Let There be Light: A guide to eco-friendly lighting options

As summer draws to an end and the days get shorter, that means less daylight — which, in turn, means more electricity used to illuminate your house. Given that lighting makes up a huge percentage of a home’s electricity bill (somewhere in the vicinity of a quarter of usage), looking at ways to save energy and money through your light bulbs makes good sense.

It’s been a long time since 1879, when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, forever changing life for Americans. And like any invention, the ensuing 134 years have brought modifications and improvements — many that save you resources and money. With lighting constituting up to 25 percent of the average home energy budget, it’s a great place to look for reductions in energy usage.

Here’s a look at some eco-friendly lighting options:

CFLs
According to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy program, CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, plus they save approximately $30 in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. CFLs should be left on at least 15 minutes at a time in order to keep their lifespan at its peak potential.

Although CFLs used to give off harsh lighting, the color is improved and warmer now, making them a good option for everything from track lighting to porch lights to table lamps. Because they can sometimes take time to warm up to full power, they may not be the best choice for timed lighting. However, CFLs are definitely faster to light fully than in the recent past.

One of the turnoffs to buying these bulbs is a higher initial cost than incandescents. In the long run, though, you can save money — as an example, an 18-watt CFL used in place of a 75-watt incandescent will save about 570 kilowatt-hours over its lifetime, equating to a $45 savings (assuming 8 cents per kilowatt-hour).

Likely the biggest concern about CFLs is that they contain small amounts of mercury, which can be harmful if the bulb breaks. In case of a spill, the EPA provides guidelines for cleanup here.

More than 50 American Lighting Association showrooms across the country currently offer CFL recycling, as do many retail stories such as Home Depot and IKEA.

LEDs
When the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, replaced all downtown street lights with LEDs, they reaped an estimated savings of $100,000 annually in energy costs — or the equivalent of taking 400 cars off the road per year.

While these energy-efficient bulbs have been restricted to small usages in the past, like Christmas lights, pen lights, and in TV remote controls, more household applications are being developed every day. One barrier to their widespread adoption is that they are currently much more expensive than both incandescents and CFLs, but researchers have been working to develop less-expensive methods of producing the lights, which will bring down the price for consumers.

LEDs last about 10 times longer than CFLs, making them the most energy-efficient option out there right now. They don’t get hot like incandescents, and they don’t break as easily as other light bulbs. Many cities and electric companies offer rebates for LED lighting, so check with your provider to see what options you have.

According to Cree LED Lighting, the average price in the U.S. of running a 65-watt light for 50,000 hours would cost $325 in electricity. By using a 12-watt LED bulb, running the light for 50,000 hours would cost only $60, plus the lights are replaced much less frequently.

Energy Star Lighting
Energy Star has long been known for its appliances, but the program has also certified lighting fixtures for more than a decade, and now has around 20,000 offerings. While screw-based CFLs (those that you substitute for an incandescent bulb) are great at conserving energy, Energy Star fixtures outfitted with CFLs are even better.

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, according to a segment on CBS.

Looking forward, Energy Star is working on labeling solid-state light fixtures — those that employ LEDs as the light source — and you can expect to see more Energy Star qualified lighting products hitting the market. They also feature a buyer’s guide that can help you figure out what kind of bulb you need in different fixtures, based on what kind of light you want.

For a side-by-side comparison of incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs on issues of lighting quality and cost, read this article from financial blog The Simple Dollar.

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Germany Breaks World Record for Solar Power Generation

At Dolphin Blue we love clean, green energy! That’s why we love solar power. This past July, Germany set a world record by producing 5.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar energy. To put that in perspective, a terawatt is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) watts or the average amount of energy that a lightning strike gives off. You get the picture; it’s a lot of energy to generate! The U.S. only produced about .764 TWh this past July, but according to market reports, U.S. solar power is on the rise.

Solar power capacity per capita in Germany was about 400 Megawatts (MW) per million people in 2012 compared to about 25 MW per million people in the U.S.  This is mainly influenced at the local, state, and national levels by countries like Germany incentivizing solar adoption through long-term policies, which have in turn helped to reduce the costs of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems. In fact, the costs to install PV systems in Germany are nearly 40% lower than in the U.S.

Despite the drastic cost differences between solar power systems in the U.S. and Germany, the cost of solar modules in the U.S. is decreasing rapidly every year. In 2012, the U.S. installed a record 3,313 MW of solar power systems and the market size for the solar power industry grew from $8.6 billion the previous year to $11.5 billion.

As the U.S. continues the trend of increasing installed PV systems and solar power generation, the solar power industry will hopefully be able to reduce installation costs. As it becomes more affordable to install solar power systems, global solar energy adoption will allow us to generate clean, green electricity worldwide.

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Save Money by Making Green Waves at Home

Dolphin Blue isn’t just your favorite online store for green products for your home, garden, and office, we’re also a great resource for tips on how to make your home more eco-friendly. Keep reading to learn how you can save some money this fall and help save the Earth!

1. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and especially when you leave your home for the office or school. Turning off light bulbs can make a huge dent in your electric bill.

2. Use cold water when you wash your clothes. Your washing machine uses up to 90% of its energy heating water for warm or hot wash cycles. Using cooler water also helps your clothes last longer.

3. Remember to clean the lint trap in your dryer after every cycle. The lint that builds up can cost you on your electric bill and can also turn into a fire hazard!

4. If you want the freshest linens, use a clothesline to dry your laundry in the sun. You can purchase a clothesline for a few dollars and keep your clothes dryer shut off completely.

