3 bright ideas for smarter lighting at home

Lighting may account for as little as five percent of household energy costs, but it's part of your energy usage that can easily be reduced. Why not take a step toward smarter lighting at home with these 3 bright ideas?

3 bright ideas for smarter lighting at home

1. Choose the best lighting for your needs

Aesthetics are important when it comes to lighting. But choosing the right light for each location is just as crucial. An appropriate, efficient light will not only increase your comfort, but also save energy and reduce long-term costs.

  • Conventional incandescent light bulbs are inefficient. Why? Most of the energy used to run them is turned into heat rather than light. Though they are cheap to buy, they have to be replaced regularly.
  • Limit your use of incandescent bulbs to areas where you need light instantly and only for a short time, such as a bathroom or pantry.
  • Consider using halogen bulbs, which throw a bright light similar to natural light, to illuminate a work area or to spotlight a painting. They are expensive to buy, but usually last twice as long as regular bulbs.
  • Think twice before installing halogen downlights. They throw narrow, hard-edged light rather than ambient light, so it takes up to six of them to light the same area as a single incandescent bulb.
  • Remember that low-voltage halogen lights need transformers. As such,  you'll need to fit downlight transformers into your roof or ceiling cavity – and that means extra cost up front.

2. Make the most of natural light

Maximizing your use of natural light will save on lighting costs, warm your home, and help eliminate dust mites.

  • Paint interior walls in pale shades and use mirrors to reflect natural light, particularly in dark rooms.
  • On bright, sunny days (that aren't too hot), open blinds and curtains to admit as much light as possible.
  • If your house is dark, think about installing large windows on the south side of the house, or even French doors.
  • Make windows taller rather than wider to admit more light.
  • Situate work areas such as desks, kitchen sinks and counters close to sources of natural light.
  • Consider installing skylights in dark corners such as hallways or small rooms with no windows. To minimize heat flow, make sure they are covered at night and shaded at midday in summer.
  • A cheap and effective alternative to a skylight is a sky tube or solar tube. It concentrates and reflects natural light through a diffuser into the room below, generating the equivalent of a 100-watt bulb. A sky tube loses less heat than a skylight and can be fitted with an exhaust fan, as well as a light for nighttime.

3. Save with fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent lights use about one-quarter of the energy of equivalent incandescent bulbs and last up to 15 times longer.

What's more they're available in two forms: traditional tube lights (which are cheaper but require special fittings) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that fit standard light sockets. They come in a range of wattage levels, making them suitable for most uses.

  • Use fluorescent lights where you need light for long periods – for example, in kitchens or living areas.
  • Next time you need to replace a conventional light bulb, try a CFL. If it meets your needs, you can then gradually replace all incandescent bulbs in high-use areas.
  • Generally, it's wise to select a slightly higher wattage for CFLs than is usually recommended by the manufacturer because they tend to dim a little over time.
  • Look for CFLs that come in two pieces, a fitting and a bulb. This will allow you to replace just the bulb when it burns out, rather than the whole unit.

By maximizing your use of natural light and making smart light bulb choices, you can easily light up your home in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

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