LED lighting – One year later

It’s been almost a year since we did some math and bit the bullet to light the studio with LEDs. Aesthetics were a driving factor, but the potential savings ultimately pushed us over the edge.


The savings can only be realized if all of the LEDs live up to their guarantee to work longer than their incandescent counterparts. (More on that math here) I’m happy to report that all 50 bulbs in the studio are going strong. If our math is right (which I assume it is because Aaron did it) we should start seeing an ROI on our investment of the bulbs before the end of this year!



We’re so in love with LEDs that we even used them outside. Those have been in service almost as long as the ones in the studio and they’re still going strong even after the polar vortex.

So far, we’re giving LightKiwi LEDs a huge thumbs up! (They also make Cree bulbs, which you may have seen advertisements for. Does anyone else laugh out loud at those commercials or is that just me?)

The front gets a little brighter

In line with all of the other lighting at the firehouse, the front lights flanking the garage door were in need of a serious upgrade.


You can barely see them in the image above, so let’s take a closer look.

The one on the left was dull, faded and not working.



Oh and just for good measure, it’s held together by tape.


The right side featured the same faded housing and a red (??) CFL. Basically, it’s super classy. But at least it worked.


A key part of Operation Make the Front of the Firehouse Look Presentable called for replacing these sad, sad fixtures with something shiny, new and functional. We took to the internet and and now have an unhealthy obsession with Barn Light Electric. “Where Vintage and Modern Collide” – Umm, hello! Can we be best friends FOREVER?

There were a handful of options that would have looked great, but we feel in love with the Comanche Commercial Gooseneck Warehouse Shade. The light peeking through the top sold us.

When the lights arrived we were very impressed by the quality. Installation was easy*: cut the power, remove old lights, hang new lights.

Hello beautiful!


We opted for LEDs so we could see how they perform in an exterior application. And because duh.



This would have been the end of our mini update, but we had to add an item to the list. Womp, womp.

  • Give the garage door a new coat of red paint so the new panels blend in with the old
  • Replace the flags
  • Replace the light fixtures on either side of the garage door
  • Upgrade the bulbs in all the fixtures to LEDs
  • Touch up the garage door


*Ok, so there was one major hiccup with the light installation. Back when Aaron built the new floors for the pole closets (was that really just in May??), he had a bit of a scare on the last hole. It’s buried a bit in this post, so let me give you a quick refresher.

Whilst using the hammer drill to create holes for concrete anchors, he inadvertently drilled through a piece of conduit holding live electrical wires. Sparks flew (literally) and we thanked a higher being for insulated tools and circuit breakers. One of the strips of lights in the studio also died. Thankfully Aaron is well on his way to a Master Electrician Badge (does an Eagle Scout ever really stop earning badges?). What could have been a disastrous day became an annoying bump in the road when he rerouted the circuit before the accidental puncture. Lights (and order) were restored.

So, why this electrifying (har, har) flashback? Well, once Aaron got the new exterior light installed on the left side we couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. We assumed the broken circuit was to blame. Aaron fixed the rest of the broken circuits, but with the light still refusing to work he decided a pro was needed.

When I got home from work that day, we veered from marveling at the paint job on the viewing room (OMG you guys it looks so good! Post forthcoming) to standing near the front of the studio discussing the bit of raw luck that electrical was doling out. At which point Aaron noticed a switch near the garage door that he had never traced. He flipped it and BINGO! The front light turned on, the electrician service call was canceled and our small family celebrated! (ok, really just us. Mojo seemed unimpressed)

Moral of the story: When buying a firehouse, don’t call an electrician until you try every switch (or something like that).

Lighting the studio

The lighting in the entire firehouse was in serious need of an upgrade when we took over. The former owner clearly had a penchant for awful, makes-me-want-to-scratch-my-eyes-out fluorescent. That kind of nauseating, non-directional light just wasn’t going to fly in our dream studio.


I mean, seriously?


We knew we wanted suspended white track lighting:

  • Suspended so it didn’t interfere with any of the other systems hanging out on the ceiling and so we could reach it with a ladder
  • Track with adjustable heads so we can control the light and spotlight our art
  • White because duh (do you not know us yet?) and so the lighting would blend into the ceiling

We purchased the system from TotalTrackLighting.com, partially because of the company’s great customer service. Aaron submitted our room layout, and the company created a design and a shopping cart filled with everything we needed. Aaron made a few modifications due to our unique architectural elements. For instance, we couldn’t use their square layout suggestion because we need space for the garage door to open in front. Instead he opted for three parallel tracks, mimicking the layout of the current fixtures. It also meant that each line of track would be on it’s own switch.

A few weeks later we had our 200+ piece order of “white” components. Sadly, their white is closer to our beige and all the track and heads had to be painted. Spray paint, you are our best friend. Here’s everything looking much more REAL white.


Each track has 2 wire hangers. Aaron drilled an anchor for each into the ceiling and ran power lines from the boxes powering the ugly fluorescent fixtures. Then he connected the track and leveled each. Then it’s as easy as adding track heads and bulbs.


Once everything was up, the room didn’t feel as ‘white’ thanks to the incandescent bulbs, which produce rather warm light. Fluorescent were (obviously) out so we looked into LED bulbs, which offer a color temperature that’s closer to daylight. When we popped in an LED bulb the difference was pretty clear.


So we liked the color, but we still needed to rationalize the sticker shock of $35 per bulb (at Home Depot). Thanks to the interwebs we found Cree LED bulbs through LightKiwi for just $20 each. Considering we needed 50 bulbs that still racked up to a hefty $1,000… just for LIGHT BULBS. So we (Aaron) turned to math and found that the energy savings from the LEDs would nearly cover the cost of the bulbs in just one year. Ready for math (don’t be scared, Aaron did it for you):


The numbers get even crazier when you look at the lifespan of the bulbs:

  • LEDs ~30,000 hours (about 12 years)
  • Incandescent 2,600 hours (less than a year)

Assuming the LED bulbs last the full 12 years and we have to replace the incandescent bulbs every year, here’s the breakdown:


So we’ll save more than $8,000 over the lifespan of the LED bulbs and we get the color temperature we want? Clearly a no brainer, right? LEDs win.

Enough math, let’s look at more pretty pictures.





Has anyone else done the math and opted for LED bulbs? Does anyone else hate fluorescent light as much as we do?