We’ve been without proper lighting in the second floor hallway for like three months now due to the ongoing light bulb saga. As it turns out, raising the white flag on the LED bulbs by switching back to fluorescent bulbs still didn’t shield me from problems.

Apparently there are three types of G24Q bulbs – type 1, type 2 and type 3. Each has it’s own subtle little differences in the base (look at the little nibs on the diagram below from LightSearch.com) – and if you get the wrong one you’re screwed (although they are a “push in” and not a “screw” base).


image from LightSearch.com

The ones I ordered from Amazon were a “type 1” and apparently my light fixture is anything but a type 1. Somewhere out there are product designers smarter than me who felt it necessary to not land on a universal standard.

I think the LED bulbs I had were universal though, fitting any type of socket, and that is why the readily fit the light fixture.

Now I have to figure out which type bulb socket I have and then order new ones.

Here’s a handy guide from LightSearch.com



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.



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.



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.


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:


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.


The LED Light Bulb Review You Need to Read

Okay, you need to know one thing about me…okay two things about me, for today’s post: 1) I love buying things, 2) it’s virtually impossible for me to buy anything without over analyzing it.

When we built this house, almost four years ago, we had a ton of 6″ ceiling light fixtures installed. To this day I’m not even sure why, but we did. They are everywhere in the main floor’s living spaces.

Twenty non-dimming, and ten dimming 6″ BR-30 light fixtures in the family room, dining room, hall and kitchen, to be exact. That’s five for every man, woman and child.

The dirty fact is: half of them are burned out because I want to replace the incandescent bulbs with LED’s. But I can’t replace them with LED’s until I complete some mind numbing amount of research.

My wife literally asked (begged) for light bulbs for Christmas.

If you go to cut veggies in the kitchen, better bring a flashlight.

Alright, so why do you need to read this review? Because you probably have some recessed lights in your home. You also probably enjoy saving money in the long run, which switching to LED bulbs will definitely do just that. Most importantly, I’m going to hopefully save you the trouble of researching bulbs yourself.


Lights on different circuits? Nah, just burnt out light bulbs in the hallway.

Bulb vs. Integrated Trim

One quick note, for recessed lighting you can purchase either just a bulb, or an integrated bulb and trim for you 4″ or 6″ recessed cans. I wanted to do this, I absolutely hate the 80’s look of our 6″ cans, but didn’t for two reasons. First I couldn’t find ANY useful reviews of bulbs with the integrated trims. Secondly the cost of the integrated style can be up to twice that of a regular BR30 LED bulb. With our need for new bulbs being immediate and our budget being microscopic, I had to forgo the integrated bulbs.


These integrated trim LED light bulbs are slick, and go a long way to eliminate that annoying old school 6″ recessed can look, but the cost is a bit prohibitive when you have thirty cans to outfit.

A Note About Our Dimmer

Our dimmer is whatever the electricians put in when they built the house. I really need to replace them with something a little higher tech to get the most out of our LED bulbs and their dimming capabilities. So keep this in mind as you read.

kitchen dimmer

Our old school, non-LED friendly, dimmer in the kitchen.

Green Creative Titanium Series 4.0

I was attracted to the Green Creative bulb because of it’s sexy as f*ck good looks, and the great review it received on CNET (click here to read for yourself). I order my sample bulb directly from EarthLED.com and received free shipping with my order.


Green Creative LED BR30 light bulb, with it’s beautifully cool flying buttress like supports, and smooth plastic cover

The looks of the bulb and the packaging didn’t disappoint. It’s a shame to hide them away in a recessed ceiling can.

Installed, the bulb gives off a super bright, warm glow similar to an incandescent on steroids. It’s definitely the brightest. Where the bulb fell down was with our dimmer. It didn’t really dim at all. But as with all the bulbs, I really need to test with a new dimmer, designed with LED’s in mind. There was a slight flicker when the bulb was dimmed all the way. Noticeable, but not bothersome.

GE Reveal BR30 LED

Once again, I relied on CNET (click here) to throw the recommendation my way for the new GE Reveal BR30 LED bulb. I found the best price on Amazon.com, and ordered up a sample bulb for $16.99. They’re actually closer to $15 as of this writing today (12/30/15).


Blue stripe accent and curvy body of the GE Reveal BR30 LED bulb.

