New LED Under Cabinet Lights from DEKOR

Looking to add task lighting to your kitchen? Considering new under cabinet lights?  Then have a look at the new LED  under cabinet lights from DEKOR.  I have long been interested in DEKOR as a producer of  ”high quality, high value” LED lighting products, most notably their outdoor LED recessed lights.

DEKOR makes these small LED recessed down lights and stair lights that add warmth and atmosphere to any deck but can be used pretty much anywhere you want to add accent lighting indoors or out. Best of all they come with this crazy 10 year warranty and are ( ladylike fist pump ) made in the USA.

But I digress.

DEKOR seems to be expanding it’s line of indoor LED lighting products with these new LED under cabinet lights.  They are supposed to address a number of issues encountered with LED under cabinet lighting.  According to Duane McCall, DEKOR’s owner/designer and former NASA engineer (!):

“Good under cabinet lights are hard to come by … I didn’t realize this until I went to redo my
own kitchen … if they were any good they cost a lot of money, but still had design drawbacks,
and were difficult to install. Why?”
(From PRWeb)

So he decided to design his own … after all, ah, it’s not like it’s rocket science right?

The video below gives a tour of the product by Mr. McCall, it demonstrates the ease of installation, the energy savings, and sheer versatility of the product. “The pinnacle of LED quality.”

But how good are they really?

Let’s see how they stack up versus what the experts recommend:

How to select residential LED Undercabinet Lighting by the Lighting Research Center

Consumer Reports on Cabinet Lighting / Task Lighting

Light Quantity & Quality

According to Illuminating Engineering Society you need a minimum of 600 lux for chopping and dicing – wouldn’t want to lose a finger. These lights exceed that level so are SAFER than most of what is found on the market.

Back in the dark ages ( 2008 ) Consumer Reports reported that:

Light-emitting diodes, the newest choice, were the most energy efficient undercabinet lighting by far. Their low-profile housings tend to be relatively discreet. But most of the LEDs we tested still produce narrow beams of light, like a spotlight, rather than the even, wide beams best for task lighting. Plus the new technology can be pricey. Except for the $180 American Lighting 021-0001, the LEDs produced a bluish light that can change the colors of some items underneath it. (Learn more about LED lights.)

NONE of that applies to this new DEKOR product.

The light distribution is even and covers your entire countertop, including your backsplash due to a wide angle for light distribution. They’ve got rid of hospots issues on reflective countertops as each LED light bar has 54 SMD LEDs placed close together.

The lights are a nice color with a CCT (3200 K) in the recommended range, a warm white light similar to incandescent lighting. Ah incandescent lighting … enjoy it while you still can.

The lights are reliable and long lasting with a 5 year warranty. It’s not the famous DEKOR 10 year warranty but still pretty good. And the price is right with one LED light bar coming in at under $35.00 and a 4 light bar kit complete with mounting brackets and LED power supply lists for just under $180.00.

Modular Design & Easy Installation

What I love about these lights is their modularity. They have simple “plug and play” connectors. A variety of accessory connectors and mounting hardware is available so you can create the custom kitchen lighting design you want and that fits your kitchen. As much as I love home improvement, I’m not all that mechanically gifted so easy hookup makes it doable for me. It’s low voltage so it’s safe to play with the lights and connectors when the power is live. The DIY video shows a bunch of splicing being done but my understanding is the LED under cabinet light kit comes with a plug and play transformer / power supply too now … so ignore that last bit in the video below.

Parting Thoughts

If you want a finished installation, you should consider getting an add on switch or dimmer to better control your lights, especially if your transformer / power supply is in an inaccessible location otherwise they’ll be on continually on. A dimmer is a must if you also want to be use the lights for mood lighting / safety lighting for your kitchen.

The other thing is the connecting cords may be a little long between lights, you will have to tape them up, I would suggest installing closer along the lip under your cabinet for better hiding. Duct tape and hanging wires under kitchen counters look tacky and will be no doubt visible when the lights are on due to the ( cough ) wide viewing angle.

All in all a nice lighting package, a really cool product, decently priced in the context of its quality.

