LET THERE BE ENERGY SAVING LIGHT – Illumination and Solar 101


In a 1931 conversation with Henry ford and Harvey Firestone,  83 year old Thomas Edison commented:

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Our passive solar home with photovoltaic solar electric array and solar hot water tank

This is our direct current (DC) solar & hydro powered home. The advantage of DC is that electricity is stored in batteries for later use. 


How it Works:

(to see more detail click here to go to homepower.ca and then scroll down to power system 2)

24 volt battery bank

Off-grid electric system control center

How an-off-grid solar elctric system works.


The first strategy for energy saving illumination is to properly arrange windows to provide natural day lighting and solar heat gain during the cooler months . . .


Passive solar at the lake


When the sun goes down, interior lighting has to take over. This post will highlight numerous creative luminary forms, in an energy efficient home.


Dining room lights and windows

DINING ROOM: Energy Star light fixture with three 13 watt compact fluorescent’s


Foyer lighting

FOYER: – Ceiling fixture – 20 watt halogen;  Lamp – 13 watt Compact Fluorescent


Energy efficient lightbulbs vs. incandescent bulb

Comparison of light bulbs – left to right

5.5 watt LED, 13 watt CFL, 4 watt LED (pin mount track light), 60 watt incandescent.

Thomas Edison invented the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb, pictured above right. It was a revolutionary moment in 1882, when the Edison Illuminating Company switched on one of the worlds first electric utilities, empowering 59 customers in Lower Manhattan with 110 volt direct current (DC) current .

Cabin at night

Not Lower Manhattan

By 1887 Edison was operating 121 DC power stations in the United States, used mostly to provide  electric lighting. With the “war of current,” Tesla’s  alternating current (AC) won out, because unlike DC, it could be transmitted long distances.


office of energy efficiency - natural resources canada

Incandescent’s are being phased out.


Only 10% of the power they consume is converted to light. The other 90% is wasted as heat, which can create excessive air conditioning requirements in summer months.


Energy hog frog lamp - 40 watt incandescent



Meet our energy hog – frog lamp. It has a odd sized 40 watt incandescent bulb, that we haven’t yet replaced.


Guess what? This lamp is rarely turned on.


Compare it to the tiffany lamp below.


It has a 2 watt LED bulb that uses only 1/20th of the electricity!


2 watt LED lamp




2 watt LED



Here a couple of 13 watt CLF light fixtures illuminate my wife’s pantry.


13 watt CFL lighting in pantry


Ultimately, energy efficient lighting can save you money & time. It frees up power for other uses . . . and it plays a big part in reducing the overall effect of climate change.




Cost Analysis:                                    Battle of the Bulbs     

A. Type: 60-watt Incandescent (800 lm)                               Livng room lighting

700 to 1,000 hours

Cost/50,000 hours*
Bulbs required: 50 bulbs at $1/bulb
Energy cost: $300                                                                             

Total cost of lighting with incandescent

B. Type: 13-watt CFL (800 lm)

Up to 10,000 hours

Cost/50,000 hours
Bulbs required: 5 bulbs at $3.50/bulb
Energy cost: $65

Total cost of lighting with CFL

C. Type: 8-watt LED (800 lm)

Up to 50,000 hours

Cost/50,000 hours
Required bulbs: 1 LED at $30/bulb
Cost per 50,000 hours: $40

Total cost of lighting with LED


Above Right: Living room lighting – 2 watt LED lamp, 4 watt LED track lights, & Energy Star Ceiling Fan with 2 – 32 watt Fluorescent tubes.




I always examine the color temperature of a light bulb (measured in Kelvin). I prefer warm white at about 3000 kelvin, which is the color of incandescent lighting that people are most accustomed to. Daylight sounds good, but it creates a stark bluish light.  An example of this is the 1 watt LED lamp shown on top of the piano below.

Woodtove glowing


Here is a list of the light bulbs we use:  (mostly warm white)


21 –13 watt spiral CFL’s                                           16 watts of LED track lighting looking down to kitchen from loft

7 – 32 watt fluorescent tubes

15 – 4 watt LED track lights

8 – 5 watt, 2 watt and 1 watt LED bulbs

1 – 20 watt halogen bulb

4 – 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulb






During my building tech training, I remember an illumination course from back in 1976,  a few years after the energy crisis of the early 70’s. We learned that most commercial buildings are over illuminated . In general, lighting consumes a hefty amount of energy.


Power Consumption in Commercial buildings:

lights in commercial buildings


A kitchen does need to be well illuminated:

Dining room, kitchen, & pantry lighting


An office, like my wife’s writing space below, has specific task lighting.

Fran's office


She is working on her 2nd novel from this space. And it’s aptly titled:

The Light Never Lies . . .


Starry night at the cabin



The Buddha is happy there is energy efficient light!


13 watt CFL makes the buddha happy


And now the morning dawns . . .

View of the lake in early dawn



Let there be light . . .

Inspired by the weekly photo challenge


Solar panels on a bright cloudy day


Peace and good will to all planet earth – Bruce

19 thoughts on “LET THERE BE ENERGY SAVING LIGHT – Illumination and Solar 101

  1. Great to read an inspirational and informative blog – and the photos are a delight! Country living certainly has advantages – reminds me of my country roots, too. An interesting read Bruce – and i t’s always special to learn something along the way….

