The LED Lights
One important aspect of living in an off-grid house is monitoring your power consumption. Most people who live off-grid can rhyme off the power consumption figures of most of the appliances and gadgets in our homes. I just recently purchased a small device that measures the Watts, Volts, and Amps of any device plugged into it, and I've been moving it around the house trying to figure out how much power I'm using at any given time. If you're reading this blog the chances are that you've already gotten rid of all of your incandescent bulbs and moved over to compact florescents (CFLs), but even these can be too much power sometimes.
In our house all lamps are CFLs, we have some Halogens in a few key places where they provide better light - the walk-in closet, bathroom, and front hall, all places where they aren't on for long but where you you want bright clear warm light, and we have one lamp that uses a 40W florescent tube and three incredibly bright florescent tube fixtures in the back part of the house. But all of these lights use a fair bit of power especially if you you leave them on for long periods of time. Say, for example, in December when it gets dark at 4:30pm. I wanted some lights for the gallery space that could be left on for long periods of time, that could softly illuminate the house enough to navigate without being overly bright (a very subjective quality), and that looked cool.
I ventured out to Eurolite and asked about LED lights, white LEDs had only recently come onto the market and I was hoping to find a simple fixture that used very very little power. They didn't have anything in the showroom. There was virtually nothing in their catalogues. Most of the LED fixtures they did have or could get used many LEDs, dozens or even hundreds of them together in one fixture. This didn't help me, but in conversation with Charles Lyall, the president of Eurolite, he showed me some of the parts that they had available. I left with a bunch of LEDs and some power supplies.
I went out bought some clear acrylic rod and coloured tube and after some trial and error came up with a light that I liked. Each light has three feet of acrylic rod topped with a single 1W LED covered with coloured acrylic tube. Because of the way they are built some lights comes out the side of the LED bulb and that causes the coloured tube to glow. The tube also allows me to fasten a downrod with a spider which is the simplest and strongest method of hanging a light like this. All told the lights in my gallery are almost 5' long. All four hooked up in series consume only 4W of power - little enough that we can go out at night and leave them on.
I took one in to the guys at Eurolite and they were quite impressed, Charles asked if I would make one for him. I told him about my plans for a dining room light and others, and asked if he would be interested in selling them. Without hesitation he replied that he was and we agreed that I'd bring in my various prototypes when I was done.
I built a whole bunch of prototypes, just things I liked or thought might look cool, some worked, some didn't but in the end Charles picked out the light that I liked best - the light I built for my own dining room. The light I built for my dining room has three 1W LEDs encased in clear rod, surrounded by transparent blue plastic. This means that the light shines downward with white light but glows out the side in a very nice blue. I built it for our dining room and so I call it the dining room light, Eurolite has come up with their own names for the lights and this one is the Borealis Linear.
After the dining room light was done Joanne asked that I make a light for the bedroom. I decided to try making a square version with four LEDs to throw a bit more light. Unfortunately I took it to Eurolite first and it never even got hung in our place - they wanted to hang the prototype in the showroom. Now I have to build another before winter comes.
One of the challenges of hanging lights in our house is that all of the ceilings slope: the gallery towards the front, and the rest of the house towards the back. This means that lights that sit tight against the ceiling look kind of silly on an angle, and that hanging lights must have a method of compensating for the slope. Figuring out how to do that and maintain the clean simple look of the lights has been one of the biggest challenges. With the rod lights it was easy since I could use off the shelf parts, but with both the dining and bedroom lights I had to figure out a custom method. The dining room light I'm very pleased with but I still think there could be a more elegant solution for the bedroom light.
I was recently asked by Eurolite to manufacture a six foot verson of the Borealis Linear light for one of their clients.I was initially apprehensive about the light as I thought the size might throw the proportions off, as well as having to hang it by four wires instead of two. I was wrong, the light looked gorgeous when I hung it up in the house, and if I had the plastic I would probably make another for myself. This light uses six 1W LED's.
The lights are currently available for sale exclusively at Eurolite in Toronto. Custom orders are welcome. Contact Traian Sandru at Eurolite (416-203-1501) for details.