For more information, check out DEKOR’s new LED Under Cabinet Light.

Green Appliances: Energy efficiency makes a difference

Green appliances? There are no true green appliances. The idea that an appliances can be green or environmentally friendly is something of an oxymoron in my opinion. Appliances use electricity by definition. Using electricity is linked to the consumption of non-renewable resources and fossil fuels which is linked to the production of carbon dioxide or “greenhouse gas emissions”. So there are no true green appliances.

But what’s the alternative? Some (like the couple in A Year without Toilet Paper) have very admirably tried living a no ecological impact lifestyle. It’s a huge lifestyle change and even they haven’t been able to go without light bulbs and a stove. Most of us aren’t quite ready for that extreme just yet. So we turn to technology to produce appliances that allow us to maintain our lifestyles but with less of an impact on the planet. Long live green appliances (and toilet paper).

So what’s makes a green appliance, well, green?

  • energy efficiency
  • water efficiency
  • recyclable components

The subject of green appliances is huge so I’ll only be covering energy efficiency in this article.

Energy Star – the universal symbol for energy efficient appliances

The Energy Star Logo - universal symbol for energy efficient appliances

When buying a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label. The Energy Star program was introduced in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency, as a way to promote energy efficient, environmentally friendly products and practices. Appliances that earn the Energy Star label have to meet and exceed stringent standards for energy efficiency.

Over time, the program has paid off in huge savings – both to consumers and to the environment.

In 2006, Americans saved $14 billion in utility bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 25 million cars by participating in Energy Star program. Put another way, if just one in 10 homes used an Energy Star appliance the environmental impact would be the same as planting 1.7 million new acres of trees (source: US Energy Star stats). Buying energy efficient appliances can and does make a huge difference to the environment.

Here is some info on the energy savings associated with the different types of Energy Star appliances.

Washing Machines

An Energy Star qualified washing machine uses 50% less energy than a standard washing machine. They also typically use less water and extract more water during the spin cycle to cut drying time and save wear and tear on your clothes.

Dehumidifiers

Buying an Energy Star rated dehumidifier will save 10-20% in energy costs over non-rated model.

Dishwashers

An Energy Star qualified dishwasher uses at least 41% less energy than the minimum standard. Like washing machines, they typically also use less water and less hot water in particular.

Refrigerators & Freezers

Energy Star rated refrigerators use 15% less energy than current standards and 40% less energy than similar models made in 2001. Freezers use 10-20% less energy, depending on design. The energy savings come from improved compressor technology, better insulation, and better thermostat control.

Room Air Conditioners

Energy Star rated air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models.

What about clothes dryers?

Some appliances don’t qualify for Energy Star like clothes dryers (they’re energy hogs) but you should still choose a more energy efficient model where you can.

Green appliances: the bottom line

Technological advances cost money so chances are green appliances will cost you more … but will save you money in operating costs (energy bills) over the life of the appliance, more than enough to make up for the initial cost.

Even better, you can sometimes get a rebate on your Energy Star purchase. Check out this page for rebates and incentives for Energy Star products available across Canada. Or you can search for special offers and rebates in the USA here.

All while helping to protect the environment. For more info, check out below.

Energy Star in the USA: http://www.energystar.gov/

Energy Star in Canada: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/energystar/english/consumers/index.cfm

Defending the Green Gestapo

Carbon Cops - Transforming Energy Use

Well at least on TV! This is in response to Robert Tracinski’s recent opinion piece, The Seeds of the Global Warming Police State where he rails against global warming hysteria and environmentalist “eagerness to reach into the smallest details of our private existence and re-arrange our lifestyle to fit the austere requirements of their political ideology”.

He lambastes Australian home improvement TV Show Carbon Cops and other media as examples of green ideology gone too far, criticizes green legislative initiatives, and concludes as follows:

Australia’s “carbon cops” may be fictional, but they are the harbinger of a real attempt to use the power of the state to strip us of the accoutrements of prosperity: our light bulbs, our cars, our televisions, our freshly laundered towels.

