I recently extended the back of my house – which forced me to think through all the energy saving tips I could integrate into the build. I’m not sure I’d have bothered had we not been doing such major work, but it seemed silly to undergo the building without at least thinking about the house’s long-term carbon footprint.
40% House _Pioneers - Discover some low energy household pioneers,
Efficient Lighting - This is the only UK organisation to supply solely low energy light bulbs/. All our light bulbs in the library are sourced from here You can browse the website for the latest bulbs, and order your online. Tel: 08702 425 384
Light bulb bloggers - Is nothing sacred? A list of blogs about low energy lightbulbs...
Light bulbs and star signs - What's your star sign...and how many of you does it take to change a lightbulb? Some light- hearted humour if the LEDS, CFLs and CO2 gets too much!
Lightbulbs Direct - Large variety of low energy lightbulbs, including coloured bulbs
Light bulbs - Not such a bright idea - BBC article by Matt Prescott - why we should ban the traditional light bulb.
Light bulb Superstore - BLT Direct makes light work of buying light bulbs, lamps and tubes online in the UK and around the world. Range of bulbs on line, all bulbs, not just energy efficient
Lighting Directory - The Lighting Directory is a comprehensive online resource and directory of lighting suppliers. This page features Energy Saving Light Bulbs.
Lighting the key to saving energy - BBC article by Richard Black - how a global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world's electricity bill by nearly one-tenth.
We ensured all the walls and ceilings and floors were well insulated, using materials which went well beyond some of the cheaper ones on the market. We double glazed all the windows using timber-framed ones, we put in a new energy efficient boiler and heating system.
One of the more interesting things we decided on is called a ‘solatube’. The solatube is a small dome which sits on the roof and collects natural light, channels it down reflective tubing, and illuminates the room below – completely naturally. Our decision to use one was prompted by the fact that our new bathroom is windowless and we were reluctant to use a light every time we used it - day or night. From the inside all you see is a round frosted skylight, which filters in the light, and takes away the glare – and from the outside, an odd looking dome (which I really like and think is a design statement in itself). I had no idea what to expect from such a product. It cost around £300, but has been worth every penny. You would have to look twice in our bathroom to notice that there are in fact no windows. At dusk the ceiling light looks beautiful and glows a pretty orange color. Under clear skies and a full moon, there is enough shimmer to take the edge off the otherwise complete darkness, enabling me to ‘safely’ stagger to the toilet in the middle of the night! Of all our energy saving tips – this is by far my favorite.
The other major energy saving device we decided on was LED lights in our new kitchen and bathroom. I knew very little about these products, except that my husband had read an article in a magazine a few years ago, and learned that they are going to be the future of low energy lighting. If I’m honest, I didn’t really know what we were getting into, I knew we needed the extension to be wired from scratch, so I figured anything could be done. I didn’t really have any concept for what lights and wiring cost – although I realize in hindsight that we chose a very expensive option. I phoned Giles at Efficient Lighting. He was really helpful and talked me through various low energy options. We decided on the LED ones and I sent him our plans. He suggested twelve 3Watt LEDs in our kitchen and five in the bathroom. I went with it. Our electrician was happy to fit them, it didn’t seem to be anything unusual to what he was used to. The lighting requires a 240 to 12volt transformer – which was accidentally broken whist trying to fit it. Since the electrician was mid wiring, I offered to go out and buy a quick replacement. I was shocked to find that nowhere in Oxford sold these transformers. I went round every possible shop I could think of (including ones that other shops recommended), and was offered many 240 to 12 volt transformers for halogen bulbs, but none with a sufficiently small amperage to power LED lights. In one shop they could not believe that such transformers existed. So I went home and called Giles – who laughed and sent me a replacement in the post. It seems these things are more ‘exclusive’ than I realized. The electrician joked that I had used so much fuel driving round oxford, that I might as well have installed halogen lights in the first place. I chose to ignore this joke!
After fixing the transformer we were done. And what do I think? Well the bathroom is fantastic, we have two lights inside the shower and 3 outside. They look modern, funky, and very bright – and all for a total of 15 watts. The kitchen I’m not sold on. It’s not quite as bright as I’d like, and we do have to use a further lamp if we want to read or do work at the table. But for dining its fine. We could have installed more lights, but at £18 each, our bill was already getting pretty massive. I chatted this through with Giles, who offered us an alternative 9W low energy halogen replacement, which we tried, and really liked – but we really wanted to stick with the LEDs since this was what the whole lighting system was designed on. Only time will tell whether we regret the decision. I’m hoping, as the box tells me, that the LEDs will last for 10,000 hours so I’m not expecting to buy another lightbulb for a decade or so.
On reflection, I think LEDs are great if used well. I love our bathroom and think the lights look great. Where we went wrong was in trying to light a large area, and underspecing what we needed. They clearly work, we just need more. I’d use them again in a bathroom or small room, but maybe not for a larger kitchen. I’d probably wait a while and see what the market delivers. Maybe soon there will be more powerful LEDs out there which would give me just the effect I need and not cost substantially more.
So that’s it. We are now broke, but we have a nice house that should stay warm in the winter and light when we need it. If you have any examples of your own projects and what you think of the various tools, gadgets and gizmos on – or not on – the market – then please post a comment. Have you tried LED lights? What did you think? Why did you choose or choose not to have them?