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How to save on lighting

We are remodeling some rooms in our home and need new lighting options. I always used 60- and 100-watt bulbs, but they are difficult to find now. What new types of lights are best to use?—Michael S.


Today your primary choices of bulb are halogen, CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), and LEDs (light emitting diodes), listed in the order of increasing efficiency. You’ll have lower energy bills over the much longer life of these new kinds of bulbs, so over time you will save money.

Halogen bulbs are basically incandescent bulbs with halogen gas around the filament to improve efficiency. CFLs are even more efficient, using only about 25 percent as much electricity as incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light—and they last 10 times longer.

LEDs are the newest and most efficient light source available. A 12-watt LED produces as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, and lasts much longer. Most LEDs are dimmable, work well at cold temperatures, and reach full brightness immediately. Although they cost more to buy, for many home applications LEDs are the best choice because they cost so much less to operate.

Match the light to your needs
There are four general types of lighting uses: ambient, accent, decorative, and task. The type of bulb you choose for each use, even within the same room, can vary according to what effect you want. Ambient lighting is for general illumination with comfortable brightness. Accent lighting can create a mood in the room or highlight areas or objects. Decorative lighting is when the light itself is the object of interest, such as a chandelier. Task lighting is for reading or doing a specific activity.

For effective lighting in your new rooms, install several grouped circuits with dimmers to control and vary the lighting schemes. In rooms where you cannot rewire, simply switch to LEDs in most fixtures, and install dimmer wall switches.

The goal for lighting efficiency is to use as little lighting as needed. In a table lamp, install a three-way socket then use a new three-way LED to save energy. You can also add a four-bulb lighting kit to a ceiling fan with a switch that allows you to turn on fewer than all four lights. 

How to read the new light bulb labels
Here are the four words to know when choosing a new bulb: watts measure the energy used to produce light. Light is measured in lumens. A bulb’s color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin and tells you how your eye will perceive the light, from white to yellow. The color rendering index (CRI) gives information about how a bulb’s light compares to natural sunlight.

James Dulley for the March 2015 issue

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