Light Bulb Debacle

As you saw in this write up a couple weeks ago, I tried to switch out the CFL bulbs in the upstairs hallway with LED bulbs. Well turns out that they are not “plug and play” rather the ballast needs to be removed for the LED lights to work. I called MaxLite and the technician made it sound pretty easy to remove the ballast, so I gave it a try.

It was a friggin’ disaster.

So I’m sending the bulbs back to EnergyAvenue. And I’ll call MaxLite this week and see if they make a true plug and play lightbulb. Otherwise I may just have to revert back to CFL bulbs. Maybe down the road I’ll simply have an electrician change out the three hallway light fixtures and cut my loses.

It took me a half hour to figure out how to take the light and ballast apart. Then when I looked inside there was no way the ballast was ever meant to be unwired. I am not an electrician by any scope of the imagination so I said “F*ck this” and reassembled everything.

I don’t even know what a ballast does.

I’m taking the rest of Sunday off and watching a movie or playing video games.

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The inside of a CFL light fixture ballast.

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Garage Door Opener Bulb

Okay, so this probably isn’t my most exciting written piece, but I’m kinda jazzed I got light bulbs for my garage door openers. We were placing an order on Amazon and I noticed they now offer these great Genie brand garage door opener LED bulbs. I had worked on a project designing several displays for these bulbs and my interest was piqued.

The reason you need a special bulb for your garage door opener is one, they need to be vibration resistant for obvious reasons. And secondly the garage door opener can cause interference with regular LED bulb electronics.

These gems were about $10 apiece and are a 10w bulb (60w equivalent). So they’re not the most efficient bulb but then again how often are the going to be on. They put out an amazing 800 lumens each. They are 3000K, so fairly warm for a garage, and will last 22+ years. The bulbs are also rated for cold weather (it’s 60 degrees in January today so maybe that’s not as much a concern anymore in Ohio), and damp locations, so no worries with their garage environment performance. I believe the bulbs are also smaller than a typical light bulb; I think they are considered A19.

 

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Update on my upstairs hall LED’s: one of the bulbs flickered and went out. I think I need to remove the CFL ballast and direct wire the bulbs. I call the store I bought them from and they referred me to MaxLite. I left a message at MaxLite but haven’t heard from them yet. I may just try and do it myself and use the bulbs I have as opposed to sending them back. I’ll keep you posted (yes, I know, it’s all so thrilling).

G24Q LED Bulbs

[Update: these bulbs didn’t work for my application without removing the ballast, and that was “no bueno” when I tried. Read about it here.]

The upstairs hallway lightbulbs have been burning out, so it was finally time to replace them. I took the opportunity to upgrade the bulbs from compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs to new modern LED bulbs.

The biggest challenge was the light fixture takes four pin G24Q style bulbs, which I’ve never even seen before. So I searched the internet and sure enough there were some options for LED G24Q bulbs. Even just a year or two ago it might have been difficult to find this form factor in LED technology, but now that LED’s are mainstream so to speak, I believe you can find them as a replacement for virtually any bulb you’ll find in your home.

I wanted an LED bulb that matches the warm 2700K glow of the CFL’s (the higher the number the colder or blue the light gets all the way up to 5000K). The LED bulb also needed to work with this CFL light fixture, which means it needs the built in electronics to run without having to modify the fixture’s ballast or wiring. I discovered just what I was looking for at Energy Avenue online.

There are three reasons why I chose LED replacement bulbs versus CFL bulbs. One is CFL’s contain Mercury, so if you break a bulb you have a major problem to clean up. Mercury is a huge health hazard if you inhale, touch or otherwise are exposed to it. Secondly LED’s use less energy. In this case at 8 watts, they use less than half the energy of a CFL. Lastly the LED bulbs will last 20 years compared to around 5 years for the CFL’s which means I don’t have to get up on a chair and change bulbs in this enclosed fixture very often, saving me about an hour of my life.

Switching the bulbs was easy and they provide an equal amount of light and color as the CFL’s did. The LED bulbs I selected are unidirectional which means they cast light down only, not all over like the CFL’s. This does create visual hot spots in the fixtures when they are on, which can be distracting, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t care too much, plus I don’t go upstairs that often. You can get LED’s that shine in all directions, I just didn’t think it would be an issue and I’m too lazy to send them back. The MaxLite bulbs I bought do have a cool swivel action so you can rotate the lens to where you want it. This is helpful because with the G24Q four pin base you can not always plan on which way the bulb will face.

