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    Dimmable Compact Fluorescent Experiment Over Time

    LATEST UPDATE 10/18/08. SEE BOTTOM OF THIS MESSAGE (NOT BOTTOM OF THREAD). I ADD UPDATES RE: MY EXPERIENCE TO THIS MESSAGE, AND LEAVE THE REST OF THE THREAD FOR DIALOGUE.



    Like many on this board, I've been interested in switching to compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs. However, I've read varying reports on their compatibility with Home Automation systems, usually noting that they create line noise that leads to problems. I've also found few options that allowed dimming, produced an acceptable color/spectrum of light, and were quiet. However, every time I receive my utility bill and think about the amount of electricity I'm "wasting", I'm tempted yet again.

    My local Home Depot recently started carrying one brand of dimmable CF in PAR38 (typical reflector floodlight used in ceiling mounted "cans"), and I've finally decided to try them out. So... I figured I'd report on my experience over time via this thread, in hopes that it will help others obtain information that might be useful. I'll start by saying that I have no financial or other connection with any lighting manufacturer, retailer of light bulbs, other automation or electrical equipment, etc. I'm also NOT a technical person by training or profession. I'm a marketing guy who just likes to play with HA as a hobby...

    If you want to check on this thread from time to time for info, feel free. If not, that's fine, too. So, here goes:

    DESCRIPTION OF MY HA SYSTEM:

    HA system includes:
    > 70+ Insteon devices - combination of V2 Switchlinc (dimmable) and V2 relay-type as well as comparable ICON Switches, and both V2 and Icon appliance lincs
    > a 2414U PLC that connects the HS PC to the powerline for Insteon (but not X10) communication; firmware 2.13
    > one RCS TXB16 X10 thermostat
    > Elk M1G security panel wtih Caddx wireless panel and an PSC05 used only to monitor X10 transmissions for the Elk
    > an Ocelot with PSC05 used to Tx / Rx X10 signals
    > W800 receiver (US version) used to receive X10 RF signals
    > HS Insteon plugin version.2.1.16
    > Smarthome Insteon SDM version .308
    > HS 2.1.173 beta (UPDATED THIS 1/13/07) running on:
    > HP Media Center 4200+ PC with a dual-core Athlon 64 processor

    LOG OF CF EXPERIENCE:

    12/30/06: Starting this experiment small by purchasing two Philips "Marathon Classic" 20W PAR38 Dimmable Reflector Flood bulbs from Home Depot. (Equivalent to a 75W incandescent bulb). Cost was $11.97 US each. Installed in ceiling cans along with three other 65W incandescent bulbs on the same switch circuit controlled by a 600W V2 Insteon Switchlinc. Two Insteon KPLs are used to control these lights along with several others via Insteon signalling. This has been working reliably for several weeks now.

    Initial test: Lights take approximately 1/2 second longer than the incandescents to come on, but the delay is not annoying to me. This switch is set to come on to 80% power (i.e., dimmed by 20% from full) with an Insteon ramp rate of 28, resulting in about a 1/2 second "soft start" with an incandescent bulb. Thus, these lights take about 1 full second to come on. They appear bright at the start, and brighten only slightly more over another 30 seconds. The light is brighter and whiter than a soft white incandescent bulb, and is closer in appearance to a "daylight" spectrum incandescent bulb.

    I raised the lights to full bright with no problems, then dimmed them. At about 20% brightness (dimmed by 80%), the CF lights extinguish. However, they perform very well until this point and produce no noticeable flicker or noise throughout the range of dimming and brightening between 20% and 100%. Repeated this several times with no problems.

    Effect on other HA system components:
    None noticed yet. The X10 thermostat seems to respond reliably, as it did before. The Insteon lighting on this and other circuits appears unaffected as well. X10 RF via the W800 receiver also responds well. Finally, no errors or problems are noted in the HS log.

    Next Planned Step:
    Replace three remaining incandescent bulbs on this circuit with identical, dimmable CFs.

    Edit for Later on 12/30/06:
    OK, I'm feeling brave and decided to replace the remaining three incandescent bulbs with CFs identical to those noted above, based on the initial positive trial. So, now a total of five on that switch, with no incandescents. The additional three perform identically to the first two, with no noticeable effect on the HA system. I should also note that when I turn this lighting circuit on with one of the Insteon KPLs, it also turns on (by design) one other circuit of small low voltage ceiling lights (incandescent) and another circuit of five low voltage pendant lights (also incandescent). These are each magnetically dimmed, and I notice no effect on these circuits, either. I'll try this setup for a few days and report back.