The bulb is pretty pleasing to look at, and has a blue stripe accent which is a nice touch. The bulb gets high marks for color rendering, which I cannot measure with other than with my eye, and I can say it appears to deliver. Everything looks clean and colorful, but not to cold. All the bulbs I tested are definitely close to that 2700K range, so no problems replacing your old bulbs with these from a “mood” standpoint. The GE also wasn’t as glaring white as the Green Creative. Seems like this would be a great bulb for the kitchen or the art studios.

Where it disappoints though is with dimming. It doesn’t dim very far down with our old school dimmer.

Philips 9.5w LED BR30 Indoor Flood w/ WarmGlow 

Alright, the Philips was recommended to me by Tom my electrician. Normally I rely on online reviews, but he spoke highly of the bulb so I figured I’d give it a go and include it in my impromptu kitchen test.

I ordered one bulb from Amazon.com, with my free shipping the cost was $11.19 plus tax (not sure why it’s showing so much higher in cost today 12/30/15…shop around for the best deal, unless they’ve discontinued the bulb)


I’m a fan of Philips’ industrial design on most of its LED light bulbs, this BR30 is no exception


The Philips packaging was refreshing because it was all recyclable and renewable kraft corrugated material. This is what packaging should be.

The packaging on the Philips bulb was fantastic. I was so happy to see they created a simple to make, and open corrugated box to house the bulb in. Too often, mostly at retail, LED bulbs and other products are encased in hard to open plastic clamshells. Not so with this bulb.

With skepticism I installed the bulb in the kitchen. And wouldn’t you know it…the damn thing dims brilliantly with our old school dimmer. The bulb is warm looking at full blast, and then does this cute trick as it dims down: it gets warmer. Where as the other two bulbs only went down about 50% and were both white looking when dimmed, the Philips bulb performed basically just like an antiquated incandescent light bulb that we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing.

The Philips is rated at 730 lumens, compared to the other bulbs 650 lumens but I’m not sure I see a discernible difference with my well trained eye. If anything the other bulbs are brighter over achievers, and this Philips is generous in saying 730. Regardless, all three bulbs are plenty bright enough for any home or application.


Here are all three bulbs dimmed down all the way. Green Creative is in the foreground, Philips in the middle and GE in the back next to a turned off incandescent bulb.


Same three bulbs turned all the way up with incandescent bulbs way in the back by the cabinets.

Winner: Philips

The bulb we chose is the Philips bulb. The GE was our second choice. Our decision is based on overall look and feel when the bulbs are at 100% and when they are dimmed. All three bulbs will save us money, and other than the GE, they’re reasonably priced.

In fairness I should try them with a new dimmer, and I will. In the meantime I feel confident that we can migrate to the Philips LED BR30 bulbs for our home.

I will actually use the sexy Green Creative bulbs in my art studio because I like the look and I don’t need to dim anything.

And I may still use the GE’s in the non-dimming kitchen or studio areas for best color rendering.

The Other Philips Bulb

I was at Home Depot today and noticed they had a slightly different Philips WarmGlow bulb for sale that looks interesting and presumably performs as well as the one I tested. If in fact they discontinued the Philips bulb I tested, then this one at Home Depot may be the route to go. It uses less energy and is Energy Star certified. (Our winning Philips is inexplicably not Energy Star certified).


An alternative Philips bulb I saw at Home Depot with WarmGlow technology, costs less and uses less energy.


The back of the Philips BR30 WarmGlow bulb I saw at Home Depot.

Here’s a chart I threw together to compare the bulbs I looked at.

Light bulb test-01

You can download and print it here: BR30 LED Light bulb comparison

Okay kids, there you have it: my LED light bulb comparison. Hopefully I’ve saved you some trouble in deciding which bulbs to put in your home. Whichever one, or “ones”, you choose, you can not go wrong with this group. What’s most important is that when your incandescent, AND florescent, bulbs burn out: REPLACE THEM WITH LED’s. These bulbs will save you a ton of money in the long run, add value to your home (in my opinion), and because the use less energy, they reduce our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Speaking of energy use, it’s imperative that you get your home energy use down to the bare minimum to make it easier to transition to renewable energy. Eventually all of us (or our children) will have to make the switch from non-renewables. Why not make that transition as simple as possible.

One last note, these bulbs last over twenty years. Just think, the bulbs I’m putting into this house right now may very well be the last light bulbs I ever have to change.

