How to Pick a Christmas Tree

Oct 12, 12 How to Pick a Christmas Tree

Buying a Christmas tree, to many, is a yearly ritual of taking the family to a tree lot and buying a fresh, newly cut evergreen tree. For the more practical, it’s an ever-so-often trip to a store ending in “mart” to buy an artificial tree. There is always a conflict between aesthetics and practicality when it comes to buying a tree. What if you could select an artificial Christmas tree so realistic you would swear it even smelled like a real tree? What if it was also so well constructed you could pass it down for generations?

With today’s designer Christmas trees, like those from Barcana, that’s possible. Hardy branches, lifetime warranties, and quick setup are common to every tree we carry at 1000Bulbs.com. Though quality and durability are a given no matter which of our trees you choose, after you pick the size and the “species” of your tree, you have one decision left, whether to go with PVC or PE branches. Both are great options, but one or the other may be a better fit for your home or business.

The most common type of Christmas tree is made of polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC. At 1000Bulbs.com, we call these “classic” trees because they’re made of the material used to build Christmas trees for the past several decades. The manufacturing process is simple: Thin sheets of flexible PVC are cut into long, flat strips and then attached to a twisted wire shaft. Production of PVC trees is inexpensive, so savings that are passed to you, the customer. Though they aren’t the most exquisite option available, PVC Christmas trees are better constructed than they used to be, making them a good option for any homeowner on a budget.

Despite quality improvements, however, PVC trees barely compare to polyethylene, or PE, trees. Premium quality, ultra realistic PE Christmas trees are produced with the interior designer in mind. Their branches are injection molded and three-dimensional. Because the molds are created from real evergreen needles, PE branches are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Though PE trees were once quite expensive, their price is now more in line with PVC trees, making them an option for homeowners as well as professional designers.

What both types of trees have in common is easy setup. If you remember tree setup taking an hour or more, you’ll be shocked to find out how quickly and easily you can set up a designer Christmas tree. If you don’t believe us, you can see for yourself in this Christmas tree setup video, where we set up a designer tree in less than 10 minutes! PE trees especially are almost “ready to go” right out of the box. The branches hold their shape well, even in storage, so they need very little “fluffing” and adjusting. Many models are even pre-lit with incandescent or LED lights. Whichever type you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

What kind of Christmas tree are you setting up this year? Let us know in the comments or drop up a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. We’d especially like to see your holiday decoration photos on Pinterest!

And one more thing: We’re giving away one of our designer Christmas trees on Facebook. Click here to enter!

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How to Choose Under Cabinet Lights

Sep 28, 12 How to Choose Under Cabinet Lights

Halogen, Xenon, Fluorescent, or LED: What is the best type of under cabinet lighting? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, you were asking the wrong question. There is no “good, better, best” with under cabinet lights. Choosing the right light is a matter of personal preference, and it depends on how much you value dimming, heat reduction, color accuracy, and energy savings.

Xenon Light Bulb

Xenon Light Bulb

Xenon under cabinet lights are an update of older Halogen lights. Halogen under cabinet lights, especially the light “pucks” you see in hardware stores, are cheap and provide perfect color accuracy (color rendering index), but they use tons of energy and waste most of it as heat. Xenon keeps the benefits of Halogen, but burns brighter and cooler. Their color rendering makes granite countertops or trinkets in display cabinets look their absolute best, and because they are brighter than Halogens, Xenon bulbs save energy by using fewer watts than a Halogen bulb.

Fluorescent under cabinet lights are a great choice for bright, energy-efficient lighting that burns cool. They’re a popular choice in kitchen cabinets and pantries because they don’t add extra heat to their surroundings, which can increase the likelihood of food spoilage. Unfortunately, there are a number of trade-offs. Fluorescent lights have relatively poor color rendering — 80 CRI to Xenon’s 100 CRI — so they distort colors and make granite and marble countertops and backsplashes appear washed out. Furthermore, while they use much less energy than Halogen or even Xenon, they are not dimmable and some models are slow to reach full brightness.

LED Under Cabinet Light Bar

LED Under Cabinet Light

LED is the newest, most energy saving option for under cabinet lighting. To many, LED under cabinet lights are the perfect option. Unlike fluorescent, they are instant on and many models are dimmable. Unlike Halogen and Xenon, they also create very little heat. However, they do have two drawbacks: Color rendering and cost. Like fluorescent lights, their CRI is in the 80-90 range, so they aren’t the best choice when color accuracy is highly valued. They also have the highest up-front cost of any under cabinet choice. On the other hand, they will save the most in the long-term. LEDs use only a fraction of the energy consumed by other types of under cabinet lights. Even better, they last 20,000 to 60,000 hours,  so you’ll never have to replace them and will save on bulb replacement costs.

Again, your choice of under cabinet lights will depend on your specific needs. In general, however, if you prize color accuracy and don’t mind the heat, choose Xenon, but if you prefer energy savings and cool operation, go with fluorescent or LED. Of course, that’s only what we think. Let us know which under cabinet lighting option you prefer in the comments, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.

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Halloween Lighting Ideas

Sep 21, 12 Halloween Lighting Ideas

Halloween is just around the corner, and if you’re looking to have the spookiest haunted house on the block, we’re here to help! You can take a look at our Halloween lights page and even our brand-new lighted Halloween decorations for some quick ideas, but to go all-out, you’ll need to check out our Christmas lights.

