According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average household spends about 11 percent of its energy budget on lighting as of 2014. Unfortunately, many people use lights inefficiently, so their houses are darker and more depressing than they should be. They also end up spending more money on lighting than they need to.
1) Use energy-efficient bulbs.
The simplest way to save money and energy is to use energy-efficient bulbs like CFLs or LEDs. While they admittedly cost more upfront, they save money over the long haul. The conventional incandescent bulbs give off 90 percent of their energy as heat, so only 10 percent of their energy goes to actually providing light. CFLs and LEDs are both more efficient and they can last years as opposed to months.
Replacing just the five most frequently used bulbs with bulbs that have earned Energy Star ratings can help a homeowner save $75.00 per year.
2) Consider safety.
Have enough lighting to prevent accidents. Stairways and halls especially need good lighting for safety’s sake. Stairs should be lit from top to bottom and have switches at both ends. As a rule of thumb, halls should have light fixtures every eight to ten feet. Also consider whether any of the residents have special needs in terms of lighting. For example, older people need more light to see by than do younger people.
3) Think about the purpose of the lighting.
Will it be task, accent or ambient? Task lighting provides light so a person can see what they’re doing while working or reading. A home office, for example, will have lights focused on the desk. Task lighting needs to be brighter than the surrounding lighting in order to focus the light on the work area. It also needs to be close to the work area. A desk lamp is a typical example of task lighting. Accent lighting is used to highlight something being displayed like artwork. The fixtures producing accent lighting are typically unobtrusive. Ambient or general lighting serves as a room’s “natural light” and fills the entire room. Fixtures that provide ambient lighting can be unobtrusive or decorative, like a chandelier.
4) Pay attention to the kitchen.
The kitchen is often the busiest part of the house. People prepare their meals there, and they often gather there to socialize. Some people read the paper in the kitchen, while other people help their kids with their homework there. Thus, when considering lighting for the kitchen, think about all the activities that take place there. Tasks, like cooking or doing homework, need strong lighting. Use the brightest bulbs for areas devoted to specific tasks.
5) Check the compatibility between bulbs and special switches like dimmers or three-way switches.
According to Patriot Tube, dimmer switches designed to work with traditional incandescent bulbs do not work with CFL or LED bulbs. People who want to use dimmers with the newer, more environmentally friendly bulbs will need to install dimmer switches that are compatible with them. Such dimmer switches will be labeled accordingly. Many makers of dimmer switches keep lists of bulbs that are compatible with their products; ask them for their recommendations. Three-way switches also need compatible bulbs.
6) Make sure there are enough switches in a room.
Having only one switch controlling all the lights in a room forces the home-owner into an all-or-nothing proposition. It will be much easier to save money and energy if there are several switches in a room controlling the lights. Fixtures used for task lighting especially should come with their own switches, so they can be turned off when not being used.
7) Choose the fixtures wisely.
There is a vast array of light fixtures to choose from: chandeliers, recessed lighting, track lighting, table lamps and so on. The size of the room will be an important consideration. For example, a large chandelier in a small room will overwhelm it. Also consider the other contents in the room. An armchair where somebody likes to sit and read should have a lamp nearby, for instance.
8) Avoid dark lampshades.
Dark lampshades and lenses defeat the purpose of having a light in the first place. A dark lampshade can block as much as 80 percent of the light being produced. If possible, get fixtures with clear lenses.