That means one less thing on my “to do” list, and more time to write (or eat and drink).






Basement Progress

We started tiling the basement floor. And today the electrician started to finish up the electrical work. All of the switches and outlets are installed in the main room and bathroom. As well as a couple of light fixtures and a bathroom fan.

It’s impossible to take good photos of lights with my phone, but you can generally see what they look like in today’s photos.

The tile is going to take a long time install. This is most of a day's worth of labor.

The tile is going to take a long time install. This is most of a day’s worth of labor.

The bathroom light we bought at Home Depot.

The bathroom light we bought at Home Depot.

The caged wall sconce we bought from Restoration Hardware.

The caged wall sconce we bought from Restoration Hardware.

A Xylophone and LED Light Bulbs

Snowy yard in January 2015

Snowy yard in January 2015

A mixed bag of whatnot for this post. We’ve been somewhat snowed in for a week or two as winter asserts itself in northeast Ohio. The ground has been covered in a blanket of white for the better part of four weeks or more. But the last week has found an accumulation of a few inches per day it seems.

We’re in full hibernation mode. Venturing out for school, provisions and not much more. I’ve been busy with work but have found some time here and there to dabble in various distractions.

As the original lightbulbs in the house burn out, I’m trying to replace them with energy efficient LED light bulbs. Because LED’s do cost a fair bit, I can’t just go out and replace them all. But this past week I replaced the four light bulbs in the upstairs studio. This space is used by the wife and kids everyday so it’s a good candidate for eco-friendly, cost saving bulbs.

One of the three recessed ceiling cans had a burnt out bulb. I took the three working bulbs and transferred them to the kitchen where we have a half-dozen burned out cans. I then went to Lowe’s and picked up four Sylvania Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood light bulbs. I normally prefer Home Depot for LED light bulb selection. But I get a discount at Lowe’s and there’s for the studio recess cans, you don’t see anything but light, so a sexy bulb design isn’t important. Though these Sylvania do look good.

 The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe's

The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe’s

Here’s a picture of the box with all the stats. For60Watt replacement bulbs you want to make sure you’re getting around 800 lumens, which is exactly what these65W equivalent bulbs get. At 11-watts, according to the packaging, the bulbs will each save us $1.32 per year over 22 years for a grand total of $29 per bulb (at 3/ hrs a day, at $0.11kWh).  Each bulb cost $15, so we’ll sort of “make money” in the form of long term cost avoidance.

Those four bulbs will keep 1,600 lbs (nearly a ton) of carbon from entering the atmosphere over 22 years (18.2 lbs per bulb per year). It feels pretty good.

Another fun fact I pointed out as my kid helped me install the bulbs, since they last 22 years, it could very well be my grandkids standing there the next time I have to get on the ladder and change those bulbs in the studio. Who knows, the bulbs may even outlast me.

Side of the box

Side of the box

front of the box

front of the box

The new bulbs doing their thing.

The new bulbs doing their thing.









One fun thing we did this week was we made a real xylophone. Our oldest came home from school and told us how he played a xylophone that day, and he wanted to make one.

We didn’t have any sort of plan, but he drew up his own plan in book form. It was cute. He then directed me as I sawed and screwed together some scrap wood. The first one didn’t turn out too good so on Saturday we woke up early and picked up some 1×2’s at the store. I used this guide online (click here) to make our xylophone. I’ll let you look through the steps yourself.

Ours turned out okay and it does make the right sounds for the most part. It was a fun project and nice distraction for a snowy Saturday afternoon.

I used a file to tune the keys.

I used a file to tune the keys.

The assembled xylophone.

The assembled xylophone.

The xylophone in action.

The xylophone in action.



Studio Day Whatever – Plus A Trip To Crate and Barrel

I was back at work today. Still no real projects, but still, with a meeting and some office things to do, I stayed busy. I had to run to the office supply store so I stopped a Home Depot and picked up polyurethane for the studio shelves. I got a gallon of the clear coat in a satin finish to match the finish of the paint. I put the first coat on tonight. The plan is to put on three coats total, wet sanding between coats two and three. The polyurethane smells a little but I got the stuff my brother recommended. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It is water based. I applied the clear coating with a sponge brush. Note the can says I have to wait a week!!! before I can use the shelves. Ugh my studio is never going to be done.

