Archive for the ‘Green Lighting’ Category

Green Lighting



A New Product We Like

At Form + Function we are always looking innovative lighting solutions and we are especially excited when we come across products that “just make sense”, like the Dark Sky light bulbs designed by Bulbrite.
These energy-star rated compact fluorescent lamps have a shielded base that aims the light only where it is needed. This eliminates the need to replace or retrofit an existing fixture to comply with dark sky regulations.
Using a 15W compact fluorescent lamp it produces the same amount and quality of light as your conventional 60W incandescent lamp.
Even if your neighborhood does not call for dark-sky-friendly lighting you might still want to consider these innovative bulbs as a responsible and at the same time aesthetically pleasing, glare-free solution for your outdoor fixtures.

Less Is More
Outdoor lighting is important not only for decorative reasons, but also to improve safety and security.
Many homeowners, however, are not aware that a little light goes quite a long ways outdoors. They think more is better and install an excessive amount of light sources, or – almost worse – a few harsh spotlights with high wattage that bathe their driveway (and half of the neighborhood) in a bright light.
Aside from these commercial spotlights just looking plain ugly and making your front yard resemble a prison camp, they are not a very neighbor-friendly or environmentally responsible solution.
Some people say they feel safer when their property is properly lit. However, light alone does not provide security. In brightly lit spaces you are exposed to glare as well as harsh shadows and the abrupt transition between these areas feels uncomfortable (someone lurking in the shadows?).
Good outdoor lighting design on the other hand defines the space in an aesthetically pleasing way. It just feels comfortable and safe. It is indirect, discreet and subtle. You know it when you see it, you feel it a sub-conscious level, but you don’t stop to think about why.
That’s the reason we recommend to light where you need it, when you need it, and no more.

Tip: If you live in an area where you feel there’s a need for a bright spotlight at times (just in case) put it on separate switch that you can turn on from inside your home – and keep it off unless it’s an emergency.

Having moved from Germany to New Mexico many years ago I still can’t get over the beauty of the starlit sky. For that matter I didn’t really know that there were THAT many stars before we moved here. Living in a large metropolitan area I had never actually seen them.
I therefore welcome the efforts our community is making to avoid or fight light pollution.
The phrase Light pollution was first coined by astronomers in the 1970s. It refers to the sky glow mainly above major cities that obscures our view of the night sky.
One could say that if light pollution were the inevitable price of progress, we’d just have to live with that loss and accept it, but it is not. Most light pollution is totally unnecessary, caused by inefficient light sources and lack of awareness.


LEDs innovative lighting solutions at Form + Function

You just had to spend a few minutes at this year’s Lightfair in Las Vegas to see what is hot: Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) were EVERYWHERE! Strip lights, under cabinet lights, a really cool paper thin tape light, puck lights – you name it. This (relatively) new kid on the block was definitely the star!So what’s all the buzz about? LEDS have been around since the sixties and we have all used LEDs in our everyday lives, most often without even being aware of it.

In the early years,LEDs were only available in the colors yellow, green and red and therefore their use was limited to signage, street signals and household appliances.  The color-changing capabilities and the unique vivid hues also made LEDs attractive for upscale bars, restaurants and even avant-garde home theaters.With the breakthrough development of a blue LED in the early ‘90s and the following developing a white LED new and exciting possibilities opened up to the lighting industry and they for sure took this challenge and ran with it! New products embracing the Solid-State technology are popping up everywhere.

Now for the very first time the consumer is faced with the choice: Do I choose an incandescent, a fluorescent or an LED sconce for my bathroom? Can I read by that cool LED desk lamp or am I safer with choosing the much more familiar halogen light?

As exciting as all the innovations are, white LED light is definitely still in the early stages and has quite a few hurdles to overcome before it will be a competitive alternative to other traditional light sources.
In my opinion the three main concerns our customers face are: What do I get for my money, how much energy do they really save and can they actually illuminate something, like a page in my book, or are they just decorative?

Light fixtures equipped with LEDS are in general quite a bit more expensive than alternate choices, but if you got exactly the same value in terms of efficacy and quality light output, their long life would make them the more cost effective choice.

The life span of LEDs is impressive compared to incandescent, halogen or fluorescent alternatives with expectancies in the 100.000+ hours (A good old incandescent lamp has a life expectance of a measly 750 hours and a halogen lamp 3000+ hours). You’d have to change quite a few conventional light bulbs in those 100.000 hours!
FYI: LEDs don’t just burn out, but continue to operate while slowly producing less and less lumens. At some point don’t they produce enough lumens for task lighting. Their life span is therefore generally measured up until the time when they have lost 30 – 50 percent of their initial light output.

