Archive for the 'Sustainable' Category

May 31st, 2013
By Deb Villeneuve

In the near future, Drummond House Plans will be introducing plan models with the ES suffix


What does ES mean?

ES is short for Environmentally Superior.

We’re not just talking about the “green” respect for the environment as in the use of ecologically responsible materials and practices aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the project but also the living environment within.


What makes a house plan Environmentally Superior?

From the choice of local suppliers to reduce transportation of materials, and the resulting use of fuels with the inherent damage to the ozone layer, to the use of salvaged materials such as recycled drywall and paint, giving them a second life.

Optimal ventilation systems, low VOC products are designed and enhanced insulation as well as orientation that takes advantage of the passive elements of the environment surrounding the home which includes plantings outside that respect the local weather conditions and water requirements to help take the burden off  of mechanical heating and cooling systems while adding to the natural beauty of the exterior environment and the livability of the interior environment.

An ES home includes planning for the recycling of the on site waste which is an inherent part of any building project.

But there’s more…

An ES design has not only today’s comfort in mind but also looks to the future with an adaptability of design that can evolve with the occupants’ needs over the years.

A three bedroom home may no longer be practical as the owner’s become empty nesters and the need for an enlarged bathroom may arise due to mobility issues. Hallways have also been designed to accommodate special requirements that may develop over time.

The Environmentally Superior concept has a global vision of optimization of all that touches the home owner inside and out, for now and in the future.


In the upcoming weeks, we will be posting these exciting new designs on our site and we invite you to share your comments or questions with us.


September 7th, 2012
By Vivian Martin

If you heat with wood now or are considering the use of wood fuel for home heating, this book is for you. Wood as a home energy source differs in important ways from all the other options. Heating with wood can be challenging because of the physical demands involved. Special knowledge and skills are needed to successfully use this hands-on home heating option. In this book you will find much of the information needed to make sure your wood heat system is safe. You will also find helpful tips on how to operate and maintain it effectively.

Just as with all energy sources, heating with wood has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that wood is a renewable energy resource that does not need much processing. Many users like the fact that heating with wood makes their households self-sufficient for heating and secure during an electrical power failure since firewood burning appliances can operate without electricity. Burning wood from local sources means a double economic benefit in the form of savings to the household budget, and energy payments that circulate locally instead of going to distant energy companies. Some people enjoy cutting, splitting and stacking firewood and treat it as part of their physical fitness routine. Most people find the beauty of the natural wood fire hard to resist and many couldn’t imagine living a winter in Canada without it.

There are disadvantages too. The most serious problem is air pollution caused by older stoves, fireplaces and furnaces that can’t burn the wood completely, and by users who don’t know how to burn wood properly. Even the most advanced wood heating technologies produce more air emissions in the form of small particles than the conventional heating fuels like oil and gas. Heating with wood means that household members must be involved in managing the fire, the fuel supply and doing regular maintenance jobs like ash removal. All these tasks take time and therefore have a cost.

Wood fuel is bulky so a winter’s supply takes up a lot of space. There are practical limits to the number of households in Canada that could be heated with wood because of the damage that could be caused to the forest resource and to the air quality in large cities.

Although wood was Canada’s traditional fuel and was the main energy source until about 150 years ago, there have been major advances in wood burning over the past 25 years. These have made wood burning safer, more efficient and convenient than ever before. Some of these advances include:

- New firebox designs are capable of burning the wood more completely, cleanly and at higher efficiencies. 

- A new type of door glass can withstand the heat, and a technology keeps the glass clear for days at a time, allowing efficient heating to be combined with viewing of the fire.

- Pellet stoves that use compressed wood and other biomass wastes are capable of providing at least 24 hours of unattended heating.

- Reliable installation safety standards provide clear guidelines for safe installation.

- Training and professional certification programs for installers and inspectors mean that you can get dependable advice and service.