Here are my supplies for clear coating the horizontal surfaces of my shelves in the studio: foam brushes, a finish sand paper block and some water based "varnish".

Here are my supplies for clear coating the horizontal surfaces of my shelves in the studio: foam brushes, a finish sand paper block and some water based “varnish”.

One other thing I bought at the store were a couple more LED light bulbs; 60 watt equivalent bulbs. I spend so an inordinate amount of time staring, evaluating and sometime purchasing LED light bulbs. Today’s purchase added to my small collection…just the other day we bought a 60W equiv. “bright white” and “daylight” bulb. Bright white is 3000K. Daylight is 5000K.  Both are around 800 lumens. I wanted to compare to see which I liked in my newly renovated studio. Today I picked up two more “bright whites” because I liked the previous one we bought, when we used it at the art show last weekend. Well turns out I don’t like “bright white”. I compared one to an incandescent bulb in my office and the LED bulb was made the space to lifeless; too bright.  So I’m going to take back the two new ones, and the daylight bulb, and get the “soft white” LED bulb for my studio lights. I did consider the fact that I’d be painting art in the space, but the lighting is only a factor at night and frankly I’d rather paint in a softer light instead of realistic “daylight” or even “bright white” light.

These LED's are going back. The "bright white" is to cold, even at a claimed 3000K. I didn't even bother opening up the "daylight" bulb.

These LED’s are going back. The “bright white” is to cold, even at a claimed 3000K. I didn’t even bother opening up the “daylight” bulb.

Lastly tonight I’ll leave you with pics from our trip to Crate & Barrel. We stopped to look at their plates the other day. And as usual we saw a lot of awesome stuff there. I wish it was like the old days when we both had jobs and could buy whatever at will. Now we have the house but no means to buy anything. That didn’t stop me from dreaming though.  Here are some of the cooler things we saw and loved. ( I think the chest is something we’ll take a stab at making ourselves for the front hall. And I’m on the fence about the metal wall art…even if we’re destitute we may still consider it to cozy up the place…I really like the rusted metal one, though it’s a circle and not a square so not sure I’m digging that.)

This clock looks better in person, though the color isn't quite right for our kitchen. Anyway it is pretty cool.

This clock looks better in person, though the color isn’t quite right for our kitchen. Anyway it is pretty cool.

Neat hanging lamp that would look good in my studio.

Neat hanging lamp that would look good in my studio.

Really awesome rusted metal wall art. Simple thin wall box tube cut offs welded together. Wish it was rectangular...I would have bought it on the spot. Maybe I'll make my own.

Really awesome rusted metal wall art. Simple thin wall box tube cut offs welded together. Wish it was rectangular…I would have bought it on the spot. Maybe I’ll make my own.

Would love to have a new bedroom set. Our current set was nice 13 years ago. Plus I like the idea of a bed that isn't as tall as our current one.

Would love to have a new bedroom set. Our current set was nice 13 years ago. Plus I like the idea of a bed that isn’t as tall as our current one.

These orange chairs would look perfect in our dining room. They aren't cheap.

These orange chairs would look perfect in our dining room. They aren’t cheap.

Cool metal grate art.

Cool metal grate art.

Very cool fish print wall art at Crate & Barrel.

Very cool fish print wall art at Crate & Barrel.

Dinosaur art that would look great in my studio.  I like dinosaurs.

Dinosaur art that would look great in my studio. I like dinosaurs.

Cool Atwood chest at Crate & Barrel. Might be interesting to create a less deep (<20") version for our front foyer.

Cool Atwood chest at Crate & Barrel. Might be interesting to create a less deep (<20″) version for our front foyer.

Gallery Wall Is Painted And The Master Sinks Hate Me.

Well with my birthday over, and my offroading trip finished too, we’ve started this week by settling back into the groove. And as such I have set aside the time to write and let you know what we’ve been up to.  Absolutely nothing productive is happening outside. I just don’t look out the windows at the plant bed that still needs fabric and mulch. Nor do I look at the gum trees that need freedom from the encroaching meadow around them.  And don’t even get me started on the back yard and garden.

Inside though we’re taking baby steps. We pretty much are done painting the upstairs hall “gallery” wall. Here’s what it looked like before, painted Canvas Tan (SW7531):

The hall gallery wall before in tan.

The hall gallery wall before in tan.

