Sunflower Farm is Brighter Than Ever!

“Our house is a very, very, very ‘bright’ house”. It’s ‘fine’ too, but it’s also very ‘bright’, even though we’re off the grid.

The only concern that Michelle had when we were contemplating purchasing this off-grid home was that she didn’t want to have to live in the dark. Oh, she isn’t so wasteful that she leaves lights on all over the house, but she also didn’t want to feel like she was living in a cave.  So we keep our home well lit. It took a decade of learning about energy but it turns out that lighting actually accounts for a very small amount of our overall energy use, so it never made any sense to me to walk around bumping into things in the dark. As a male, I am able to do that consistently with the lights on.

I have often noticed how many homeowners will leave their porch light on when they leave for work on a dark morning. Many people leave their porch lights on overnight too. A 100W incandescent bulb uses almost 2-1/2 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity in a 24 hours period (24 hours x 100 watts = 2400 watt hours = 2.4 kilowatt hours). We often run our home using just 5 kWh/day, and so those homeowners are using half of our total daily electricity consumption just by leaving their front porch light on. These are often the same people who complain about the cost of their electricity.

I was always happy with the light we got from our compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) but some people rebelled against them. They didn’t like the light. Or they didn’t like the higher cost of the bulbs, despite the fact that they last much longer than an incandescent bulb and save money on the household’s electricity bill. Again, these are often the same people who complained about their electricity bills. We found a lovely stained glass overhead lamp for our dining room table that has a lot of yellows in it. It helps to soften the glare that causes so many people to complain about when they use CFLs.

dining-room-CFL

Now Canada and the U.S. have phased out incandescent bulbs and it sounds like some people were stockpiling them. These must be people who really love their Easy Bake Ovens because incandescent bulbs are much better producers of heat than light, hence the ability to bake a small cake with a 100W incandescent bulb.

LED lights have become more readily available in recent years. I have watched the price of LED lights and I still don’t think they’re cheap enough for me to cost justify switching my entire home over from CFLs. At $15 to $20 or more a bulb versus a buck or two for CFLs the increased efficiency will take a long time to pay for.

Recently though I was in Canadian Tire and I experienced one of those “Yee Ha” moments. The stock of incandescent bulbs had been removed (or were sold out in advance of the ban?) and there was a huge influx of LEDs taking up the vacated space. I have always wanted to change the incandescent bulbs in our fridge and freezer and the light over our cook stove. I could never find a CFL small enough to fit and I had heard that using LEDs in a cold environment might be problematic.

I had found an LED bulb online for $12. The description claimed that it would work in appliances but I didn’t feel like ordering it and then discovering it didn’t fit or didn’t work. Previously I had checked at lots of different stores and had never found anything suitable. But finally that day at Canadian Tire there it was. An LED with a regular base that would fit in our appliances… for $12! So I bought one, tried in it all the places and then bought two more once I confirmed that it worked.

LED-package

I AM SO PUMPED ABOUT THESE! Think about it. I’ve gone from a 40-watt heat-producing bulb in my fridge to one that uses just 2 watts, produces the same light and doesn’t provide any heat. I always found it ironic that every time I opened my fridge door I had this little heater in there that started warming the air. Our friend Jerry shared this philosophy to the point that he had removed the bulbs from his fridge. This sounds logical but my experience was that it took me twice as long to find anything in a dark fridge, which caused me to leave the door open longer, so I’m not sure there was a savings. Now I have the best of worlds, light with next to no heat.

Does it mean my world is pretty small, the fact that I’m so excited about some new light bulbs? Yes it does! But I’m okay with that. Every time I open the fridge I marvel at the wonder of it all. Unfortunately there is a downside to the new 2-watt LED bulb that I installed over my cook stove. When the bulb was 40 watts we rarely turned it on and so it was easy to ignore the spills and messes on the stovetop. And when you don’t wipe them up quickly then tend to get baked on. So we’ll have to be much more diligent of cleaning the stove top, now that it is illuminated!

LED-stove-light

And that fridge bulb! How great is that! No longer will I go into the fridge with a mapped out strategy of where I’m going and what I’m getting so I can close that fridge door as quickly as possible. Nope, not me. I’m going to lean on that door, just staring at the inside of the fridge, thinking, contemplating life, just like all the people you see in movies and in TV shows, staring at their fridges.

Freezer-2W-LED

Well, no, probably not. I don’t think I could ever be THAT energy wasteful!