As recently as 1980, most serious wood burning was done with basement wood furnaces or simple, black, wood stoves. Now, all that has changed. The majority of new wood heating installations are attractive, advanced-technology stoves and fireplaces located in main living areas. Properly installed and located wood heaters are able to provide most or all of the heat for a home, while at the same time offering the beauty of a visible fire. 

Canadian houses have also become more energy efficient, with more insulation, more effective air barriers and sealed doors and windows. These changes have made houses easier to heat, but have also meant that wood-burning systems must be more carefully designed so they will function properly within the tightly sealed house environment.

The keys to safe and successful wood burning are good planning, careful installation and proper operation. This book is intended to help you plan a successful installation and to use your wood-burning system in the most safe and effective way.

… The above excerpt is from the CMHC publication “A Guide to Residential Wood Heating“. The full book is an excellent read and downloadable at 



August 22nd, 2012
By Vivian Martin


When looking for a durable, low-maintenance cladding material for your home, you may consider fiber cement siding. It has the look and substance of wood siding but many attributes that actually make if perform better than wood.

Most fiber-cement manufacturers offer primed and ready-painted options. The latter would only require touchups on end cuts and the matching paint is normally provided. Because it is dimensionally stable (suffers from minimal expansion and contraction), the need to repaint will be much less frequent than with wood siding.

There are several makers of fiber cement products and you are best to ask questions at your building supply store and from professionals with boots on the ground to find out what their experiences have been with the product you are wanting to use.  Budget will always come into consideration but you will also want to consider the product style, local costs, availability, durability and maintenance when making your decisions.

Fiber Cement Basics

Fiber cement is not a new product – it has actually been around for quite a while but it has only recently become a mainstream siding option. Many people like the look of traditional wood lap siding but not the maintenance. Likewise, with densification, some areas area actually mandating the use of fire-resistant materials to prevent fires from easily jumping from one home to the next. Fiber cement siding is often named as an acceptable product in those cases.

So how is this product made? Fiber cement siding is made of two main ingredients: Portland cement and cellulose fiber. They’re combined with sand, water and additives particular to the manufacturer to form a durable and stable cladding material. There is little to no waste in the manufacturing process and many of the products are recognized in sustainable certification programs.

Many styles of siding are available including lap siding (usually in 12 foot lengths and varying widths), cedar shingle replicas, and panels. Co-ordinating fiber-cement trim is even available to keep your entire exterior low-maintenance.

Painting & Staining Fiber Cement

Because fiber cement is dimensionally stable, painted coatings tend to last longer because the paint is not stretching and shrinking with temperature changes.  

If you like the look of stain, you “can” stain it but you would need to use products specifically designed for fiber cement coating. It is best to do your homework to find out what your options are with the specific product you want to use.

Is it difficult to paint?

We’ve found this easy DIY video from Taunton’s Fine Homebuilding… I think even I could do this!


Like every other product you can put in or on your home there are plusses and minuses and fiber cement is no different. But on balance the number of advantages are greater than the number of fiber cement siding disadvantages. For the record, here’s how it plays out:


Fiber cement siding is impact resistant, unaffected by moisture (when painted/properly installed) and can last for decades. It won’t turn brittle in the winter like vinyl and is not prone to rattling in the wind like vinyl.  

Rot and Insect Resistant
Being a portland cement product, fiber cement siding will not be subject to the decay you would normally see in wood siding. Termites and carpenter ants will also look elsewhere for a meal!

Dimensional Stability
As mentioned earlier, this kind of siding doesn’t expand and contract as much with environmental changes so your coating will adhere longer without the cracking and chipping you would be accustomed to with painted wood. This lower maintenance appeals greatly to all stages of life. We all have better things to do than repaint our homes.

Fire Resistance
Fiber cement is fireproof and carries a Class 1(A) fire/flame spread rating. That’s great piece of mind for those living in areas prone to wild fires, brush fires with wind-driven embers.

