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 efficient bulb 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 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.
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.
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.
Not sure whether you need windows with double or triple panes? It all depends on the amount of UV, sound and draft protection required where you live, but double-glazed replacement windows do the trick for most environments. Low-emissivity (Low-E) glass is now common in all glazing formats, and is coated by a thin layer of metal oxide that allows UV-filtered sunlight to pass through while keeping interior heat from escaping. Buying into such a vast improvement in window efficiency means you can even ditch that old-school winter storm window routine!
Installing new windows is an investment you’ll probably only need to make only once or twice in the life of your home. If budget is an issue, replacing windows on just one side of your home at a time can make sense.
If you live in a colder climate, cut heating costs by replacing windows on the north side first, followed by the east, west and south. For southern climates, reverse the order to save on cooling costs. By spreading out the window project investment over time, you’ll be able to more easily afford the project while maximizing the energy savings along the way.
Green roofing also contributes greatly to your home’s climate control. Complete, effective roofing solutions involve flashing and underlayments that preserve roofing integrity and prevent leaks, and roofing that protects against the elements and preserves indoor comfort. Clay tile and locally mined or reclaimed slate are durable, traditional green options.
The reflective properties of metal roofing can reduce the heat transmitted to the inside of your home and trim energy use by up to 40 percent. Rubber roof tile made from recycled tires has also entered the green roofing realm, providing easy installation, strength with lighter weight, and a profile resembling that of slate. Want to add another shade of green to your roof? Consider solar shingles. Whether integrated with other shingle materials or covering an entire roof, they contribute to both energy generation and savings for a home.
You can now wrap your home in a siding look that makes the most of its architectural highlights while offering durability far beyond that of the siding materials of the past.
Fiber cement siding is a great-looking, easy-care choice for greening up your home, made from sustainable materials and able to deliver popular color and texture qualities.
Other siding technologies are viable options, but take care when evaluating siding products based on their advertised insulation claims. Some types may have built-in insulation, but whatever your siding choice, it’s the sheathing installed underneath that contributes the most insulation value.
Replacing a drafty entry door with an energy efficient model is one of the most affordable and impactful green improvements you can make.
The best way to welcome energy savings is to shop for products that are Energy Star-qualified and carry the NFRC certification telling you a door will help you trim energy costs while protecting the environment through energy efficiency. Also check into a door’s R-value─its measure of thermal resistance─for assurance that it’s well-insulated. A traditional six-panel wood door, for example, will have an R-value of around two, while a fiberglass door system may have an R-value of 10 or 12.