* * * * * * *

If you are looking for a new recipe, check out our daughter’s food blog. She has enjoyed cooking and baking since she was tall enough to reach the stove and so I really enjoy seeing what food she has been creating and enjoying now that she’s “all grown up.” Take a look and say hello while you are there! http://pamplemoussi.com/

22 Responses to “Sunflower Farm is Brighter Than Ever!”

  • Marcia:

    I too have been changing to LEDs, I bought a few at Home Depot and Rona. One thing you might not know is Hydro One is offering $5.00 off coupons for each CfL and Led you purchase. Plus there is no limit to the amount you buy. I believe the coupons are available till next December as well. I know Home Depot and Rona have the coupons available, or you can download them yourself. I am like you Cam I find it totally exciting to go from a 60 watt bulb to a 9 watt. I am thrilled every time I turn my lamps on, and enjoy that warm white glow…

  • Wow, this is the longest collection of comments I’ve seen on your blog yet! I need to get on this LED-thing! I think you DO need to tell us more about that stove. I thought it was a wood stove–but there is Michelle cooking with gas. Hmmm…

  • Pam W:

    Great post as always! Just read your daughter’s blog – wonderful! She’s a really good writer. I subscribed and am looking forward to whatever she writes about next!

  • Neil:

    I couldn’t help but chuckle when you wrote about Michelle worrying your would be living “in the dark” as part of the off-grid lifestyle. Turning off all but the most essential, and immediately in-use, lights was one of the silly things I did as a newbie off-gridder. That and being scared of using the toaster 😉 But Bill Kemp’s book set me straight and I (and my guests) continue to be most grateful for this.

  • j:

    “There was pretty much no reason on earth to stockpile conventional incandescents. Even at $2.50 a pop (up from 50 cents), the more efficient halogens have a lower total lifecycle cost.”

    Exception: unmetered apartments, but then again in this day and age there’s no reason not to meter rentals.

  • j:

    There’s some confusion about the “ban” – regular incandescent bulbs have been replaced by halogens which use around 30% less hydro.

    Old: 100-60-40 watt
    New: 70-43-29 watt, same light output

    The rules don’t cover rough service or specialty bulbs.

    There was pretty much no reason on earth to stockpile conventional incandescents. Even at $2.50 a pop (up from 50 cents), the more efficient halogens have a lower total lifecycle cost.

    I think (halogen)incandescents are here to stay, but LEDs will completely replace the hated cfls.

  • Charlotte:

    If you have an IKEA near you: they carry LED bulbs routinely (search for LEDARE), with both the small (E12) and the big (E26) sockets, and at very reasonable prices ($7 for a 40W equivalent). I’m slowly switching my whole household over to LEDs, one with every burned-out CFL.

  • I also have stockpiled incandescent light bulbs.
    My wife prefers the light from them.
    I also complain about the cost of electricity , and I see no contradiction. I live in the Province of Ontario which has literally recently thrown away over a Billion “B” dollars because of mismanagement in the electric system of the province.
    (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ontario-liberals-gas-plant-cancellations-cost-1-billion-auditor/article14744879/)

    We also produced an excess of power which the rate payers of Ontario subsidized for our neighbors

    (http://ontariondp.com/en/electricity-exporting-cost-ontarians-over-1-billion-in-2013)

    “According to the IESO, Ontario exported 18.3 TWh of electricity in 2013, which was sold wholesale at an average price of 2.65 cents/KWh to five neighboring jurisdictions: Michigan, New York, Minnesota, Manitoba and Quebec. Power generated in Ontario cost 8.55 cents/KWh to produce, with Ontario ratepayers picking up the difference through the Global Adjustment Charge. Ontario ratepayers subsidized electricity exports to the tune of $1.079 billion, or around $220 for each of Ontario’s 4.9 million ratepayers.”

    That 100 Watt bulb that was outlawed – costs just over 20 cents a day to run at 24 hours. In our small apartment in the winter it may be on 8 hours a day or just under 7 cents.

    Essentially I have the government taking away some small comfort of my wife for a political agenda that forces me to save 7 cents a day while costing me hundreds of dollars a year in mismanagement.

    I enjoy reading about history and sometime I am amazed at some of the incredibly poor decisions made by leaders in the past.
    The French deployment in the battle of Agincourt , and the lack of capitalization by the British by not following up.
    The alteration of the Schlieffen Plan by Moltke.
    Almost every decision made in Gallipoli.
    Most every decision by the Kennedy administration about Vietnam.
    The invasion Iraq without having a withdrawal plan in place.

    I can see future historians chuckling about a government policy that proclaims how much energy it saves while exporting power at a loss. I am sure that here are logical reasons for some of this but in the end I suspect that most of the decisions are cynical political ones that have no basis in truly trying to help our province compete.