We left the rest of hall that color, but for the gallery wall which runs a long way from studio to bedrooms, we wanted something darker to camouflage the closet door cut lines, hinges and door knobs. Also the dark color would make artwork “pop” when hung on that wall. Looking at our Global Spice palette of colors we selected Sherwin Williams GS18 Sable SW6083 which is a dark brown color that goes perfectly with the sage carpet and the aforementioned Canvas Tan.

I thought we’d only need a gallon to cover the 7′ tall wall that runs around…I don’t know….twenty feet long?  And surprise, surprise I was right. Because the walls were already tan we didn’t need to prime them, and two coats of brown did the job. We just have to hit the door edges and closet edges with one more coat and the job will be done. Eventually we’ll replace all the outlets on the wall with brown ones to hide those too.

The gallery wall being painted Sherwin Williams GS18 Sable SW6083.

The gallery wall being painted Sherwin Williams GS18 Sable SW6083.

Do we like it? You’re darn right we like it, a lot.  It provides visual complexity to the space and helps close in the hallway a little, making it more “homey”. And no it’s not too dark at all. Despite not having any windows in the hallway, the space gets enough daylight leaking in from all the adjacent rooms that natural light is not a problem during the day. At night it’s a more engaging space, with a new level of complexity that makes it more interesting. I liken it to a theater set, in that there is a lot more going on visually; an eclectic mix that suits our aesthetic preferences.  This is the second time we’ve painted interior walls in dark brown and we loved it each time. In our old house the entry AND back hall were a nearly black brown and it was fantastic.

Okay, so we banged out that painting project (good ’cause the paint was sitting for like 2 months since we bought it).  Check! No more “paint the hall” monkey on my back. One minor monkey project is the window cranks. The overpriced, but necessary, cranks ($30 a pop!) showed up this week. That means I just need to go around to each window, install cranks where they are missing, and tighten the set screws on ALL the cranks. Then…voila! No more hand crank monkey on my back either.  Only took me 18 months.  Not bad considering my track record for accomplishing things.

While I was emboldened to get things off my list I called up the plumber to check on the Master Bed sinks. As you may or may not know, the little rods you pull to close the drain broke off our overpriced Kohler faucets the first time we used them.  It’s a horrifically (sp?) bad design. I plan on writing Kohler a strongly worded letter asking why they design such garbage and then charge people upwards of $800-$1,000 retail per faucet. The plumber and the sink supplier both tried to get Kohler to provide a fix but the company couldn’t; basically they said “tough shit, there’s nothing wrong with our product” and left us hanging. Well I discovered we had a slick push button drain stop in our half bath sink.  Only took me 18 months to figure that out too. It looks like this:

This is a Kohler push button drain, but apparently it's only available with the nickel faucet in our half bath, not as a stand alone part in chrome.

This is a Kohler push button drain in our half bath.  Yeah, that’ll work.

Well I asked the plumber / plumbing supplier if we could just put these cook push button stops in our Master sinks. Problem solved: push button stops and we’d just glue the old drain stops in place so they looked good but didn’t function. Take that Kohler.  Without looking at anything the plumber and supplier decided I could get two push button stops, and the plumber would split the cost with me; they were $40 a pop. I said “that’s fine” ’cause I just wanted the sink drain monkey off my back. I’ll save my fight with Kohler for another day.

So the plumber came out and changed the drains. I didn’t see them because we had to run the boys to school. When I got back I didn’t think to look at them since I was super busy with work I had to get to. I paid the plumber as he explained something about needing a washer to connect a pipe or something to the new drains….okay, whatever I’m sure it’s fine…I don’t have time to learn all the nuances of being a plumber. It’s tough enough being a neurotic, self-absorbed, design prick…let alone a plumber too. Off the plumber went.

Well nature called so I decided to go check out the drains, expecting to see what you see in the above photo, just chrome.  This is what I saw:

This is ridiculous. Going from bad to worse with our Master Bathroom.

This is ridiculous. Going from bad to worse with our Master Bathroom.

Our new giant push button drains look stupid.

Our new giant push button drains look stupid.

I didn’t even know where to begin. All I could see was this giant chrome thing, about the size of a hubcap on a ’53 Mercury in the middle of our sinks, sticking up like a toadstool that small fairies would hide under during fairy hunting season.

“Wow” I thought.