Um, it’s just a TV show :-) . But let’s hear him out …

In a bizarre inversion of the typical American home improvement show, the experts in this show descend on the hapless homeowners to measure their “carbon footprint,” the amount of fossil fuels involved in the manufacture and use of every item in their house. The “carbon cops” are shown rummaging through a family’s smallest household items, searching for global warming contraband–and then scolding them for “polluting” the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

Each week they don their orange monogrammed shirts to cordon off the toxic home of an Australian family. They arrive with energy-auditing gadgetry, sobering statistics, and lips and eyebrows curled in withering admonishment. They rate these people, shame them, then challenge them to do better.

What bizarre inversion? Making homeowners feel bad for their tacky taste, DIY incompetence or just plain ignorance in exchange for a free remodel and 22 minutes of fame is a standard formula, totally acceptable as “entertainment” in the Home Improvement TV industry. Reality TV is a faustian bargain at best and we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Green television in particular has suffered from being boring and has failed to catch on, in spite of the weighty issues at hand.

In a medium that thrives on explosive hits, the merely smouldering issue of global warming is proving about as gripping as watching trees grow … This year we’ve already seen two well-intentioned environmental awareness shows come and go …
- smh article

Perhaps the Carbon Cops are trying to stir things up, be controversial for commercial crossover appeal? Hence the dayglo suits and police tape. It’s a gimmick. And going for some emotional shock value by making the family “feel bad about how they live, only in a smiling pleasant way” seems to be part of it, rightly or wrongly. “Blame, embarrassment and middleclass guilt are the key ingredients”.

As Tracinski points out, the “victims” (I prefer homeowners) are willing participants. As the sign up form explains:

Each household involved will have their home’s structure, appliances, vehicles and habits assessed for energy efficiency. You will then be supported and inspired to make physical and habitual changes.

So there you go – “supported and inspired” to change. But if you sign up for a show with the word “cops” in the name, don’t expect it to be “Carbon Crossing Guards”.

The goal of the show is to get behavioral change out of the participants and viewers. To educate and enlighten … but also to trigger a real change in the choices we make day to day. But for people to be motivated to change, they need to feel uncomfortable about where they are now (cognitive dissonance theory). And integrate new information, a better way of doing things, as a way to resolve that conflict. We may not like it emotionally, but Carbon Cops is doing exactly what they said they would do.

A couple of things “inconvenient truths” Tracinski failed mention. First of all, not everyone felt ashamed. Mom was mortified but dad was quoted as saying “the global warming scare is all bollocks anyway“. Secondly, Tracinski chose to ignore the show’s stated goal in the article he referenced: to show people “how easy it is for them to reduce their carbon emissions without having a huge impact on their lifestyle“. Probably because these facts undermine his assertions about the insidious nature of the environmentalist agenda.

Although green awareness has grown immensely over the last few years, legislation of some kind seems to be an inevitable course of action, if the global warming danger is as real as publicized. Behavioral change on a large scale is difficult to bring about. And as behavioral researchers note:

“you might be able to avoid the need to convince your target audience to change its behaviour altogether if you can create structural changes that bring about the same result”. Kline Weinreich illustrates this view with the idea that passing a law that requires all residential pools to have childproof safety fences would be more effective at combating drowning than attempting to change the pool behaviour of parents and their children.

The question then goes back to whether the environmental threat is real and how effectively legislation can reasonably combat that threat. Pardon my cynicism but the “liberty and prosperity” in jeopardy argument just doesn’t wash. Tracinski needs to get off his soapbox and “get real”. The liberal influencers are as affluent as the conservative ones and for all their talk about the issues (Al Gore & Global Warming, Bill Clinton and his sod roofs), have yet to give up their affluent lifestyles. It just ain’t gonna happen. The influencers can say what they want, but the decision-makers report back to the voters and middle America isn’t ready to support any kind of “Global Warming Police State”, now or in the near future.

Yes we will probably see legislation aimed at broad based reductions in carbon consumption. But on an individual level, we won’t see a lot of intrusion, just more of what we are seeing now. More green tax credits and incentives. And more “energy saving behavior” on the part of consumers because it just makes financial common sense, not because environmental activists say so.