  • Jim:

    Cam and Michelle, thanks for sharing that info on LED lights.
    A couple of years ago I decided to experiment with the 12V LED ropes. I purchased a 5 metre length off ebay for about $15. Its the one which can be cut into smaller lengths and still be soldered to wire and used from a 12V battery or other 12V source. So we have bits in the garden shed, garage and stable to make it easier to see after dark rather than trying to find a torch or even juggle one when doing things. In the last 6 months I decided that to keep the dust off the little LED components I purchased some 20mm clear tubing to contain the LED rope and seal at both ends with silastic. It works great and gives enough light for those specific areas.

  • Neil:

    Cam, I wonder if you and I were at Crappy Tire the same sale week… I picked up a few LED bulbs too, and I have a personal rule about never buying anything there that isn’t on sale because it seems as though everything comes on sale eventually. Well, except wiper blades. Anyhow, the LED bulb I got is quite clever design: a small bulb with the “mini” size thread but included an adapter for a regular size thread. There’s no point discarding perfectly good CFL bulbs in favour of LED but I am gradually converting on the lights which tend to remain on a log time, as well as my older CFLs which are starting to take longer to get up to full brightness (I like how LEDs are instantly fully bright), especially when cold.

    BTW, looks from the comments on this post like you need to dedicate a post to your lovely wood stove. Tell us all about it!

  • Paul:

    Aha… the wonder of zooming… http://www.heartlandapp.com/

    Have to get one of these… someday 🙂 !

  • Susan:

    Michelle,

    What kind of stove is that you are cooking on and how do you like it? Or better yet what would you change about it? I see it looks like a propane cook top. Is it also wood?

    Cam,
    I am one of those people that went and bought incandescent bulbs. I do not like CFL’s because of the kind of light although we have found some warm colored ones that we use but I am also concerned with the fact that they contain mercury. For the life of me I do not see how wrapping a CFL in a paper bag and taking it to the recycling place to be placed in the land fill can keep it from polluting. Not to mention I do wander around in the dim light of our CFL’s. My eyes are getting older and need brighter light. Most of our home is lit with CFL’s but I just couldn’t do it in the bathroom. Fortunately those lights are above the vanity and I only use them when doing hair and makeup. I also needed incandescent lights for raising chicks and ducks. A 250 watt red heat lamp was overkill for me and very expensive to run. Thanks for the heads up on the LED’s. I was looking for them but apparently our hardware store here on the island is a little behind.

  • Mike the Carpenter:

    Thanks for the great picture of your stove. I’ve always admired it. When I finish building my off-grid cabin, the first major furnishing I plan to buy is a cook stove. Would you share what brand it is? Looks like the stove burners are LP gas but does it still have a wood fired oven? Thanks so much for sharing your energy efficient off-grid dream home with your readers. Your life style is a fine example that I’m sure many of us wish to emulate.

  • David Hribar:

    I have LED’s on two of my outside lights that are on long periods of time and they last just fine thru the Alaska winter. I also have 4 LED’s in the garage where I leave my three dogs (its heated) and I swear they have significantly reduced my electric cost. LED’s last jus fine in very cold climates. Thanks

  • Thanks Neil! Actually the subscriber count bounces around. I’m not sure if we offend people or they are just trying to cut down on emails….. 🙂

  • Robin Bailey:

    Cam, I think you and my husband must have been brothers in a former life. We have all LED bulbs in our lights now. The first aisle Chuck goes to in Canadian Tire or Home Depot is the lightbulbs!

  • Gosh, thanks for the free press! It makes up for all those times where I was lectured about “having a plan of action before you open the fridge!”. Haha.

  • Paul:

    Some new fridges come with LEDs that are a whole bar down the back of the fridge and freezer, very very bright and they do work at -30 apparently. Also the new fridges are much, much more energy efficient than even ones made 5 years ago so they probably are an option for anyone with an older fridge… Love LEDs and your posts… keep on farming

  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    Good information Cam! I will be looking into that as well.

    Congratulations! I see your subscriber list is at 600 people. Another milestone.

  • Woo-hoo! Thanks for this Cam – as you said Jerry removed our bulb from our fridge years ago – I am always shocked when I open other people’s fridges and can SEE! We have to stop and get some today! You should be asking Canadian Tire for advertising! Have a bright day!

  • Gerrit:

    Thanks Cam for sharing this. I’ll be looking for those at Canadian Tire.

  • Jeff:

    I love your stove. Its beautiful. How much lower would your electrical consumption be if you replaced all your CFLs with LEDs?

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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