If you’re making changes to your interior or exterior lighting, especially as part of a larger renovation project, you may be looking for ways to conserve energy and save money on your monthly utility bills. Here are some factors to keep in mind when putting in new lighting or windows.
The first thing to consider is where you need good lighting. Obviously bedrooms and workspaces like a kitchen or home office need more lighting than a bathroom or closet. So decide where your efforts and resources are best spent in generating the right amount of light for your interior spaces.
In addition, realize that the quality of light has as much impact as the quantity of light. Using nothing but ambient light isn’t as effective for work performance, nor is it necessarily energy efficient.
Finally, take into consideration the climate in the area where you live. A home in Phoenix will have a radically different set of issues to consider than a home in Minneapolis.
Due to a number of factors, there is a good deal of energy-efficient lighting technology on the market today. Here are a range of devices and approaches that you might consider:
- With the forthcoming federally mandated switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, there has been a good deal of controversy over CFLs, which some critics say have failed to live up to their promises. However, if you are in a situation where you will be replacing light fixtures as well, consider installing dedicated CFL fixtures. According to one source, because bulbs are plugged into dedicated CFL fixtures rather than screwed in as with an incandescent fixture, the bulbs are less likely to burn out.
- Make sure all your lighting fixtures are labeled and certified by ENERGY STAR.
- To make sure lights only come on when they’re needed, use occupancy or motion sensors to automatically turn lights on and off in rooms, bathrooms, utility rooms and pantries.
- Consider painting interior spaces with light colored paint. This will reflect light and reduce the need for artificial lighting during daytime hours.
One other way to save energy and money is daylighting, or using natural light through windows and skylights for illumination of your home. Daylighting can decrease the need for artificial lighting during the day, thereby decreasing the need for electricity use during the day. While daylighting faced challenges in the past due to heat gain and energy loss, in recent years changes in lighting design and improved energy-efficient windows have turned daylighting into a viable solution for interior lighting.
If you’re looking to design or remodel a home to take advantage of daylighting, there are several things to keep in mind.
- Function, not form. The size and location of windows and skylights must be based on what works best inside your home, not what looks best from the curb.
- South-facing windows are best for quality daylighting and for coping with seasonal temperature differences. South-facing windows allow the greatest amount of sunlight over the winter, but allow little direct summer sunlight. The result: increased heat gain during the winter, with limited heat gain during warm months.
- North-facing windows admit relatively even year-round sunlight and produce little glare. They are also better for limiting solar heat gain during the summer.
- Avoid east- and west-facing windows for daylighting. They may allow lots of light during the morning and evening respectively, but they permit substantial solar heat gain during the summer, and do little to help solar heating during cold months.
Because of the substantial number of variables involved (square footage, location, direction and local climate, to name just a few), lighting design will vary substantially from one home to the next. And if you’re looking to save money on electricity, you can also consider a different residential electricity provider. Look at a wide range of alternatives to determine the approach that is right for you.