American homes are consuming a lot more energy than they used to. Home electronics, small appliances, and personal devices now account for over 40% of energy use in the home. Average home size has also increased, creating more energy use per household.
Decreasing your energy consumption means increasing household savings and reducing your carbon footprint. Today we’re taking a look specifically at lighting, and how incorporating some smart choices into your next home remodel or lighting purchase can make a big difference on both counts.
LED: The Most Efficient Light Source
Forget the obsolete, energy-wasting incandescent light bulb. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) have remained a popular alternative to incandescent bulbs since they hit the market in the 1980s but they have their share of issues as well. Fluorescent lighting has been around for decades with very little change. Problems peek out from under the lampshade in the form of lousy light rendering, mercury in the small ballast, and an unattractive appearance.
Enter the LED (light-emitting diode). We’ve been involved in lighting for a very long time, and hadn’t seen anything really innovative until the appearance of the LED. These bulbs require higher up-front costs, but they use 85 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb. LED lights combine the energy efficiency we need with the attractive color rendering we want.
At first, LED lights didn’t have the greatest color rendering. But as big light bulb manufacturers took the wheel, things started to look up. You can purchase LED lamps that provide a warm ambience similar to an incandescent bulb, but require significantly less energy and last much longer—plus, they don’t have any of the downsides of CFL.
We’ve been installing LED recessed fixtures, exterior fixtures, and lamps for four years with next to no problems. You really can’t beat the longevity and color of LED.
Create Energy-Efficient Designs
Lighting is a very important component in your interior design—it shouldn’t be an afterthought in the planning process. Lighting usage can be optimized by knowing the room’s layout and furniture locations. By strategically placing your lighting, you’ll make the most of it while in use, and you’ll be able to shut off other lights that simply aren’t needed at the moment more easily.
To decide where and when you will use lighting in your home, spend time in each room at different times of the day. Determine where and at what time of day you will sit and read, stand and cook, etc.
You want to put your lighting where you need it—not waste it where you don’t.
Incorporate natural light: Designing a room’s layout around the natural light scheme can save money and energy by maximizing (free) solar light and minimizing (costly) artificial light. Incorporating a skylight or extra window in a remodel can sometimes take the place of extra lighting. This can also serve to increase ventilation, achieving two goals at once.
Additional Ideas for Saving Energy
Dimmers: Putting your lights on dimmers is an easy, low-cost way to use your existing light scheme more efficiently. Dimmers give you a range of intensity options that can help create mood and dramatically decrease overall usage.
Selective bulb replacement: An easy way to start saving energy today for a minimal cost is to switch over the light bulbs you use most frequently in your home. And you can switch them out over time for next to nothing by simply replacing the incandescent bulbs that burn out with a more efficient alternative.
Automated lighting systems: Light systems that are automated can be programmed to go on and off automatically and can be managed remotely. Some systems provide data about daily, weekly, and monthly energy consumption, giving homeowners the ability to make changes to reduce their consumption and save money. Converting the existing system to an automated one is a low-cost solution to replacing everything.
Small measures such as putting all your device chargers on a single power strip that you plug in only when you need it at the end of the day can add up to a lot of saved energy and money over time.
With some light bulb replacements, strategic lighting design, upgraded fixtures, and a little energy awareness, you can significantly decrease your carbon footprint, saving some money and creating an inviting home atmosphere at the same time.