big Factor: Time and the Reference Light
Interestingly enough, the reference light could be taken from the sun at different times of the day. So if the CRI is measured by a reference light of the sun at noon, then a CRI of 100 would mean that the bulbs looks 100% of what the sun would look like at noon. Always keep in mind what time of the day the reference light is drawn from, otherwise you could end up misreading the CRI. For LED bulbs, be aware that some manufacturers use color temperature – like 4200k, 5000k, etc. – instead of the sun to measure CRI.
CRI for LED Bulbs vs Incandescent Bulbs
The brilliance of LED bulbs is simple: they produce better or the same lighting results as incandescents without using as much energy. In terms of CRI, an LED bulb with a CRI in the high 70′s matches that of an incandescent with a CRI of 100, again proving that LED lighting can produce more results with less effort than its incandescent counterpart.
With this newfound understanding of the Color Rendering Index, or CRI for LED bulbs, hopefully some of the confusion of LED lighting has been put to bed. Now you can begin to fully make the switch from incandescents to energy efficient lighting.
While checking every nook and cranny for possible air leaks, it can be easy to forget some of the bigger culprits right in our faces. Air ducts are placed throughout the house to bring heat and cool air, but they wear down after some time, developing cracks and leaks that can seriously influence the comfort level and energy usage in your home. Duct sealing is the simplest solution to this problem, but first you need to find out if your air duct system is in fact leaky.
Do You Have Leaky Air Ducts?
There are many signs that can tell you whether or not the duct system in your home is working properly or suffering from Father Time. Some indicators include:
Visible cracks/leaks in ducts
Rooms that don’t heat/cool like other areas
High energy bills during the summer and winter
Ducts that are tangled
Aside from the signs listed above, you can also have an HVAC contractor test your duct system to see if it needs sealing. Based on the results, you can then seal the ducts yourself or have a professional do it.
Benefits of Sealing Air Ducts
It’ll Bring Comfort Back
You know the room that is always too cold, too hot, or just to stuffy for anyone to relax in? Duct sealing could solve that problem. A properly working duct system will allow air to flow evenly throughout the home, so inconsistent cooling/heating will no longer be an issue.
Your energy bills will finally stop surprising you
Did you know 20-40 percent of your energy bill comes from leaky air ducts? Poorly insulated homes sap more energy than you realize, leaving you confused (and sometimes angry) with the high dollar amount of your energy bill. Sealing air ducts will allow you better control of the energy usage in your home, therefore better control of how much money is sent the energy company’s way.
Leaky air ducts pick up polluted air, carrying not only the air from your heating/cooling system but also pollutants like exhaust fumes, mildew/mold, and even pollen – which could be a serious problem for anyone with pollen allergies. Sealing air ducts will prevent dirty air from mixing in with your homes air system.
You can make duct sealing a DIY project or hire a contractor. Either way, the benefits of a properly working duct system will be felt throughout the house, your energy bills, and even through the safety level of air in your home.
Creaky, drafty attics certainly have a place in the world of horror flicks, but that draftiness does nothing for the homeowner. Three often overlooked sources of poor attic insulation are the stairs, knee wall doors, and the scuttle hole access. Using a stairway cover is one way to shield all three of those areas from causing inconsistent temperatures in the attic and a bigger (much scarier) problem on your energy bill.
It may seem insignificant, but that large hole in the ceiling does nothing to stop air leaks. Attics stairs usually take up 10 sq.ft. of the ceiling, leaving a huge gap around the opening for air to swim on through. Installing a stairway cover requires a little bit of work but yields obvious results.
Knee Wall Doors
When building an attic under a sloped roof, that sloping creates an oddly shaped space underneath it. The shape is like folding a piece of paper in half, laying it flat, then lifting the top halfway up – simply put, a sideways triangle. A knee wall is basically a short wall that creates a room out of that space. To get in and out of that area (naturally), you need a knee wall door. Sometimes a knee wall door can lead to a space that is outside the home (usually the area is there to ventilate the roof), giving opportunity to air, critters, and who knows what else to make its way into your home. Properly sealing knee wall doors should definitely be a high priority on your insulation list.
