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

 

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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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Earth Day 2016

Today is Earth Day! For our household it’s a holiday or at least a reason to celebrate. It’s also the anniversary of when we moved in to our new home, four year ago. A happy coincidence if you ask me.

I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning – planning on writing then getting to work on my regular day job work. But of course here I sit, an hour and one cup of coffee later, and I’m already way behind schedule. I got off on a tangent finding a source for what tree we want to buy this year to celebrate earth day. This year I’d like to order some hazelnut shrubs from the Arbor Day Society. And later today I’m thinking we’ll go out to to pick up a small cherry tree or three.

We try to plant a tree on our property every Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (last Friday in April). I’d have to look at our landscape plan to see if I’ve been keeping track. I know we keep track of the Christmas trees we plant every December (we’re up to four). On the other hand I think I’ve been keeping track on the blog every Earth Day so I can go back and look that way.

I need to get to work, so I’ll leave you with these five tips for living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle:

5 Earth Day Tips for Better Living:

  1. Be an informed and responsible consumer – I freaking love shopping, that’ll never change. But I, and you can be a responsible consumers. Ask your self: do I need this? If so, what are my options – like who can I buy it from and how do they manufacture it? Is the price a fair price or is it too low to cover the actual cost of social, economic and environmental implications of me buying this thing (think fairness)? What will happen to this stuff when I don’t want it anymore? Be conscious and informed; vote with your dollar to support goods and services that are fair to our planet, people and economy. Yes it requires research, thinking and weighing pros and cons, but it’s no different than shopping for the best price, which you probably do already.
  2. Plant native trees, shrubs and plants – As I said, we’ve gotten into a routine where we plant major trees on holidays and life events like anniversaries or birthdays; trees make great gifts by the way. Search the internet to find out what plants are native to your area. Native plants require virtually no maintenance which frees up your time and money. And it’s something the whole family can get involved in.
  3. Recycle paper and cardboard – 99% of the paper and cardboard we consume in our household gets recycled. We gather it up and about every other week I drive it all over to one of those green and yellow collection dumpsters at our local school. Many communities’ curb side recycling will accept paper and cardboard as well. Recycling paper is easy to get into your routine, and it cuts the amount of trash we throw out significantly – some weeks we don’t even bother taking the trash down to the curb.
  4. Switch to LED light bulbs – the cost of LED’s has finally come down to where they are affordable for ANY household. LED’s last a lot longer (20 years+), so you won’t be storing and changing light bulbs anymore, which saves you hassle. Also they will reduce your electricity consumption which saves you more money in the long run than the bulbs cost.
  5. Spread the word – if you find something that works for you and our environment, share the info with friends, family, strangers…anyone, even if it’s just one thing to one person. Energy efficiency, electric cars, LED light bulbs, honey bees, recycling….they were all things “crazy hippies do” years ago, and they’re all mainstream stuff people from all walks of life do regularly to help our planet. It is all really common sense stuff. The system has just been set up the wrong way until now, but now we’re recognizing that as people, we have the power to do things the right way.

 

Happy Earth Day everyone! Hoping you get out there and do something good for the planet, but really it’s about doing something good for you. Be selfish about it, and most importantly, have fun.

Country Lane

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep because I’m stressed out. I’m stressed out because I can’t seem to get ahead. I can’t get ahead because life keeps throwing bullshit obstacles at us. Nothing the average person would care about or hand out any sympathy for. After all, we’re very well off considering all the poverty, war and injustice there is in the world. But it’s my blog so I get to do the ranting. You get to decide if you want to do the reading.

I work four jobs (the wife works two) trying to make ends meet. Anytime we get close to seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, it always turns out to be another train barreling down the line. Do we stay or do we go? Getting tired of asking myself that question every day. At some point we get to relax right? This keeps up and I’ll be dead before I’m fifty.

I can remember the conversation we had when we first walked our land, where our house sits now. My wife referred to it as “happy friendly land“. What we saw was a quaint meadow and brush with a slight rise in the middle perfect for a home. All the plants, bugs, sunshine, water and wildlife…you just got a happy friendly vibe.

One of the primary things I told our architects when we were planning our impact on the land was that I wanted them to think about the entire experience of driving up to our home, all the way back to the street, across property we don’t own. Our driveway is over a quarter mile long. It’s all gravel, with rises, twists and turns. Driving along at 12-15 miles per hour, there’s a lot of time to decompress and transition from the hectic world “out there” to the meditative calm of where our home sits.

