Let There Be (Effective, Energy-Efficient) Light!
As consumers and states get increasingly serious about green living, custom integrators and their interior design partners are learning how to use energy-efficient lighting options, most notably compact fluorescent and LED lighting. In the process, they’re discovering both pros and cons to these lighting alternatives.
“For years, our philosophy was to use lots of incandescent lights and then dim them to 80 percent,” says Ken Erdmann, president of Erdmann Group in Springville, Utah. “We can do that with incandescent easily.” These days, however, more customers are asking his company to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Energy Star-qualified Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs do, and they last up to 10 times longer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Erdmann, whose grandfather founded his company as an electrical contractor in 1916 and today generates about half of his revenues from residential systems integration, notes that California’s 2005 Title 24 energy code requires that at least 50 percent of a kitchen’s permanently installed lighting must be high-efficiency lighting, typically CFLs.
“As a lighting designer, we’re starting to work more with how to do the general lighting with fluorescent and use incandescent where we need it for spotlighting things,” says Randy Vaughan, president of Portsmouth, Va.-based AE Systems, which operates a home automation and entertainment division.
Drawbacks of CFLs
The trick for many integrators has been to learn how to work with CFL in situations where the lighting is to be dimmed.
Lighting manufacturers do make “dimmable” CFL bulbs with built-in ballasts. Erdmann’s company uses electronic dimming ballasts for CFLs in areas such as kitchens, garages and office spaces where lighting is expected to be dimmed. “Lutron makes a whole variety of dimming ballasts,” said Erdmann. “We can integrate those quite easily into our control system. It allows you to dim the lights and still use fluorescent lighting. The new fluorescent dimming stuff is pretty good.”