Scuttle Hole Access
The scuttle hole is small, usually 2′ x 2′ entrance way to the attic. If a home doesn’t have stairs that lead to the attic, then the only way to get into it is through a scuttle hole. Just like with attic stairs, the area around the scuttle hole is where the damage occurs. A stairway cover or attic cover will work just as well on attics that only have the scuttle hole access; you’ll just need less material.
Now the attic can still be a scary place but insulating it doesn’t have to be. To minimize stress with this DIY project, use the right tools, wear protective gear if needed, and read the instructions before working with insulation products.
It takes complex technology to get compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to save 75% more energy than incandescent lighting, but is this same technology limited when it comes to lighting controls such as timers, photocells, and motion sensors?
Not Like Incandescent Bulbs
The short answer to the above question: yes, CFLs are limited. Electronic or digital controls such as timers, photocells, and motion sensors were created to work with the simplicity of incandescent light bulbs, not CFLs.
Problems with CFL Bulbs
The big issue is that CFLs were designed with some features that are very specific:
Specific input voltage – Dimmers make it possible for the voltage to go up and down. CFLs are not made for this change in voltage.
Restricted start-up time – Constantly turning a CFL bulb on and off can reduce the lifespan. Some light switches can turn lights on/off at a rate of 120x per second!
Temperature – A CFL bulb installed with an outdoor motion sensor is susceptible to the drops/rises in the temperature outside. This may stop the sensor from working properly.
So, Can a CFL Be Used with a Timer, Photocell, or Motion Sensor?
For some (not all) CFLs the answer is yes, but only under certain conditions.
Again, electronic or digital light controls pose a problem for CFLs, but mechanically controlled devices (like some timers) work just fine.
Before purchasing a dimmer, motion sensor, timer, etc., make sure the device is compliant with its stated UL section, otherwise the CFL will not last as long as the listed lifespan. The UL (Underwriter Laboratories) section tells you if the device is functional and safe.
Another Way to Save Energy: Dimmers
Though you can gain more than 80% in energy savings by using daylighting controls and occupancy sensors, another way to maximize the energy efficiency of CFLs is by using dimmers. Just check that purchased bulbs specifically state on a label or somewhere on the packaging that they are dimmable, because attempting to use a non-dimmable CFL in a dimmable light fixture could shorten the lifespan.
The complex technology in CFLs may have a few limitation, but that 75% in energy savings translates in the home, on your energy bills, and also in the environment.
PL fluorescent lamps have been in the conservation game for a while. Specifically named for the original creator/manufacturer, this lighting solution is both easy on energy consumption while being a bit complicated to understand. To take the guess work of it, here are a few facts about PL lamps.
A Philips Brainchild
Philips Lighting took fluorescent lamps into their own hands with the development of PL lighting, twin-tube fluorescent lamps typically found in non-residential settings (office buildings, retail stores, schools, etc.). Other versions of the lamp come in triple and quad tubes and some can be used for more than just lighting, such as germicidal lamps – lamps used for disinfection.
All About the Base
PL bulbs are pin-based, with either two or four pins, and installing them requires a pin-based lighting fixture. There are many base types, like GX23, with the different names representing the pin configuration of the lamp. In order to find the right lamp for installation/replacement, check the base for details of the type, pin configuration, wattage and light color.
The brightness level of PL lamps is determined by lumens, which measures how bright a bulb is. This is different than wattage, which measures the energy output of a lamp. PL bulbs have the upper hand on incandescents because they use up less energy to display the same or a higher level of brightness. For example, a GX23 PL bulb displaying 840 lumens uses only 13 watts of energy while the incandescent version uses 60.
Color Temp: Warm to Daylight
PL bulbs shine in varying light colors. From warm white to daylight, the specific temperatures are:
2700k – warm white
2500k – soft white
4100k – cool white
5000k+ – daylight
Maximum Overall Length
Sometimes a little more information is required to properly install/replace PL lamps. Some fixtures have size limitations known as the maximum overall length (MOL). To find the length of PL bulb, measure from the base to point of the bulb.
Though PL lighting has been around for a while, this cost-effective, energy efficient lamp continues to grow. With a life span between 10-13x their incandescent peers, PL bulbs don’t need to be replaced as often, and (thankfully) you won’t want to.
The light-emitting diode, or LED, has been in existence for a while — your digital clock and flashlight have been using it for years, but only recently have LEDs been considered as the primary source for household lighting. Incandescent light bulbs — those inefficient, energy-sapping bulbs that have been the standard for years — are on their way out and quickly being replaced with energy-saving alternatives like LED lights. To make the lighting switch a little easier to understand, here are five factors to consider when choosing LED reflectors.
