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How to Choose the Most Eco-friendly Lighting for Your Home

Dixie Somers

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Greening up home lighting is fun! With advancements in eco-friendly technology, you have many elegant and modern designs from which to choose. Moreover, your conscience smiles, knowing you’re sparing our Earth from demise. Here are five options available to you.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs with CFLs

Compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs resemble swirly soft-serve ice cream cones. Essentially, they’re coiled versions of long-tube fluorescent lights. CFLs consume roughly one-third the electricity of incandescent lighting. While they cost more than conventional bulbs, CFLs last ten times longer. Since they emit less heat, they’ll reduce your cooling costs during summer.

CFLs are compatible with most existing fixtures and come in a range of colors. Their average lifespan is 10,000 hours, paying for themselves at about the 500-hour mark.

Buy CFLs featuring the Energy Star logo, a symbol issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The logo signifies that a product is energy-efficient, saving a significant amount of power on a nationwide scale.

The only drawback to CFLs is that they contain small amounts of mercury. Still, they’re approved for use by the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Discard old CFLs by bringing them to your neighborhood recycling or home improvement center. If you don’t have one, ask your local waste management facility for how to safely dispose them. Alternatively, contact Earth911, a source of recycling information, at 1-800-CLEANUP.

Invest in LEDs

Even more eco-friendly than CFLs are light emitting diodes. Lasting at least 25,000 hours, LEDs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights. Additionally, LEDs are mercury-free and emit virtually no heat. These merits do come at a higher price than incandescent bulbs. However, since LEDs last up to 25 times longer, you’ll ultimately save money.

LEDs employ unique technology. They use semiconductors to convert electricity to light, similar to traffic lights. Sold in a range of colors, LEDs are highly versatile.

Use them in small track lighting, recessed fixtures, under-cabinet kitchen lighting, and outdoor lights. For closets, cabinets, and pantries, affix LED stick-on lights, powered by rechargeable batteries. Preferably, buy Energy Star-certified LEDs.

Tip: To amplify illumination, decorate with reflective surfaces, such as mirrors and glass panels.

Conserve Light

Swap existing light switches with dimmers. Both CFLs and LEDs are available with dimming features. Also, buy motion-activated lamps. Upon entering a room, a sensor will detect your presence, and turn on the light. After a programmed period of no movement, the light will automatically turn itself off. For outdoor use, install flood lights with motion and daylight sensors. LED lights are typically used with sensing devices.

Use Eco-friendly Light Fixtures

When shopping for new light fixtures, look for those displaying Energy Star labels. You’ll find a comprehensive range of styles, including track, accent, vanity, ceiling fan, lamp, chandelier, under cabinet, and outdoor. Some are made of recycled or recyclable materials. Also available are fixtures with dimming and sensing features, powered by CFL and LED bulbs. Alternatively, shop for fixtures constructed with eco-friendly materials, such as:

·         recycled Steel

·         reclaimed Shell

·         bamboo

·         recycled Glass

·         FSC-certified Wood

Fixtures with the FSC logo are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This symbol indicates that the wood is sourced from either post-consumer waste or sustainable forests.

Mount Skylights

Picture lighting up your home with golden rays of sunshine! Skylights will improve your home’s comfort, appearance, and energy efficiency. Their passive solar heating saves money during winter. When ventilated during summer, they protect rooms from overheating. Following are design factors to consider when installing a roof-mounted window.

·         Orientation. If you live in a warm climate, position the window on the north side of your roof. If your region tends to be cool, choose a south-facing location. An east-facing skylight yields morning light and warmth. A west orientation will maximize afternoon sun and solar heat.

·         Panes. HomeAdvisor reports that choosing double panes over single can reduce heat loss through the window by 15 percent. Dual panes have two glass layers separated by air or gas.

·         Coating. Buy glass with a “low-e coating.” This is a thin invisible metal sheet, overlaying the glass. This feature cuts heat loss during winter and reduces summer warmth. E-coatings also shield your home from ultraviolet light. Over time, UV light can discolor or fade furniture, carpet, photographs, and artwork. E-coatings differ by climate.

·         Frames. Choose Insulated Wooden Frames, Rather than Steel or Aluminum

·         Ventilation. Since warmth rises, skylights are best ventilated during summer. Venting can be achieved with a screen or louvers, operated by crank, chain, or remote control.

·         Energy Star. According to Recyclebank, Energy Star-certified skylights cut power consumption by at least 40 percent over conventional skylights.

Install Solar Lights

You have two design options for solar lights: landscape and rooftop domes. Since they’re powered by the sun, the light they supply is free.

Landscape

These lights make walkways safer to navigate. They also deter burglars. Fully charged, they can supply up to 15 hours of illumination, the number varying by season. Summer days yield lengthier time frames than shorter winter days. Clouds also reduce solar charge. Ideal bulbs for landscape lights are LEDs, performing well in cold conditions.

For maximal power, landscape lights must receive direct sunlight during daytime. Situate them away from outside light sources, such as streetlights. Otherwise, their light will prevent the solar panels from activating.

After installation, you may need to keep the lights off for a couple of days, using the switches. The “off” position enables the solar panel to fully charge, storing power. Be sure to read the instructions for required charging time. Batteries for outdoor solar lights have an average lifespan of two years.

Rooftop Domes

A skylight variation is the solar tube, also called a “light pipe” and “sun tube.” These small domes channel sunlight into home interiors. Sun tubes deliver light and solar warmth, without the heat loss and gain of window skylights. Solar tubes cost less than window skylights and are easier to install.

Inquire about Rebates and Incentives from Your Electric Company

According to Philips Lighting, 3,000 utilities exist in the US, each with their own rebate programs. Frequently, rebates are offered for lamps, fixtures, ballasts, and controls. Some utilities refund money for the purchase of Energy Star-certified LED lights.

With a “prescriptive rebate,” you’re reimbursed a certain amount for each lamp or fixture you replace. Installing a skylight or solar tube may also qualify you for a government rebate.  Contact a company like Gosling Electrical Service if you have questions

Green Lights

Now you have five ways to “greenify” your lighting, indoors and out. Begin by replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFLs and LEDs. Install dimmers and sensors, activated by motion or low light. Use fixtures made with eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo, reclaimed shell, recycled steel and glass, and FSC-certified wood.

Flood your home with sunshine! Invite the sun to power skylights, light pipes, and outdoor solar lights. Whenever possible, buy Energy Star-certified products. Then, see if your investments entitle you to rebates.

With all these earth-friendly upgrades, your home will virtually smile!


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