    ADDITION: 1/13/07

    Added 7 more of the Philips Marathon Classic dimmable CFs yesterday, and no problems noted. This brings the total to 12 of these in my home. They seem to have no effect on either Insteon or X10, and my family and I find them very pleasant.

    ADDITION: 2/6/07

    Well, I'm now up to a total of 32 of these same CFs, and still no problems that I can find anywhere in the system. I did have one "dud" that started blinking a few minutes after install, but the replacement was fine and HD took it back for an exchange. Four of these 32 are BR30 bulbs at 16 W (65W equivalent) rather than the 20W (75W equivalent) PAR38's. This was necessary to fit four "eyeball" fixtures (the kind that move so that the light can be aimed) in a cathedral ceiling. The Par 38's were too big. Based on the amount of time I use other lights in the house, I think the payback period for other circuits and lights makes it financially unattractive to switch out more of these recessed lights. I'll likely replace them as they burn out with CFs, though, just for the ecological advantage.

    We have about 20 people over for the Super Bowl Sunday night, and all agreed that the spectrum / look / color of the lights was very appealing. The light is bright, similar to a halogen.

    Next step planned is to look for dimmable CFs to replace "regular" light bulbs. I haven't found any locally, so if anyone has a good link, let me know. The Wall Street Journal had a blurb about some a few days ago, but they provided no link and I haven't found the ones they mention online. It will be interesting to see if a different manufacturer's bulbs have any effect on powerline noise, so I'll likely start with just one or two before advancing further.

    ADDITION: 3/10/07

    I finally found a source for dimmable CFLs that replace "regular", table lamp lightbulbs (the kind of bulb most of us have in mind when we think "lightbulb"). NON-dimmable versions seem to be available just about anywhere, but I had to order these dimmables through our local utility, PECO. I decided to buy one each of two different types, a Harmony 20W that replaces a 75W bulb, and a Greenlite 23W that replaces a 85W bulb (approximate and from memory, but I think my conversions are right). The Harmony fit into a table lamp with no modifications necessary, but just barely. The Greenlite is slightly larger and I had to adjust the lamp shade holder just a bit to allow for a fit (still very tight). You can't tell this when looking at the lamp, though.

    Both lights perform well and allow for dimming down to about 20%. As with my other CFLs, I can't detect any effect on the Insteon or X10 signals and devices in the house.

    The light from these bulbs seems to be less "white" than the light from the PAR38 abnd BR30 Philips lights noted above (less like a halogen's color). However, it is still pleasant. It is difficult to tell much difference between the two lights, except for the slight difference in brightness. The Greenlite may have a slightly whiter color, although this may be a due to its higher wattage and lumens. I would buy either bulb again, but hope they continue to work on the color of these bulbs, perhaps offering options.

    UPDATE 2/16/08:

    After almost one year, our CFLs are still working perfectly. I haven't replaced any unless noted above, and the light quality has remained the same as best we can tell. We just had two friends who are successful local realtors over last weekend, and they commented on the great light quality in the house, without knowing we were using CFLs. They were surprised when they found out we were.

    One thing I have noticed is that the IR system (Xantech) for the home theater lights up when I have the overhead CFLs on, but it still works. We rarely have them on when watching TV or movies, though, and table lamps don't affect it.

    We're very happy with our Philips CFLs, but a little less so with the GEs that we've tried, which have a different light temperature / quality. Our biggest problem has been in finding more Philips bulbs. The local HD was out of stock for months, but now has them back in. Worth the wait, IMO, but others may like a different light temp so try more than one brand to see.

    UPDATE 10/18/08

    Still happy with everything, and and still prefer Phillips. Have found that the new IR sensors from Xantech can be used to replace those already installed without changing out the rest of the Xantech IR system, and that solves the CFL's interference with IR control of TVs, etc. We are not having to replace bulbs, and have in fact replaced only 1 or 2 out of well over 50 now installed (we've lost count). Those appeared to be duds, and I can't remember that brand. One Phillips that I know of, but others may have been experiments with the cheapies sold at various places. We no longer purchase those, as the light quality is poor with them. We continue to recommend a switch to CFLs except where instant lighting is needed (late-night hallways where an exact dim level is needed) or for outside use (they perform poorly in cold weather).
    Last edited by Madcodger; October 18, 2008, 10:54 AM. Reason: Update March 10, 2007
    Madcodger

    This would be a lot easier if I knew what I was doing...