LEDs offer somewhat of a spotlight compared to incandescent bulbs and compact florescent light bulbs (CFL). LED lighting is more directional, emitting light in only one direction. This directional lighting, referred to as “beam types” or “beam angles,” is described in degrees. Simply put, this tells you the how much area the light will cover (e.g. 360 degree beam is a full beam type. Some lights offer narrow beams, such as 15-30 degree beams or even less).
PAR and BR: Angles and Size
There are two types of LED light bulbs: Parabolic Aluminized Reflector (PAR) and Bulged Reflector (BR).
BR light bulbs have “wide flood” beam angles, meaning they light an area at an angle higher than 45 degrees.
PAR light bulbs range in angles from 5 to over 45, specifically:
Narrow spot, 5-15 degrees
Spot, 16-22 degrees
Narrow flood, 23-32 degrees
Flood, 33-45 degrees
Wide flood , over 45 degrees
The numbers after BR and PAR (like 30) represent 1/8th of an inch, which is the diameter of the bulb. To find the diameter, just divide the number by 8. For example, the size of a PAR 30 bulb is 30/8, or 3.75 inches in diameter.
Sometimes you want a specific type of white color lighting a room. Luckily, LED bulbs offer the same color temperature as incandescent light bulbs but do so without using as much energy. They come in:
2700K – 3000K (warm white)
4100K – 5000K (cool white)
The brightness level of LED reflectors is measured in lumens, not wattage. Watts measure how much energy the bulb uses, while lumens measures the brightness of the bulb. What makes LED lighting so attractive is that it uses much less power to deliver the same amount of light as an incandescent. The conversion from incandescent wattage to LED lumen rating for everyday bulbs include:
40 watt = 380 – 460 lumens
60 watt = 750 – 850 lumens
75 watt = 1100 – 1300 lumens
100 watt = 1700 – 1800 lumens
The base of LED lights and incandescent lights sometimes are not the same. Make sure that you switch out bulbs of the same base before purchasing LED lights.
It may seem like a lot of information, but it’s best to understand what you’re getting with LED lighting before making a purchase. All-in-all, LEDs last longer than incandescent lights, save a lot more energy, and are a smart long-term investment in conservation.
In our second installment of the “How to Insulate your Attic Stairway” series, we discuss another option to reducing drafts emanating from your attic stairway. For our previous post – see How to Insulate that Folding Attic Stairway with a Thermadome. The Attic Tent is an affordable, easy to install, lightweight solution that consistently gets great reviews from DIYers. It’s pretty much full assembled, all you have to do it get a staple gun to tape it down to the attic floor opening over the stairway and caulk down any loose material to get an extra good seal. Start to finish you can get this done in 15 minutes. It’s very effective in creating an air barrier and has a R Value of 3.2. You can almost see temperature difference and the associated cost savings immediately. It’s available in 5 sizes, so you’re almost certain to find a size that fits your attic stair way opening.
Another plus to this solution is that a lot of electric companies offer a rebate on this product, sometimes as much as half the cost, so be sure to check with your local energy company.
So you have an attic on the top level of your house and it’s leaking gobs of cold air out in the winter making 2nd floor of your house frigid. How to fix it? In this 3 part Attic Insulation series, we will investigate 3 solutions for insulating your folding attic ladder/stairway. Each solution has its own unique strengths. We hope to help our readers find the best solution that fits their needs.
Solution 1: The Thermadome by Yankee Insulation Products: an insulated cover for your folding attic stair way. Since it’s constructed out of a durable laminated foil urethane insulation, it provide a very high R-Value of 13.6. The foam gaskets and velcro ti-downs around the product provide continuous draft seal. The inside dimensions of 27″W x 57″Lx10.5″H are spacious enough to accomodate most attic stairway openings. Assembly is straight forward, all you need to do it to caulk/glue all the pieces together. So if you’re looking for a solid, rigid, high R value solution, the Therma-Dome attic stairway cover will do the trick.
Polyurethane foam has been around since the 1970s, but its use has recently exploded with more and more people jumping on the conservation bandwagon. Foam insulation is a simple, cost-effective solution to air leaks in the home, blocking air intrusion and escape at the same time. In order to get the most out of foam insulation, here are a few bits of information to keep in mind.