Available Primed or Painted
Fiber cement siding manufacturers offer their products both primed and primed-and-painted. The factory-applied coatings are done under optimal conditions which allows for longer warranty periods than field-applied coatings. 

Long Duration Warranties
While each manufacturer is different, product warranties are normally quite long – up to 50 years for defects.

Great Curb Appeal
Even up close, fiber cement cladding products (boards, shakes and panels) are a convincing wood alternative.


Mid-Range Pricing
Typically more expensive than vinyl siding but mid-range pricing could just as easily by a pro when compared to the cost and maintenance of wood. But if you are looking at the lowest cost of cladding, fiber cement will not be found in that class. 

Installation Challenges
Compared to light-weight vinyl, fiber cement is heavy, awkward to handle (without risk of breakage) and requires protective gear to keep from breathing dust created when it’s cut.   

Pre-Painted Could be a Pricey Premium
Getting siding with factory applied paint is convenient but be prepared to pay for this premium. Still, the devil is in the details… How many painters will warranty their job?

I Think I Like this product… Who are the Fiber Cement Manufacturers?

There are actually relatively few fiber cement manufacturers. The primary brands of fiber cement siding are:

Not all of the products or manufacturers are available in all markets so you will need to check with your builder or building supplies store to find out what your options are. Because fiber cement siding is a heavy product, shipping would add substantial costs. Many manufacturers also have zonal product formulations which much be used to meet the warranty conditions.

If you have a picture of a DrummondHousePlan home with fiber cement siding, we would love to see it! It may even be added to our Photo Gallery. Just follow the instructions on our gallery page to show off your beautiful new DrummondHousePlans home.

May 5th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Registered Trademark of BuiltGreen Canada
Built Green™ promotes construction of buildings that are healthier for the occupants and healthier for the environment. Sustainable or “green” building practices can reduce the tremendous impact that building has on both people and nature.
▪    Better energy efficiency means comfort and long term savings for the homeowner.
▪    Healthier indoor air means comfort, better health and peace of mind for the family.
▪    Durable, reduced-maintenance materials mean a longer life for the home and long term savings.
▪    Preserving natural resources means leaving more for future generations to enjoy.
The homebuyer will know that their Built Green™ home represents their commitment to the environment, future generations and improving the way we live. Resource and environment-conscious homebuyers will look for Built Green™ certification when choosing their home.
A Built Green™ home certification offers participating builders an excellent way to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Market research shows that consumers take environmental concerns and long-term energy costs into consideration when making purchasing decisions.  Builders can demonstrate their environmental leadership by participating in Built Green™ and produce a great home.
 To learn more about the Built Green™ home, visit the CHBA-BC website or BuiltGreenCanada.


Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient. 


Informing and educating the home-buying public on the value of a home that meets Built Green™ standards are one of the primary undertakings of the program. An informed buyer will recognize the value of greater energy efficiency, healthier indoor air, reduced water usage, and improved comfort.

Sustainable building practices go beyond energy and water conservation, resource efficient building materials and superior indoor environmental quality.

Some of the key benefits are:
▪    Lower electric and water utility costs
▪    Environmentally effective use of building materials
▪    Enhanced health and productivity
▪    Long-term economic returns
▪    Reduced environmental impact

March 25th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

WWF-Canada Earth Hour

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change.

Earth Hour is now an annual global event hosted by the World Wildlife Fund. Since inception, the event has rapidly gained momentum. Earth Hour 2010 was the biggest Earth Hour ever reaching 1.3 billion people. On March 27, 2010, a record 128 countries and territories united across the globe making it the largest voluntary action ever witnessed. Iconic buildings and landmarks from the Asian Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. Over 10 million of Canadians took part in all provinces and territories, turning out the lights in over 300 cities and towns.

Can an hour of dousing the lights really make a difference? According to BC Hydro, During Earth Hour of 2010, British Columbians saved 64.6 megawatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of turning off about 1.4 million lights. Ontario saw a four per cent drop in electricity demand during Earth Hour 2010, enough to power a city the size of Brampton.