If you find yourself asking why anyone in their right mind would use Christmas lights anytime outside of well…Christmas, put the incredulous tone aside for a minute and consider this: Though typically associated with the winter holidays, Christmas lights have all kinds of other uses, from weddings to birthday parties, so why not Halloween?

Looking for inspiration? Try these creepy Halloween ideas for colored light strings and bulbs: Use purple lights to create an eerie glow reminiscent of the full moon in a cemetery, or use orange lights to emulate the smoky flicker of a candle. Don’t stop there! Green lights emit the sickly pallor of toxic sludge while red lights ooze the unmistakable curdle…I mean, color…of blood. Another idea for light strings is to fit medium base patio light stringers with antique light bulbs for an efficient and portable “Addams Family” vibe.

Keep in mind, however, the idea is to scare the neighbors, not yourself. To avoid those spine-chilling energy bills this fall, you can go green with LED wide-angle lights or LED M5 lights for your Halloween display. You can also save on energy bills with battery-operated lights. A string of battery-operated LED Christmas lights, for example, is an energy-saving (and much safer) alternative to candles in your Jack O’Lanterns.

You might also consider a black Christmas tree or wreath covered in spider webs or a scarecrow mounted on a rotating Christmas tree stand. You could even follow the lead of other 1000Bulbs.com customers by using our plastic street lamp globes in an astronaut or Deadmau5 costume (see the video below). Whatever you do, we would love you to share your ideas. Drop us a line in comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. And if you’re really proud of your creation, be sure to share it on our Pinterest Halloween pinboard!

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Check Out Our New DIY Page!

Sep 19, 12 Check Out Our New DIY Page!

Today we’re announcing an exciting new addition to our website.

In your comments on this blog and especially in our Wednesday Lighting Q&A on our Facebook page, we’re often asked how to install or troubleshoot a product. Our customers love our products and our low prices, but they want to know how to use them. Responding to that, we’ve just launched our brand new DIY page on 1000Bulbs.com.

Our DIY page currently features four step-by-step guides: How to Install a Recessed Light Fixture, How to Install a Pendant Light, How to Install a Step Light, and the fan-favorite, How to Make an Antique Pendant or Swag Light. Every guide features photos to show each step of the process, and videos are coming soon via the 1000Bulbs.com YouTube channel.

Check back often for new updates. Our goal is to be the go-to source for any lighting-related DIY or How-To. Have suggestions? Our blog comments area is always open, as are our Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter pages. Bring out your inner Bob Vila and have fun!

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Emergency Lighting Guide: Emergency Lights

Aug 24, 12 Emergency Lighting Guide: Emergency Lights

In last week’s article, we discussed one major part of emergency lighting: Exit signs. In this week’s article, we’ll discuss the second part: Emergency lights. A note before you continue: Try not to confuse the terms “emergency lighting,” an overview of the entire topic, with “emergency lights,” a special light that comes on in the event of an emergency or power failure.

Like exit signs, emergency lights are a complex topic, yet also like exit signs, the regulations dealing with emergency lights come down to the same two important documents: OSHA 29CFR and NFPA 101, also known as the Life Safety Code.

Basic Requirements

The portion of OSHA 29CFR dealing with emergency lights (1910.37(b)) is relatively vague. It simply states, “Each exit route must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route.” NFPA 101, on the other hand, is much more specific. In section 7.9.2.1, it states:

  • The emergency light must provide illumination for no less than 1-1/2 hours.
  • The initial illumination of the emergency light must be an average of 1 footcandle (10.8 lux).

If you are unfamiliar with footcandles, essentially what the NFPA’s requires is that the light cast on any one square foot of an exit pathway must be equal to one lumen or more (a footcandle is equal to one lumen per square foot). This is something you’ll need to consider when choosing your emergency lights and why many of our lights include photometric charts. An emergency light with typical 5 watt tungsten heads may be appropriate for typical applications, but in many cases, you may need one with Halogen heads or even a special high wattage emergency light.

Testing

NFPA 101 also includes specific language about testing your emergency lights. Section 7.9.3 states:

  • A hard-wired emergency light must be tested monthly for a minimum of 30 seconds.
  • A fully battery-operated emergency light must be tested yearly for a minimum of 1-1/2 hours.

For the sake of convenience, not to mention safety, we highly recommend using self-testing emergency lights. These units continuously monitor the input voltage to the fixture as well as the condition of the battery backup. Should the fixture fail a test, an indicator light will signal that it needs to be serviced. At that point, you can choose whether you need to troubleshoot the input power, replace the emergency light battery, or replace the fixture altogether.

Other Considerations

Items not covered in NFPA 101 but still worth considering include remote capability, emergency ballasts, and aesthetic considerations. Remote capability allows you to connect multiple emergency lights, exit signs, or remote heads together, which will all trigger in the event of an emergency. Emergency ballasts keep fluorescent lights operational in the event of a power failure. Finally, you may want to consider the color and style of the emergency light you choose; after all, it will become a part of your décor.

If you have questions or comments about emergency lighting, be sure to let us know in the comments section. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!

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