    #2
    this is great work

    i would say that the number one energy waster are my ceiling cans which produce a ridiculous amount of heat. however, not having dimming functions really irked me as they were also responsible for hallway lighting, and mood setting. not so fun walking through the halls after a bump in the night and to be blinded by a track of 6 can lights.

    great work, I wonder what the experience will be on zwave dimmers.

    Comment


      #3
      i had no idea that anyone was making dimmable CF's.... I'm headed out to HomeDepot now to get a few. Anyone out there making dimmable compact LED's bulbs? I'd love to replace my outdoor lights with LED bulbs but I need to be able to dim them.

      I'm pretty much all Z-wave here so I don't expect any noise introduced on the powerline to be an issue.

      Comment


        #4
        My CF bulbs have a "yellowish" light and take a minute or 2 to brighten. I bought them as Sam's Club and they were cheap enough but they do not dim. I wonder if these are hazardous to the switches?
        -Rupp
        sigpic

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Rupp View Post
          My CF bulbs have a "yellowish" light and take a minute or 2 to brighten. I bought them as Sam's Club and they were cheap enough but they do not dim. I wonder if these are hazardous to the switches?
          I sort of doubt they would hurt the switch, as the load itself would likely be the same, only much lower. The brightening is likely a function of the gas inside the bulb and the slight heating of the coating on the bulb. Interesting that the effect is very, very minimal with these newer bulbs.

          I have to say that I'm pretty darn happy with these dimmable Philips CFs, except for the price. But they do appear to be high quality. BTW, they are about twice the price of the non-dimmable CFs of equal wattage at Home Depot, and even more if you buy the non-dimmables in bulk packs. I haven't seen any bulk packs of these dimmables. Blast!
          Madcodger

          This would be a lot easier if I knew what I was doing...

          Comment


            #6
            Boy, do I hope your results stay the same. I would LOVE to replace some of my lights with CF, but almost every light in the house is on a dimmer. The only place I've continually found dimmable CFs is on eBay. IF HD has them, I will have to make a stop next time I'm in town.
            My system is described in my profile.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by reyvaunikus View Post
              i had no idea that anyone was making dimmable CF's.... I'm headed out to HomeDepot now to get a few. Anyone out there making dimmable compact LED's bulbs? I'd love to replace my outdoor lights with LED bulbs but I need to be able to dim them.

              I'm pretty much all Z-wave here so I don't expect any noise introduced on the powerline to be an issue.

              Just curious why you would want to dim an LED string ?

              You can run about 6 million of them for about 5 cents a year (OK exaggeration !)

              Neil
              Neil
              Newmarket Ontario

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by nsisman View Post
                Just curious why you would want to dim an LED string ?

                Neil

                People don't dim lights just for money.... sometimes you don't really need 100 watts worth of light, but you do still need some....

                Brian

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Rupp View Post
                  My CF bulbs have a "yellowish" light and take a minute or 2 to brighten. I bought them as Sam's Club and they were cheap enough but they do not dim. I wonder if these are hazardous to the switches?

                  I've got 5 CFs on one circuit in my basement, and 4 in the garage (2 in the opener and 2 on a switch). I've been running this way for most of this year and I've noticed no change in my system performance, nor any problems with my switches. These were all bought at Home Depot....

                  If the dimmables work as well as Madcoger is seeing, then I can replace the remaining lights in the house. I've got 7 cans in the kitchen ceiling, 2 in the Master Bath, plus regular incandescents on dimmers throughout the house.....

                  Brian

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by nsisman View Post
                    Just curious why you would want to dim an LED string ?

                    You can run about 6 million of them for about 5 cents a year (OK exaggeration !)

                    Neil
                    Hiya,

                    I was actually referring to outdoor LED floodlight "bulbs" not strings. Just like CF bulbs the LED versions plug into regular sockets. They are bright (though a little on the eerie side color-wise), cheap to operate, and last forever. I just haven't seen any that are dimmable.

                    It's not about money savings, it's about proper lighting. I require the ability to dim my outside lights because at night bright lights are useful when someone is out there but annoying when someone isn't. I don't want to fumble for keys or empty the garbage in dim light nor do I want to be kept awake by a spotlight comin' through the window.

