Friday, November 18, 2011

The Lamp Lady or: The Virtues of CFL and LED Bulbs

Sometimes, you can’t help but be amazed by the unique idiosyncrasies of people, especially when you’re in a business that involves visiting homes often. The holidays are coming up so heating and electric bills have been on my mind these last few weeks and it led me to think about one of the better projects I came across in September, when this blog was just starting. I’m not a NYC electrician but some of my friends are and one of them asked me to be a second pair of eyes for him on a design project for an elderly woman living in Tarrytown.

When we arrived, she showed us in and I was stunned: Lamps! In the living room alone, there were eight (that I counted) lamps on various surfaces, each with a unique style; one was in the shape of a lighthouse, another one had the bulb coming out of an elephant’s trunk. It was like being in the best antique store in the world but the problem was also plainly there: We needed to consolidate her energy use. She told my NYC electrician friend that she usually had three or four of these lamps on as soon as it turned dark, as well as one or two in the dining room and an overhead light in the kitchen. What’s worse? They were all old-school, incandescent bulbs, from a stockpile she had in her basement.

Incandescent bulbs are energy killers, plain and simple, and with the energy bills rising these days, I told her that she should not only cut down on the amount of lamps but toss out most, if not all of her incandescent bulbs. It took some convincing, over two cups of the strongest Russian tea I’ve ever had in my life, but she finally agreed and me any my friend got to work. Over the next week or so, we helped design a system of recessed lights in her living room, dining room and bedroom (which had at least five lamps, including one in the bathroom) and ran new electric lines and dimmer switches in all three rooms. We also ran a line and a new dimmer switch in her kitchen.

The biggest change-up was that we installed CFL bulbs in all the fixtures, including the lamps that she decided to keep out. (It’s worth noting that she agreed to sell me one lamp I particularly liked, the base of which was a suited man who looked a lot like Peter Lorre.) CFL bulbs are commonplace for most people but I feel the need to remind people of them constantly. They are the simplest of all energy savers and most NYC electricians will be the first to sing their praises; there are also LED lamps and lights, which are essentially Christmas lights but used in new designs and compacted to boost the concentrated light emitted. In fact, the drive back to Queens consisted of a long talk about the burdens of hanging exterior Christmas lights, though ultimately, this year, I have something bigger to dread: Hauling a tree up three flights of stairs. Does Santa know a good chiropractor?