“Those look big, even for a trashy LA mansion, let alone our humble bathroom. Who thought that was a good idea?” I said to my indifferent brown hand towel who witnessed the entire transformation with nary a word.

Ugh, I don’t have time for this.

For shits and giggles I looked underneath the sink to see what was up down there. I chuckled a little bit. On one sink a nut is holding up the drain pipe. On the other it’s a cutoff of copper tube holding that one up. Apparently the plumber couldn’t readily make the connection between drain and pipe so they’re just sort of squished together, propped up by the random bits.

I don't even know why I bother anymore. Here you can see a nut permanently holding up the drain pipe under the sink because something or anther doesn't bond together properly.

I don’t even know why I bother anymore. Here you can see a nut permanently holding up the drain pipe under the sink because something or anther doesn’t bond together properly.

Ugh, I don’t have time for this.

I called up the plumbing supplier and asked him if Kohler made any push button drains like the one in the half bath. They don’t. They sell that one ONLY with that faucet.  Lovely. Of course that is how they do it. A product someone wants, so don’t offer it. Marketing genius. He did inform me that Moen sells something that will work. I did not ask why didn’t we use that part to begin with. No sense asking the universe unanswerable questions. And no, no returns on the drains that were just installed. So after another $80 out of my pocket, I have two of these ordered:

Moen push button drain. We have two on order for $40 apiece.

Moen push button drain. We have two on order for $40 apiece.

I’ve called my other plumber and he said he’d install them once I get them. I told him, even if we have to take everything back to the wall, I want the pipes done properly. No matter the cost.  I think I’ve done more remodelling projects in our new home than I ever did in our last house that we lived in for a decade. I don’t even argue anymore, I just go with the flow.  Get it?  I “go with the flow“. Plumbing humor.

Going back to the upstairs hall, now that it’s painted I started dreaming about the lighting in there. For now it’s just boring ceiling lights. But the staircase is screaming for a nifty chandelier to add an eclectic charge to our theater like brown and tan hallway.  It looks boring now:

Staircase...bookshelves on the left (back) wall and chandelier from ceiling...someday.

Staircase…bookshelves on the left (back) wall and chandelier from ceiling…someday.

Eventually we want to cover the back wall in a shallow bookcase. And cascading down in front of that bookcase, above the landing, sprouting form the current light location, I’m thinking a really cool glass ball or industrial light fixture.  This is the sort of thing I have in mind:

Stainless ball chandelier.

Stainless ball chandelier.

Awesome pipe fitting chandelier from Restoration Hardware.

Awesome pipe fitting chandelier from Restoration Hardware.

Elegant glass ball pendant chandelier.

Elegant glass ball pendant chandelier.

Barn Light Electric offers this simple multi bulb chandelier.

Barn Light Electric offers this simple multi bulb chandelier.

Meteor shower glass ball chandelier.

Meteor shower glass ball chandelier.

Cool rustic ball chandelier.

Cool rustic ball chandelier.

Very cool pipe fitting lighting.

Very cool pipe fitting lighting.

Something like the ‘meteor shower’ or stainless ball chandelier would look perfect there. The space is so vertical, a light fixture that takes advantage of the space will do wonders for the stairwell and hallway. It’s such an asymmetrical space, that the fixture needs to be asymmetrical as well. In my mind the space can become one of the most dynamic spaces in the house. And rightfully so since it’s the main traffic corridor. It’ll be some time before we redo the lighting up there, including adding track lighting for the gallery wall, but it’s never to early to plan and dream. I’m even knocking around the idea of a spiral staircase to the loft, but the will be way down the road.

Alright, I think that brings us up to speed. Hopefully my studio shelves will be done soon so we can start installing them. Which in turn will help us get organized both in the studio and in the basement, which currently houses all of my art business junk.

We’ve kicked out a few monkeys.  This is good.

Case Study: Annual Energy Usage In An Energy Efficient Home

[editor’s note: I changed the title to ‘energy efficient home’ from ‘passive solar’ – this post doesn’t talk about passive solar that much, I can delve into that at another post]

Wow that’s a pretty boring title for a blog post.  I figured “Murdering Fewer Mountains and Trees So I Could Play My XBox” would be a bit to melodramatic for a Saturday night.  My new year’s resolution, which I decided upon last night was I wasn’t going to spend the day on the computer.  Well I made it ’til dinner time before I just had to hop on and fire up an Excel spreadsheet, and for your benefit, a blog post.