What Foam Do you Need?
The biggest factor to consider when deciding which foam to use is simply this: how much area do you need to cover? Both the high expansion foam and low expansion foam expand to cover the area where sprayed, but they differ in a few ways as well.
High Expansion Foam
High expansion foam covers larger gaps, cracks, and the like than low expansion foam. It also expands 30x when sprayed at 1″ thickness, so I’d advise against spraying liberally.
Low Expansion Foam
In contrast, low expansion foam is best used on smaller gaps and only expands by 10%.
How to Use the 2-tank Foam System
The 2-tank foam system makes installing foam insulation an easy do-it-yourself project, so as with any DIY project, make sure to wear protective gear.
In the 2-tank foam system, Tank B must be warmed up to make it the same creamy consistency as A; this allows for an even stream of foam. A few methods for warming Tank B include:
Keeping it in a warm room
Putting it in a tank warmer
Warming the tank in an electric blanket
The 2-tank system uses high expansion foam, so remember that spraying 1″ of thickness will expand 30x.
Which Rooms Need it the Most?
When installed in the most drafty, gap-ridden areas in the home, polyurethane foam insulation can save you up to 20% on cooling and heating costs alone. So which areas have the most potential for energy loss?
Attic and Garage
These areas typically suffer from poor insulation, making it easy for winter and summer to wreak a lot of havoc. Attics and garages can sometimes reflect (and even magnify) the temperature outside. Their main source of insulation problems come from the ceiling and walls; check there first before going over the rest of the room for any missed gaps and cracks.
Basements often deal with humidity, which can lead to mildew and mold. First, make sure the basement receives proper ventilation, then seal all the air leaks. For basements, air leaks can be found around areas that lead outside, like air vents, ducts, and pipes.
It may not seem like a big deal, but exterior gaps can cause just as much insulation problems as the ones inside. Dryer vents and water faucets (with hoses) are unexpected culprits of air leaks and can also contribute to that inflated energy bill you see each month.
Applying polyurethane foam insulation will help you control the temperature in your home and finally get a better grasp on the outcome of your energy bill.
With incandescent light bulbs going the way of the Canadian penny, the time to learn about GU24 lamps is now. These consumer-friendly light bulbs are quickly becoming the new standard for energy efficient lighting, so before jumping into the conservation revolution, here are five important facts about GU24 bulbs to keep in mind:
1. Not Manufacturer Specific
GU24 lamps were designed to be better than the pin-based bulbs they’re replacing, so naturally replacement was a feature that had to be corrected. Unlike pin-based light bulbs, GU24 lamps can be replaced with bulbs from any manufacturer as long as the fixture has a GU24 socket. This not only makes replacement easier, but this allows you to shop around for the best bulbs without worrying if you’ll be able to easily replace the bulb you have.
2. Ballast: Already Attached and Easily Replaced
Another attempt to correct pin-based compact florescent lamps (CFLs) was to design GU24 lamps with the ballast already attached. The ballast is an “electrical device for starting and controlling fluorescent and discharge lamps” and is easily replaced.
3. Adaptable to Standard Base Fixtures
Standard base fixtures, or lamps (not to be confused for light bulbs/lamps), are still considered standard because while incandescent bulbs are disappearing, standard base fixtures are not. To make the transition from incandescent to CFL easier, GU24 bulbs can be plugged into an adapter that will fit any standard base fixture.
4. Available in All Color Temperatures
Whether you need the bright lights of Hollywood or the low lighting of a romantic meal, there’s a GU24 lamp for that. They are available in all color temperatures:
27000K – Warm white
3500K – Soft white
4100K – Cool white
5000K – Daylight
5. Reduce Energy Consumption and Lighting Costs
There are a few reasons why incandescent light bulbs are disappearing. Aside from the fact that they:
give off 90% heat and only 10% light
have a short life span
use 60-100 watts of power each to light a home
Incandescent light bulbs use up 25-30% more energy than even the federal government is comfortable with. By comparison, GU24 bulbs:
give off 100% light
have a lifespan of 10,000 hours or more
use only 13-27 watts of power each
By using less energy to achieve the the same or even better lighting results, GU24 lamps are a sound option for cost-effective, energy resourceful lighting.