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Lighting

This is a consumer page on lighting. For more resources related to lighting, visit the lighting topic page.

Lighting accounts for 5-10% of total energy use in the average American home and costs $50 to $150 per year in electricity. That might not sound like a huge amount, but more and more Americans today are discovering the wide range of benefits that arise from using high-efficiency lighting.

Part 1: Lamp Options
Part 2: Fixture Options
Part 3: Energy Saving Tips

 

Lamp Options

 

Incandescent lamps (or "bulbs") are the most common lighting type in American homes, available in all shapes and sizes. The problem with incandescent lamps is that they are a very inefficient technology; only 10% of the electricity they use actually is converted into useable light -- the rest is wasted as heat.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are becoming increasingly popular as a highly efficient alternative to standard incandescent bulbs. A single 20-watt CFL will provide the same amount of light as a 75-watt incandescent light bulb and last up to seven times longer. Because CFLs use less energy and last longer, you will save up to several times their purchase price each year through reduced electricity bills and fewer replacement bulbs. See the table below to see how much you can save by making the switch.

Models on the market today are comparable in light quality to incandescent lamps and are easily compatible with standard screw-in lamp fixtures of several common styles. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs ensure the highest performance and reliability. For the best compatibility with standard-size screw-in fixtures, look for the spiral-shaped mini sub-compact fluorescent lamps, which are much smaller than conventional CFLs and are available for $1-4 a piece.

Replace one 75-watt incandescent ($0.75) with one 20-watt CFL ($4.00)
Lamp Use Savings after 1st year Savings after 2nd year Savings after 3rd year Savings after 5th year Savings after 10th year
2 hrs/day $0.21 $4.40 $8.60 $17.00 $38.10
4 hrs/day $4.40 $12.90 $21.30 $38.10 $72.30
8 hrs/day $12.90 $29.70 $46.60 $72.30 $153.80
12 hrs/day $21.30 $46.60 $67.83 $114.40 $232.00

Price of electricity: $0.086/kWh

Fluorescent lamps depend on trace amounts of mercury to operate. Mercury is a toxic substance and consumers should be aware of household products that contain mercury. However, it is important to note that CFLs save 2-10 times more mercury from the environment than they contain by avoiding pollution from coal-fired power plants. The amount in each bulb is not significant enough to pose a health risk in your home, but they should be disposed of properly, like batteries, to minimize their impact on landfills. For more information, see our appliance disposal page.

Halogen lighting is the lighting option of choice where high light quality or precise light focusing is required. A halogen lamp is slightly more efficient than a standard incandescent lamp, but not as efficient as a fluorescent. In situations where light is needed on a precise area, halogen lights may be a more effective choice than fluorescent lights due to this tight focusing feature.

Halogen torchiere lamps are an important exception. These standing lamp fixtures have become popular for providing bright light at a low up-front cost, but they are actually quite inefficient and costly in the long run as they consume 300-600 watts of electricity and burn dangerously hot.

Fortunately, manufacture of this type of fixture was banned as of 2006. You may still find halogen torchieres available for purchase in a few retail stores, but don’t be tempted to purchase one.  If you currently have a halogen torchiere in your home, the cheapest and safest thing to do would be simply to get rid of it. Replace it with an ENERGY STAR torchiere lamp. Many of these models use CFLs and incorporate dimming or tri-level light options with comparable light quality. ENERGY STAR does publish a long product listing of qualified fixtures, including torchiere lamps, but the simplest approach is probably to visit your local lighting showroom and check their selection.

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Fixture Options

 

Efficient lighting goes beyond selecting the right light bulb for your existing fixtures. A wide range of indoor and outdoor fixtures that are endorsed by ENERGY STAR are available in most home improvement centers and lighting showrooms.

Many of the indoor fixtures incorporate dimmers or two-way switches, or are constructed specifically for use with compact fluorescents. Outdoor fixtures automatically shut off during the day or come equipped with motion sensors.

In general, outdoor lights should not direct light where it is not needed. In addition to ENERGY STAR, look for outdoor fixtures that are certified by the International Dark Sky Association to save energy as well as light pollution that can keep your property safe without disturbing dark hours. Solar walkway and patio lights are also widely available in hardware and department stores or through catalogs. You can install them yourself in a few minutes without having to bury electric wires or hire an electrician.

ENERGY STAR also endorses high efficiency ceiling fan/light combination units. Because the lighting component represents a greater energy savings potential than the fan, be sure that your ENERGY STAR ceiling fan is also equipped with a qualified light kit.

Several models of standing torchiere lamps fitted with compact fluorescent lamps have also earned the ENERGY STAR label. Many of these models incorporate dimming or tri-level light options and comparable light quality.

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Energy Saving Tips

  • Make Use of Natural Daylighting
    Rearrange furniture to maximize daylight useful for reading, cooking, or other work. Also consider painting your walls a lighter color so that light is reflected back into the room and not absorbed into the walls.

  • Reduce Background Light Levels and Rely More on Task Lighting
    Concentrate light just where it's needed by keeping ceiling lights turned off and by using smaller track lights and table or floor lamps.
  • Switch to Compact Fluorescent Lamps
    This is the simplest way to shave significant amounts off electricity bills.
  • Use Linear (Tube) Fluorescent Lighting Where Design Permits
    Linear fluorescents are not just for basements and garages anymore! New high-efficiency tube fluorescent fixtures, both direct and indirect, can be a great lighting design option for kitchens, living rooms, and other living spaces.
  • Switch to LED Holiday Lights
    Check out this helpful fact sheet on savings with LED holiday lights!

    Decorative LED (light emitting diode) string lights are now widely available in white and a range of vibrant colors including multi-color sets.  These lights provide a more durable and low-energy alternative to traditional holiday lights. They cost more upfront, but use less than $1.00 to operate over the holiday season, compared to $5.00 for mini incandescent string lights and up to $75 for large string lights!

  • Turn Lights Off and/or Install Sensors
    If you can't get in the habit of turning lights off, install occupancy sensors that will turn lights on and off when you enter and leave a room. Other control options include light-sensors (for outdoor fixtures), timers, and dimmers. Check the packaging of a CFL to determine whether it will work with a dimmer.
  • Check with your local utilities
    Some utilities subsidize customer purchases of compact fluorescents lamps as part of demand-side management programs.

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Page last updated June, 2010