I spent the last hour or two pulling all of our utility bills for the last year or so, and entering them into my spreadsheet.  Also I cracked open a bottle of 2010 Joel Gott California Cabernet…it’s pretty good.  Whoever brought it over, thank you.  You’re welcome back here any time. [editor’s note: my sister said she got me the wine so I wouldn’t have to drink Yellowtail.  Thanks sis.]

2010 Joel Gott 815 California Cabernet Savignon makes everything better.

2010 Joel Gott 815 California Cabernet Sauvignon makes everything better.

So I looked at the energy costs from 2009 at our old house.  This was the last year I have complete records for on a previous spreadsheet.  The records I pulled for this new house span from March last year when we were still finishing the house through this month’s bills.

The old house was a cookie cutter colonial, about 2,700 sq. feet.  In 2009 there were just 2 of us and a baby.  Heating was natural gas, electric everything else including cooling.  The furnace had a humidifier too. We had city water and sewer at the old place.  Why this is important is for two reasons: city water and sewer means water magically shows up and leaves the house and we pay a bill to the utility to make that happen.  This also means we’re not really expending any electricity to get that water and send it back, as far as I know.  The old house also had about half the number of light bulbs compared to our over the top new house and it’s hundred or so light sources.  Cooking was natural gas predominantly.  Washer and dryer were electric just like in new house (we have the same appliances in the new place).  Most of the light bulbs were incandescent but many were CFL’s and a few halogen bulbs; no LED’s. Finally we had a gas fireplace but we never really used that.

The new house is about 3,000 sq. ft. and there are 4 of us in here living.  Heating and cooling comes by way of our hybrid system employing geothermal and natural gas. Our fancy system also had an air exchanger and full house air filtration system.  Water and sewer is handled by our cistern and septic systems.  Both of these run off of electricity to pump water in, filter it and send it back out after our bodies filter it a little more.  The new place also has a sump pump which runs all the time basically to keep us from going under water during wet periods.  Cooking is handled by duel fuel range, and electric appliances.  As I said the new place has a ton of light sources, i.e. bulbs, so that alone is a huge load.  Only 4 of the bulbs are LED’s (not including the range hood’s 4 LED bulbs). The rest are all incandescent light bulbs.  The fireplace is our handy-dandy pellet burning unit, and we’ve barely made a dent in our free ton of pellets we got from Northfield Fireplace. It’ll be 2014 before I have to buy pellets.  We run the fireplace every few nights when hanging out in the family room.

Usage and lifestyle are about the same in both homes, for example in terms of watching tv and play video games.  The new place does not have any electric garage door openers though, not that it matters a whole lot.  I’ve just been too cheap / broke to put them in yet.

R Family Company, LLC estimated we’d use $2,413 annually on gas and electric when they did our Energy Start rating last year.  The engineer and architect estimated the usage to be around $1,500 – $2,000 a year just for HVAC…I think.  I’d have to delve into the paper work a bit more to confirm that.  In reality we’re pretty darn close to those numbers, after considering a few things.  I added up utility costs across the four major utilities most of us pay: electric (E), natural gas (G), water (W) and sewer (S).  Other utilities are lifestyle like phone, cable and internet so they’re not important in my calculations.  So adding up EGWS we’re at about $3,080 for the year 3/12 to 2/13.  Our 2009 total in the old house was $3,129.  So actually a little LESS in the new place.  Now there are some expenses not added into the new house such as septic service like getting it pumped out or fixed if it broke.  Same for the water system and sump pump in terms of repairs.  I did include bleach and filters for the water purification system.  HVAC filters would be an added cost in the new home too (the old place had a washable filter).  There is one bill for electric in March of last year that was $800 when we had the resistance heater in place I believe.  That throws our new house total off a bit.  If you take most of that out of the equation then we’re spot on with the $2,400 estimate Bob gave us from Energy Star.

