How to Upgrade Your Home’s Lighting
Switch things up with stylish, efficient lighting for your homeBy Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen, Collaborative Efficiency
We often take lighting for granted. We choose fixtures and bulbs without thinking through some of the more important issues, such as specific lighting needs of the room, how fixtures work together and how to save money on energy bills. Approaching your home lighting with these factors in mind can improve the look of rooms and save energy.
Saving energy starts with choosing the correct bulb. Efficiency standards for incandescent bulbs between 40 and 100 watts, which came into effect in 2012, led to the halogen bulb (also known as energy-efficient incandescent). These bulbs are at least 25 percent more efficient than the old incandescents. The other two common types of household bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), are even more efficient.
You can save $75 a year by replacing the five most-used incandescent bulbs or light fixtures with Energy Star®-certified LED or CFL lighting, according to Energy Star estimates. Of the three types, LEDs tend to save more money over the long run, and LED prices have decreased in recent years. A downside of CFLs is that they contain a small amount of toxic mercury that can be released into your home if one breaks.
When you’re considering which type of bulb to buy, consider both watts and lumens. Watts indicate how much energy (and therefore, money) is used to produce light. Lumens indicate how much light the bulb produces. A handy comparison is that an 800-lumen bulb is about equal to the amount of light from a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb.
Bulbs also give off different colors of light, known as color temperature. If a bulb burns out — or in the case of an LED, as it dims over time — it can be challenging to find a replacement that matches other lights in the room. If the variation bothers you, you may want to purchase and install bulbs of the same brand and wattage for the entire room or area at the same time.
Switches and fixtures
Installing dimmers instead of on/off light switches is a good way to save energy while giving you greater control of the amount of light in the room. Not all bulbs are dimmable, so be sure to check the label on the bulb. It’s worth considering whether you have the right number and the right location for light switches. We recommend hiring a licensed electrician if you decide to install new lighting and switches.
Different types of fixtures have different functions. Ambient lights such as sconces and glass-covered fixtures provide gentler overall lighting, while directional fixtures such as pendants, desk lamps and track lighting provide task lighting that focuses on areas where work is done. Not all bulbs can be used in an enclosed fixture or work outdoors.
As you choose a light fixture, make sure it can provide the correct level of brightness, with an appropriate size and number of bulbs. It’s not a good idea to mix bulb types in a fixture, as the excess heat from an incandescent or a halogen light can diminish the performance of an LED.
Make a plan
The Lighting Research Center provides a resource page with sample lighting layouts for every room in the home. Home décor sites like Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, HGTV and similar sites also give excellent lighting explanations, plans and ideas.
And it’s always a good idea to check with your local electric co-op, as it may offer energy audits or lighting product rebates.
About the AuthorThis column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. Visit Your Energy for more ideas on energy efficiency.
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