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. 🙂

The New LED’s Are Here! The New LED’s Are Here! :)


This post is going to be short and sweet – THE NEW LIGHTS ARE IN! THE NEW LIGHTS ARE IN! 

Okay, so I get excited about silly things – that’s what my wife has been telling me for many years lol. 

But of course any of us in the light industry will get as excited as a kid on Christmas when new things come out, especially when we get our hands on them. And nothing right now is more exciting than LED technology.  

I’ve posted earlier stuff on LED Refrigeration products – but today we received something just as cool: new Par30 and Par38 LED’s.  



Yeah, like I said, it probably doesn’t exactly have the high-tech buzz of “Ipad.” But let me tell you, these amazing lights from Philips are awe-inspiring, just the same. In fact, there isn’t a company in the world that has spent more money on research and development in LED lighting than the good folks at Philips Lighting.  

As good as these lights are, they’re going to get even better.  The Par Lamps we received today aren’t dimmable – but the next generation will be.  And while there are a lot of dimmable products out there today,  I trust that Philips would have bought it by now, if they thought it was viable. They haven’t, and my money is with them – figuratively and literally. 



These lights are beefy and provide excellent light output. So if you’d like to see them in action, stop on out and we’ll show ’em off to you – or give us a call and we’ll bring these amazing lights out to you and put them through their paces, so you can see them in action for yourself.

Meantime, I’m going to play with them – isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with cool toys at Christmas? 🙂 



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

Head To The (New) Exit Signs?


A friend sent me an article on emergecy exit signs from an online magazine that I don’t read, called Slate.

After reading it, I will almost certainly continue not to read it, but do want to address something the article points out. There is apparently a movement afoot to do away with our current emergency exit signs.


“Do away with” is not entirely correct. More accurately,  some people want to replace the standard “EXIT” sign that you and I have grown up with, with a picture – specifically, a human form who appears to be running towards an open door.


This is not a new movement. They’ve been working on this for over 25 years. What’s new is that they’re getting some traction, particularly with a group that never seems happy with how things are – yep, you guessed it, Congress.

The reason for wanting the change?

Our current emergency “exit” sign can not be understood by people who can’t read English. Also, the color is red, which pretty much means “danger” in any language, and could actually scare people away from it, who didn’t know any better – or so says this group of sign-changing lobbyists.

That’s why a new style of exit sign was invented in the late 70’s, by designer Yokio Ota. It shows a human figure running towards what appears to be an open door. Ota’s design was adopted by the International Standardization Organization and is now the template for many countries around the world.

So be it. If they like it, use it.

Here in the U.S. the standards for exit signs were set in the 30’s by The National Fire Protection Association. And while the color red has become the standard, it’s not required by the NFPA – just enough contrast between the writing and the background, so people can read it.

Maybe I sound like an old fogey – do something, doesn’t mean it’s right for us, here in the good ole’ U.S.

The argument that someone who doesn’t speak our language, wouldn’t understand what an “EXIT” sign means, seems ridiculous. Since people the world over are used to seeing a sign associated with a doorway that leads them out of the building they’re in, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that a foreigner who sees a lot of big, red, illuminated signs above a lot of doors, would figure out in short order that that’s probably a ぬける sign? (“to exit” in Japanese)

I mean, is it really that much more clear when you look at Mr. Ota’s running man sign? Besides, having to constantly look at a person running for the exits while I’m trying to enjoy a movie, is scarier to me than thirty-foot high red flashing EXIT letters.

And regardless of whether it’s a red word or a green guy, wouldn’t someone with that person, teach them what it means, or wouldn’t they learn on their own? If I saw ぬけるin red, repeatedly over doors in Japan, I think I’d get the hint – hey, that must be an emergency exit!

 I’m all for change, if it’s change for the better, or change for a reasonable purpose.

But we’re talking about retrofitting literally tens of thousands of signs in this country, just for people who are not living here but are simply visiting – because I’m guessing that the people who do move here from overseas, have to learn some ability to speak English. Does that seem reasonable?  I couldn’t imagine moving to China without eventually learning some Chinese – wouldn’t I have to, if I was going to be able to survive being there?

But hey, if the green running man sign becomes the standard exit sign in this country (and I doubt it will, no more than the metric system has become our measurement standard) we’ll sell it at Adventure Lighting – just like we sell the “old fashioned” exit signs.



