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How to Choose Efficient Lighting for Your Home

The right light fixtures and bulbs can save energy and money


Choosing efficient lighting starts with the knowing which light you want to replace and being informed about your energy efficient options.

If you are looking to install a new fixture you're probably most concerned with how it will look.

Energy Star-qualified fixtures are available in a wide assortment of styles. Just ask your local retailer to show you their Energy Star-qualified models.

When replacing bulbs consider the tips below.

Light Color or Appearance

Think about the purpose and the mood you want from your light. Most people prefer soft yellowish light in bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms, or rooms with warm paint tones and opt for cooler white light in home offices, garages, rooms with cooler paint tones or outdoors. Energy Star-qualified lighting products are available in a wide range of warm to cool white light. This information is available on the packaging in the Lighting Facts label.

Dimmer switches

If the light is controlled by a dimmer switch look for an Energy Star-qualified bulb that is marked "dimmable" because not all are. The package or the manufacturer's website should provide a list for dimmer compatibility.

Recessed lighting

Recessed lighting is a perfect place for Energy Star-qualified reflector bulbs. Energy Star-qualified reflector bulbs are designed and tested to operate efficiently in this hot environment while non-qualified bulbs and other types, like spirals, generally are not. Energy Star-qualified LED reflectors provide excellent light instantly in one direction and last about 22 years. CFL reflectors are also a good choice but have a less distinct beam of light and take a little while to reach full brightness.

Three-way bulbs

Does the fixture have a three way switch to provide three different light levels? If it does you'll need to look for an Energy Star-qualified bulb that is specially designed to provide three different light levels and marked "three-way." Note: Three-way bulbs are among the list of bulbs exempt from the new light bulb standards.

Lighting controls

Is the fixture connected to any controls, like a timer, a motion sensor or a photo sensor? Check your controls and the bulb package to make sure they are compatible.

Lumens, Not Watts

Watts are simply a measure of power – the amount of electricity a bulb needs to operate, while the light output or brightness of the bulb is actually measured in lumens.

  • As light bulbs get more efficient they use less watts to produce the same amount of light as traditional bulbs. As familiar wattages disappear because of new federal standards, their replacements will save money and resources – about $150 a year per household. With this change we need to learn something new – lumens – the measurement of light a bulb puts out. Luckily this information is right on the front of light bulb packaging and will be printed on bulbs by 2012.
  • As part of an effort to save energy and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy, federal legislation is requiring the most common light bulbs (regardless of technology) to produce familiar light levels using less watts. The good news is that light bulb manufacturers support the new standard because it is already possible using today's technology and it fosters innovation.
  • Light bulbs of a variety of technologies, including incandescent, compact fluorescent and LED can already meet the new standard.

Cost

Choose the bulb that will cost you the least in the long run, not just the lowest first cost.

  • New labeling requirements give you the information you need to the true operating costs of bulbs on the front of the package.
  • Stop throwing your money away. Replace traditional bulbs that are still operating with Energy Star-qualified CFLs and recover your costs in about six months. Then rest easy knowing you've cut your lighting energy use by 75 percent and you won't have to change the bulb(s) for about nine years.
  • Energy Star-qualified bulbs are 75 percent more efficient than traditional light bulbs, while initial compliance with the law only requires bulbs to be about 25 percent more efficient. To get the biggest savings, long life and quality you can trust look for the Energy Star.

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