LESLIE: Well, you could argue that the one invention that changed the 20th century was the light bulb. But lighting has come a long way since Thomas Edison’s day.
TOM: And not just bulbs, either. There are a whole new set of advances that are taking lighting into the 21st century and beyond. Here to tell us about that is Scott Caron, the electrical contractor on TV’s This Old House.
SCOTT: Tom and Leslie, how are you doing?
TOM: Now, is it more than just flipping a switch these days to power our lights? There are so many options that we have at our disposal.
SCOTT: We’re seeing less and less switches that turn lights on. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Sometimes, they go to an app, turn the lights on. Sometimes, they’re on a timer. But yes, it’s not about flipping the switch anymore.
TOM: And let’s start by talking about smart homes. I think the fact that Wi-Fi conductivity has become so commonplace has really made it possible to do almost anything inside of a home. It used to be that we had to have sort of a command center, a control system where all the smart-home features were wired to. Now, if you just have a Wi-Fi signal, you can do things like control lights and outlets and switches and the like.
SCOTT: Yeah. So, Wi-Fi is a common language. There’s very few companies that go elsewhere. Although there are a couple of different types of language, Wi-Fi is the number one. What happens now, you have an app that controls lights or controls outlets, anything you want. They’re controlling heating systems today. And the best part about that is it’s really simple to use and you can use it when you’re away from your home, not just with the Wi-Fi system. All you need is a cellular network.
TOM: So the Wi-Fi, you say it’s the language. It’s basically how these devices talk to each other, right?
SCOTT: You want to turn the heat up or down? You want to turn the lights up or down? If you want to set a timing sequence, you can do that, as well. And they have this other thing like geo-fencing, which basically means that when you walk close to your home, it might open the garage door, it might turn the lights on in the house, it might turn the heat on for you. It’s all these really neat things that are just happening so rapidly.
LESLIE: Now, LED bulbs have been developing rather rapidly. I mean we’re seeing the costs come down but the quality of the bulbs is also going up, right?
SCOTT: One of the best things about LED light bulbs, they use a lot less electricity than an incandescent light bulb. They still give off the same amount of light. They use a lot less electricity. And one of the cool things that’s been pretty common in the last few years, you can actually change the color of the light bulb. Not just the white spectrum but you can play around with some reds and some greens and set different moods with your app on your phone. It’s pretty neat.
TOM: And that measurement is in lumens. So, not only do we have less energy being used, we have bulbs that are – they equate in color temperature, as you say, to what we had with incandescent bulbs. And even beyond that, they can actually operate more efficiently because they can be wired to dimmers.
SCOTT: Tom, one of the things that’s going on right now with these LED fixtures, specifically the ones that have integrated diodes in them, they’re making these fixtures disposable. Now, these LEDs are supposed to last 20 to 50 to 100,000 hours I’ve seen. And what that means is that once that fixture, if it ever goes away – I don’t know if I’ll ever see it – once it’s not working any longer, we’ll take the fixture down and put a new fixture up. No more light-bulb replacement.
TOM: So the old concept was you take out the bulb and replace it but now you’re just pretty much replacing the fixtures.
SCOTT: That’s right.
TOM: Well, I think that that’s going to be more and more uncommon because these bulbs are so durable. It occurs to me that even if you’re just using one that screws into an old lamp, that that switch on the lamp will probably wear out before the bulb does.
SCOTT: I think so. And I like to still change light bulbs, so I’ll miss that aspect of it.
TOM: You’re an old soul. Scott Caron, the electrical contractor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
SCOTT: You got it. I look forward to seeing you next time.