Hey Mr. Green,
In the living room of our new house, light is provided by 10 recessed halogen bulbs in the ceiling, each using 35 watts. The light is fine, but the energy in the house is provided by solar panels and a propane-fired generator. The generator comes on too often, and the solar man says it is because of the halogen lights use too much energy. He had recommended that the architect not use the halogen system. The architect said the problem comes from some place else. Some people told us that it may not be the bulb itself, but the transformer attached the bulbs that is using too much energy. What is your opinion? --Claudine
The solar guy is right, the architect is wrong. The main problem is not with the system itself, but with the wiring in this designer’s brain. With people like him on the loose, it’s no wonder that lighting consumes around 10 percent of our home electrical power.
Those ten 35-watt bulbs need 350 watts to operate, and that’s a lot of power, and a lot more light than most people really need to navigate their living room. But if simply you must have that much light you could get the same amount from fluorescent bulbs that use less than a third as much power. (If the halogens are hooked to a transformer, it would only lose around 10 percent of the original electricity, requiring a total of around 390 watts—so it’s doubtful that the transform is the culprit.)
Even if you have batteries hooked to your solar system to store electricity for use at night when the sun isn’t smiling on your solar panels, this extravagant lighting system could indeed run them down and make the generator kick in, especially if they’re already drained by other uses or on cloudy days when they might not be fully recharged.
I recommend simply boycotting these wasteful lights, and converting to "task lighting," using small lamp or two for reading or whatever activity requires light. (As I write this, there are four people in our house, with tasking that ranges from reading the immortal Dante to frying a brain on video games, and we’re using only about 75 watts total for lighting.)
Finally, another option is to see if you can find any state-of-the art LED lamps that would give you a satisfactory quality of living-room light. Although LEDs are still quite pricey, they are considerably more efficient than halogens.