Thursday, September 18, 2008


This is going to be a little more "off the cuff" than my usual writings.

I am going to stick to
discussion of the Gulf coast
because I don't live too far
from Houston.

In the foreseeable future (and yes, those of you who know me know that I have said similar things before) disasters will become the norm. If you are not currently recovering from a disaster, then you should be thinking about (and preparing for) the next one. This may sound a little calloused, but most of the people in New Orleans in 2005 and those in Houston and Galveston this month were deluded into thinking it never could happen to them.

I have asked many Texans why anyone would live in the Houston or Galveston area, and have always been told "money. That is where the highest paying jobs are. " Well show me the money now. These same people are now asking for handouts from us people living in the poor upstate regions. They have also been asking for donations of clothing. At first, they said they would only take new, or new looking clothing. As they got a little desperate (a little desperation is good for the soul), they got a little less picky.

First, if you have a good high paying
job, you need to be putting aside
some money in a savings account.
Second, if you have to bug out for
a completely predictable disaster,
like a hurricane, you should take
at least 3 sets of clothes
and an ATM card.

Next is on a government level.
How much should it bother us that thousands of FEMA trailers were built, but never used after Katrina? How much should it bother us that many of them sit neglected in places like Arkansas?
These things were in the papers on a regular basis before IKE came ashore on the 12th. How much more should it bother us that there is no discussion of using them for long term (one to six weeks) housing of IKE evacuees?

In numbers of fatalities, we got off easy on this disaster. In dollar damages, it is pretty steep. It will take a few months before things are back up and running again in Houston and Galveston. In the mean time, the poor upland people will take care of the comparably wealthy Houstonites until they get back home to their high paying jobs.
(I told you it would sound a little calloused.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Efficient lighting pt 2

A few days ago, in the first part of this article I wrote that the advances in compact fluorescent lights(CFL's) and major reductions in price, have made it a lot better choice for lighting than even a few years ago. This doesn't mean that you should go out and buy CFL's for every light in the house, but it does mean it may be time to begin moving in that direction. I would start with replacing any light that tends to burn for several hours every day. (I started with my reading lamp in my office. It is on the same switch as everything else in my office, and so runs about 10-15 hours a day.)

Two particular improvements have made the biggest difference. The first one is the addition of "bright white" and "daylight" CFL's to the older "warm white" and "cool white" bulbs. (In incandescent bulbs there is also "soft white" but I haven't seen it in CFL's and don't really know if it refers to a "color," or just the fact that the frosting on the glass softens the glare.) OK, "daylight" fluorescent lights have been around for several years, but they were always too expensive to consider. The other improvement is somewhat smaller CFL's are now available.

Each of these "colors" refers to what colors of light are more pronounced in the spectrum. Warm white has extra red and orange. Cool white has extra green and blue. Daylight is supposed to have a spectrum similar to the actual spectrum of daylight. Bright white seems to be a compromise between daylight and cool white, and the price is a compromise too.

About cost. The newer "colors" are somewhat more expensive to buy, and also put out less lumens than the cool white's, but they are worth it. The old (two years ago) advice was to buy the cool white bulbs, and go up one size. That means you replace a 40 watt incandescent with a 60W equivalent CFL. With the new "bright white" CFL's, this may or may not be necessary.

Even going up one size with the old bulbs wasn't satisfactory because the light "color" made things look different. Many people (mostly but not always, women) didn't like the way it made them look. One person said it made them look jaundiced. Chefs also didn't like what it made their food look like. (Anyone heard of green eggs and ham - in US Army mess halls? Compliments of cool white bulbs over scrambled eggs)

The newer colors fix that. There is a problem though. With the bright white, if the light is too strong, some people are bothered by the excess brightness. I went up one size AND switched to bright whites in my living room and ran into this problem. Too bright.

The one my wife complains about being too bright are also just long enough to be directly visible. They stick out of their shade about 1/2 inch, which of course is another problem. CFL's will not fit in many fixtures. This is also the other improvement I mentioned in the second paragraph. There has been a steady improvement in making the CFL's closer to the size of standard light bulbs. This has all but been accomplished. I don't think it will be 100% for several more years, but they have come quite a ways. I think, eventually, LED lights will have to be used in the smallest of fixtures.

I also tried a DayLight bulb. Went up two sizes, to a 75W equivalent, and while it is decidedly whiter and brighter than the 60W equivalent bright white CFL's, I don't think I would recommend it, unless you are really have a critical need for color balance (And there is still no guarantee you will like the color balance).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Efficient lighting pt 1

While some time ago, I began a discussion of LED lights, I think the time is here to begin discussion of efficient lighting in general. Part of the reason for this is that electricity (including batteries) went up about 40% in the last two years, with another 30% rise expected in the next two years.

I began experimenting with LED lights a couple years ago, and found that the technology had matured to the point where they were useful in flashlights, or other battery powered applications. In addition to flashlights I also bought headlamps, lanterns, puck lights, and a reading lamp. The only light to fail out of these was the reading lamp. It was also the only one to run on household electric power, instead of batteries.

For applications that run on household electric power, I recommend fluorescent lighting. The advances made in this field a couple of years ago, and now becoming economical are terrific. In addition, the cost factor in batteries (battery power tends to be about 2000 times the cost of household electric power) makes the economics for the two situations quite different.

None of the lights I have bought are cutting edge, and I don't recommend buying cutting edge technology (living on the cutting edge is a good way to bleed green). However, they are fairly new, and most of the time I bought stuff that had been on the market for only a year or two.

I will, of course, have to write more on this subject, but there is plenty of time. The cost of good lights is going down, and the cost of electricity shouldn't be going up for a few more months.