Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A tale of two bulbs

A standard "Edison-base" lamp mount on the left and a "pin-base" lamp holder on the right.

Today we had our final visit from Efficiency Vermont which is the organization that encourages, measures, and rewards efforts towards energy efficiency in Vermont businesses and homes. Although we were attentive to meeting the required standards put forth to qualify for Energy Star rating and meet the requirements for the various incentives, I must admit I didn't actually hone in on what we needed to do to meet these points until fairly late in the game, basically confident in the knowledge that the standards to which we were building would far and away exceed their minimums.

Lighting was the one area that I struggled a bit with. In order to meet the standards set for our home we needed to have a minimum of 10 pin-based light fixtures in main living areas. "Pin-based" means what it implies, and ensures that the only lights that will work in it are florescent bulbs, guaranteeing reduced electrical consumption because you can't just throw in an incandescent bulb if you feel like it.

Early on Nancy and I went to a couple of lighting stores with "pin-based" fixtures in mind to look at the selection and were quite underwhelmed. I would say that maybe 1 or 2 percent of the available fixtures were of this type, usually housed in some neglected back alcove. As long time readers will recall, soon after this experience I became fixated on building my own light fixtures and discovered that I could build almost any light fixture with a pin-base, and so many of the lamps throughout the house now feature this type of lamp base.

Additionally, we purchased some LED recessed down-lights for the living room and a series of mini-florescent bulb-fixture combinations that are mounted in the track over our counters in the kitchen.

In advance of the visit from Efficiency Vermont I knew we were in pretty good shape, but I was a little uncertain if groups of lights would count as "a light" or as individual units, so I made sure we had the required minimum, even by conservative measures.

In the end we passed the needed minimums just fine. The irony is that we would be using mostly florescents even if we weren't incentivized to do so and the light bulbs that fit pin-based lamps are actually more expensive than the Edison-based florescents that you frequently see for sale.

The expectation is that in a few years the pin-based requirement will be outdated because you will not be able to buy incandescents any longer, so there will be no need to require a special mounting base. I suspect that as the pin-based bulbs die out I will rebuild the fixtures so that we only need to have one type of bulb on hand.

You might be interested to know that we expect to receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 in various incentives, rebates, and rewards for meeting the required guidelines. We will also be given what is known as a HERS rating, which stands for Home Energy Rating System and is a standardized number that allows comparison with other buildings and buildings in other regions. More about this later.

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