The event is not merely about saving power for a single hour. It is an awareness campaign to show just how much of an impact a small change can make. On Saturday March 26, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm, join in by simply powering down. You could make it fun by having a romantic candlelight dinner, dusting off the board games for a family night or find an Earth Hour event in your community. You may find yourself energized by being unplugged!

March 22nd, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Today is World Water Day and it just so happens that Jerry Yudelson, noted green building authority and author, has released a new conceptual tool to help people understand where water will come from in the future.  The tool mimics the popular Pyramid of Conservation used by Minnesota Power and explains water sourcing in ten increasingly expensive and complex steps.As shown at the base of the pyramid, it’s easy and relatively cheap to use less water.  It’s a lot more complicated and expensive to desalinate ocean water for human consumption. 

Here are the ten steps:

  • Behavior – education, audit, water pricing, conservation, construction codes
  • Low-cost/no-cost – leaks, aerators, low-flow showerheads, shower timers
  • Irrigation – native or adaptive landscape, drip systems, web-based irrigation, sub-metering
  • Hygiene – retrofits, low-flow toilets, water-free urinals, rebate programs
  • Appliances – dishwasher, clothes washer, water softener
  • Extreme Makeover – compost toilets, hardscape, no irrigation, on-site black water reuse
  • Water Heating – solar water heating, hot water loop, efficient water heater
  • On-site Reuse – rainwater collection, gray water, irrigation
  • Off-site Reuse – sewer mining, purple pipe systems
  • Desalination, New Water Sources

Of course, some of these can be done at home (i.e., retrofits, water-saving appliances, water heating), while require a larger effort (i.e., desalination, off-site reuse).

Water is a precious resource that must be protected, and this is a primer to get that started.  All in all, this is a straight-forward, dead-simple graphic that can help us evaluate how to do that.

(Article Source: Jetson Green an excellent source for energy and resource-saving ideas)

February 28th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Would you water your garden with what goes down your shower drain or out your washing machine? In Tucson, Arizona, and an increasing number of water-starved western cities, more and more residents are saying yes.

If you’ve never contemplated what happens to the water that gets you or your clothes clean, you’re far from alone. But for cities and environmentalists trying to head off the growing threat of drought and rising water costs, so-called graywater — differentiating it from the “black water” that goes down the toilet — is getting a lot more attention. A decade ago, Tucson, which has about a million residents in its metro area and is a liberal and environmentally conscious oasis in a red state, convinced Arizona legislators to make it legal for homeowners to irrigate their trees and plants with the water that was going down their drains or out of their washing machines without a permit. Now, graywater use is not only legal in Tucson, and indeed the rest of Arizona, but promoted, and, in some cases, required. In 2007, the state rolled out a tax credit of up to $1,000 for homeowners who install graywater systems. Last year, a law — believed to be the country’s first — went into effect in Tucson that requires builders to include graywater plumbing in new construction.

(Article source: Time article series on Intelligent Cities. Read full article here…)

February 13th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

As beautiful as private landscapes can be, and they can be stunning, none can match the poetry, joy and solace of a public garden done right. As proof, look no further than Arlington Garden in Pasadena. Here, since breaking ground on the 3-acre site five years ago, neighbor Betty McKenney has seen just about every kind of human interaction.

“We have people who meditate and pray,” said McKenney, left. “We have counselors and young people from a local clinic, some of whom are pretty troubled. Certainly there are schools and Scout programs. People bring their computers, or they read. They walk dogs. We see engaged couples getting photographed. Other photographers work on catalogs with their models. Last time it was a little bit risque. Some of those girls had really long legs. We see couples — 70, 80 years old — holding hands walking through the garden. I saw a mom one afternoon sitting with her little boy. He was eating a pomegranate and they were talking about birds. Then teenagers come in at night. We have it all.”

And that’s even before arriving at the plants, a mix of carefully selected, drought-tolerant California natives and Mediterranean climate zone imports, assembled in a public space that is first-class wildlife habitat and model of water conservation.