Ours is the last house; we share it with two other homes. As you come over a rise, and past the second house you get that sense of a country lane. You’re almost surprised it keeps going, it sort of beckons you to explore. Fifty feet further you start to see our home, in summer, earlier in winter because of leaves or rather the lack thereof, …our home emerges around a bend in the lane.

That’s the effect I wanted.

A country lane, subtly revealing a gem in the middle of nowhere. No one ever knows what’s “back here” unless they’re specifically coming to our home. I would argue it’s one of the most beautiful homes in the area; masterfully designed to fit its site, a sculpture nuanced to bring a sense of internal familiarity from all who see it. There is a scale about the structure…it looks both small and large at the same time. It’s a building that makes you think about your place in this world. Coming around that corner you get what you’ve been waiting for throughout that long drive up a country lane.

It’s an experience.

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First glimpse you get of the house in early spring. Look at the diagonals…the length and angle of the lines. The horizon, the drive, the main house…the colors…tan on the house, tan in the dried brush. The charcoal of the trees, and the main house body.

 

 

Maintenance on a gravel drive isn’t that bad. Over four years the worst we get are some pot holes. Last year we had an excavator come out and straighten things up in terms of improving water runoff and roughing up the pot holes. We were going to get a cinder driveway but he said the surface we had was fantastic, and just needed some grading. And regular “roughing up” would help too. This is something we’d never done before (or since).

For whatever reason our mild winter still resulted in some rough patches on the driveway. I was thinking for a grand per household we could get the drive fixed up again this spring. At the very least I was going to fix my portion of the drive, but the cost at $750 was more expensive than I had budgeted for what would have been a simple gravel drop.

Eventually the neighbors got in touch and their plan is to asphalt from the street to the second house. Cost would be $12,000 per each of the three households. I had to laugh a little inside as I heard the news on the phone today. I just can’t catch a break. With tax season requiring me to write a check the equivalent of a decent new car, here I have the potential for a driveway bill, conjured on a whim, that will cost me twelve large. With only one house, I have little to no power in this situation, the other two houses are related so they dictate everything basically – something we knew going into it, but you know…how can you deny happy friendly land when it speaks to you. We felt it was worth the risk. Fast forward five years and I lie awake at night stressed out about life…getting out of bed to write because it’s the only thing I can think of to detox my mental system.

It’s not only the money, but I have a real problem with the material, asphalt, as well. Ethically and aesthetically I just don’t think it’s an appropriate solution for our situation. I checked with my real estate agent, and yes, a hard surface would improve home values but she recommended cement not asphalt. Asphalt is cheap looking and higher maintenance than cement.

Personally I think it ruins that charm of living in the country, and destroys that country lane experience we get now. No more walks to the mailbox kicking stones, or listening to the gravel under foot or tire on a hot summer evening.

Environmentally, the type of asphalt likely to be installed would be impervious to water, creating a greater water runoff issue than is already present. Asphalt can also be salted in the winter which means that there will be salt runoff from our driveway into the ponds and creeks that surround our property. In the summertime asphalt retains heat and creates a hot spot that leads to higher air temperatures. Not to mention the chemicals in the actual material. I just think it’s nasty stuff that does nothing to enhance our quality of life. From my perspective, asphalt is just a typical knee jerk reaction to a problem. Everybody does it. It’s cheap. Why are you fighting it?

The whole thing really ruined what was supposed to be a good day, week and month.

So here I am stressed out, contemplating my options…moving, going bankrupt, offing myself…the dread of having to pay money I don’t have for a solution I don’t condone…losing sleep I desperately need.

Who knows what we’ll ultimately end up doing. But in the meantime I suppose I need to become an expert in pervious and porous driveway solutions which are basically the most environmentally and aesthetically pleasing options. These are in addition to the current gravel driveway option, which I think is perfectly fine if maintained properly.

I’ve started finding some really awesome options online, I just need to start figuring out the costs. If it were up to me, I’d research all of the options, assign a cost to each and then make the decision. My challenge is buying enough time to make this happen. As far as I can tell we’re dealing with one quote from a contractor who’s ready to start laying down black tar and stone, and neighbors who are fine with the cost and asphalt solution.

At the very least I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put it a decision off for a year. Try the gravel maintenance program idea.

