A Greener Home – 3 Small (or Big) Changes You Can Make Now

How many of us would like to make our homes greener, but are put off by the cost? There are lots of great things we could do if we only had an unlimited budget… we dream of going off-grid but never take a step towards it as we just can’t afford the investment.

While it would be great to take giant steps towards a greener lifestyle, there are plenty of small steps that we can take now, instead of waiting to win the lottery. Here are a few suggestions:

Showerheads-water-savingWater Saving
Small Step: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of saving water is by switching your regular shower head to a low flow, water efficient shower head. Typically you can cut your shower water consumption by half. In an average household where three showers are taken a day, this would save 38,000 litres a year. The cost of a low flow showerhead can be anything from R100 to R1000, so do your research first to find the right one for you. Continue reading

Green Gifts For Valentines Day

So red roses are out as a romantic gift, if your love is a green, green eco-warrior… so what would he or she like instead, as the ultimate romantic gesture that shows that you are equally committed to their environmentally friendly ideals?

soy heart candleNatural heart candle
A heart shaped hemp and soy candle with a gorgeous scent ticks all the boxes for a romantic token.  The oils are totally natural and beautifully silky so that you can use them as massage oils after you’ve enjoyed your candlelit dinner. This candle is available from Hemporium in several fragrances and is 100% vegan. Continue reading

LED Lighting Rebates From Eskom

LED-light-bulbs-eskomHave you been thinking of going greener at home but haven’t got around to it yet. Eskom’s latest residential rebate program might be just the incentive you need. They are offering to replace existing halogen downlighters with LED lighting alternatives for free! If it seems too good to be true check out the details as laid out by Eskom’s service provider on this project. Continue reading

LED Lighting – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

LED-Light-bulbs-rangeWe’ve all heard the claims by now – LED lighting uses far less electricity, saves costs, lasts much longer and is a far greener solution than either the old incandescent bulbs or the newer ‘energy-saving’ bulbs.

So as good green consumers we go out to buy some, only to be brought up short by the price. At R200 for a light bulb our green principles suffer a set-back. Maybe we find a cheaper version, try it out for a while and are disappointed in its performance: the colour is harsh, the light is too dim or it just doesn’t last as long as the claims. Continue reading

Beat the Heat – Cool Lighting from LED bulbs

LED-light-bulbSummer has arrived with blast in Cape Town and we’re all wilting. Any way of keeping the house a degree or two cooler would be a blessing. So we have another reason to look at switching to LED bulbs to light up our homes: they are much, much cooler than incandescent light bulbs.

The old incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient in the way they convert electricity to light, giving off quite a  bit of heat in the process. This means that several bulbs lit for an hour or two will contribute to the heat build-up in a room quite significantly. Statistics I’ve seen estimate that just one bulb lit in a small, closed, unventilated room would up the room temperature by 6C over one hour. Now normally the room would be ventilated so the heat rise would be less but even so, who wants even one more degree of heat when it’s already sweltering?

LED bulbs on the other hand remain cool when lit, using the electricity far more efficiently to produce light not heat. So they aren’t adding to the sultry summer temperatures; besides the fact that they use far less electricity to run. Find out more about switching to energy efficient LEDs by contacting a specialist in LED lighting, who will be able to give you more idea of the best options currently available.

Eskom Offers Businesses Rebate for LED Lighting

replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDGreat news for South African businesses that want to go green: Eskom is offering rebates on the initial costs of changing over to a more energy efficient system, including purchases of LED bulbs and downlights. This great offer applies to businesses, retail outlets, guest houses, industrial and commercial properties and would be a great way to fund a total change over from conventional lighting to LED lighting. The rebate is of up 85% of the total cost.

There are many businesses that would like to become more environmentally friendly but haven’t yet been able to afford the total investment of changing over – this is the perfect opportunity for them.

There are various conditions to qualify for the scheme, one of them being that the changes must save a minimum of 2Mw per annum. This can be a tricky thing to work out for yourself so it is strongly recommended to get the advice of a specialist supplier of LED lighting. They can assess your energy usage and work out the savings that would accrue from a changeover to LED, as well as guiding you through the process of applying for the rebate.

While you are looking at LED lighting don’t forget about your display signs too. Switching over from fluorescent light boxes to LED lightboxes, from neon signs to LED signs can also add to your energy efficiency, cutting costs in the long run.

Photo copyright © Joshua Huber | Dreamstime.com

Earth Hour 2012 in South Africa

earth hourEarth Hour looks set to soar to new heights of enthusiasm and participation this year. Their ‘I Will if You Will’ campaign has attracted a huge amount of interest. South Africa has been particularly inspired with celebrities pledging all sorts of crazy or fun things for Earth Hour in return for various pledges of eco-friendly actions in return.

The focus for 2012 is on promoting long-term changes in behaviour to help the planet. Turning off your lights for one hour may not save much electricity in itself, but becoming aware of what you are using and committing to saving energy in the long term is the ultimate goal.

solar lanternAnd have fun while you’re doing it! Earth hour encourages people to switch off all unnecessary lighting, but not to compromise safety and security.

While it is tempting to celebrate with a candle-fest, remember that ordinary candles are made from petroleum products, so have their own effect on the environment. Either use natural beeswax or soy candles which are less polluting, or go for the clean energy of solar lanterns if you want to create a romantic low-light atmosphere for the occasion.

So start getting ready for Earth Hour by equipping yourself with natural candles or solar lighting and then as a bonus you’ll also be ready and prepared for any involuntary power outages that come our way this winter!

Consol Solar Jars

Consol solar JarI first saw these fun solar lamps on urban sprout. I thought it was a great idea but then promptly forgot all about them.