  2. you bring good light to this planet – helping others to see how to change current ways of living. your home – looks beautiful, warm and inviting. i like your chart showing the different lighting. going to buy bulbs…what a challenge these days. i wish they could phase out the incandescent ones and focus on the good stuff. thanks ☺

    • Exactly Sun – phase out the incandescent bulbs and start selling only Energy Star lighting fixtures. Then people wouldn’t have so much confusion and trouble figuring out the most efficient light bulb choice. Of course the marketeers may not approve.

      • maybe if sales plummet with those incandescent bulbs, marketeers would have no other choice but phase them out. obsolete, thing of the past… ☺

  3. What an amazing post – beautifully photographed, clearly written and compelling in many ways. Really well done and congrats on your incredibly efficient use of energy – your home is also beautiful. Sadly, while in China last month it occurred to me that we are really a drop in the ocean versus their incredible consumption and pollution-creation but it’s important to start somewhere, right? Great job!

    • Thanks Tina. I have never been to China, though I’m certain what you have seen and speak about is devastating and real.

      What I would say about China is to not forget that a lot of what they produce we consume! The rich world benefits from so many affordable consumer goods from China, like LED TV’s and computers. That means we must bear some responsibility too.

      Lets put trade aside and look at energy use. Those of us who are Americans or Canadians number about 355 million people, or about 5.5% of the worlds population and yet we consume more than 25% of the worlds energy. We are not a drop in the ocean! Even though the population of China is currently 1.36 billion, almost 4 x more than Canada and USA together, it is indisputable that the average American or Canadian consumes way more energy and consumer items (i.e has a way larger ecological footprint on the planet) than the average Chinese citizen.

      I did a bit of fact checking about this Tina – here is an excellent link to an article about North American consumption – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=american-consumption-habits. If you were to read it, I think you’ll find an amazing paradox of belief vs. pattern.

      The inequity and complexity of the problem, is why many scientists are telling us that the world needs mechanisms put in place in regards to excessive CO2 emissions and greenhouse gasses in all counties . . . . like those which the failed Kyoto Accord was attempting to put into action. A price or fee on Carbon for one.

      If we had to pay for x tons of carbon going out our exhausts or up in smoke (CO2) we wouldn’t waste so much of the precious hydro carbon molecules (oil,etc) in the first place. We’d leave much of it in the earth, and fully embrace sensible solutions Edison pointed out, like the winds, the tides and the sun.

      To emphasize this – why block the trade of way less expensive solar panels produced by China, by putting excessive tariffs on them. The oil lobby jumps to my mind.

      I hope you don’t misunderstand the intensity of my feelings here Tina – a bit of a rant indeed. I always respect and enjoy your wonderful perspective of the world, that comes through photography and stories. And I do understand how it is difficult to witness destruction – wherever or whenever it happens.

      I wonder though . . . when do we realize that the planet doesn’t recognize artificial divisions? Humanity, the forests, the mountains, the water, living creatures – we’re all in this together!

      Peace and best regards – Bruce

    • Thanks Nancy – ah the joys of rural life. We are grateful for our home in the country. Takes a while to get to the grocery store, mind you.

      Sorry about your messy neigbour 😦 . . . best regards as always – Bruce

  4. You have a beautiful house by some beautiful lake…..
    We also incorporated passive and active solar in our house. When the sun shines in brightly thru our south facing windows on a cold winter morning, we mostly don’t even bother to light the woodstove – the sun does the job for us. We have PV panels for battery storage and we have panels on the roof for hot water and radiant floor heat.
    Our hoop house doesn’t have any artificial heat source, but we built cold frames inside the hoop house, so our greens have double protection for really cold nights. It keeps us in greens all winter (at Zone 4).

    • Edison got it right about the sun, though his light bulbs have seen a better day.

      Great example and description of your solar home. And I love the hoop greenhouse concept – using a cold frame inside a cold frame is brilliant. It is something I had never thought about, and we will definitely incorporate this concept into our new solar greenhouse. Our old cold frame was 32 years when we had to tear it down recently.

      Building a simple cold frame is an affirmative action something everyone who has a yard or even a balcony can do – and the pleasure and practicality of growing your own food is a big step away from consumerism towards the conserver lifestyle. What a way to help heal the planet.

      Thanks for telling your solar powered story and bearing witness to the to the power of the sun. It makes me happy and hopeful that together we can create so many solutions – some big and some small – to help bring peace, justice and healing to each other and to the earth as a whole.

      • Well said, Bruce. If you want to check out Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest and similar books – he was our inspiration. He grows commercially in Maine (!) in these unheated, double protected greenhouses.

  5. extraordinary energy efficient effort
    champion of the planet.
    I aspire to do so well, with solar, to be off the grid, if I owned a home.
    it’s wonderful that higher efficiency bulbs have become common place. I use them, also.
    at the moment i’m saving energy by letting most of the house be cold on these below freezing nights , except for a little heating in this small bedroom. the warm fleece clothes are so happy for the attention.
    thanks for leaving the light of hope on 🙂

    • Ah – the best energy saving method ever – simply to conserve. I too love to put on my favourite sweater, and sometimes turning off the lights . . . 🙂

      The darkness – frees us of illusion, right?

      Like Mandela – “It is not the kings and leaders who make history – it is the masses.” I heard him speak these recorded words on the radio right now!

      Thanks for your aspirations, and your gesture of love. It is the first time ever, I’ve been called a champion and it makes me happy.

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