Do I have time to do this? No. Why am I doing this? Because I have no other choice. I need to do everything I can to salvage the current experience that is “happy friendly land” (and maybe not go bankrupt in the process).

And I need to be able to sleep at night.

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Asphalt would end at the driveway on the left on continue towards the horizon. Foreground would stay gravel.

A few random links and images I found on the internet when I searched for “earth friendly driveways”. I’m not saying any of these will be cheaper, but I feel like I’d rather save up for one of these solutions than throw down my hard earned money this year on unaesthetic and environmentally damaging asphalt. I also feel like some of these solutions could even be installed by ourselves potentially saving money…the biggest challenge will be changing people’s mindsets. We’ve grown up in a cookie cutter suburban world where these types of common sense, nurturing solutions are foreign and scary to the average consumer.

NOTE: From the http://www.BuildLLC.com website, this interesting note on gravel…it’s impervious, so not as eco friendly as I was thinking.

It’s worth noting that gravel is considered an impervious surface by many jurisdictions and its inclusion on a project will count against the impervious surface calculations. From the King County website:

“Packed gravel prevents or impedes the entry of water into the soil as compared to natural conditions. Scientific studies show that once gravel is compacted (from cars or heavy equipment, for example), the gravel acts like paved surfaces and surface water runs off it in greater quantities than compared to natural conditions. In addition, if cars or heavy equipment are traveling on these gravel surfaces, pollution such as dissolved minerals or residual petroleum are washed off into our waterways.”

 

Permeable Paving – The Environmentally Friendly Driveway

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Image of a permeable paved drive from:  www.scgh.com

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Image from TerraForce.com

Permeable Surfaces 

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Image of open cell pavers from http://www.buildllc.com

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Image of porous asphalt from http://www.buildllc.com

A project to install 4×4 tracks that reduce erosion 

Core Driveway – permeable plastic honeycomb system that can be used with gravel

Article on porous driveways from The Chic Ecologist

Green Driveway articles from Franke James blog

Invisible Structures grass driveway sub-straight 

Some info on porous asphalt and porous pavers from BuildLLC.com:

Porous Asphalt:

“Think of it like Rice-Krispies treats with a higher compressive strength and not quite as tasty.

Effective permeability range: 16-25%
Compressive strength: up to 4,000 psi
Required thickness: 4″ – 8”
Technology: The deletion of fine aggregate allows for connected voids while the coarse aggregate is coated with enough cementitious paste to hold it all together
Application: Areas with light traffic, driveways, pedestrian walkways, bike paths
Cost: $3 – $10 per square foot (extremely dependent on size of job)
Other considerations: Typically requires additional layers of sub-base material or filter fabric”

Porous pavers:

Because the technology here is ceramic-based, these systems are typically proprietary. We like the Aroura Klorostone product for its clean aesthetic, simple color options and versatility.

Permeability: The Klorostone is capable of infiltrating up to 2 inches of stormwater per minute without relying on mortar gaps. The exact permeability is difficult to determine with these products because each company has its own protected recipe.
Compressive strength: 6,000 psi
Thickness: 2-3/8″
Technology: Each individual paving unit is porous (as opposed to interlocking concrete that relies on aggregate gaps for infiltration)
Application: Driveways, sidewalks, courtyards, patios
Cost: $7 – $10/sf delivered
Available colors: 4
Other considerations: The joints around paving units will provide an additional 5-15% of permeable area”

 

 

New Plantings – Spring 2015

This spring we planted some new things in the yard. We planted a 5′ tall red oak for Earth Day / Arbor Day. This oak is the compliment to a red oak we planted last year, both of which form a “gate” from the apple orchard to the pond trail.

It’s been almost a month since we planted this little red oak, and he was doing so well up until a week or two ago when I noticed something amiss. It’s uncanny the relationship I’ve formed with the plants in our yard. I could tell from far away that something was wrong. Don’t ask me how I could tell, but sure enough upon closer inspection I noticed that a damn deer had stripped ALL the leaves off of the tree!

With great anger I grabbed a wire tree fence from my storage pile nearby and surrounded the baby tree in wire.

Now weeks later, new leaves are forming so it looks like our new little tree will make it.

The other major new plantings are three lilac bushes we picked up at Home Depot. I planted them over by the septic tank. As they grow up they’ll obscure the unsightly tank tops that stick out of the ground. And hopefully the flowers will mask any smells from the tank in early spring.