A little while later my sister-in-law returned from the Design Indaba in Cape Town with one for us as a present, saying it was the best thing she saw there.

So last night in addition to our usual candle at supper we had the glow of our very own solar jar. It came already charged, so I haven’t had time to assess how long the light lasts for on an average solar charge, but last night at least it shone surprisingly brightly for several hours.

The jar is now charging outside on the grass – it’s a lovely sunny day so hopefully it should reach its maximum charge to shine again tonight. A great idea, only depending for maximum efficiency on us remembering to put it outside to charge.

Solar jar lampEdited to add: Two days later it has been recharged outside and is still shining brightly for as long as we need it every evening. The ‘boys’ took it apart and approved of its construction, sturdy batteries and LED light bulbs, so altogether we think it is great value for money. And pretty cool too!

Buy solar jars online direct from Consol’s Solar Jar website if you want to try them out for yourself. Or they are available from the Consol retail outlets in Stellenbosch and Woodmead, Gauteng.

LED Light Bulbs – Research Before You Buy

LED light bulbLED light bulbs are moving into the main stream now – anyone looking for energy saving light bulbs for the home, can now choose between CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) which used to be the only alternative to the old incandescent bulbs, and LEDs, the new kids on the block.

LEDs have plenty of advantages – they use much less energy even than CFLs, 30-50%more efficient; they last a whole lot longer, up to 50,000 hours as opposed to 10,000 hours, ten years of more of average use; they are far less fragile, being a solid lighting system – no delicate filaments or glass to shatter when the cat sends the lamp flying.

With regard to the cat disasters – we’ve found that the CFLs that we switched over to several years ago almost never have the life span they advertise. If the cat doesn’t knock over the lamp, scattering shards of glass and fragmenrts of mercury under the fett of kids and animals alike, then the all too frequent power surges or power outages put paid to several light bulbs each time – CFLs just don’t like extremes of temperature or being switched off and on too much. LEDs apparently are much more resilient.

The main disadvantage of LED lighting, now that the light quality is every bit as good, and often better than, CFLs, is price. LEDs still cost considerably more than CFLs. Even though LEDs work out to be the cheapest option long term, once you work out their life span and energy savings, it is still quite an initial expense to equip a whole house with LEDs. So the answer is to do your research before you buy.

While prices are coming down, it doesn’t work just to buy the cheapest brand from a supermarket shelf. As with any new technology there are cheaper, lower quality versions that don’t live up to the LED promise, and which are sure to disappoint. You need to inform yourself about the quality brands of LEDs first of all. In South Africa, some of the reliable brands available are CREE, Edison, Bridgelux and Epistar.

Next work out your requirements – do you need overhead dangling light bulbs, or spotlights, reading lamps or tube lighting. You will need to read the labels attentively to get an idea of light output, whether it is omni-directional or focussed light, warm or cool temperature.  Check out this article written by a journalist trying out LEDs in his own home. The brand names available are different in SA but the choice is about as wide.

Next compare prices among the better quality brands. You will probably find they vary a lot, so find a specialist supplier that stocks the top brands at a reasonable price. Bargain basement is not a good idea when you are shopping for a product that you hope will last you 10 years or more.

One of the most reasonably priced suppliers of LED lighting in Cape Town that we’ve found is CandelaLED – they source direct from the manufacturers so are able to supply their LED  light bulbs and general lighting at an affordable price. Because they specialise in LED they can also advise on the best product for each lighting situation.

And while replacing every light bulb in the house with LEDs is probably beyond the budget of the average householder, there’s no reason why you can’t commit to buying ,say, one or two LED light bulbs per month and gradually introducing a more sustainable lighting system in your home. That’s our plan at least!

LED lights are the new green

Those cute curly light bulbs are no longer on the green shopping list. CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are no longer the cutting edge of energy-saving technology. The new lighting kid on the scene is the LED. OK so LED lighting technology has been around for a while, but mostly in smaller lighting situations, such as the on/off light on the TV or, more recently, long-lasting, pin-point flashlights.

The good news is that advances in LED technology means it can now be used in the home and office to replace all the old style tubes and light bulbs. More good news is that LED lighting is very energy-efficient, long-lasting and reliable. The only bad news is that it’s still more expensive to purchase initially than conventional old-style lighting.

So is it worth making the change?
Let’s look at how LED light bulbs compare with CFLs and you can decide for yourself

1. LED lights use 30-50% less energy than CFLs. This results in huge energy savings over their life-time and they end up paying for themselves in saved electricity costs in less than two years.

2. LED light bulbs last far longer than CFLs. They are less prone to burn out in hot or cold temperatures and last up to 50,000 hours, as opposed the less than 10,000 hours of CFLs.

3. LED’s are a solid light source and so are far more durable than CFLs, many of which never reach their optimum lifespan because of breakages.

© Nerus | Dreamstime.com

4. CFL’s contain mercury which is extremely toxic. When they break in the home this substance is dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with it. When disposed on in landfills the mercury remains toxic in the environment. While LEDs still need to be properly disposed of, as they do contain some heavy metals, they do not contain mercury. And because they last so much longer than CFLs there will be far fewer of them to be disposed of.

5. The quality of light in new technology LED’s is far better than most CFL’s and there is a wide range of colours and warmths to choose from.

With LED’s, as with most good things, you get what you pay for. There are many cheaper copies which won’t live up to the promises in terms of lifespan and energy saving. It is much better to invest in the best quality and latest technology that you can afford, from a reputable company, which will last you for many years, than to cut costs and end up with a lesser product. Look for established companies that specialise in LED products, such as Candela LED in South Africa, and get their advice on the best products to suit your needs.