An investment that pays for itself many times over

Upgrading your home to use energy efficient lighting is an inexpensive way to cut energy costs. The payback on energy efficient lights is often short and there are lots of choices. This is my main page on lighting – below are links to specific lighting topics elsewhere on my site, followed by general tips on saving on lighting costs.

Check out these detailed articles on energy efficient lighting, or jump past this list to the Common sense lighting tips provided further down.

Energy efficient fluorescent lights give you the biggest efficiency boost at the lowest cost – especially when you choose compact fluorescent lights or CFLs.

I also explain how fluorescent lights work for those wondering why fluorescent bulbs are so efficient.

Recycling fluorescent light bulbs: Don’t just throw spent fluorescent bulbs out. They contain mercury and need to be safely recycled, for your own sake and the planet’s!

Fluorescent garage lights provide brighter lighting at a lower cost than an incandescent light, especially if you use your garage or outdoor workroom a lot.

LED house lights are dropping in price and the energy savings are phenomenal – but light quality is patchy, and claims of 100,000+ hours are perhaps exaggerated.

Outdoor LED lights are a good introduction to LEDs – upgrade those flimsy solar landscape lights and get a great patio ambiance that’s practically free to operate.

LED under cabinet lights light your kitchen counters ultra-cheaply, and are a great first step towards an LED-lit house. The ones in our kitchen work beautifully.

Turn off lights when you’re not using them. Don’t believe the myth that you’ll use more energy turning them back on than you’ll save. It simply isn’t true!

Solar light tubes channel sunlight from your roof into a room, even one that receives no natural light of its own. And they’re completely free to operate.

Use my CFL savings calculator to calculate the savings and payback period that come from switching incandescent bulbs to CFLs. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Use my LED savings calculator to calculate savings from switching to LEDs instead of CFLs. Sometimes the most efficient choice isn’t the most cost-effective.

Common sense lighting tips

There’s more to energy efficient lighting than energy efficient lights. Things as basic as wall color and window coverings have a big impact on your lighting needs.

In the late 90’s my wife had me paint our living room walls burgundy, the style of the day. I told her off-white would be a better choice. The paint was barely dry on the walls when she said we needed better lighting.

I’ve seen this mistake made over and over. It’s just not energy efficient to paint indoor walls a dark color – unless it’s a wall that gets a lot of sunlight and you want the light to be converted to heat when it strikes the wall.

I have many energy efficient lighting tips to offer – some obvious, some unusual:

Turn off lights: Always turn lights off when you leave a room – even if you plan to come back in a minute. Distractions will happen…
Leave lights off: Don’t be afraid of the dark. Seriously – it’s amazing how seldom people use artificial lighting in many developing countries – and even some developed ones. First, get in the habit of not leaving obstacles in the way – tuck those stools under the bar, tuck that bench under the piano. Once you do that, you can find your way around in the dark no problem!
Turn lights down: Use dimmers if you want bright lighting on occasion but softer light will do otherwise. (Make sure the lights you use are compatible with the dimmer you buy.) Dimmers don’t really save that much – lights dimmed to 50% of their full brightness only save you 25% of the electricity – but every bit helps.
Natural light: Use natural light wherever possible. Open the blinds to wake up the kids – it’s cheaper than switching on the light and the kids are less likely to groan. If you’re putting a new addition on your house, do what we did – install skylights.
Prioritize upgrades: Focus on upgrading the most heavily used lights to more energy efficient ones. Use my CFL savings calculator and LED savings calculator to figure out when an upgrade is worthwhile. (There’s no point upgrading the light in the furnace crawl space – the payback period will be hundreds of years!) Where possible, upgrade to the most efficient lighting that suits the situation. For example, consider LED house lights, which use far less energy than even compact fluorescent lights, for task-lighting applications where the light is used several hours a day.

Lighting doesn’t really use all that much electricity in most homes – about 9% of average household electricity use in the US. But if you follow the tips elsewhere on this site for home heating, cooling, and household energy use, lighting suddenly becomes a much bigger part of what’s left. So follow my tips on energy saving lights, energy efficient lamps,energy efficient lighting fixtures, and how to live with more light but less electricity.

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