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There’s never been a better time to illuminate your home with energy-saving light fixtures, bulbs and controls. As traditional incandescents approach a manufacturing fadeout, far more energy efficient lighting technologies replicate the lighting looks you love with a lot less expense. They last a lot longer, too, eliminating product waste in a range of applications.
Here’s a look at how to design energy efficient lightscapes, inside your home and out. Put a spotlight on tasks, create a safe haven and set moods─all with the latest in home lighting.
The incandescent bulbs we know so well went out of U.S. production in 2014, but great new bulb technologies are taking their place in home lighting schemes.
Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs have emerged as the most efficient solution in the category. Compared with incandescents, they use 85 percent less energy and last 20 years longer. You can also count on LEDs for an appealingly high level of brightness on a low amount of power, without the warm-up time that the previous generation of efficient bulbs required.
If you switched on an LED bulb for eight hours a day, that bulb would illuminate your life for 50,000 hours or a staggering 17.1 years!
As a matter of fact, if you switched on an LED bulb for eight hours a day, that bulb would illuminate your life for 50,000 hours or a staggering 17.1 years! LEDs’ long life also keeps them out of landfills, and their mercury-free construction means a lot less danger when a bulb breaks. And while they come in a wide range of color temperatures and styles, they don’t put out UV rays, so you won’t have to worry about fading furniture, finishes or floors.
CFL’s still an option
Though surpassed by LEDs in efficiency and headed for reduced production in the coming years, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs remain an option in the lighting aisle. They 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 and less of a threat to your home cooling endeavors. Over a CFL bulb’s lifetime, you can save $30 or more in energy costs, and the advanced quality of today’s CFLs means they’re flicker- and hum-free.
Due to their slight mercury content, CFLs do require special care when broken or otherwise ready for disposal (see below), but their long life makes such occasions rare.
Lighting color counts
As you shop Energy Star-labeled bulbs, match your existing lighting needs by checking packaging for a description of the light style and color bulbs provide. Looks range from “soft white” to “daylight,” and equivalencies to incandescent wattages are also noted in product labeling.
Another way to ensure you get the bulb brightness you need is by checking a bulbs Color Reference Index (CRI): the higher the CRI number, the better the spectral mix, with a CRI of 100 giving the most natural cast of all.
Money saving interior lighting
Energy-efficient light fixtures work with better bulbs to provide the light you need and the style you favor, all on a quarter of the energy required by standard light fixtures. As a matter of fact, if you switched the top five lighting fixtures in your home to highly efficient styles, you’d trim at least $65 from your annual energy budget.
Look for the Energy Star on both hard-wired and portable fixture designs. They incorporate smart features like dimming and automatic daylight shut-off, distribute light evenly and efficiently, and carry two-year product warranties. Ceiling fan/light combinations are also among the options, and help you further whittle down energy costs by supporting home ventilation, heating and cooling efforts.
Dimmers: Less light = less energy
Dimmers allow you to set scenes and moods in a living space while controlling the energy dollars you spend on lighting. New dimmer styles can manage a mixed load of light sources, and improve the performance of dimmable CFLs and LEDs.
You can use dimmers to shed light on every situation with the assurance that efficient bulbs will stay on at any lighting level, stand up to line voltage fluctuations, and display none of the “flicker” that can distract and detract from dimming convenience.
Landscape lighting: Setting the perfect lightscape
Outdoor lighting serves two main purposes: highlighting a home’s architectural details and landscape features, and providing safe passage for residents and visitors while protecting against intruders. A perfect combination of form and function is the key to a complete exterior lightscape, and energy-efficient fixtures help keep it affordable.
In addition to porch and patio fixtures designed for use with CFLs and LEDs, look at options in solar-powered systems and low-voltage landscape lighting. Solar-powered lighting usually needs six to eight hours of sunlight to charge up for an evening of illumination, and low-voltage setups works best when you include a transformer to reduce the standard 120-volt household current to a safe 12-volt level.
If you predict that your low-voltage lighting needs may change or expand, it’s wise to invest in a transformer that will operate two to three times the immediately needed wattage, just to accommodate later system additions.
