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Efficient Lighting Guide for Saving Energy

Jan 17, 2014 | by Wendy Weinert

The issue of indoor lighting is a very important part of everyday life. In the past, prior to modern lighting, people would read or do other things by candle light or with the help of lanterns. Today, however, people most often depend on lighting that requires the use of electricity. Electricity, like any other form of energy, is a finite resource that can be expensive to produce. In addition, generating electricity is a major cause of pollution and global warming as in most cases it relies on the burning of fossil fuels. According to the California Energy Commission, lighting accounts for up to twenty-five percent of all electricity that Americans use. Efficient lighting techniques involve reducing the usage of electricity needed to provide proper indoor illumination. This has significant benefits to the environment in the form of reduced consumption of fossil fuels, and consumers benefit by lowering their energy bills.

Traditionally, indoor lighting has been achieved by the use of incandescent light bulbs. The problem with these types of light bulbs is that they waste between 80 and 90 percent of electricity that they receive. The energy is wasted because it goes to generating heat, rather than light. As a result, incandescent bulbs have a lower lumens per watt rating, which means it takes more electricity to generate light. In addition, these bulbs burn out quicker than more efficient types, which means they must be replaced more often, using up more natural resources. One of the most important steps a consumer can take to achieve more efficient lighting, is to replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient options.

One of the options that consumers can choose for replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs is a fluorescent light bulb, such as a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). This type of bulb uses most of the energy it receives to actually generate light, which means less electricity is wasted. Another option is to use light-emitting diodes, or LED bulbs, which are even more efficient than CFLs. While a single incandescent bulb can use over 3,000 kilowatt-hours per year and cost over $300 and have a lifespan of only a thousand or so hours, a CFL bulb can use under 800 kilowatt-hours of energy, cost under $80 a year, and last between 8,000 and 10,000 hours. A LED bulb can last up to 50,000 hours, use less than 400 kilowatt-hours of energy, and cost a little over $30 a year. Due to the increased energy efficiency of CFL and LED bulbs, they generate only 30 and 3.4 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour, respectively. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, generate 85 BTUs of heat per hour. CFLs, however, are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, and LEDs are even more so.

Another option for energy-efficient lighting involves sometimes bypassing the use of light bulbs altogether. For instance, during the day time it may be more practical to open the curtains or window blinds and let the sun's light provide illumination. Modern energy-efficient windows and painting walls with light colors can make this method of lighting even more effective. The US Environmental Protection Agency calls this "daylighting" or natural lighting. Consumers can also install sun roofs or skylights over certain areas of the home to let sunlight take the place of electricity-powered lights.

Outside lighting is another area where energy efficiency can be achieved. Solar powered lights can store energy during the day to produce light at night-time. LED lights are also useful for outside lighting, as they are much more durable than CFLs and can withstand more extreme temperatures. Outdoor and indoor motion sensor lights only turn on when someone is in a room or close to the house, which means these lights are using very little, if any, electricity otherwise.