So, back to the second question: How is their overall effectiveness, how energy-efficient are LEDs?
In 2006, some LEDs became as effective as incandescent lamps with 15 – 30 lumens per watt, just two years later, in 2008, LEDs reached the efficacy of linear fluorescents with 60-80 lumens per watt.
Just like the infant years of fluorescents that made millions of consumers loathe the product for bathing a space in an unattractive greenish or pinkish hue, the color temperature of the white LED is still being fine-tuned. Great strides are being made to reach warmer tones that resemble what we are used to for interior lighting and some latest product releases show real promise in that respect.
At Lightfair we ordered several samples of LED task lighting that are currently being installed in our new showroom. We like to see for ourselves before we start dealing out advice to our customers and getting carried away by cool innovations.

So the answer to the third question will follow later.



Compact Fluorescent bulbs have surged in popularity in recent years due to heightened awareness of environmental issues paired with the rising costs of energy.
Fluorescent bulbs are by far more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, but on the flip side they contain mercury, a highly persistent neurotoxin and long-lived environmental contaminant that has the potential to build up in our food chain.
Mercury is an essential, irreplaceable element in a fluorescent lamp. It is what allows the lamp to be an efficient light source.
There is no way around it, and there would be practically no danger to the environment if the bulb was handled and disposed of properly. But when a fluorescent lamp breaks, either in the house or at the landfill, the mercury content is released.
Each compact fluorescent bulb only contains a minuscule amount of mercury (about as much as would fit on the period at the end of this sentence) and is not considered harmful to operate in a home. Even if a bulb should break in your home, there is no need to panic or call the authorities.

So, you broke a CFL, What now?
First open the windows and leave the room for 15 minutes or more to let it air out. Wearing disposable gloves use a piece of cardboard and damp paper towel to scoop up all pieces. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner. Put all pieces as well as your gloves in a ziplock bag and seal it. Now you can throw it in the trash. Wash your hands. – Done.Since each fluorescent bulb only contains very little mercury, it is more the accumulation of all the small bits of mercury in each bulbs which could become a real problem to the environment if sales balloon as expected. In spite of these facts it is nevertheless evident that a switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would actually reduce the release of mercury into the atmosphere.
Mercury in the air comes primarily from burning fossil fuels such as coal, the most common fuel used to produce electricity in the United States.
Because compact fluorescent lamps use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent lamps and last up to 10 times longer, a coal burning power plant will release less mercury into the environment to produce the electricity for a compact fluorescent compared to an incandescent bulb in order to run both for the same length of time.
Light bulb manufacturers like GE and Sylvania are aware of the concerns with the mercury content in CFLs and fluorescent tubes and are committed to reducing the mercury content to less than the 5 mg standard set by the National Electrical Manufacturers. Over the last few years we have seen such a surge of new developments within this energy-saving category of bulbs, so we can only hope that we will see drastic reductions in the mercury content in the near future.



Since we deal with customers first-hand on a daily basis we are aware of a lot of issues that cause concern or seem confusing in relation to the use of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs.) I will try to address a few of them here.
(to be consistent with the technical lighting lingo I will use the word “lamp” instead of “light bulb”, at least when I talk about CFLs.)

Why is a compact fluorescent lamp more efficient that an incandescent light bulb?
Fluorescent lamps are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs because of the different way they produce light.
Incandescent bulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. This is not a very efficient way of producing light.
Only 10% of the energy is used for light, while 90% of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted.
A fluorescent lamp, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. Because fluorescent lamps don’t use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent light bulbs.


Can I use a dimmer with Compact Fluorescent Lamps?
Until recently CFLs were incompatible with dimmers. Not anymore!
Today, there are some CFLs that can be used with regular incandescent dimmer switches. Make sure to check that your CFL is labeled as dimmable.
Most dimmable CFLs don’t dim to zero, but shut off completely when they reach about 20% light output.

Can I use CFLs outdoors?
Most CFLs are best used indoors as they don’t operate well in cold temperatures and can’t be exposed to the elements. There are, however, now outdoor CFLs on the market that are made to operate in colder temperatures and are specifically listed as UL Wet Location lamps.

Can I use CFLs in enclosed fixtures?
Yes. CFLs can be used in enclosed fixtures as long as there is sufficient air flow to cool the ballast. If the fixture is recessed and totally enclosed a recessed shower light it is not a good idea to use a CFL, since it would become too hot.

Why do CFLs look so twisted?
Most Compact fluorescent lamps are constructed by coiling long, thin high efficiency tubes to reduce their size and increase their light output. This way they fit into regular light fixtures.
However, not all that glows needs to squiggle!
Although the spiral CFL is the one we are most familiar with, there are now many shapes available, which offer greater decorative options.
Try candelabra CFLs in your chandelier, a globe CFL in your kitchen pendant light and Reflector lamps in your recessed cans. Since there is no way around the ballast and it’s not particularly attractive, I prefer CFLs in fixtures that will conceal it. So, if you want to switch to candelabra CFLs in your chandelier they will look best in a fixture with shades or diffusers.



