Federal energy initiatives push to inform the public on different lighting options for their homes and businesses.  The recent implementation of the Lighting Facts product label is possibly the epitome of this energy efficient lighting movement, as lawmakers continue to try to outlaw incandescent light bulbs.  One of the most important metrics on the Lighting Facts label is brightness.  Appropriately listed first on the lighting facts label, its purpose is to guide the consumers to making the correct purchase for their home based on sound principles.

For years, homeowners bought light bulbs based on their watt rating; with the understanding that the more watts that the light bulb was rated, the brighter it would be.  The truth is the relationship between watts and brightness of light output is rather indirect.  A watt is a unit of power, or energy consumed by the light source. A watt rating, as indicated on the traditional incandescent light bulb and on the lighting facts label, represents the amount of watts consumed by the light bulb in one hour of use.  If consumers want to buy a light bulb that will emit a certain level of  brightness, then they should buy a light bulb based on its rating of lumens. 

Making a unique, modern LED headboard is a fun  project that can be built and mounted in a weekend for only a few bucks.  This article will cover materials and  products needed to complete the project; as well as a few helpful tips to  guide you along the way.  Here is a list of materials you will need:
Total cost: $76
Other miscellaneous materials include screws and construction adhesive.
First, start with a sheet of melamine.  This will be the primary structure of your headboard.  Melamine is a  building material that has similar properties to a laminate countertop, but is  sold in thinner sheets that are dimensionally similar to plywood and drywall.  Melamine is also commonly used to build cabinets and shelving.   If you prefer to keep this process as simple as possible, purchase a pre-cut shelf that comes in a variety of sizes.  It comes in white but can be painted a desired color to match your bedroom.   Don’t forget to cover the unfinished edges of your headboard with BAND-IT iron on edging for a professional look.

A unique but practical way to cut back on energy consumption is to create an energy budget.  While this may seem inconvenient it is effective and parallels many other methods of cutting back.  We budget the way we spend money, we count calories, and manage our time the same way; so why not budget our energy consumption?

 Just as any of these other methods, a homeowner must first start with a plan, and then must acknowledge and commit to the plan everyday along with anyone else who lives in the home.  This may seem restricting and inconvenient, but often people don't realize how much energy they waste every day without even knowing it.

 For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus this sample energy budget on electricity.  Begin by assessing the amount of electricity consumed by larger electric appliances in your home.  Examples would be refrigerators, microwaves, electric ovens, and heating and cooling units.  This information is available on energy star labels that are provided with your
appliances.  If you do not have the information with your owner’s manual, try looking it up online at energysavers.gov.  The information we are looking for is energy consumption in watts per year.

There are many ways one can lower energy bills.  The key is identifying where a home is most energy inefficient.  This contributing factor could be one of many different deficiencies that are often relatable to a particular region's climate or how certain homes were built at a certain time.  For example, older homes were built with very little or no insulation, making the contributing factor for high energy bills the building envelope.  In older climates where heating systems are in demand for most of the year, well insulated windows walls and doors are often cost effective energy upgrades.  
While heating and cooling loads drive up energy costs there are other common energy deficiencies that are often overlooked. A DIY home energy audit can help you determine what these are.  While aspects of an energy audit relating to the building envelope are pretty straight forward, finding sources of inefficient lighting technology is a little less intuitive.  

In a recent post, we discussed how occupancy sensor switches can be combined with low voltage lighting in a harmonious union of energy efficiency.  Even without the occupancy sensor, low voltage lighting systems are very energy efficient.  It is important to recognize the benefits of using low voltage lighting where practical, and how building codes are starting to adopt energy efficiency initiatives that require low voltage lighting.

Often, low voltage circuits come with dimming switches to decrease energy consumption when full illumination is not required.  They also often include built-in timers with auto on and off functions; this is especially useful for outdoor landscaping lighting and low voltage security lighting.  These applications often demand electricity for longer periods of time compared to indoor artificial light.  For this reason, energy efficiency is important.  The built-in automatic timer will also add to the convenience of the lighting system.

