Cree 9.5 watt LED light bulb

I have used the Cree LED warm bulbs for a month and they are a excellent replacement for a 60 Watt incandescent bulb. The light is better than CFLs I have used. This new 800 lumen light has a color temperature of 2700K, on 9.5 watts. It has the shape and general look of a incandescent bulb and is a screw-in replacement. Its rated life is 25,000 hours and comes with a 10 year warranty At $13 from Home Depot, I see this as a game changer and a CFL killer. They work with dimmer switches.

-- Louis Nettels  

Cree 9.5 watt LED light bulb
$13 from Home Depot

Available from Amazon

The Book of Non-Electric Lighting

For off-the-grid living, you have a lot of options for non-electric lighting. (Solar-battery powered LEDs are not covered here.) This booklet goes through the advantages and disadvantages of different types of petrol-burning lamps.

-- KK  

The Book of Non-Electric Lighting
Tim Matson
2008, 104 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:


Kerosene is the standard fuel for wick lamps. The term kerosene is used loosely to describe a thin flammable oil with a rather high ignition or flash point, roughly 160°F. That high ignition temperature makes kerosene safer for household use than more volatile alcohol or gasoline–in fact, a lighted match can be dunked in a pot of kerosene without igniting it.


Kerosene and paraffin fuel lamps are distinguished by their wicks and fuel reservoirs. Pictured here left to right are a single wick with transparent glass reservoir, a duplex wick with ceramic reservoir, and a round wick with brass reservoir.


The Chimney

The Aladdin chimney is easy to recognize. At 12.5 inches, it is taller than most lamp chimneys. With only a slight outward curve to accommodate the mantle, it looks more like a glass smokestack than a traditional bell-shaped tapering lamp chimney. This sleek design represents a pinnacle in firelight aerodynamics: the high-velocity draft chimney makes it possible for the Aladdin to burn 94 percent oxygen and 6 percent kerosene, producing 125 candlepower. No other unpressurized liquid fuel lamp delivers such brilliant light.

Lutron AuroRa Wireless Lighting Control System

I recently moved to a very rural area, and my garage and house are under heavy tree cover. At night, even with a moon, it’s pitch-black, and when I shut off the car headlights it’s completely dark and I frequently have to shuffle slowly through the darkness to the porch, trying to avoid various obstacles. Leaving spotlights on is an expensive solution, even with LEDs, and I actually like the darkness of the forest as long as I’m not walking through it trying to avoid hitting my shins on a rototiller. I wanted a system to turn on the spotlights before I got out of the car, and then easily turn them off after I got into the house. Making this additionally difficult is that the garage and house are on separate switching systems, so I needed something that was wireless and had good range.

I did some digging around on various websites, and found many expensive solutions: $75+ per switch, with much higher prices for a central control system, and more for remote controls. What attracted me to the Lutron system was first the price, and then the simplicity of the setup: you get 5 switches, 1 master controller, 1 switch control panel, and one visor remote as a full kit. Their documentation online was clear, and I could quickly understand how I needed to implement the system. After about 20 minutes, I had replaced three switches and had the system working — it was almost too easy, and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, it’s been working like a charm and the 3 year old in me laughs when I drive up the dark driveway, press the button, and see everything light up.

The switches are officially dimmers, and there is a slider beside each pushbutton switch. I just have the sliders cranked up to 100% — I never use the dimming function, but they seem to work well. Even with the slider set to a dimming level, the remote control can override that and put the lights at 100% if you press any of the “All On” buttons on the remotes. I’ve been using it for a week or so, and it was one of those projects that I’m surprised was so easy and has had such a big return — I didn’t realize how much time and aggravation the lack of lighting was costing me.

Upsides: Cheap! $100 for five switches, controller, and remote is a no-brainer. Easy installation: it’s simple, well-documented, and standardized. The switches support screw-type connections as well as stripped-wire press-in type connections. Extensible: if you want to go with more bells and whistles, there seem to be quite a few ways you can interface Lutron components with other stuff. Distance: I am using the remote at distances of at least 100 feet outdoors with the receiver just inside a metal-sided wall.

Downsides: I discovered that each switch needs at least 50 watts of draw to work correctly. I put a single 20 watt LED spotlight on a switch, and it just flashed instead of working correctly. I solved that problem by swapping out to an incandescent bulb – those lights aren’t on much, anyway. The system only has five switches, though you can put 10 switches in a local configuration — I’ve already purchased another set. They can’t be used with fluorescent fixtures or any other non-dimmable load, though I imagine if you keep the dimmer at 100% they’d work (though don’t quote me on that.) I don’t think these components will work with the newer “RadioRA 2″ devices that Lutron is selling, which may be why these are so cheap. I’ve only seen “Light Almond” or “Ivory” models for sale — the white ones seem to be hard to find.

Extensions: I purchased a RAMC-MFE “Entry Master Control” which has some simple switch-activated input and output ports for remote control — I’m going to link those to my security camera system, which already has remotely-accessible switch capability so I can control my lights from a web browser. I’m sure there is a way to do this via a direct web interface with Lutron components, but that moves into the areas where they seemingly obfuscate the solution in order to divert me to “VAR” resellers who make a living by explaining unnecessary complexity, so I gave up. I bought an extra wireless controller for my other car — RA-VCTX-WH is the model.

-- John Todd  

Lutron AuroRa Wireless Switch/Dimmer Remote Control System (AR-ENT-1)

Available from Amazon

Available at Walmart for $99

Portable LED Light Flute

I stumbled across this handy LED light when looking for a light to put into a gun safe. Safes and cabinets for long guns are quite dark on the inside. Being able to discreetly access a safe and see what is inside, without breaking out a flashlight, is important in a home defense situation or an early morning departure for a hunting trip. This light fits the bill perfectly, but has the potential to be incredibly useful in other situations.

The light comes in two parts, the light “flute” and the base. The light flute is a metal tube that houses the batteries (3 AAAs), the on/off switch, and four bright, directional LEDs. The flute is about the thickness of a AA battery, and is 8.5″ long. The base is plastic, but contains a relatively strong magnet for mounting (the package also includes a double sided sticky foam pad for mounting the base). The flute “snaps” into the base either along the length of the flute, or can be stood up vertically in the base, and can be rotated axially to shine light where it is needed. One end cap of the flute is a soft, rubberized button to turn the light on and off. Most importantly, the light flute operates independent of the base, so it acts as a flashlight / work light as needed. It is a portable light when you need it to be, but stationary when you don’t.

What attracted me to this light was its versatility and price. I mounted the base on the ceiling of my safe using the integrated magnet, and I use the “flute” as a light bar, but I can also grab the flute and shine it into the nooks and crannies to look for items. Lights specifically for gun safes/cabinets cost significantly more money for inferior functionality, and lack the versatility of a portable light. Furthermore, I haven’t found any other battery operated lights like this that are as aesthetically pleasing or well designed. I plan to buy several more to mount in kitchen cabinets, under the kitchen sink, in tool cabinets, and inside of an under-stair closet that wasn’t wired for a light. I think this would make a great “extra” light for a workstation, or even a reading light. Keep in mind that in such a small package, this light sacrifices coverage for intensity. The light beam is directional, so it isn’t suitable for under cabinet “accent” lighting, where diffuse light is preferred.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Portable LED Light Flute

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Sylvania