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Cheap CFL’s Are Hurting Our Industry, And The Green Movement

 At least once a week someone comes in to our store, complaining about a CFL they purchased.

Not one they bought from Adventure Lighting. No, these troublemakers are purchased elsewhere.

“What’s wrong with it,” I ask.

The most common responses:

“It burnt out already.”

“It overheated and melted.”

“It flickers.”

“It’s not as bright as it should be.”  

“Where’d you buy it?” I innocently inquire, knowing the answer before they give it.

“(Insert name of big box store here)”

I always feel bad for the person who got snookered into buying a “discount CFL.” They’ve probably read about the great benefits of compact flourescent bulbs, and are trying to save money on their electric bill while also doing their part for the environment.

Then they get burnt, literally – and that hurts all of us: consumers, reputable CFL distributors and the entire “green” movement.

No one knows who originally said, “You get what you pay for.” But the person should have their face enshrined on currency.

Some of these cheaply-made CFL’s claim to last 5, 6, even 10 years in some cases. But you’ll be lucky to get 6 months out of most of them.

But don’t be fooled.  There’s a reason that many of these big box stores only charge a buck or two for an 13w CFL, that we know costs double that to make properly – and it’s not out of the goodness of their hearts.

The truth is that these knock-offs are poorly designed, cheaply made and in many cases, dangerous. They can melt, catch fire, short out circuits and cause damage.

I’m not trying to specifically promote what we sell at Adventure Lighting – I think our products speak for themselves, plus there are a lot of reputable light companies in Des Moines who sell quality CFL’s, just like us.

What I am trying to do is save you money, time and headaches, while helping keep you and your family safe.  And the whole point of the CFL is to save energy and money, but when a consumer has a bad experience with one CFL, they’ll never go back.  And that doesn’t help anyone save energy.

Some things, you can buy at a big box store, or grocery chain. CFL’s should not be one of them. Period.

Those of us in the lighting industry, live, eat, breathe and talk about lights, every day – that’s our job. We read the trade journals, talk to the manufacturers, stay up to date on the latest news and, most important, stock the best brands – for us, that’s Philips, Technical Consumer Produts and Greenlite.  

So when it comes to your CFL’s, leave them to the lighting professionals.

And in the meantime,  I promise never to sell lumber, plants or milk. Although I would love to sell cookies and pastries – my wife would probably veto it. 🙂

For Most Light Problems, Here’s A Light Solution


Working in the lighting industry for over 25 years, I’ve had, and heard, my share of problems with fluorescents and incandescents.

With incandescents, it’s pretty simple – the light’s burned out, the glass shell is broken or the light isn’t getting juice. They’re what I call the “dumb” light of our industry, which is one of the many reasons why I’m so pro-fluorescent.

Yet with CFL’s higher IQ – like most smart people – comes more challenges. From pre-heats to instant on, there is a long list of things that can go wrong; light won’t come on, light flickers, light comes on at the ends but the middle stays dark, light glows then fades, light has dark rings around it, light hums when it shouldn’t, light is strange color when lit – the problems are endless.

Luckily for me and all my brethren in the lighting and electrical industry, there are fewer reasons that cause these fluorescent problems than there are problems themselves, and even fewer solutions that solve those problems.

Yet that doesn’t mean that figuring out the reason or solving the problem is always a piece of cake.

It can be as simple as no power getting to the fixture or a burnt-out bulb to more complex issues, like a bad circuit, bad starter, bad socket, bad ballast, grounding issues, low line voltage, bad connection to the metal reflectors…and the list goes on.

As any of you light pros can attest, it can sometimes be challenging when we’re trying to help solve a problem for a customer who doesn’t live in our “light” world and therefore may not know a ballast from a breaker. I personally love these customers, because they inevitably allow me a “teachable” moment, to explain what’s going on in terms they can understand and shine a little light on this industry that I so dearly love.

For contractor or laymen, there are lots of trouble-shooting resources on the internet. Even though I may be relatively new to the web and all the very powerful tools it provides (and, let’s face it, all the silly time killers that I generally avoid) when I find something I like, I want to share it with you – particularly if it pertains to our industry.

I’d like to recommend one, in particular, that I think does a great job of explaining the lighting problem, the potential reason and the possible solution.

Before I offer it here, I do want to send out one warning to untrained consumers who read this blog – never ever ever under any circumstances attempt to do any troubleshooting or do-it-yourself lighting fixes yourself. There’s a reason electricians have to go through all those years of training and apprenticeship in order to be licensed and bonded in the state of Iowa. Leave it to the pros!

Having said that, I wanted to share with you this very smart, concise, handy guide to fluorescent lighting troubleshooting that I stumbled upon recently. It’s actually an older web site, from 2006, but I love the way it’s laid out and easy to understand. Just click the URL below:

Whether you’re a an experienced electrician or don’t know a thing about lights, this guide can either be a great resource, or just very interesting reading. Happy problem solving, and let me know if it helps.


Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to

Color Temperature

One of the things that bugs me the most when I’m out visiting new customers or potential clients is when lamps in the fixures are a different color.  Usually this happens because a maintenance person goes to a local big box store and picks up whichever lamp is the first he/she finds that is the same size.  I think that it looks a bit tacky.  But most times customers don’t know the difference and don’t know what to look for when buying lamps.  Here’s a quick lesson on what to ask for.