The people who did the most to make Arlington Garden are McKenney and her husband, Charles. After retiring from a computing job at Caltech (Betty) and practicing law (Charles), and quickly rethinking a brief move to Santa Barbara, these Pasadenans bought a condominium on Arlington Drive. Next door were 3 acres of mown weeds interspersed by a gaggle of palms and a few trees. This was the last remnant of Durand Mansion, a baronial monstrosity razed in the 1960s.

Caltrans bought the land during the construction of the 710 Freeway but never used it. By 2003, the city of Pasadena was holding public hearings to discuss alternative uses. “Everyone said no this, no that,” Charles said. “No playing field. No parking lot. Nobody said what they did want.”

Betty and Charles, himself a former Pasadena councilman, were tasked by the city to form a committee and canvass for ideas. “I thought maybe we should plant a few trees out here,” Charles said. “Betty kind of patted me on the head.”

Full article and more images here…

Also of interest may be past Drummond House Plans blog entries on Rainwater Collection Systems and Xeriscaping.

Thanks for visiting the DrummondHousePlans Blog!

February 6th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Whether by conscience or necessity, many people are looking to reduce their water consumption. The perfectly manicured emerald lawn may certainly look lovely but normally requires a great deal of work, chemical intervention and labour. If you stopped pampering your golf green, nature would inevitably take its course and take over and balance the space. Somewhere between the two, is a solution to provide a landscape that is visually pleasing, yet sustainable.

Photo Source: Okanagan Xeriscape Assoc.

Photo Source: Okanagan Xeriscape Assoc.

Xeriscaping and xerogardening refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that are more sustainable, consuming far less or no water for irrigation. As with many gardening techniques, you will go through processes of trial and error but the end result is a landscape or garden which is actually far less labour intensive.

The word xeriscaping is a portmanteau of the Greek word xeros (for “dry”) and landscaping. It quite literally means landscaping with minimized water use.

Alternate terms that may be used are water-conserving landscapes, drought-tolerant landscaping, zeroscaping, smart scaping, or dry gardening.  The use of plants that tolerate local climate conditions is emphasized.

Xeriscaping is fairly common-sense actually. It is an intuitive way of dealing with the hand that nature deals you rather than creating an artificial environment.

1. Plan and design
As with most landscape plans, start with a diagram, drawn to scale, that shows the major elements of your landscape, including house, driveway, sidewalk, deck or patio, existing trees and other elements.

Then think of the functionality of your design. Do you need space for dogs to run? Children to play? Curb appeal? Create privacy? Frame or screen views? Create a conceptual plan (bubble diagram) that shows the areas for turf, perennial beds, views, screens, slopes, etc. Once finished, develop a planting plan that reinforces the areas in the appropriate scale. If you are having a difficult time with this process, contact local greenhouses or horticulture societies for possible referrals of landscape designers.

2. Soil amendment
All plants will benefit from the use of compost, which will help the soil retain water. If you are blessed with adequate organic material, you can create your own. Alternatively, there are many sources where you can buy composted waste (greenhouses, farmers, landscape materials, etc.)

3. Efficient irrigation
Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic drip or sprinkler system. If you choose to include turf areas, these should be zoned separately from other plants to allow the most efficient irrigation of each type of planting. For grass, gear-driven rotors or rotary spray nozzles that have larger droplets and low angles to avoid wind drift. Spray, drip line or bubbler emitters are most efficient for watering trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers.

Note: The most efficient sprinklers release big drops close to the ground rather than misting or throwing the water high in the air.

Deep, infrequently watering develops deep roots. Evening or night watering reduces water lost to evaporation. Automatic sprinkling systems should be adjusted monthly to accommodate weather conditions and the installation of a rain sensor will prevent irrigation when it rains.

