A Santa Fe family employs LED lighting to help make their residence sustainable for generations.
When James and Molly Wyatt of Santa Fe, N.M. decided to retire, they wanted to build a home that was future-minded. “We wanted it to be a beautifully designed sanctuary for our ‘waning years’ plus something that would outlast us and stay in our family for generations,” James Wyatt explains.
They insisted on quality craftsmanship for everything from floor to ceiling. “Houses today are far too often built on a model that cuts as many initial expenses as possible,” he quips. “I try to think ahead, about my grandchildren and their eventual children. Many of the decisions Molly and I made were influenced by the idea that this home would be a part of our extended family forever. It came down to ‘Are you thinking of yourself, or are you thinking of the greater good and all the exciting futures we can influence and be a positive part of if we just start thinking 10, 20, 50 years into the future when we’re making decisions.’”
The Wyatts not only designed the house themselves, but they were incredibly involved with the building process – from helping to mix the concrete counter tops to making the draperies and the wood furniture themselves.
Powered almost entirely by a solar array, the newly built Wyatt home had fallen just short of energy neutrality. By opting to retrofit the structure with LEDs, the Wyatts expect to finally be not only neutral, but actually generate energy to sell back to the utility companies.
“Every detail in the home was considered. We knew that we wanted to use LEDs and we liked that Noribachi’s bulbs fit into pretty much any fixture. We just needed to determine the appropriate fixtures and lamps for each room based around the décor and then simply screw in the LED bulbs,” Wyatt explains. “The process was incredibly easy, exactly the same as changing out an incandescent bulb. There was only one fixture that required some extra work to fit the LED bulb inside, but that was only because it was designed for fluorescent. I just changed the socket from fluorescent pins to a standard screw-in.”
The Wyatts retrofitted 50 fixtures with new LED bulbs, saving between 85-90 percent of their electric usage. In the kitchen alone, they replaced their 1,800-watt array with Garnet and Opal LED bulbs that require only 150 watts in total and deliver brighter, better light.
“The difference is night and day,” Wyatt remarks. “Not only in the light quality, but the energy savings are off the chart. In our living room, we went from using 100-watt incandescents to 9-watt Noribachi Agate LEDs. It’s simply incredible that these lights can produce such amazing luminance and use so little power. It’s a joyous thing to pass by these new lights while they’re on,” he says. “You don’t feel guilty if they’re on and you’re not home.”
Before committing to LED, the Wyatts did their research. LEDs, as opposed to compact fluorescent or hybrid incandescent, became the obvious choice for many reasons. “In our opinion, fluorescents have never gotten light quality right,” Wyatt remarks. “They really wash you out – and nothing is worse than building a beautiful home and then looking like a cadaver in it!”
Another key benefit is the lifetime; LEDs have the longest of all the lighting options available. Using LED provided another benefit; the original design of the home was intended to incur as little maintenance as possible. With almost 25 times the life of incandescent bulbs, LEDs can go 10+ years without replacement. Since many of the lighting fixtures are in hard to access areas, that longevity allows the Wyatts to take their mind off maintenance and focus on enjoying the beauty of their home.
“Actually, the decision to live in Santa Fe was driven by our love of the outdoors and the environment,” Wyatt states. “LEDs are the most ecologically friendly option – with their low energy consumption and lack of toxic chemicals – and that really resonated with us. We’re really excited by LED technology and see it as not only the future of lighting, but also the best option for the present.”
In addition, the new LEDs interact better with the New Mexico climate. In the past, high winds have reportedly caused outdoor, vibration-sensitive incandescent lights to go out prematurely. The solid state components in LEDs aren’t adversely affected by motion.
Indoors, the cooler operating temperature of LEDs translates into a more comfortable living environment during the summer by eliminating the additional warmth generated by incandescent light bulbs that emit almost 90 percent of the energy they produce as heat.
“As far as selecting the light temperature, we went with our gut feeling as to which areas looked better in warm light and which ones in cool,” Wyatt explains. “My wife and I weren’t really used to the cool temperature in spaces like the living room and bedrooms, so we picked the warmer temperature LEDs to use there. In areas like the bathrooms, we wanted something that was whiter and higher in contrast to make it very easy to see.”
The Wyatt home was deliberately centered around a large communal area. “Another reason we went with warm temperature LEDs in the main room had to do with the psychological impact,” Wyatt remarks. “It gets pretty cold at night – especially during the winter – so when you’re looking into the home from the outside, we wanted it to seem as warm and inviting as possible.”
The Wyatts opted for Noribachi’s LED bulbs because they felt an affinity for the company’s personality as well as its products. “They emphasize design and innovation,” Wyatt says. “They were very helpful in all of our interactions and they really have an inspiring overarching vision to change the way the world thinks about energy. It was honestly exciting to talk to them; they wholeheartedly believe in their products and their vision of smart energy.”
The Wyatts gave a lot of consideration as to how often they use their lighting in order to best estimate the expected lifetime. “Most of our lights – in fact all of them – receive about the average use for a home. They’re on for about four to five hours per day, maybe a little less in the summer and a little more in winter,” Wyatt says. “The LED bulbs are supposed to last for 50,000 hours or more, so we figure that they’ll be okay for at least the next 30 years or so, after which I think it’ll become my kids’ problem to replace them,” he jokes.
“I know that different uses affect how long a light will last, but at our home we don’t really have any intensive lighting and there’s no single fixture that we use more than any other,” Wyatt says. “Perhaps in our reading lamps we’ll have to change out the LEDs in 25 years instead of 30, but I doubt it.
“Building a home to retire in is, in some ways, an oxymoron given the constant upkeep of any residence,” Wyatt states. “We wanted to build something that would last, but that also wouldn’t require us to baby it in all of our spare time. We eschewed difficult, non-native plants and grass in our landscaping for the same reason. The LEDs are something that I’ll really never have to think about again. Once they’re in, they keep working. Honestly, not having them on my mind is their biggest benefit of all.”