If you're switching to green lighting, a few key home lighting topics can help you determine how to reduce costs, electricity use, and choose the appropriate technologies for your home. First, no doubt, the cheapest option for replacing bulbs is to choose traditional $0.40 incandescent bulbs and call it a day...but will that really be the cheapest way to go? The answer is a circumstantial "no".
If you just want get ideas and adopt simple strategies to lower your electricity use, go straight to low or no-cost tips for lowering your electricity bill. Even though some of these tips include switching to high efficiency bulbs, there are many lifestyle tips and other home lighting topics that can save electricity - and yes, yelling at your spouse or kids to shut lights off in an empty room is one of them! Read the tips and come on back here...
How do you determine if energy efficient lighting will really save you money and energy? Most of us would agree that there would be some savings, but hardly worth the extra costs. What if I suggested electricity savings of 60% or more, assuming we are comparing apples to apples - meaning that you usage pattern stays about the same before and after the replacement.
Lighting, after all, accounts for 5-15% of the utility bills in the home. If you could save 10% of your annual utility bill of $4,500(average American home use), that would be about $450 savings per year (that would pay for my "stay-cation" with new outdoor furniture, or a house painting; what would you do with an extra $450).
Not to belabor the point, but, the environmental impacts of switching to green lighting are significant too. If every household switched to Energy Star lights, the US would save about $8 billion each year in energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 10 million cars!
For practical information about these home lighting topics go to Compact fluorescent bulbs or CFLs and light emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs and LEDS each consume - at maximum - 1/3 to 1/4 of the energy of a standard incandescent bulb, and last ridiculously longer (100,000 hours for LEDs versus 1,200 hours for incandescents). For example, on average, a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) operating at 8 hours per day would save about $13.26 in one year, $43.77 in 3 years, and $156.07 in 10 years.
"Watt" to Know About the Labels
When choosing the right products, home centers are typically stocked with a large selection of bulbs with different wattages (the amount of power used by the bulb). If you want to match the light output of the bulbs you have, check the packaging of the new bulb for the equivalent wattage of your existing bulb; for example, a 20-watt CFL is equivalent in lighting to a 75-watt incandescent, and is usually indicated somewhere on the package.
Choosing the appropriate light quality for the application is another important home lighting topic. For example, kitchen lighting will need a different quality than decorative lighting for your plants or pictures.
Light quality is usually expressed in 2 numbers: color rendering index (CRI)and correlated color temperature (CCT). The CRI number is graded on a scale of 100, where 100 means that colors look almost the same as in daylight. So CRI is a measure of how realistic colors look under the light; For decent color rendering, choose a CRI of 85 or higher.
CCT measures the "temperature or warmth" of the light source in degrees K (measured in the absolute temperature scale of Kelvin). Lights at the low end of the scale are warmer, softer, more yellow. The high end is for cool and bright whites. Bulbs at 3,000 degress K usually a match incandescents and are best for general ambient lighting. Bulbs at 4,100 degrees K are comparable to daylight and best for task lighting, workrooms, garage, laundry, etc.
For various reasons, many new bulbs come in weird shapes and sizes (I have my own cynical theories about the manufacturers). Before you invest, see if the bulbs fit in your existing fixtures, or if they will work with your dimmers, or existing wiring - for example, old fuse box with knob and tube wiring from the stone age...not good.
If you want to calculate the dollars and energy savings, I have put together a page that walks you through a simple method to calculate usage and savings, the same way engineers and building auditors do. This page also talks about the pros and cons of the two most popular light technologies of the day, compact fluorescents and light emitting diodes.
Or, if you have an Android smartphone, you can download my light savings calculator called LiteFaire or LiteFaire Plus, and have your phone calculate general or detailed room-by room costs and savings for all types of bulbs. If you do try it, please contact me with a comment about its usefulness, so I can strive to make it better. You can also post a comment about Litefaire in the Android Marketplace, it would be greatly appreciated.
One final comment before moving on...Low-voltage lights are not so energy efficient. Most use halogen bulbs, which are high-intensity incandescents, and use as slightly less energy. You will hear me say in other sections that incandescents are itty-bitty little heaters that happen to give off light (only a small fraction of the energy from incandescents turn into light). That's why, halogens get so hot, and can pose a fire hazard.
Where to next? Take your pick (I am constantly adding to or updating home lighting topics):
Easy Home Lighting Tips (Read me first!)
Lighting Considerations and what to think about when replacing lighting.
Lighting Comparison Charts - skip to page for handy comparison tables that summarize the home lighting topics discussed for different technologies.
Search this site or the web:
Download LiteFaire, a Light Replacement Savings Calculator for Your Android phone or tablet
See your cost and energy savings for replacing light bulbs.
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