4. Appropriate plant and zone selection
Common sense time… To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements. Moderate-water-use plants fair well in low-lying drainage areas, near downspouts, or in the shade of other plants. Turf requires the most water and shrub/perennial beds will require approximately half the amount of water. Dry, sunny areas support low-water-use plants. Planting a variety of plants with different heights, color and textures creates interest and beauty. Don’t forget about incorporating indigenous plants. They will thrive with little or no fuss!

5. Mulch
Mulch cannot be underestimated. It keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth. Organic mulches, such as bark chips, pole peelings or wood grindings, should be applied 2 to 4 inches deep. Fiber mulches create a web that is more resistant to wind and rain washout. Inorganic mulches, such as rocks and gravel, should be applied 2 to 3 inches deep but use this practice with caution as it makes the area hotter.

6. Alternative turf
Many native grasses (warm-season) have been cultivated for turf lawns. Find like-minded people in your area and benefit from their experience and preferred blend. Warm-season grasses are greenest in June through September and straw brown the rest of the year. “Grass gardens” can also be a lovely addition to your landscape scheme as they come in a variety of heights, textures and colours and can provide lovely four-season interest.

Native grasses (cool season) such as bluegrass and tall fescue, are greenest in the spring and fall and go dormant in the high heat of the summer. New cultivars of bluegrass, such as Reveille, and tall fescue, can reduce typical bluegrass water requirements by at least 30 percent. Fine fescues can provide substantial water savings and is best used in areas that receive low traffic or are in shady locations.

Use the appropriate grass for your selected area and limit the amount of grass to reduce the watering and maintenance requirements.

7. Maintenance
All landscapes require some degree of care during the year. Turf requires spring and fall aeration along with regular feeding every 6 to 8 weeks. Keep your grass height at 3 inches and allow the clippings to fall. Trees, shrubs and perennials will need occasional pruning to remove dead stems, promote blooming or control height and spread. Much of the removed plant material can be shredded and used in composting piles. Just avoid composting any weeds that have gone to seed. They will come back to haunt you!

Some helpful resources on the topic of xeriscaping:

Also of interest may be past Drummond House Plans blog entries on Rainwater Collection Systems.

Thanks for visiting the DrummondHousePlans Blog!

January 30th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

The BC government is phasing out the old inefficient incandescent light bulbs, as a way to help us save money and become more energy efficient, but as a result, there’s a lot of myth-making going on about the compact fluorescent bulbs. Here’s a quick guide to help you discuss them with a disgruntled workmate or neighbour.

Myth #1. The old incandescent bulbs have been banned.

This is simply not true – the new regulations simply govern light bulbs in the 75-100 watt range. Philips has a range of Halogena Energy Advantage bulbs that are dimmable, contain no mercury, and meet the new standard.  

Myth #2. The waste heat from the old bulbs helps heat my home, reducing the amount of natural gas I need to burn.

It is true that the old incandescent bulbs produce waste heat – this is why they are so inefficient as lights. If you’re burning gas for heat, the argument goes, removing the bulbs means burning more gas, increasing your greenhouse gases. 

But let’s pause to think. Electricity in North America is constantly traded across borders. BC Hydro imports between 5% and 15% of its electricity, depending on the depth of snowpack, mostly from coal and gas-fired power in the US. When we use less power, it’s the imported power that we reduce, so even if the new bulbs increase the use of gas, this is balanced by the decreased use of imported coal and gas fired power. Also, since most bulbs are close to the ceiling, the waste heat rises, where it’s neither useful nor near the thermostat that regulates gas heating. In warmer months, it’s just waste heat, plain and simple.

80% of British Columbians are already using CFLs, resulting in 600 gigawatt hours of electricity savings per year, the same as the electricity consumed by more than 50,000 homes. If this came from a mix of imported coal and gas-fired power, it would generate 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) a year.

The belief that using the new light bulbs will cause BC’s GHGs to rise comes from measuring our GHGs as a strictly provincial affair, excluding our imported power. As soon as BC is 100% self-sufficient in green power, the energy saved by using the new bulbs will allow more green power to be exported, helping to reduce the need for coal and gas-fired power outside BC.   