These are interesting times for those who enforce energy standards across the United States.  Building codes and ordinances are similar to any other laws enforced by the judicial system in that they exist on several levels.There are international building codes, federal and state building codes, and even local building codes and ordinances.  While each set of regulations has similar fundamental characteristics, one can see variance according to a particular region's energy initiatives.  

Energy efficiency initiatives are they driving force behind changes in building codes to become more stringent on energy consumption.  While Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland remain some of the most energy efficient countries, the United States struggles to keep up.  One state that is pushing energy efficient initiatives far more than others is California. The results are proven by a measure of per capita energy consumption. California's per capita energy consumption is 50% less than the average of all other states.  

One large contributing factor to California's energy efficiency achievements is the Title 24, Part 6 of the 2008 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. These standards meet and exceed federal Energy Star standards for many categories of building code requirements.  One category that is strongly enforced in terms of energy efficiency is lighting, section 150(k).  

To illustrate the potential savings of switching your traditional incandescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs or other energy efficient light sources, Energy Efficient Lighting Supply has created the Annual Energy Savings Calculator.  All you have to do is type in the watt rating of your current light bulb, the watt rating of a comparable LED light bulb, and how long the light will be on each day.  The calculator does the rest and immediately reports the amount saved per year in energy costs.

On a recent trip to buy light bulbs, you may have noticed a label on light bulb
packaging that looks strikingly similar to the nutrition facts label on items at
the grocery store.  This new label, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission,
is designed to help consumers choose the correct light bulb based on criteria
pertaining to lighting quality and energy consumption.  For years, consumers
have purchased light bulbs based on the wattage or power consumption
and the capacity of the fixtures the bulb would be installed in.  This traditional
rule of thumb is actually backwards, and only applicable to incandescent light

In an effort to produce more energy efficient and long lasting products, the lighting industry has produced different light sources that install in your traditional fixtures, but, because of varying technical attributes, produce different levels of light output that do not directly correlate to wattage.  After all, the purpose of an energy efficient light bulb is to produce the same quality of light while having a
lower wattage (power consumption).  This how-to guide will introduce the facts
on the lighting label and how to make sense of them.

 1.  Brightness- Perhaps the most important piece of information on
the lighting facts label is the measured amount of light emitted by a light
source.  It is measured in lumens, which can be further understood with
knowledge of the unit of foot-candles.  However, as a rule of thumb for
consumers, a 60 watt incandescent light bulb produces about 890 lumens.  Using this basis, energy efficient lighting decisions can be made according to light production not power consumption.

 2.  Estimated yearly energy cost- This fact is very self-explanatory as stated on the label.  It can be useful when comparing two labels side-by-side because the cost for each will be associated with the same amount of daily usage for the year. This number varies with usage per day and your utility rates.  As utility rates increase your annual savings compared to a less efficient light bulb will increase as well.

 3.  Life- Pertains to the average life of the product based on 3 hour per day usage.  The light bulb can last longer or shorter based on daily use. It is important to consider this number when comparing estimated yearly energy costs among light bulbs.  On an economic basis, the replacement cost associated with the life of the light bulb will impact the cost effectiveness of
your purchase more than the yearly energy costs associated with using the light bulb.  

 4.   Light Appearance- The label portrays light appearance on a kelvin scale of warm to cool.  This refers to the color temperature of all visible light.  The warmer the light the more yellow or orange it appears, a cooler light bulb will appear white and almost have a tint of blue in it.  This aspect of the label has no association with efficiency of the light bulb but can
be very useful to a consumer.  In general, warm lights are desired for interior use in living spaces as ambient lighting.  Cooler light appearance is desired for outdoor use or in kitchens or workspaces where high color temperature comparable to natural daylight is desired. 

  5.  Energy Use- A Watt is the unit for power and refers to the energy consumption of a light source.  The lower the number the more energy efficient the light bulb is.  As said before, this number has no universal indication of how bright a light source will be.

  6.  Contains Mercury- This note represents that improper disposal of the light bulb can be an environmental hazard.  A lot of people don’t understand that even though compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are considered environmentally friendly because they use less energy, they still contain mercury.  For proper disposal procedures visit epa.gov/cfl as indicated on the label.


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