Energy Efficient Lighting for your Home

 
energy efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs

One of the simplest and most affordable ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home and to create a greener living space is by switching your kitchen, bathroom and interior lighting to energy efficient fixtures, bulbs and lighting.

It is estimated that lighting you home accounts for nearly 20% of all US households energy bills. Choosing an energy efficient option is both good for the environment and great for the pocket book.

By now most everyone is familiar with energy efficient light bulbs like Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL) and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) but there are still many questions to ask regarding these new products. Are they really more efficient? How can you use them in your home? What other options in lighting are out there? Are they available for use with dimmers? And most importantly, how much money can I save?

Luckily, we have the answers for and perhaps we can even offer some design suggestions to help turn your next home renovation project into a sexy green project.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and the Environment

Compact Fluorescent light bulbs are exactly what they say they are, smaller versions of those long tubes we are all use to seeing in school and building hallways, parking garages and hospitals. Popular for their longevity and efficiency, these bulbs were never the sexiest lighting options available as they emitted cold, bright lighting with little in the way of ambience. Al this changed with the advent of the Compact Fluorescent bulb. A Compact fluorescent bulb contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity (magnet or electrical Ballast). The UV light hits a white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and the coating changes it into light we can see. There are 2 kinds of Compact Fluorescent bulbs, integrated and non integrated. Integrated bulbs have the electrical ballast attached to the bulb proper along with an Edison screw(the light bulb screw at the base) These CFL's are similar to Incandescent light bulbs, making them easy to change and replace. The non integrated bulb has the ballast, usually magnetic, separate from the bulb itself. The ballast is permanently installed within the fixture itself, instead of the bulb, giving it a broader range of uses. Non integrate compact fluorescent's have a longer life, have limited flicker and are available in with dimmer options. Compact fluorescent light bulbs do contain mercury, usually 5 mg which is less than the average tooth filling. If you break one, be aware, open a window and dispose of safely and use gloves or protective clothing. It is important to take used bulbs to designated recycling depots or back to the retailers. There are manufacturers who are producing compact fluorescent light bulbs that are low in mercury and are available to recycle through normal neighborhood programs but ensure that the bulbs you are recycling are the right ones

Some quick facts about Compact fluorescent light bulbs

  • They use 50-80% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb
  • CFL's last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs
  • CFL's reduce CO2 emissions by consuming less power per bulb
  • One 23-30 watt compact fluorescent bulb will produce as much light as a standard 100 watt Incandescent bulb

Compact Fluorescent bulbs are now available in various designs and colors to brighten rooms softly and to create beautiful ambient lighting for your home. There are two standard colors available for these bulbs. The first is warm white, similar in to incandescent lighting and the second is cool white, very bright with whites and blues. Compact fluorescent lights are based on their Lumen range, a scale of how much light is given off by particular bulbs wattage. For example, an energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulb, using 23-30 watts of power will have a Lumen (Minimum light output) 0f 1600 with the equivalent wattage required form an incandescent bulb being 100 watts. There are several styles and designs available for use. Below are some sizes and shapes along with common uses:

  • Spiral shaped-(most common) Bright. Suitable for lamps, rooms, etc...
  • Triple Tube-Very bright. Uses more gases in a tightly compacted area. Use for large areas, big rooms
  • Standard Lamp-Softer light, resembling an incandescent light bulb. These use a metal diffuser to help spread the light more evenly. Can be used anywhere normal bulbs would be.
  • Globe Lamp- Softer light. Uses a diffuser as well. Best suited for bathroom vanities and wall lighting
  • Flood light-Softer light. Best used for outdoor applications and some recessed lighting.
  • Candelabra- Softer light. Best used in decorative lighting fixtures

LED Lighting and the Environment

Light Emitting Diodes or LED for short are fast becoming the most energy efficient lighting system available today. These compact, solid single diode bulbs are extremely low in energy consumption, up to 95% less than standard incandescent and can last 10 times longer than compact fluorescent light bulbs. An LED light is a semiconductor diode that emits light when an electric current is applied. The effect is a form of electro luminescence where incoherent and narrow-spectrum light is emitted in a solid state material. This single, solid light is very small in regards to the needs of the home but to solve this, manufacturers are now using clusters of LED's together, along with metal diffusers that help spread light, to create larger lighting aspects and LED lighting is becoming more commercially viable as these clusters are now available with standard Edison screw bases for more practical uses. One major downside to the use of LED lights in the home is that along with their wide range of uses and longevity, they usually do not come individually and are installed within a fixture. Because of this, they are usually not replaceable

Some quick facts about LED lighting

  • LED lights contain no filament. Making them durable and suitable for heavy traffic areas
  • LED lights contain no mercury
  • LED lights consume 1/3 the energy of Compact Fluorescent's

According to energystar.gov, if every new set of string lights purchased in the US were LED, it would save 2 billion Kwh a year in energy or the equivalent green house gas emissions of 300,000 cars.

Practical uses for Energy Efficient lighting in the home

There are several uses for these LED and Compact fluorescent bulbs in your home. Gone are the days of a very stale, bright white light that has little warmth and ambience. These bulbs have great practical applications in the home. Along with proper fixtures, you can use Compact Fluorescent Flood lights with recessed pot lighting in hallways, kitchens and dining rooms. There are dimming options available with these fixtures too so be sure that the bulbs you choose are clearly marked as "dimmable" if you are looking to use them in your home. Globe lamps look great with bathroom vanities and mirrors and are available with dimmers as well. Of course stand up lamps and ceiling lamps can easily use spiral and standard bulbs and for large work areas such as the garage, triple tube lighting would be best.

LED lights are great for use in kitchens and offices underneath cabinets. Recessed lighting works great and is available with dimmers when used with the proper switches and of course outdoor applications are very common as stair lighting, outdoor wall mounted porch lights with photo cell sensors and finally, as garden lighting, using solar panels to help add ambience and freedom to backyard design.

Micro Fluorescent Lighting and Halogen Lighting

Standard halogen lighting is considered low voltage lighting but by no means is it low power. Consider how many lights are required for track lighting and the spread is not particularly efficient. There are a couple of energy efficient options available though. The first is IFC Halogen. Exactly the same as Halogens, except they have and Infra Red Coating which consumes 30% less energy, extends the life to 400o hours and can produce the same light spread with a 35 watt bulb as with a standard 50 watt bulb. The other option is Micro Fluorescent light bulbs. These are exactly the same standard CFL bulbs but the have the same double prong system as halogens. They are available in 11 watts and can easily replace a 50 watt Halogen. The one drawback is that it requires replacement of the transformer which needs to be done by a licensed electrician. These bulbs do spread light differently and not as spot focused as traditional halogens so more lights may be required than with halogen but the wattage use will still be much lower


The Sexy Green Home Opinion

There is a multitude of choice available for those looking to save money and energy by using energy efficient lighting and fixtures. energystar.gov, recommends using these various bulbs with Energy Star certified fixtures to save even more. Recessed pot lights on dimmers for your kitchen, CFL globe bulbs for your bathroom, LED solar powered lights for your garden and under mount task LED lighting in your kitchen and office. No matter what you choose, you will definitely come out ahead energy wise and economically. And lastly, one the most energy efficient lighting options available to any home owner is of course, natural light. Consider adding windows and skylights to your area. Not only will this reduce overall energy consumption, it will add depth, design and a beautiful view to your home.

Learn more ways to save energy at home