By changing these four bulbs upstairs the number of non-LED bulbs we have falls even further down. Pretty soon we will be 100% LED light bulbs in the house which has always been a dream of mine. This really reduces our electric bill, saving us money and reducing how much our family is polluting the environment.

I’d love to hear if you’ve been trying LED bulbs in your home or office.

Have you discovered any interesting or uncommon LED bulb shapes or applications?

Share in the comments below.

-Chris

 

Solar Musings

Solar isn’t affordable? Won’t work in Ohio? Hmmm

Our electric usage has been 18,297 –> 16,455 –> 15,530kWh annually, I can only guess that LED’s are helping drive down our annual electricity usage.

Average home is 10,812kWh. Ours is higher because we run geothermal heating / cooling, water pump, sump pump. Also we work from home 24/7. Also a large home at 2.8K sq. ft+

For about $26K ($34-48K w/ battery back up), or less than the cost of a new, higher-end car, we can get a 12kW solar array and go completely off grid. If we can improve our electricity usage (we can) the system can be even smaller.

Our only utility bills would then be for gas (cooking, hybrid furnace) and phone/cable/internet.

And should the zombie apocalypse happen we’d be good to go.

 

Links:

 

Even More LED Bulbs

Was at my LED bulb spot, Home Depot, and saw three packs of my go to Philips BR30 light bulbs for about $18 per pack. It’s amazing how the cost of LED’s has plummeted. I picked up twelve bulbs to start replacing burnt bulbs, as well as some of the working incandescent bulbs, in the front hallway. This leaves about four ceiling bulbs on the first floor that aren’t LED. Once I change those out, I think there are eight on the first level, and about four bulbs on the second level that are incandescent.

Changing out these twelve bulbs this week lowers our energy use to operate the bulbs from 2,925w to 108w. For my $80 investment in twelve new bulbs we’ll save $1,848 over the next 22 years.

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This is my go to bulb for 6″ ceiling can fixtures. It’s dimmable, and performs great. Nice warm color, and enough lumens (650) to brighten any location.

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Outdoor Lights

I bought a pair of outdoor, solar LED lights at the end of October to highlight an outdoor Halloween display. The lights are basically like this (click here), and I got them at Home Depot. I tend to be a bigger fan of Home Depot’s lighting choices compared to Lowe’s; my personal preference.

Well after Halloween, I decided to simply point them towards the garage, sort of illuminating the front pathway. Kind of fun, and they were only twenty bucks apiece. Here’s a pic:

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Lights highlighting the garage. I should weed at some point. Maybe in 2017.

I forget how many lumens they throw. It’s not a lot but good enough for what they needed to do, illuminating our yard display.

I also bought a Philips LED outdoor bulb that came with four color filter discs. It worked well to illuminate a bush in a red color. I think I forgot to take a photo of the box. If I find it I’ll post it up, but in the meantime I do know I bought it at Home Depot.

 

Garage Door Openers

After four years, we finally pulled the trigger on buying garage door openers for our two garage doors. With our fifth winter looming and a “twelve month same as cash” deal at Lowe’s now was as good of time as any.

At our old house we had a Genie garage door opener installed shortly after we moved in. This time around I researched openers a bit and decided to switch brands and go with Chamberlain because they got better customer review ratings from the various sites I looked at online. We purchased two 1/2 horsepower belt driven Chamberlain Whisper Drive openers at about $168 apiece. Since our garage doors are 8′ tall, not the normal 7′ tall, I had to buy two extension kits as well as some hardware, and L-shaped steel material to create a hanger for each opener, about $164 in extra materials. Also turns out I had to spend around another $20 for longer power cords, but we’ll get to that later.

Lowe’s offers installation starting at $119 per opener plus any extra for materials, or extra labor. After talking to the guy at Lowe’s I decided I could probably handle it and save some money. That’s kind of a funny thought in hindsight but first, the installation…

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Metal L-channel for hanging the openers from the ceiling.

What I thought was going to take a couple hours per door quickly turned into a three day ordeal over the course of the last month. Every little thing that could go wrong sort of did go wrong; although catastrophic deal breakers were limited and obviously I did get the job done. Eventually.

The biggest challenge I faced was that our garage is 14′ tall inside. Which means I only had one ladder tall enough to even get close to the ceiling. It was a precarious job often spent with me on a tall ladder envisioning, not my death, but rather my breaking my neck, peeing myself and laying hopelessly on the cold hard cement until hours later when my wife comes out to see if I’m “okay”.