Finally Santa Feans will be able to dispose properly of their used Compact Fluorescent lamps!

After we called around and found out that there is no option available to recycle fluorescent lamps anywhere in Santa Fe – or for that matter all of Northern New Mexico we decided that something had to happen!

Form + Function to the rescue!We contacted our lamp manufacturers and found out that several of them (at a cost, of course!) offer recycle bins distributed by EPSI (Earth Protective Services, Inc).EPSI is a company that according to their website is “dedicated to providing the highest quality, cost-effective waste management for electronic products. Our processes will return recycled materials to reusable commodities, while maintaining the highest level of professional standards and integrity ensuring regulatory compliance and guaranteeing customer satisfaction.”

Form + Function has now ordered several of their bins for CFL disposal that we want to make available to the public. We will pay for the proper disposal of CFLs in Santa Fe!



Compact Fluorescents are the way of the future, no question about it, but at Form + Function we still have a few questions that keep nagging us.
One is: What do we do with our burned-out fluorescents? If we urge all our clients to become good citizens and switch to CFLs before there is a effective, or for that matter any, recycling program in place (and they actually listen to us!) how is this going to affect the environment?

Disposing of fluorescent lamps
During the last few days the staff at Form + Function has been scouring the internet and calling around for solutions to the proper disposal of fluorescent lamps.
Remember, we just replaced hundreds of good old incandescent bulbs with CFLs throughout our Santa Fe showroom.
We didn’t want to wait until they started failing before we had a plan for their environmentally safe disposal. Ok, they are supposed to last forever, but we also know that the promised 10,000 hours lamp life is the average life span of a CFL. Some die young.

I liked one suggestion we found on the internet: “Since there is currently no nationwide recycling programs, we advice that you pack up your used fluorescent bulbs safely in a box and save them in your garage until one becomes available.”
Cute! Just like a box of Christmas ornaments to keep for your grandchildren!
Not a totally bad idea, but one that of course only really applies to you and me, who are conscientious and the good guys, all “the others” will for sure not go for this idea!

But where?
Many internet sources sternly warned that no CFLs or other fluorescent lamps are allowed in the trash, but should be brought to “Your local household waste recycling center.”
Curious to find out if such a thing existed around here we started calling around: Called the City, the landfill, the Solid Waste managers in Santa Fe as well as Los Alamos (New Mexico). Nobody wanted our dead CFLs. One waste manager suggested just throwing them in the trash! We were of course appalled!
Since we know better, we wanted a real solution. We called Wal-Mart: No recycling program, Sam’s Club: Nope, Home Depot:Will recycle at no charge as many full-size fluorescents as you buy from them. As for CFLs, “The mercury content is so minute, they don’t have to be recycled. You can throw them in the trash!”
We did find one place that would dispose properly of CFLs: Envirosolve in Albuquerque. For $1 a bulb they would do it. Albuquerque is about 60 miles from Santa Fe, so a $50 pick-up fee would be added. Not quite tempting enough!
Form + Function is now seriously looking into the logistics of offering a recycling program for fluorescent lamps in Santa Fe.
We will keep you posted with an update when we have finalized the details for it.



One of the most common reactions we get from our customers when we try to promote a fluorescent bathroom light is “No way, I can’t stand the color, it makes me look pukey green!”Well, while this might be the case for some cheap types of fluorescents, these energy saving lamps have actually come a long way in the last few years and there are a lot more flattering choices available.

So, how do I choose a high quality fluorescent tube or CFL?

Two scales are used to rate the “feel” and perceived quality of a light source:
Color Temperature and Color Rendering.

The Color Temperature measures how “warm” or “cool” a tint of white appears. It is measured in Kelvin (K).
The Color Rendering Index measures the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of an object.
A candle or the embers of a fire in the fireplace evoke a feeling of warmth and comfort.
Of all choices out there a regular household light bulb is the closest to this color temperature (2800K).
That is the reason it is so hard to let go of this energy guzzler. We grew up with it, it feels fcomfortable and inviting, we are used to reading, eating, seeing our faces in the mirror by it.
This is the color temperature most people associate with residential lighting.
Cooler color temperatures that are closer to the natural daylight are more frequently used in institutional settings and often appear clinical and unfriendly in a home.

