With energy efficiency awareness growing, and new lighting technologies being developed at a rapid pace, which bulbs on the market offer the best value for the eco-conscious? With the more recent popularization of Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs due partly to their electricity savings and partly from huge discounts and government energy rebates making them more affordable, we ask the questions: which is the best value, which has the best life, which is the most eco-friendly, and which puts off the best light? We set out to put them all to the test.
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
Growing LED technology is developing one of the most energy efficient, long lasting and versatile bulbs in history. Already replacing traditionally incandescent automotive bulbs, flashlight bulbs, monitors and televisions, the LED is quickly becoming the new standard in eco-friendly efficient lighting. Household and commercial light bulbs are still in their infancy with very few and very expensive offerings that for the most part cannot compete with current bulb offerings.
Average Lifespan: 60,000 hours
Energy Consumption: 230 lumens / 7 watts = 33.9 lumens/watt
Average Bulb Cost: $54.00
- Cool to the touch
- Available in several shades and colors
- Very high color spectrum or temperature (closely mimics daylight) at 4200k
- Extremely long life
- good for floodlights and direct, focused lighting
- Price and availability
- narrow focus of directed light (almost like a flashlight in many instances)
- still in early stages of development for home lighting applications
Best Bet: Use in as low output uses such as nightlights, accent lighting and for directed and focused lighting situations, especially in difficult to replace areas
Great lighting can really make a house feel like a home. While we tend to focus on the energy efficiency and design of lamps and bulbs, often we neglect to consider the actual electrical system in the house. Whole House Lighting Control System by Verve Living Systems brings a whole new element to eco-friendly lighting.
A wireless lighting system that works via radio frequencies without the need for batteries, it works by routing all lighting to a programmable central controller. Each switch transmits a ‘blip’ of a radio transmission to the central hub up to 300 feet away, get this: by using the energy from the act of flipping the switch. That’s right, the switch itself powers the transmission without needing batteries or its own power source, so they are completely independent and self sustained units. This allows them to be mounted anywhere, you could even just carry it around in your pocket if you want.
By eliminating the need for light switch wiring and having a central hub to control lighting of the entire home, one can program an endless combination of lighting scenarios, and change it without having to do any re-wiring. The energy saving opportunities are equally as enticing. A one switch shutoff for the entire house so you won’t have to worry about that closet light you forgot to turn off.
The benefits of the system are endless. Not only does it greatly reduce lighting install time, labor, and cost due to the lack of a need for wiring switches, but the switches can be installed anywhere, and moved at any time. The system is completely programmable, so you can change the operation of each switch, or group lighting elements together. Imagine turning on one switch and having your entryway, driveway and garage lights all turn on at once, and then be able to click a button in your car to just turn on the driveway and garage lights only.
Lampshades are not usually something you think of when designing green, and it is really hard to find environmentally friendly shades. Most shades have a plastic styrene backing which in no way is biodegradable. They are then coated with toxic glue then the fabric. Let’s think what happens when this glue gets hot,….toxic glue….hot light bulb….your baby’s room….hum? None too good for the earth, and on the aesthetic side- most plastic based shades are ugly, thus none too good for your decor.
LiT, a not only local but green designer lampshade company (based in Seattle, Washington), is taking a stand against ugly toxic shades by making their shades earth friendly through careful consideration in the materials used in producing LiTshades. Instead of plastic owner Dawn Bassett uses only paper backing. The backing is laminated using water based, non-toxic adhesive and then the reclaimed, recycled or re-purposed fabrics and papers give the shades their final touch. She also insists on only using natural fiber textiles like silks and cottons.
Dawn makes all her shades by hand, usually sitting quietly or rocking out to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in her shop. Her shades are not mass produced in Vietnam, Indonesia, or China in large crazy factories by little kids for two cents a day.
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Looking for something to light up your holidays with all the charm of a chic candle, without the risk of fire? These beautifully crafted flickering HONO Electric LED candles designed by Japanese designer Chiaki Murata will warm up your room, centerpiece or tree. Since they are LED, they use very little power and are incredibly efficient. Sleek and clean, these are unlike most LED candles i have seen- allowing you to match your home interior without cheapening it.
In order to enhance the experience, these candles come with a ‘match’ to light the candle with, and you even blow them out to turn them off. While this may seem gimmicky, it allows for a cleaner design, with no buttons or switches. The candle holds an internal battery which is charged on its base making it competely portable.
Good design isn’t cheap however, these electric candles start at $158 each.
Used alkaline batteries are a bad thing when thrown in the trash. They leech toxic chemicals out into the landfills, oceans, streets, or wherever they are discarded. Here comes a beautiful (although optimistic) solution in allowing for easy system for recycling and efficiency from Sungwoo Park & Sunhee Kim. Most ‘dead’ batteries are just running too low to power our devices, but they still have energy. This light/recycling station can utilize the remaining power left in the battery to light up a corner, subway, bus stop or even better, integrate them into lighted vending machines.
The Energy Seed is a demonstrative technology in efficiency and recycling ideals, but presents just as many problems as it solves such as battery collection, reliable lighting, vandalism, etc. I applaud the idea and design and feel that it is a very creative solution for a hidden problem.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Khader Humied, the founder of MetaForm Studio, a lighting design studio using reclaimed and sustainable materials for their magnificent pieces. Having been featured in home style magazines Dwell, Domino, New York Spaces and Natural Home Magazine, MetaForm is no stranger to praise.
How did your company get its start, and what made you decide to make it eco-friendly?
In 1998, I was working in Manhattan and noticing how corporations were throwing away furniture left and right during renovations and remodeling. I started off by picking up 2 office chairs. I removed the legs and attached them to a piece of plywood, and voila, a rolling coffee table with chrome legs (on wheels). From there I moved on to flower crates stacked up on the street in the flower district. The first one I found I put a bulb inside and instant lamp! After several years, I began using the wood from recycled crates as well as other wood from pallets and other items, and transformed the wood into slats, which I assemble into my current line of lights. The base line for my company has always been to find a function and use for materials that have been discarded. I am an ardent believer that using natural and sustainable materials is the only way to go forward and be kind to the planet.
What are your goals for the future of this business?
I would like to reach a wider audience, employ more people, and expand the line to include other designs. During the 10 years I have been doing this work, I came up with numerous ideas/products, some of which took shape as actual furniture. For instance, I created a Pallet Desk, made entirely from planed wood pallets (oak). This is really a testimony to what you can do with recycled materials. I also designed a Re-Tire rocking chair made from recycled car tires. Since I am an inventive person, I would love to get more of my ideas out there.
Are there any designers or artists that have influenced your style, where do you find your inspiration?
I am a long-time Frank Lloyd Wright fan, having gotten a degree in architecture. I also admire traditional crafts and local vernacular architecture and appreciate anyone who makes anything with pride and heart. The universe and the unconscious inspire me on a daily basis. Great ideas are out there waiting to be discovered. All you have to do is be open to receive them.
What makes your business eco-friendly?
We currently use only sustainable or recycled materials, mostly wood. All of our stains are nontoxic and we use energy-efficient lightbulbs. Our process of manafacturing is very clean and does not generate scraps or fumes. For example, our shop is in an industrial complex. All I have to do is walk around and collect wood pallets. Our other source of wood is sustainably harvested forests and the plywood we use is nontoxic.
You can find MetaForm Studio lighting installations if you happen to be in the New York area at IN Boutique and ReLish Restaurants, or just take a look at their striking website and order one online.
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