Lighting plays an important role in creating a healthy, safe home environment.
The ability to see clearly, identify objects, prepare food, attend to personal grooming and the performance of many more functions all rely on the right type of lighting - in every room of your home.
According to the Lighting Research Center, a research and educational organization based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, home lighting should be comfortable, easily controlled and energy efficient.
To that end, manufacturers and lighting experts continually work to improve options for homeowners. From the longevity of a light bulb – some recent introductions are designed to last 25 years - to the evolution of the light switch – which may soon be replaced by keypads and smartphone apps – energy efficiency is a particular focus – since lighting typically accounts for more than 25 percent of a home's energy use based on research published by the US Energy Information Administration.
Inside your home, a well-lit room usually includes three types of light: ambient, task and accent. Whether you’re building a new home, remodeling or redecorating, a well-thought out, layered lighting plan is the key to any design.
For example, recessed light fixtures and track lighting can use floods to project a wide beam of general ambient light or spots to produce a narrow beam for accent lighting. In a great room or other main living areas, you can use recessed fixtures in the center of the ceiling, track lighting to accent a wall with a grouping of artwork, and then add table lamps in seating areas to provide task lighting for reading.
Along with recessed fixtures, track lighting and lamps, other choices include flush and semi-flush mount, chandeliers, pendants, wall sconces and brackets. It’s also important to carefully consider the various options you have for controlling the lights in your home, starting with placement.
Light controls should be easy to access from any entrance point in a room - make sure doors won’t cover your switches when open - and can run the gamut from simple to sophisticated. Dimmers can easily alter the mood of any room while occupancy sensors and photocells automatically turn on and off as people enter and leave a room.
Once you have all your fixtures and controllers in place, choosing the right bulb can be tricky. Starting with the fact that bulbs now come in “warm” colors (2700K-3000K ranges from warm white to soft white, the standard color of incandescent bulbs) and “cooler” colors (3500K-4100K ranges from cool white to neutral and bright white, which is good for kitchens and work spaces or 5000K-6500K ranges from natural to daylight, which is best for reading), there are three basic types of light bulbs – incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED).
Traditional incandescent bulbs were the lighting standard used pretty much by everyone until federally mandated legislation enacted in 2007 began to gradually phase them out for being highly inefficient (light is generated by heating a filament or wire and most of the energy used is given off as heat). The 100-watt was gone last year, 75-watt is going this year and both 60-watt and 40-watt will be gone by the end of 2014.
Halogen (often used in recessed fixtures and track lighting) and Xenon (popular in strip, under cabinet and cove lighting applications) are forms of incandescent light, but they contain their namesake gas to preserve the filament and the life of the bulb.
CFL and LED bulbs generally use less power and are longer lasting.
Note: Instead of watts, which measure the amount of electricity a bulb needs to operate, look for lumens, which measure the amount of light output or brightness, when shopping for light bulbs - i.e. a 100-watt incandescent bulb has a minimum of 1,600 lumens and is the equivalent of a 23 to 30-watt Energy Star-qualified bulb.
Energy Star Lighting Challenge:
If every American home replaced their five most frequently used light fixtures and/or the bulbs in them with ones that have earned the Energy Star, we would save close to $8 billion each year in energy costs. Together we'd eliminate greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars (based on the replacement of nine bulbs in five high-use fixtures).
For individuals, replacing your five most frequently used light fixtures and/or the bulbs in them with Energy Star-qualified lights can save $70 a year in energy costs.
Maximize your savings in these high-use areas:
• The bathroom vanity
• Outdoor porch light
• Office and desk lighting
• Kitchen task lighting
• Reading lamp