I need to find two other types of fragrant bushes to plant in the area, that can mask any smells in summer and fall.

The only down side of the lilacs is, they made my into a hypocrite. You see, the plants we bought were treated with neonicotinoids. Fortunately now Home Depot labels plants that have been genetically modified with these chemicals. While the EPA approves of them, these chemicals are banned in Europe. It’s suspected that they contribute to the decline in honey bee populations and may even cause colony collapse disorder.

Well I didn’t see the labels until I had already planted the plants in the ground.

I decided to keep the plants. The chemicals should only last 2 years in the plants. When planted, they were done blooming. So that just means next spring will be the only exposure to our bees (and other pollinators). I’ve weighed the risks, and made my decision. If you can’t be good, at least know you’re not being good. I think historically people didn’t even realize they were doing harm to the environment. Now at least there are ways to know.

Maybe I can make it up to my bees by some other means.

World Pangolin Day

World Pangolin Day

Today is World Pangolin Day. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll give you an ultra brief rundown. This is a pangolin:

This is a pangolin. Super cute. Photo courtesy of http://savepangolins.org

This is a pangolin. Super cute. Photo courtesy of http://savepangolins.org

 

According to Wikipedia, a pangolin is a mammal that has large keratin scales covering its skin, and is the only known mammal with this adaptation. It is found naturally in tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia. The name pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning “something that rolls up”. It is the most trafficked mammal in the world.

People in Southeast Asia love harvesting these little guys, often illegally, and selling all their bits , often illegally, to people in China primarily, as well as other countries. At the rate their habitat is being destroyed, and they are being killed, the pangolin will be extinct in just a few years. Which means while we’ve been able to enjoy their existence and the cool diversity they bring to our world, our kid’s world will be distinctly lacking in diversity cause they won’t have pangolins. Personally I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have cool animals, such as the pangolin, in it.

So to raise awareness we celebrate World Pangolin Day today!

Click here for 7 ways to celebrate World Pangolin Day today, and every day really.

And you can use these cool hashtags to raise awareness:

Please take the time to appreciate these awesome critters, and everything they offer in terms of wonder and diversity to our cool world. Think of ways that you and your family can help save these and other endangered plants and animals.

Basement Fireproof Caulking

When not trying to save the world, I’m trying to improve the comfort and performance of our house. Today I checked off a chore that had been on my list for a while.

Plumbers, electricians and HVAC installers in my opinion are nice guys but generally can be horrific when it comes to “whole system thinking”. What happens is the electrician comes in and runs wires, or the HVAC guy runs ducts. Then another trade comes in and does their thing. Well in doing their thing, they may inexplicably mess up the work of another trade and in the end you have a bunch of little issues that need to be addressed. For example, there is support blocking that was removed when air ducts went in, or random hole attempts in the foundation, or holes in air ducts where wires go through.

Just like the foam I had to replace / supplement last week, today I had to deal with some air flow issues. There is a large air duct that was created between two first floor joists. Fairly common, the HVAC team tacks up some corrugated like silver board to seal up the space between two joists and “Presto!”, instant air duct. The problem is either before or after someone ran electrical wires through the two joists. So the air duct, which works most efficiently when it’s air tight, has a bunch of holes that allow air to escape. By time the air goes from the furnace to the vent upstairs, it’s lost a lot of its “gusto” which makes the furnace work harder. In fact you want to keep wires out of the ducts altogether because they are an unnecessary obstruction to air flow.

To seal up these holes, finally, I used some fire barrier caulk. Because they’re electrical wires, you have to use fire caulk. The grey gooey stuff was easy to work with and came off of my hands easily when it was clean up time. I ended up using my finger to apply it because it was difficult to reach the holes with the caulk gun; too many pipes and wires in the way.

I even caulked up some gaps at the end of the vent for good measure.

Tip: do all this caulking during construction when you have better access, or ask your tradesmen to do it for you.

Basement

Framing is complete in the basement. So now we’re ready for inspections and then electrical. It’s really exciting to see the rooms formed and ready for the next step. I think we have around $750-$1,000 worth of materials into the project so far. My labor is free.

And I noticed my spray foam job did the trick on the exterior penetrations. I got one more can to touch up one little gap, but otherwise we should be pretty air tight in the basement now. Will see if these sealing chores impact our electric bill in the coming year.