5. Research your local utility companies and choose one that offers ‘green energy’. Some companies offer a discount for purchasing power created by green generators such as windmills.

6. Move your fridge if it sits next to a stove or dishwasher. The refrigerator has to work harder to keep your groceries cool if it sits next to something that gives off a lot of heat. Relocating your fridge can help you save energy and keep your snacks cool!

7. Replace pricey cleaning products with a mixture of hot water and white vinegar. If that doesn’t cut it, watch for eco-friendly cleaning products like the ones that Dolphin Blue offers. They are easy on the Earth but tough on dirt. Don’t forget to recycle the bottles!

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Tips to Save Energy & Keep Cool This Summer

As summer temperatures rise, often so does the electricity bill. If you’re looking for some ways to beat the heat and save energy this summer, check out the tips below.

  1. Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on.
  2. Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes.
  3. Raise your thermostat to 78 degrees.
  4. Turn lights off when exiting a room.
  5. Unplug equipment or appliances not in use.
  6. Use weather-strip and caulk.
  7. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
  8. Install ceiling fans and make sure they are flowing down.
  9. Check and clean filters.

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Building it Green: The Richness of Ancestral Wood

1ceiling view to gable on bathroom-kitchen end

As we anticipate with glee, the receipt of our tiny house, it is exciting to see the progress being made day-by-day.

The richness of the ancestral wood has given new life in the birthing of our new tiny house is becoming so obvious, as the milk paint emphasizes the wood’s energy and character.

The bathroom and kitchen walls are being erected, and both gable ends are now at the point of completion, with
the beautiful wall boards, ceiling boards and wainscot being finished or nearly finished.

To bring forth the final finish of this deeply rich wood, the surface will be lightly sanded, then finished with
Tung Oil.

For more photos of the wainscot bead board inside our Tiny Texas House, please visit our facebook album.  Thanks for following our progress.

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Building it Green: Wainscot Bead Board

interrior walls 2

Our tiny house is taking on its character, a character with the energy of its ancestors.

The ceiling boards are reclaimed from a home built in the 1860’s, the wainscot bead board from another home constructed in the 1880’s, the door from a home welcoming those who entered through during the 1850’s to 1860’s.

The “bubble gum” bead board in our tiny house is covered with old milk paint, in very light hues of blue, lavender, pink, yellow and green, kind of like old-fashioned Easter egg colors, or, the colors of bubble gum. Once paneled along the base of the walls in wainscot fashion, the bead boards will be lightly sanded and treated with Tung Oil, natural oil derived from the Chinese Tung Tree.

The striping look of the bead board comes from letting the natural unpainted board show up, providing contrast and showing the beautiful rich Long Leaf Pine with 140 years or more of natural patina. Both the bead board and the ship-lap boards (oriented horizontally above the wainscot) are at least 100-years old, and originate from materials salvaged from once stately homes, deconstructed to make room for new development. There is a fair number of cheesecloth tacks still present in the ship-lap boards, which once held the wallpaper in place for a century. Wallpaper was used in part to be fashionable, but mostly to stop the wind from penetrating the walls into the living areas of the former home.

We’re ecstatic as we joyously anticipate receiving delivery of the Kemper Tiny House in mid-January. The most wonderful things about the creation of our tiny house are the history, living memory, and embodied spirit of those who have resided among the beautiful wood and glass that now make this little house the sanctuary it will be. Perhaps what is most meaningful is that our Tiny House embodies the resurrection of the former homes that otherwise may have ended their lives in a landfill or incinerator.

For more photos of the wainscot bead board inside our Tiny Texas House, please visit our facebook album.

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Building it Green: Energy-Efficient Insulation

IMG_0056Since my last posting, an important stage in the progress of our Texas Tiny House is now complete. The interior walls have just been coated with expanding Isonene Foam, which adds a layer of highly energy-efficient insulation to the interior of our tiny home. This will reduce the necessity for continuous and fossil fuel dependent heating and cooling throughout the year.

The ceiling and floors of our Tiny House have also been insulated between the roof rafters and floor support beams and joists. To further improve our tiny house’s efficiency, we’re also having screens built for the windows to take better advantage of Mother Nature’s generosity in providing fresh air during the spring and early summer.

When our energy-miser tiny house is complete, we anticipate our monthly utility bills (gas and electric) will be around $15-$20. The final touches should be complete any day now. More updates to come.

For more pictures of the energy-efficient stage of our Tiny House, please visit our facebook album.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Thomas Friedman

                                                   Going Green as an Act of Patriotism

“In a world that’s hot, flat, and crowded, clean tech has to be the next great global industry, and therefore the country that takes the lead in clean power and clean tech is going to, by definition, be an economic and strategic leader in the 21st century, and that’s why there’s absolutely no contradiction between going green and being patriotic, geopolitical, and geostrategic. They actually go together.”


To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-Thomas-Friedman.html

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Transitioning from a wasteful planet, to a sustainable planet

I recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise, where I spent one week on a ship weighing 130,000 tons and measuring 1,004 feet in length. I was among 4,500 other human beings, all being fed food requiring refrigeration, powered by petroleum. Each cabin, of which there were approximately 200 on most decks, had furniture, cabinetry, and various other materials including wood, plastics, and metal. Despite having a TV hanging on the wall of most cabins, the uppermost deck had a 40-foot by 20-foot big screen TV. Why? Because cruise lines use such enticements to get people to leave home, so they can experience ALL the comforts of home.

Upon returning from my cruise, I participated in a euronews forum asking, “What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral, sustainable planet?” First and foremost…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Transitioning-from-a-wasteful-planet-to-a-sustainable-planet.html

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