By the way, Carbon Cops had a decent rating in its first week. So the Green Police must be doing something right – they got people to tune in instead of tuning out. Now they’ve just got to get people to want to change.

How to have a green bathroom

Did you know

… going green in the bathroom might be easier than you think. You already may be doing things that you didn’t realize were considered green. To help you along your way, here are some things you might do or products you might use if you’re planning to be more eco-friendly when you renovate your bathroom.

Great tips to be found in the following article – covers cabinets, flooring, paint, fixtures, accessories, cleaners, lighting, tiles, toilets and more.

Read How green is your bathroom?

Got questions about compact flourescent bulbs?

Or second thoughts? Or reservations? Then check out this Consumer Reports blog entry Q&A: Are there any drawbacks to compact fluorescent bulbs?. It offers a concise review of the pros and cons of the compact fluorescent (CFL) including mercury content, energy savings, and practical limitations.

The grass is always greener – over Bill Clinton’s head

So Bill Clinton is getting on the green bandwagon – by advocating you sod your roof as a way to help cut greenhouse gas emissions; a sod roof doesn’t get as hot, meaning you don’t have to use as much energy to cool your home.

I’m not going to argue with anyone who advocates “relentless home improvement” and going green in general but when it comes to sodding the rooftops my question is … what’s he been smoking??

I mean it is possible.

We conducted a little research yesterday, and while sod roofs are far more common in places like African villages, we came across a pair of Vermont home builders — Tim Rice and Steve Jacob — who agree with Mr. Clinton that the time is right for a “revival of the old-time sod roof.”

But probable or practical? I think not. Most of us have enough lawn to mow right now, let alone putting more on the roof. Lawnmowers are already the #1 source of home improvement related injuries and now we’re going to take them to the rooftops as well?

Letting your rooftop lawn go isn’t an option either, not in this society. A beautiful lawn is one of North America’s great obsessions. It’s a cult! I speak as a person who occasionally drinks the Kool Aid.

What I mean by the lawn as moral issue is its place in human relations and its role in public shaming. In North America today, a lawn is the quickest, surest indicator that the deadliest of the seven deadly sins has attacked from within. As the death of a canary announces the presence of gas in a mine, so a dandelion’s appearance on a lawn indicates that Sloth has taken up residence in paradise and is about to spread evil in every direction. And when a whole lawn comes alive with dandelions–it can happen overnight, as many know to our sorrow–then that property instantly becomes an affront to the street and to the middle-class world of which the street is a part. Pretty as they might look to some, dandelions demonstrate a weakness of the soul. They announce that the owner of the house refuses to respect the neighbourhood’s right to peace, order, good government, and the absence of airborne dandelion seeds.
- Robert Fulford, The Lawn: North America’s magnificent obsession

Are we going to put the dandelions where lawn obsessives can’t reach them? It isn’t going to happen; some people just won’t be able to “leave them be”.

Other concerns I’ve seen noted: how sod roofs will fare in hurricane conditions, the water weight after a week of rain, and the need for more government regulation around such an undertaking. All legitimate concerns.

Bill Clinton is a smart guy. But to sell green to the masses, he needs to pitch simple, elegant solutions. Energy efficient windows. Yeah! Wind turbines. Yeah! Metal roofs that offer the same benefits? Yeah! A dandelion haven on our rooftops? No thank you Mr. Clinton.

But if you’re curious as to how it could be done, you can read more at TownHall.com.

Teeny Tiny Energy Efficient Homes

Weebee model tiny home from Tumbleweeds Tiny House Company

Could you live in a 100 sq ft home? 10 X 10? I know what my response would be – much laughter. But there is a guy out there building such exotic items and making a living at it too.

Jay Shafer of Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes located in the Bay Area has built them for customers all over the world. Make no mistake, they are complete homes – with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom / shower, great room, and tons of creative storage solutions “many large home owners would envy”. And you can put them on wheels! Have tiny house, will travel.

My thoughts? Yes, something only a single man would come up with. Schafer actually makes them up to 700 sq ft to accommodate more people, but still very small by conventional standards.

