Monday, July 18, 2016

Improving Energy Efficiency in Your Current Home: Natural and Artificial Light

Image credits: This photo is a stock image freebie from PixaBay.

Our July feature of greener choices around the home kicked off with a special guest post on improving the energy efficiency of an existing home with small changes and targeted renovations/enhancements.  This week, we're going to take a closer look at the energy efficiency of home lighting.  What are your top tips for improving lighting efficiency?  What have you tried and loved?  Tried and hated?  Want to try in the future?  What would you install in your dream green home if you could?  We'd love to hear from you!

Unlike our previous posts were we suggested looking at potential alternatives to replacement of what you already own, as mentioned in our opening guest post, lighting is an area where bulb replacements can quickly pay for themselves and more. Consumer tests on CFLs and LEDs are interesting reading as are some of the real cost analysis studies on estimated break-even points.  Switching from traditional incandescent to energy-efficient light-bulbs  requires very little cost or effort, although you do need to be a bit more savvy when selecting your bulbs. Old bulbs used to be a simply matter of selecting wattage, but now there is a wide array of brightness, beam angle, colour temperature, and other lightbulb options to choose from to suit your location, style, and intended use.  Your light fittings are also designed to fit a certain bulb base - i.e. bayonet or screw.   If you need to call an electrician to change hardwired fixtures, things can start to get expensive. You can usually get adapters, but this plus the bulb may not fit nicely with your light and shade so choose with care. Fortunately, hubby is a bit of a whiz with all things electric and electronic, so buying our new supplies and wrangling electricians for required major changes was his domain.  Yep...that dodgy looking thing below was the main overhead light in our bathroom when we bought the old house...needless to say, it's been replaced!

It may only save a few cents each time, but turning off lights when not in use is one of the many simple greener changes that will add-up over time.  Where manual operation isn't feasible, you can use an inexpensive timer or photosensor to automate on-off. For special locations, such as closets and cabinets, you can even use doorjamb switches to automate the long as you remember to close the door. :)  Motion sensors are another option and work particularly well for nightlights or security.

Take advantage of natural window light where you can - sunshine is free and green!  In our heating and cooling efficiency post, we talked about blocking and chasing sun. Lighter barriers, such as reflective or frosted film, double layer blinds, or sheer curtains can help to balance light, heat, and privacy concerns. Solar lights are a green option for outdoors, but I have to admit that I've yet to have a truly satisfying customer experience with garden solar lights. I'm not giving up though!  Technology keeps getting better and I'm sure that we'll find the right match for our space and climate conditions, which can be hard on outdoor lights (and everything else!). Invest in something reputable and keep the warranty handy.

Routine maintenance on your lights and lamps might easily slip your to-do list, but cleaning lights and shades on a routine basis will help to ensure that you are getting the full lighting output. I have to admit that I am a bit lax on this front, as our high ceilings mean that even our pendant lights are out-of-reach without a ladder and a dubious stretch.  Fortunately, hubby is quite tall!  Cleaning the windows really brightens things up as well.  Don't forget about using reflected light to your advantage to brighten dark spaces and make everything look a little bit bigger.  Other aspects of your home decor, like colour, texture, contrast, and placement, all into making a space feel light and bright. On the subject of decor, adding more lights is not only a decor mantra but can help you to use lights more efficiently. It might seem counter-productive, but options allow you to choose the right level of light for your activity.  For example, without a side lamp, you may need to have on a full multi-bulb overhead fixture for light. We're definitely suffering through this gap in some rooms at our place right now where we haven't yet fully decorated the freshly renovated space.

What are your top tips for improving lighting efficiency?  What have you tried and loved?  Tried and hated?  Want to try in the future?  What would you install in your dream green home if you could?  We'd love to hear from you! 

Our July feature topic is greener choices around the home. This month's Monday features explore home energy efficiency, with a focus on "doable" changes for real life improvements in your existing home and budget.


  1. Nice bathroom light! :-) I never thought about adding lights to save but we need to do it too. Switching on big overhead lights at the wall instead of a lamp is a waste and easy change when I find the right lamps or move some around. Cleaning too with all of our dry summer dust. Looking forward to next week!

    1. :) Thanks, Marguerite. I have the same problem, and even though its no so bad with efficient bulbs, it's still multiples in a big fixture for some rooms (like our living room for example) vs just a lamp, and better options for task/ambient lighting as well. Hope you're keeping cool up there - I hear it's very warm!


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