Monday, January 6, 2014

Energy Efficient Lighting

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are currently the most efficient light bulb technology available. Compact fluorescent light, or CFL, bulbs are an efficiency improvement over incandescent lights as well, though not as efficient as LEDs. CFLs also contain a small amount of mercury is cause for concern for some people, especially if a bulb is broken and the mercury released.

The average American family spends one-fifth of their household energy expenses on lighting the home. This can be reduced by about 80% by switching from incandescent bulbs to more efficient LEDs (Forbes). This is not just better for the household budget, but also easier on the environment.

Many people have a bad impression of the color quality (also called temperature, though this doesn't have to do with heat to the touch) of the light that these new energy efficient bulbs produce. With LEDs you do have a choice in the matter, though.

LED bulbs have been widely adopted in commercial spaces, for street lighting, and in office buildings. Until recently, they have been considerably more expensive than customers are used to paying for light bulbs. As technological advances have been made in production, the falling cost is making them a much more attractive option.

When selecting bulbs, they are now labeled in lumens. This accommodates the modern lighting technology's differences in efficiency, where we used to select our bulbs by wattage when everyone was using incandescent lights. A helpful chart is available to anchor the terminology to the familiar incandescent light intensity; a 60 watt incandescent bulb would be 800 lumens.

LED lighting also has some true wow factors. You can buy them in strips, which are simple to cut to the needed length. These are ideal for kitchen and bath lighting under cabinets and toe kicks, for stairways, and also can be used for artistic lighting effects. Even better, some of these lights will last 20 years.

The National Resources Defense Council has a great bulb buying guide that compares different technologies, their green factors and their costs.

Energy Star offers a helpful interactive light selection tool as well, in particular for choosing different bulbs for different functions and locations.

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