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

The Dangers Of Unprotected Metal Halides


I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff in my 20 plus years in the lighting industry.

For those who are on the outside looking into this business we love, it might seem a bit crazy to associate “crazy” and “lighting industry.” Sort of like associating “comedian” and “CPA.”

But one thing that isn’t funny but is crazy is when lights start to explode.

This can happen, we’ve discovered, with metal halide lights.

First, let me make it clear – of all the lights in the HID (high intensity discharge) family, metal halides bring the greatest number of positive qualities to the table.

They’re more energy efficient than mercury vapor lamps and offer better light quality, and we sell a lot of them at Adventure Lighting, where our clients – and we – swear by them.

But they have their drawbacks.

Metal halides are notoriously slow to turn on. They also have color shifting issues more pronounced than other lamps and put out a lot of UV radiation.

And they can explode.

Not all the time or even most of the time or, to be honest, even some of the time – in fact we’ve only seen it a couple times with a few clients with the thousands of MH’s we’ve sold over the years.

But when anything blows up that isn’t supposed toand I can think of a long list of examples here – that makes people nervous, and rightfully so.

MH light manufacturers are working on this issue and have made great strides. Yet the best solution at this point is also the simplest – using a protected metal halide.

Unlike the unprotected version, the protected MH has a tubular piece of glass around the arctube that prevents glass breakage, should the bulb, on those rare occasions, explode – usually toward the end of the bulb’s life.

The protected metal halide can then be safely used in open fixtures and in areas where people and combustibles are present.

The protected MH costs a little more than its unprotected brother – but the peace of mind it brings seems totally worth it. Plus it also exposes more businesses to the wonderful qualities of the MH lamp.

And not using it, because of a little blow-up, is just crazy. 🙂



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

Car Lot Lighting: Lots Of Wasted Light


I heard last week that a local car dealer (I won’t say who) spends $20,000 a month to light their car lots – or in other words, about the price of a new car, every 30 days.

I am in the wrong business – whew. And I thought we had some big electric bills this winter.


Auto dealerships have a real conundrum. They want to be good stewards and be energy-efficient, but they also want their cars for sale to be visible and look good to potential buyers.

Yet this dealer I’m quoting, can’t be atypical. Drive past any car lot in Des Moines after dusk and you’ll see dozens of dealerships using hundreds and hundreds of lights to illuminate all those pretty cars, trucks and vans.

So what are the alternatives?

The easiest, AND CHEAPEST, fix is to switch from the basic 400w Metal Halide that nearly every lot uses, to an econ-o-watt 360w Metal Halide.  This bulb is designed to be a direct replacement for the 400w version.  No ballast changes, just un-screw old, screw-in new. 


This bulb puts out just as much light as its higher wattage brother, but instantly saves 40 watts of energy.  Assuming you’re running the lights on your lot 11 hours a night, 365 days a year, at an average of $0.10 per kWh, you could save $16 per year, per bulb.  OH, and by the way, Mid-American Energy gives you a rebate of $3.00 per bulb. 

How many 400 watt lights do you have on your lot?   

Another alternative is to completely change out the fixtures to an LED replacement fixture.  This isn’t a cheap solution, but the energy savings and maintenance savings can be an excellent way to justify this option.

Another alternative is to only turn on every other light, rotating them each hour. Many car dealers look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I suggest this, but there’s plenty of research to show that car lots can be well-illuminated using this method. There are special sensors that can accomplish this – and we’re talking about a 50% reduction in lighting costs. If you’re writing a check for 20 grand a month to Mid-American Energy, it seems like it might at least be worth considering.


In fact, if all car dealers across the country reduced their energy consumption by just 10%, they would see a total of $193 million in energy savings. For some dealers, those savings could be the difference between staying in business or turning out the lights, for good.

The other option is something “going green” proponents have been suggesting for years – shut all the lights off after 2am. Yes there are people who browse car lots at that time. But I know that no car dealer is actually selling cars at those hours. In fact the vast majority of cars are purchased in daylight. Perhaps all the car dealers in town could enter into some kind of joint agreement.

Sure. And maybe the KCCI Weather Beacon will go dark.


But if I was a smart car dealer who really wanted to make a PR splash, I’d tell the public that I was going to start shutting off my lights after 2am, to save energy, and the environment – and that I was going to pass those energy savings onto my customers.

Turn off the lights, sell a few more cars. Hey, maybe I am in the wrong business.

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

Back to the top