Myth #3. They contain mercury! 

Yes, they do contain a tiny amount of mercury. Tuna contains mercury too, which comes from the air pollution that coal-fired power plants produce. Francis Rubinstein from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that if you broke a bulb and did a good job of cleaning up, your mercury exposure would be like taking a tiny nibble of tuna. If you closed all the doors and smashed the bulb with a hammer, it would be like eating a can of tuna, since fish absorb the mercury in air pollution from coal-fired power.

So it’s no big deal, unless you make a daily habit of smashing the bulbs. If you do break one, open a window, leave the room for 15 minutes, and then brush up the waste – don’t vacuum it. For more safety details, see, and the Environmental Working Group’s Guide.

In 2009, the US-based Environmental Working Group produced a Shopper’s Guide to Light Bulbs, and recommended seven bulbs which have the lowest mercury and also last the longest: the Earthmate Mini-Size, Litetronics Neolite, Sylvania Micro-Mini, Sylvania DURA-ONE, Feit EcoBulb, MaxLite, and Philips with Alto.

Myth #4.  They produce a sickly flickering pale light.

Yes, it’s true – some do. So don’t buy those ones! Buy quality bulbs! If you want warm yellow light, look for ones labeled with a lower colour temperature (Kelvin) around 3,000. If you want a white light, look for bulbs marked “daylight, with a high colour temperature around 5,000. Here is another useful guide to buying a CFL bulb, which also has lots of good advice from on-line readers.

Myth #5. They don’t work with dimmers.

True in 2007, but not today. If you want a CFL bulb that works with a dimmer switch, they’re more expensive (and waste more energy), but you can buy one.

Myth #6. They don’t last as long as promised.

In California, the utility PG&E found that instead of 9.4 years of useful life, the reality is closer to 6.3 years, with a faster burn-out rate in certain locations such as bathrooms and recessed lighting. But a regular light bulb burns out after 1,000 hours, so the new bulbs still last six times longer.

Myth #7. They don’t come on immediately.

No longer true in most cases. In my home, all but two of our 47 CFLs come on almost immediately.

Myth #8. There’s no safe disposal mechanism.

For sure there is – recycling programs for residential CFLs are mandated by provincial regulation. You can find the nearest recycling drop-off at

Myth #9. They produce “dirty electricity”.

This refers to the myth that the new bulbs produce harmful electromagnetic radiation, and the experience that some people have a bad reaction to the UV light. It does appear that some people who suffer from lupus and certain skin conditions can be negatively affected by some bulbs, in which case they should buy a bulb marked as low UV, with a glass cover. For the vast majority of people, who have been using billions of bulbs all over the world for many years, there are no negative health effects.  

Myth #10. They don’t work in really cold weather.

This is generally true – so look for ones with a special cold cathode weather ballast, which are good down to -23ºC.    

How Much Will I Save?

BC Hydro says that if the average household replaced all its incandescent bulbs with CFLs, it would save 830 kWh a year, which comes to around $60. BC Hydro’s CFL Fact Sheet says that replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will save $52 in electricity over the life of the bulb. BC Hydro says that 80% of British Columbians are already using CFLs, that we are already realizing 600 gigawatt hours of electricity savings per year, the equivalent energy consumption of more than 50,000 homes. 

For more good information about the new light bulbs, see BC Hydro’s Guide

What about LED lighting?

LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are more efficient than CFLs – but they are still very expensive ($20-$40), and their light is still very focused and limited. Prices will fall, and the technology will improve; in ten years they may well be the #1 bulbs.

So remind me – why are the old inefficient bulbs being phased out? They use four times more energy than the CFL bulbs, so making the switch plays a small but important role in helping us save energy, save  money, reduce the use of coal-fired power, and protect our children’s future. And that has my whole-hearted support.

Article Souce: Author Guy Dauncey, President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.


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