If your approach to saving energy with home lighting is limited to shutting off the switch as you leave a room, you’ve made a good start. But there’s much more you can do to help the environment and your electric bill.
Energy efficient light bulb technologies just keep getting better, and that’s good news for all of us, as current legislation will spell the end of U.S. production of some forms of incandescent bulbs by 2012 and the discontinuation of most incandescents by 2014. But with many new developments in compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, there’s no chance any of us will be in the dark when incandescents become extinct.
CFLs use 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, and generate about 75 percent less heat, making them safer to operate and much less of a threat to your home cooling endeavors. Over the lifetime of a CFL bulb, you can save $30 or more in energy costs. In fact, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, enough energy would be saved to light over three million homes for a year–a savings of more than $600 million in annual energy costs–and we’d prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.
For the best savings, use Energy Star qualified CFLs in fixtures that are typically on for at least 15 minutes at a time or several hours each day–that includes energy efficient, stylish lighting in family and living rooms, bedrooms, dining areas and kitchens, and outdoor illumination.
If you’re worried about the color and quality of light CFLs provide, don’t. Today’s CFLs are flicker and hum-free, and come in a range of light strengths and styles that replicate the incandescents you’re used to while casting a more even glow. Just make sure you are ordering up the brightness you need by checking CFL packaging for the Color Reference Index (CRI): the higher that number, the better the spectral mix, with 100 giving the most natural cast of all. Packaging will also display the wattage of the incandescent equivalent so that you can make the perfect power match for your fixture. You’ll also find CFLs suited to three-way fixtures and specialized dimmers.
The only possible hassle factor when it comes to CFLs is breakage, along with what to do when the bulb ultimately gives out. Since CFLs can contain a small degree of mercury, it’s important to follow proper clean-up procedure for a broken CFL bulb. And for those that just go dark, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends visiting www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or www.earth911.com for recycling information.
Light for the Future
Residential Light Fixtures
Beyond the energy saving bulbs, Energy Star qualified light fixtures offer even more style and efficiency, while using only about a quarter of the energy of their non-qualified counterparts. Switching just the top five fixtures in your home for these savers will help you conserve over $65 in energy costs.
Energy Star fixtures not only come in a wide variety of hard-wired and portable designs that distribute light much more efficiently and evenly than their traditional counterparts, they also incorporate efficient features like dimming and automatic daylight shut-off, and carry two-year product warranties — which is double the industry standard.
Energy Star-earning ceiling fan/light combination units not only help you to maintain your cool or warmth, but also offer about 50 percent more efficiency than standard models, trimming about $10 a year from utility bills. If your fan doesn’t include lighting, a qualified light kit may be purchased, but either way, proper installation and use are critical to getting the greatest benefit possible out of the unit. Choose the appropriate UL-rated electrical box (marked “For Use with Ceiling Fans”), mount the ceiling fan so that it’s anchored to a ceiling joist, and balance a fan if it gets wobbly.
You can and should use your ceiling fan year-round, running it counter-clockwise during warm months to generate a cooling breeze and clockwise at a slow speed during cold weather to push warm ceiling-level air back down to your level. Just remember to turn off the fan when you’re out of the room to save energy on your energy efficient, stylish lighting (fans cool people rather than rooms)
Energy Star Advanced Lighting Package
If you’re building a home from scratch, you can plan energy savings into your new home by selecting an Energy Star Advanced Lighting Package. This smart construction option leads to lower energy bills, cooler operation with lower cost and a longer warranty than standard fixtures; inclusion of qualified ceiling and vent fans, convenience of long-lasting CFL bulbs, and higher quality of light. Find out just how much savings and added home value you can expect from this energy efficient, stylish lighting option with Energy Star’s Advanced Lighting Package Savings Look-Up Tool.
Dimmers for Incandescent Lighting
If high-tech lighting isn’t something you are ready to consider just yet, adding simple dimmers to your current incandescent lighting scheme can also yield significant energy savings. For example an incandescent bulb dimmed by 10 percent, consumes 10 percent less energy than one on “full” light, and the bulb will last twice as long. Similarly, a bulb dimmed by 25 percent uses 20 percent less energy, and the bulb will last four times longer. Finally, a bulb dimmed by 50 percent uses 40 percent less electricity, and the bulb will last 20 times longer.