Here's what we paid in 2009 and what we paid in our first year in the new house (most of the year at least)

Here’s what we paid in 2009 and what we paid in our first year in the new house (most of the year at least)

Our Natural Gas (G) usage plummeted off the face of the earth.  Dropping a whopping 90%, I don’t even think the gas furnace kicks in all.  You can see it rises in the winter, so some heat usage and probably more cooking usage as well.  Most of what we pay for gas is fees, taxes and the privilege of having access to gas.  The geothermal heating is just fine for us.  It’s not too cold or clammy like some people claimed it to be.  The fireplace is offsetting some of this too, so figure if we had to buy pellets (a $100-$250 a year maybe?) our heating cost would go up.

Electrical (E) usage is way over the top at nearly 3x the usage of the old house.  But consider: that wild March bill last year, the septic, sump and cistern all running off electric, electric oven and the biggest culprit all the light bulbs…all add up to higher (E) usage and costs.

Water (W) and Sewer (S) costs are a fraction of what they were but once I have to maintain the systems it’ll be a wash I bet….think about replacing the septic tank, field and cistern and there isn’t enough wine in the world to make that not be a major bummer, man.

First Energy now has this cool energy usage graph that customers can utilize to see where they are spending money on electricity

First Energy now has this cool energy usage graph that customers can utilize to see where they are spending money on electricity

Here's another First Energy  graph that highlights electric usage

Here’s another First Energy graph that highlights electric usage

I logged onto First Energy’s site and they have a new energy summary that will show you how much energy you’re using and where at.  It looks pretty good though it works off of a lot of assumptions, I’m not sure you should get too hung up on the exact numbers.  I filled in all kinds of info about my appliances and house.  I like all the color coded graphs and bars.  It even compares my house to the average house.  For electricity we barely beat out an average house ($27 per month) but for overall energy we win by a large margin ($700 annually). It’s actually embarrassing see our costs pegged all the way to the left on the little cost graph……not.  Granted these numbers are just one month’s were of data I think.  I’d have to delve into it deeper to see what a year would really save us.  Also I need to go back and look at our Energy Star docs and engineering docs to see what they estimated and where we landed.  For instance I think the engineer said about $1,000 annual saving on HVAC alone.

By the way, we keep the house at about 70 degrees throughout the year.  The fireplace thermostat gets set at 75 degrees in the evenings just in the family room area.  Personally I need to be in a certain thermal band to be comfortable so I’m not one to dial the temp up or down to far, even to save cost and planet.

I wish someone invented a smart meter, that my utility companies would support and use, that would do all this monitoring for me and just output a report on my computer or phone. Maybe I should design one.

We can save costs in the coming year a couple of ways.  Convert more bulbs to LED’s, especially the bulbs we use the most.  I plan on insulating the hot water tank. I did that in the old house.  We can insulate the basement walls even more, insulating the top 4′ that are at or above grade.  There are some air holes at the corners of some of the exterior doors that I need to close up as well.

One note, when we go to install a solar power system, having this historical electrical usage will be helpful in sizing the system. Right now it’d be difficult to go zero energy (use as much or less than we produce) because we’re at about 17,250 KWH per year.  Let’s say we had 15,000 KWH per year…that translates to a 15 KW solar system.  That would take up about 1,500 square feet of space….our garage roof is probably about 600 square feet (the part that faces southwest).  So we’d have to cover the house bits up too with solar panels.  Cost would be somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000 to install.  Not too bad considering there’s a Jeep I’d love to have that costs $40,000.  Savings over 20 years could be as high as $20,000 to $40,000 (including tax breaks and factoring in the cost of the system i.e. above and beyond).  The system would save between 400 and 800 thousand lbs of CO2 as well.  These are just wild ass guess numbers I gleaned from Dove Solar & Wind’s website while drinking my wine.  Our system would ultimately be smaller; we’d reduce our usage quite a bit and employ other goodies like solar water heating and LED’s everywhere.

Also today we went to the zoo.  They had a cool exhibit talking about collecting rain water and rain gardens.  Around this building there were two rain gardens with a “bio swale” connecting the two.  This inspired me.  We’ve got this surface water problem in the front yard that I’m going to tackle this Spring.  It’s late so I’ll talk more about it in a future episode.  For now you can look at a  couple pictures of the front yard and our temporary pond so to speak.  Night kids.

This is the little pond we get between the lawn and front bed, every time it rains or the snow melts.

This is the little pond we get between the lawn and front bed, every time it rains or the snow melts.

Spring project will be to address the surface water issue by reworking the topography by hand to get the water to drain.

Spring project will be to address the surface water issue by reworking the topography by hand to get the water to drain.