Archive for December, 2008

Are LED Bulbs The Greatest Lighting?

LED FlashlightLED bulbs are the latest energy saving innovation in lighting. My most recently acquired LED lighting device was an LED flashlight (shown left) containing 14 mini bulbs from a Menards home store. On my birthday, Menards sent me a card with a certificate for a free LED flashlight, so I thought I would take them up on their offer. I was pleasantly surprised in that this tiny flashlight provides an incredible amount of illumination with its 14 bulbs – I almost could strap two of these to the front of my car if my headlights ever gave out! I liked this flashlight so much I bought 3 more for Christmas gifts at about $6 each. (I guess that was their plan!)

LED bulbs also make great decorative lighting, consuming far less electricity than conventional lighting. At the Energy Savings Blog, they document that LED Christmas tree lights use $0.56 in electricity compared to $6.03 in electricity with mini incandescent lights, and a whopping $25.13 for Grandma’s 4 watt old-fashioned lights! And the brilliant bright light of an LED might make it a very attractive choice for holiday lighting.

With respect to room lighting, LED’s may still be in development since they tend to emit a very intense blinding direct light. Still, they have many uses in specific lighting situations. For example, softer versions, as seen at, may work well for bedside lamps or hallway lights. Also, some of the larger LED bulbs in a frosted design, as seen at, would work well in a floor lamp or desk lamp application. The prices can be a bit high, but often they are rated to last 10+ years.

Heating My House With Only a Fireplace

We live in northern Wisconsin in a 40+ year old ranch home. Read here about the wood burning stove that we can now heat our home at temperatures down to zero degrees F! Wood Burning Stove
The wood burning stove pictured left heats our house thanks to the new blower system and many improvements in insulation I made this fall, documented on this blog and on my site Also, you will find a host of other resources for saving money while on a budget on this site, including a page on how I cut my oil hot water bill nearly in half, along with a homemade solar shower I constructed.
Wood Burning StoveThe stove is in our basement on the finished side. We live in a fairly modest 1200 square foot mid-sixties era ranch home with another 600 square feet of (somewhat) finished area in the basement. Our basement was always very cold so we decided to put in a free standing wood stove. The stove worked great, but much of the heat tended to stay in the basement, too much at times.
Wood Burning StoveAnd our upstairs was not really getting much heat. To send more heat upstairs, I put in a floor grate (pictured on left) a few years back. This helped somewhat but still did not deliver a lot of heat. The way to get more heat upstairs was to install a blower run on a thermostat. The blower was purchased at Home Depot online and is nice in that it is fairly quiet. This blower is designed to be part of a 6″ stove vent pipe. The thermostat was purchased from and works incredibly well. This is the same thermostat that is used in controlling temperatures on large greenhouses I see listed in seed catalogs. This blower will turn on, and stay on, as soon as heat builds up and will turn off, and stay off, when heat levels diminish. About the hardest part of rigging this whole system up was fishing the 14-2 wire through my finished basement ceiling to connect to a power source. For safety sake, consult or hire an electrician when installing this system.

Reduce Basement Window Heat Loss

If you have windows typical of an older basement, they are the 14″ by 30″ Basement Windowtype awning type windows that swing in to open. And these windows will generally be of poor quality and allow a lot of cold air in. The result is a cold basement that results in cold floors. A low cost solution is to add plastic. But the concrete wall will not accept the two-sided tape (I tried!). To provide a nice surface to accept the two sided tape, I measured off some 1×2 strips and screwed them together at the corners to make a square frame. I then screwed the top edge into the floor joists above and used two concrete screws, one on each side, to hold it to the wall. After drilling the holes for the concrete screws, I applied Great Stuff expanding foam under the frame to fill in any gaps and form an air-tight seal. Then I fastened in the concrete screws, allowed the foam to expand and harden, and then trimmed the excess off. Then I covered with two-side tape and clear plastic.

The result? My basement is a lot warmer!  That window was very leaky and I did not have a storm for it. Now, my interior plastic storm, sealed air tight, has stopped that cold draft completely.