Builders participating in new home tours often highlight the use of special furnaces, flooring, lighting and other features in their houses.
This year, you can speak with representatives of some of the companies that provide those products inside homes on the Town & Country New Home and Specialty Retail Tour, which takes place this Saturday, Sunday and also May 4-5.
The tour, which is organized by the Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne, features 32 homes around Allen County, eight villas, one subdivision and one specialty retailer.
“We tried to change it up a bit,” Charlie Giese, Home Builders Association president, said of this year's tour. “We wanted to offer more than just homes.”
Vendors won't be in every tour home. To find them, look for their names in a bright, yellow box on individual homes' pages in the Town & Country home tour guide book.
One in-home vendor will be Wabash Electric, which will have staff at Lancia Homes' Wilshire III house at 15360 Cypress Pointe Drive, off West County Line Road north of Indiana 14.
Wabash Electric staff hope to help people with questions about lighting, and there is a lot of confusion, said Lisa Tallman, one of the company's lighting consultants.
Regulations intended to encourage more energy efficiency have phased out manufacture of traditional incandescent bulbs and forced people to think differently about what size and type of bulb to use.
“It's not about the wattage, it's about the lumen output,” Tallman said of how consumers should judge the brightness of new bulbs.
People basically have three options, Tallman said:
*Replacement incandescent bulbs: These actually are made with more energy-efficient halogen bulbs, so a 72-watt bulb has the same light output as the old, 100-watt incandescent bulb. The replacement bulbs have the same color as the old bulbs, work in dimmer switches but typically last only 1,200 to 1,500 hours.
*Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL): These bulbs are energy efficient and work well indoors, but they take longer to reach brightness in cool temperatures, such as a basement, and don't work as well outdoors or with darkness-sensing photo cells. You can buy a dimmable version, but it is more expensive than a regular CFL. These bulbs typically last about 10,000 hours in good conditions.
*LED bulbs: These bulbs currently are the most energy efficient. Manufacturers have made rapid progress so today's designs resemble traditional incandescent bulbs. They come in colors from warmer to cooler, but they don't last long in tight or hot spaces because the heat ruins the computer electronics in the base of the bulb. LED bulbs are more expensive than the other two bulb options, but they can last about 25,000 hours. Cheap LED bulbs may not last as long, however, because they may contain lower-quality technical components. It also may take a residential user up to five years in energy savings to recover the initial investment in the cost of an LED bulb.
People building a new home or planning a major remodeling should allow $2 per square foot for the cost of new lighting fixtures and bulbs, Tallman said. She also recommended people speak with a lighting consultant early in the planning process to establish a base lighting budget.
Current trends in lighting include a retro look featuring lots of clear glass with chrome fixtures, she said. Crystal fixtures in a contemporary design also are popular.
“You have the bling of the crystal, but in a very contemporary look,” she noted.
People also have been treating each room as a separate space, Tallman said, so light fixtures don't have to match throughout the house.
To see some of the new styles, go to http://www.wabashlighting.com.