The people who buy them are often interested in “downsizing their lives”. Others put them in the backyard as a “retreat” or use them as cabins.

But seriously, why so small?

Jay Shafer: “The average American house these days is pretty big and it’s consuming a lot of resources and it’s producing a lot of greenhouse gases.”

The energy savings are real. Jay’s own tiny home only takes 5 minutes to warm up or cool down. He says he’s using about $3 worth of energy per month.

An interesting trend that will hopefully make a bigger impact in the housing market.

See the Tiny Home Photo Gallery – not a dwarf in sight.

Read the story and see the video on ABC7News.com.

See another video on alternative housing featuring Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes on CBS5.com.

Green Homeowners are spreading the word

The green home market is now a 2 billion dollar industry, according to McGraw-Hill Construction in market research presented at the recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Conference.

85% of green home owners are happier and more satisfied with their new green homes than they were with their old non-green homes. And the “green buzz” is strong – 28% of surveyed homeowners reported first hearing about the green home concept through friends and acquaintances.

The research also found that:

  • The new green homeowner is affluent and well educated, in his/her mid forties and married, and also more likely to be from the Southern or Western states. Women are also more likely to be green homeowners.
  • Home operating costs matter. 63% report lower operating and maintenance costs as the key motivation behind buying a green home. Additionally, nearly 50% report environmental concerns and family health as motivators.
  • Lack of awareness, higher costs, and scarcity lead obstacles. The top three obstacles, all hovering over 60% of respondents, were oriented around education, additional costs involved in green homes and the availability of the homes. However, when looking at the “biggest” obstacles, green homeowners view education as the biggest hurdle to overcome.

The research also indicated that homeowners have also been very active in green remodeling and renovating. 40% of actively renovating homeowners are doing so using green products or technologies, such as energy efficient windows.

McGraw Hill Construction Press Release.

NAHB Press Release.

When Green Products & Green Design Don’t Measure Up

Came across a post on AbbeyK’s on interior design blog that referred to this Interior Design Magazine article When Green Products Don’t Perform.

Non- or under-performing green product alternatives are a concern for every designer and specifier. I posed the issue to some of my colleagues and heard horror stories—bamboo flooring that comes apart in high traffic zones only after a couple of years, low odor and fast drying concrete sealers that do not adhere well and chip, scratch or stain easily, cork that fades relatively quickly under UV rays.

Failures such as these sour both the designer and client on green products and green design in general … we have found that it is incredibly important when a building is beginning its ‘journey’ towards sustainability that the first green products are successful.

My thought isn’t that this isn’t just a problem for designers, it’s a challenge for anyone interested in “going green” and promoting environmentally friendly alternatives. The green product is supposed to be “the good guy” – you want green products and green design to succeed. After all, you have to go out of your way to find and research green products, buy them, and usually pay more for them. Maybe you even tell your friends about them. To have them turn out to be a bust, well, it’s disillusioning.

So how do you prevent Green product failure?

The Interior Design article recommends you

  • Use green products in established categories and that have a track record
  • get “word of mouth” recommendations
  • request product testimonials from manufacturers
  • ensure proper installation & maintenance
  • try before you buy – ask for product samples
  • find a forum where green products are discussed, such as list serve Big Green

From personal experience and other research:

  • don’t use green alternatives where they won’t perform well
  • don’t go low end – “you get what you pay for”.

I would also suggest look for ratings and reviews on green products. If you are interested in trying green products, you are probably an early adopter and may well be the one writing these reviews … but they are out there if you look …

Do Blog Searches for products you want to try

You may stumble on a houseblogger who has tried it out and learned from the experience. Keywords to use would be the brand name and type of product. Then ask questions on the blog posts.

Visit Green Review Sites

The Green Home Guide offers editorial reviews on green products & services – “unbiased reviews and advice from professionals and homeowners like you”.

Five Limes – community / consumer reviews and ratings on green products and local stores and services.

Finally, back to the blog post that got me on this topic, AbbeyK makes a good point: if your green design product ends up in a landfill before it’s time, it “can end up not being green in the long run”.

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