I managed to get the first opener assembled. I mounted a board to the header above the door to attach the track to. That was it for day one.

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Late in the night of day one, I finally have the track attached to the front header. I had to scrounge wood, and then attach the board to a seemingly stud free wall. All in an attempt to get the height just right.

The next day I propped the opener up on the ladder and realized no way could I prop the opener on there and still be able to access the ceiling to install the L-shaped metal channels that create the hanger assembly. So I spent an hour fabricating a wooden stand, about ten feet tall to rest the opener on while I attempted to mount it. Here are some pictures to behold my craftiness.

Okay, with the opener finally resting level, it was time to install the metal hanger assembly. This took awhile because I kept dropping hardware; up and down I went on that ladder about a million times. I could just barely reach the 14′ tall ceiling to find ceiling joists and mark them without falling over. One way or another I got the hangers installed, including one at an angle to keep things from racking.

Next up was wiring the unit and plugging it in.

The only problem there was the electricians who installed the garage wiring totally screwed me. The outlet was too far away from the opener. So I’d either have to get the outlets moved, or, after some thought, put longer cords on the openers. Turns out I went the longer cord route. But in addition to that they didn’t run the low voltage wires long enough to reach where the openers needed to be mounted. They basically installed everything for a standard 7′ tall door, without actually accessing our garage’s real world situation. So there I was four years later cursing up a storm to empty air.

So I adjusted the ladder and clambered on up into the attic hoping I wouldn’t have to run new low voltage wires or have to splice anything. Turns out what I did was undo the staples that held the low voltage wires in neat ninety degree runs from the walls to their holes in the ceiling. This allowed enough slack in the lines that they would then reach the garage door openers. So while it may not look pretty in the attic, and I don’t know if that breaks some code, I truly do not care because the problem was solved and I didn’t have to splice or re-run wires.

I am, by no means, an electrician but eventually I was able to figure out how to wire the wall switch as well as the electronic eyes that prevent the unit from closing if something like a kid or small animal is in their way. I plugged the first opener into an extension cord and sure as shit it worked. I was as shocked as anyone.

End of day two.

Only one opener to go.

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The first wall button installed.

I took a few weeks off to mentally prepare for installing the second opener. In the meantime I went to Lowe’s and bought two 8′ long appliance cords. I asked the guy if I could simply change out the cords on the openers instead of fussing with moving outlets. He was a older gentleman, and I just loved his response of “Let’s not overthink every damn thing. Just change out the cords.” So that was good enough for me. The cords I got had three wires to match the three wires on the units – green ground, and white and black.

After assembling the second unit I started to mount it, but then realized quickly that it’d be easier to change the cord on the ground.

What a royal pain in the ass.

Once again I was soon bitching out my electrician for putting the outlets in the wrong spot as I worked over my perfectly new garage door opener; taking it apart, having it flop around in my hands. By the way, the cover is held on with eight screws that can only be removed with a 1/4″ wrench because they are so tightly secured. Eventually I got the cover all thinking: “There’s no way this is 1) ever going back together, and 2) ever going to work again. $168 dollars down the drain.

I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to free the cord from the unit. An injection molded grommet had a death grip on everything. With a little flat head screwdriver love I got the grommet out.  The wires on the original cord were nice because they had little loops and prongs for easily connecting them. My generic new cord just had wires, but I did the best I could to attach them. I even got the grommet to go back in, using a big pair of pliers to squeeze it tight as can be on the power cord, allowing it to re-enter its hole. Eventually the cover even went back on and everything looked okay.

Don’t forget, I still have to install the new cord on the first opener, except that one is ten feet in the air. Not looking forward to that.

Once the power cord was installed, the rest of the installation went relatively easily. Having installed the opener once already, the second install was infinitely easier. Plus I had prepped a lot of the wiring ahead of time when I did opener number one.

Does it feel good to have garage door openers?

Yes.

Was it worth it?

Monetarily? No. If I worked billable hours for half the time I spent playing with the installation I would be way ahead.

Mentally? Not at the time because it was a headache I didn’t need.

But now that it’s over it was rewarding to finish the job. And now I know how to install garage door openers. Still I’m not that quick but I do know the ins and outs of them and how they are installed. So that’s a worthless skill I can add to my heap of worthless knowledge.

I will get the satisfaction of knowing I did it all by myself whenever I go in and out of the garage. So I’m ultimately happy. And now after four years we finally don’t have to manually open our garage doors which will be great in the winter time. Now I just need to clean out the garage.

-Chris