First you need to know if you have T12 or T8 lamps in your fixtures.  (I’m talking about the 4 foot bulbs that are in 95% of office fixtures)  The T12’s are fat, and the T8’s are skinny.  Next you’ll need to know the color.  On the bulb it will say something to the effect of “Warm White” or “Cool White” on a T12, or 735 – 741 – 750 on a T8 lamp.  The difference is in the look of the lamp.  A Warm White color, or a 2700 kelvin to 3500 kelvin temperature looks a lot like a standard everyday 60watt light bulb that everyone has in their homes.  The “cool white” color or 4100 kelvin temerature has a colder look to it.  All this means is that there is more blue in the color.  Then there is a 5000 kelvin lamp that is representative of a “daylight” color.  See this picture below.  It goes from Warm White to Cool White, to Daylight.

Correlated Color Temperature Explained

 As you can see the warmer color on the left is a lot different than the Daylight color on the right.  And putting them together in a fixture will cause an eyesore. 

Why would you use one color over another?

Well, many people find the warm color to be comforting in a residential enviornment.  It darkens tan colors and gives a general warm feel to the room.  The cool white color is generally found all over offices and other commercial buildings and can have an “institution”, cold-like feeling to it.  But for the most part it does a nice job of ligthing office and warehouse spaces.  I’ve had customers move to a daylight lamp because it gets past the institution feeling and gives workers a sense of being outside.  I’ve heard customers say that employees have less problems with headaches while using the 5000k lamp. 

For the most part the color used in your space is a personal preference.  But PLEASE!!! standardize and stick with one color.  We here at Adventure Lighting combat this with our customers by keeping a history of what was bought in the past.  If you bought a case of Cool White lamps 2 years ago, we’ll make sure you get the same color lamp today.

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to

Get Your Rebates Now – But Will They Last?

Want these lights? Click here!

One of the biggest selling points of our Adventure Lighting lights, especially for business owners, is that over time, the lights pay for themselves and then some – through their light efficiency and cost savings.

Therer’s also another very compelling reason to switch your company’s lights from incandescents to CFL’s – in most cases, the retrofit is paid for,  lights and labor, with the Mid-American Energy Rebate program.

Find out more about Mid-American Energy rebates

But now comes the scary part – will the rebates last? We’ve heard about approaching deadlines for TARP funds, and news headlines talking about funding running out for other savings programs. We also hear from company owners and consumers who question whether the Mid-American rebate program will be around long-term.

Not to worry, says Mark Reinders, communications manager for Mid-American Energy.

He told us that, while he would “never say never,” the rebate program, which started in Iowa 10 years ago, has “no sunset clause” and will be around a long time. Reinders emphasized  that the Mid-American’s energy efficiency programs have had “a huge impact on lowering greehouse gases and producing costs savings for customers.” An additional benefit, says Reinders, is that “Mid-American Energy doesn’t have to keep building new plants.” So it’s  a win-win-win, for consumers, the company and the environment.

The program has become so popular that it’s been expanded by Mid-American Energy to include Illinois, South Dakota and most recently, Nebraska – but Iowa was the first and, we think, the best! In fact, Mark told us that one of the reasons the program has been so measureably successful in Iowa is because of our steady population numbers – while energy consumption has increased (all those computers and big screen TV’s and Ipods, I suppose) our state population has remained constant, therefore the overall impact of the program has been greater.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about the rebate program process, how it works and how much money it can save your business – the numbers are truly amazing!

For now anyway, we can all rest easy – those fantastic Mid-American Energy rebates aren’t going anywhere. 🙂 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to

T8 vs. T12 Lamps

One of the most common questions we receive at Adventure Lighting is, should I upgrade from T12 to T8 lamps

Here’s the rundown on why this is a no-brainer. T12 Lamps are being phased out of production.  I’ve heard that 2012 will be the last year they’re made. Now, I’m sure the lamps will still be available, but there are reasons why they’re going away. 

A standard 4 lamp fixture, similar to what most every office in America uses, has a standard 40 watt T12 lamp on a standard magnetic ballast (which won’t be produced after June of 2010) and uses 172 watts of energy.  The same fixture retrofitted with T8 lamps and a new electronic ballast uses 112 watts of energy – that’s a 35% reduction in energy usage!  To retrofit an existing fixture with the new ballasts is a simple process that requires very basic wiring knowledge.  Remove (2) T12 ballasts, replace with (1) T8 ballast, and replace old lamps with new ones in the same sockets.

Find out how to save money on your lighting!

Not only are you going to see a 35% reduction in energy consumption, you’ll also see a dramatic difference in light output.  The Standard T12 lamp produces 2,650 initial lumens per lamp.  The standard T8 produces 2,800 initial lumens per lamp, 6% brighter.  But the standard T12 lamp produces 2,300 design lumens and the T8 produces 2,660 design lumens.   


Initial lumens –  the average lumen output of the lamp after 100 hours of operation under controlled lab conditions. 

Design Lumens are the average lumen output of the lamp after 40% of its rated life. 

You can see that the T12 lamp loses 14% of its light output over the first 40% of its life, whereas the T8 only loses 5% of its light output.  Combine that over 4 lamps and you have a loss of 1,400 lumens per fixture as compared to 560 lumens lost on a T8 fixture. I’ll get into why the T8 lamp is a better lamp as far as color later – but the 35% energy savings and a better lumen maintenance are 2 of the reasons why switching is better. 

Let’s say your office runs those fixtures 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.  At an average energy cost of $0.07 per KWh you’re looking at a savings of $13.10 per year.  If you have 50 fixtures in your building, that’s a savings of $655.00 per year. And by the way, MidAmerican Energy gives you a rebate of $18 per fixture to do this.  $54 dollars if you have an audit done. (We’ll get into this at a later post.)

Find out how retrofitting your lights can save you money!

I think I’ve made a compelling argument as to why upgrading from T12 to T8 technology is a no-brainer.  Call us and let me come out to look at your situation to give you a free assessment of what can be done to upgrade you today! 

Brian Huff, along with Jack and Sue, own and manage Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. To find out more, visit


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