There are, however, no “good” or “bad” color temperatures. Which ones you choose is as subjective as your color preferences for your walls. Different color temperatures might also be preferred for different tasks within a home.
You might want a lamp with a color temperature of 2800K next to your favorite reading chair when you curl up with a book or next to your bed. In the walk-in closet or the laundry room cooler color temperatures, however, generally do better job at helping you pair your dark socks, especially when combined with a high Color Rendering Index.
The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a rating scale of up to 100.  Lamps with a low CRI will make objects and skin tones look dull, while lamps with a high CRI, like incandescents and halogens make colors look more vivid and “true”.In general, a CRI rating above 80 means that a light source will render colors well. Since CRI figures are calculated for light sources of a specific color temperature, it is, however, important to compare two light sources of the same color temperature when determining which one will render colors the best.
So, when choosing between two CFLs compare two with the same degree K and choose the one with the highest CRI for better quality.

Over the last decades consumers have embraced new low voltage light sources, enjoyed the sparkle they produce and the new possibilities they offer for innovative designs and product development due to their miniscule size and almost everyone has readily adapted to the “feel” of their light.
Until not long ago the lowly fluorescent lamp, however, remained a stepchild.
Not anymore!!With the rising concerns about our natural resources and the impact of the waste of fossil fuels among the population the lighting industry was inspired to act, and act fast!
Consumers wanted to DO SOMETHING, but then again why should they forsake the incandescent bulb if there was no real alternative?
Despair no more! After we for decades only had the choice in fluorescents between “warm white” (Miss-Piggy-Pink) and “cool white” (Shrek-greenish) there is now a wide range of color temperatures available. 




This interesting article by the people at Luceplan just arrived in my mailbox this morning, and since it fits so well with my other posts of the last few days, I’ll include the total content.
“Saving resources is a demand that cannot be put off. For companies that produce lighting fixtures it’s an important issue. It entails not only the use of energy saving bulbs but also the design of lamps that make effective use of all types of energy sources and the improvement of standard performance levels. Design also needs to focus on the use of recyclable parts; assembly has to be rationalized to reduce packaging to a minimum; highly efficient new sources of light need to be studied and new types of energy and formal languages need to be explored, without neglecting people’s need to be surrounded by beautiful yet practical objects that enhance the quality of life.
Luceplan has forever committed its efforts to developing innovative solutions to reduce environmental impact.
In 1999 Ross Lovegrove designed the outdoor lamp with photovoltaic cells ‘Solar Bud’.
Next year, Luceplan’s focus on the environment continued in cooperation with Alberto Meda and Paolo Rizzatto. The duo -in advance of our times- introduced LEDs for domestic use by launching the lamp ‘Starled‘. In 2002, Luceplan funded a research project of two students on the use of natural light in internal spaces: the result was the lamp ‘Zeno’ by Diego Rossi and Raffaele Tedesco – a large luminous disk designed to mix multiple light sources, including sunlight. Technology improved and Luceplan continued to invest: in 2005, the duo Meda and Rizzatto returned their focus on LEDs to create ‘Mix’, a sophisticated and elegant reading lamp that was nominated by Legambiente for the Enviro-Friendly Innovation Award (Innovazione Amica dell’Ambiente). Two new eco-sustainable products were then launched at this year’s Salone del Mobile fair: the outdoor lighting system ‘Sky’ designed by Alfredo Häberli and the desk lamp ‘Berenice LED’ designed by Meda and Rizzatto. This latter creation was chosen for the architect Renzo Piano’s New York Times Building.”



In my last post I proudly showed the savings we had seen on our utility bill at the Form + Function showroom after switching to CFLs wherever we could.
It is indeed exciting, there is no doubt about it.
As a lighting showroom, we of course have A LOT of lights on all day long. We have no choice.
We have, however, over the years become increasingly aware of the fact that we all need to pitch in to reduce the use of items that cause a negative impact on the environment. With the arrival of much smaller CFLs and a variety of shapes that would fit into almost any fixture, we had no excuse not to go for it!
Of course we see it as an added bonus that green lighting is not only eco-aware, but cost effective.
Since you might have a hard time relating to our $600+ electricity bill (which is entirely for lighting) I have included a cost comparison chart published by the US Department of Energy.


To be honest: That doesn’t look quite as impressive. I save $20 in THREE YEARS! (Can’t buy a whole lot of lattes for that!)
But then again, that’s for ONE bulb. It all adds up!



This is exciting!!

Three months ago we decided to make a significant change in our showroom: We swapped all our lamps (bulbs) from incandescents to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs.)
Our lighting showroom is 4500 square feet and besides our extensive selection of low voltage fixtures and lighting systems, we show a large amount of wall sconces, pendant lights, chandeliers as well as portable lamps. Up until now we only used incandescent lamps in all those fixtures.

Our utility bill shows a charge of $608.64 for 9/16 – 10/16 2006and – tadaaa: $273.08 for the same timeframe this year!!!!
6953 kW used 2006/ 2870kW used 2007; the utility rates did not change.

Does it pay to go green? – We definitely know the answer now!

This month’s savings might pay for our next office party!