                    Though now that you mention it, dimmable LED strings would be nice too. I currently have regular rope lights hardwired across the tops of exposed wood ceiling beams inside the house so that the lights themselves can't be seen (from the floor) but the light they give off is reflected off of the vaulted ceilings above. These are all on dimmable zwave switches. The individual bulbs in the regular rope lights burn out kinda quickly. Eventually enough of the little bulbs will be out that I'll need to start replacing strings and that's gonna be a pain. So your idea of dimmable LED strings works for me too since I imagine they would last a whole lot longer!

                    -R

                    Comment


                      #11
                      dimming LEDs

                      LEDs are current devices thus to dim them you have to lower the current and even at that most moderm LEDs are so effestant that they do not dim much..
                      The best way that I know of two make them appear dimmed is by plusing them and adjusting the pluse witht from about 10% (for dim) and 90% (for nondim). I think some were over 150hz they stop looking like there flickering..
                      I don't own any 120v led devices yet but I am assuming that they must rectrifry and filter the AC or I would think the half wave (30HZ) would make them appear to flicker.. I have not seen BACK TO BACK or AC leds in white or blue yet.. My guess is that if they are not recterfried and filtered , I would expect them to dim to some small degree on a stardard incendesant dimmer (one that does zero crossing should work better..). LEDs themselfs are not inductive and should be no problem for a dimmer , if they are filtered as I think this could cause a problem for a dimmer..

                      Comment


                        #12
                        non-dimmable 120V blue-white LED "bulbs":

                        http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/lights/7aa8/

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I have not had good luck with the floods. My single biggest complaint is that they experience less than 1/2 of the life of the standard twist bulbs. They get dim (like 50% of their initial brightness) only months after installation. I talked to some of their support folks after applying for a refund (they were $15.00 a piece, replaced 20) and was told that they were standard dimming twists inside of a special housing. When they were operated pointing down they experienced "additional" heating because of the floodlight housing which would shorten their life spans and that they should not be operated "pointing down" if at all possible ?!?!

                          If after a few months you are not seeing this sort of problem I would like to know.

                          For now I have installed standard twist CF bulbs in the few cans where I don't care much about the focus of the lights. In the other cans I have standard incandescent floods.

                          Jon


                          Originally posted by dem5867 View Post
                          LEDs are current devices thus to dim them you have to lower the current and even at that most moderm LEDs are so effestant that they do not dim much..
                          The best way that I know of two make them appear dimmed is by plusing them and adjusting the pluse witht from about 10% (for dim) and 90% (for nondim). I think some were over 150hz they stop looking like there flickering..
                          I don't own any 120v led devices yet but I am assuming that they must rectrifry and filter the AC or I would think the half wave (30HZ) would make them appear to flicker.. I have not seen BACK TO BACK or AC leds in white or blue yet.. My guess is that if they are not recterfried and filtered , I would expect them to dim to some small degree on a stardard incendesant dimmer (one that does zero crossing should work better..). LEDs themselfs are not inductive and should be no problem for a dimmer , if they are filtered as I think this could cause a problem for a dimmer..
                          Jon Ort
                          JonOrt@The--Orts.com
                          (Remove the dashes in the address, spam is getting out of hand)

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Oman View Post
                            I have not had good luck with the floods. My single biggest complaint is that they experience less than 1/2 of the life of the standard twist bulbs. They get dim (like 50% of their initial brightness) only months after installation. Jon
                            Jon,

                            Did you mean CF floods, or LED floods? I couldn't quite tell from the quote you referenced. Philips is advertising a 6 year life with 3 - 4 hours / day use for these CFs.

                            Joe
                            Madcodger

                            This would be a lot easier if I knew what I was doing...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Here's a payback calculator

                              I decided it might be nice to know how long it's going to take for these CF bulbs to pay for themselves. So, I created a spreadsheet (attached). Feel free to download it and use yourself. The first page calculates costs using your inputs without accounting for the time value of money. Inputs are generally in the yellow boxes. The blue boxes are items you might want to update, and the green boxes are formulas. The gold box shows your payback period.

                              The next page of the sheet takes into account the time value of money, and you can enter the interest rate yourself. When the value goes positive, you've hit paydirt!

                              BTW, I'm not a finance person, so if someone else is and I've botched something, please let me know. Thanks.
                              Attached Files
                              Madcodger

                              This would be a lot easier if I knew what I was doing...

                              Comment

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