Design your outdoor lighting scheme with some downlighting to light outdoor rooms, pathways and stairs; uplighting to add depth to trees and other features; and backlighting to silhouette an object of interest like a shrub or other planting against a lit surface. Expose both the regularly used thoroughfares and potential intruder hideaways, and integrate light-sensitive photo cells, motion sensors and remote lighting controls to protect your home and maintain the safety and serenity of the landscape.
5 Energy-saving strategies under $50
Energy-saving home improvements don’t have to cost a bundle. Roll out a Grant to accomplish any of the following projects, and then watch your utility bills shrink.
Seal gaps, cracks and holes
As tightly built as today’s homes may be, there are still many air escapes to lure heating and cooling dollars away from your wallet. Stop the flow with affordable foam sealants, caulk and weatherstripping.
Install low-cost lighting
Follow this chapter’s tips on energy-saving lighting options, and you’ll trim your lighting energy use by as much as 75 percent without sacrificing brightness.
Bulk up home insulation
Many homes simply don’t have enough insulation, especially in the ceiling, where most heat loss occurs. For around $30 a roll, you can add six inches of insulation to this zone and feel immediate results.
Get a smart thermostat
A clock setback thermostat can cut heating costs by 10 percent. Program it to warm or cool living spaces when you’re home, and ease up on the climate control when you’re not. “Smart” thermostats can even sense your presence and adjust automatically.
Cut hot water waste
Most tank hot water heaters work 24/7 to maintain your household supply. So, until you can go tankless, wrap your heater with a water heater blanket to reduce heat loss, and dial the heat setting down to 110 degrees. You’ll still have plenty of hot water comfort, but without the energy waste.
A CFL primer: Care, cleanup and disposal
While CFL’s are rapidly being replaced by LED’s, take special care with disposal of old, broken or unwanted CFL’s to prevent exposure to its mercury content. In fact, proper handling is important at every stage of its life, really, from careful un-packaging to prevent breakage to base-only handling when installing in a fixture to methodical cleaning when a bulb shatters.
Here are steps for safe CFL cleanup and disposal:
- If a bulb breaks, start by airing out the room. Have people and pets leave the living area, carefully avoiding the breakage zone, then open a window or two and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. Central forced-air heating and air conditioning should also be shut down during this time.
- For CFL breakage on a hard surface, use stiff paper or cardboard to scoop up glass fragments and powder, and place the debris in a sealed plastic bag or glass jar with a metal lid.
- For CFL breakage on carpet, carefully gather glass fragments and secure in a plastic bag or glass jar, then use sticky tape (like duct tape) to pick up any remaining shards and powder. If you must vacuum to collect the rest of the debris, make sure to remove the vacuum bag afterward (or empty and wipe the vacuum canister), and put the vacuum bag or debris in a sealed plastic bag. Also, for the next few rounds of vacuuming you do, make sure to shut off the HVAC and open a window before you begin; then wait 15 minutes after vacuuming before restoring the air and shutting the windows.
- When clothing or bedding is directly involved in the CFL breakage, throw them away. The CFL’s mercury-containing powder and bits of glass can stick to fabrics, and washing exposed items only makes things worse by contaminating your washing machine and polluting sewage. However, if fabrics are only exposed to the mercury vapor and have not made contact with the other CFL material contents, they may be laundered. Shoes may be cleaned with a wipe-down using damp paper towels which are then contained in a lidded glass jar or sealed plastic bag.
- Check with your local and state government regarding CFL disposal requirements where you live. If trash disposal is not allowed, take bagged, broken and unbroken CFLs to the recommended recycling center. Otherwise, place all securely packaged CFL debris in an outdoor trash container for the next garbage pickup. Afterwards, thoroughly and carefully wash your hands.
Also note that Energy Star-labeled CFLs carry a two-year warranty, so if one burns out before that deadline, visit the manufacturer’s website for customer service guidance on refunds and replacements. Needless to say, your purchase receipt will be a big help in securing CFL claims.