The best tips for ecological lighting in the home


Today’s residential lighting considerations go beyond decorative fixtures. Lighting influences our general well-being. It plays a role in our energy use and increased US energy demand and its implications, and our choices can cause light pollution or add toxins to the environment. Lighting planning even includes control and maintenance decisions.

Getting the best light starts with design. Locating and designing a project correctly can take advantage of natural daylight, increasing its impact throughout the home and reducing any potential glare. Skylights, solar tubes, translucent room partitions and glass block walls or even varying interior wall heights can all be ways to attract light.


Windows with high-performance glazing can make the most of daylight and great views outside, but they need to be positioned properly. “Window area and orientation are important factors,” says Jay Hall, interim director of the US Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program, which is a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes. . “The goal is to have windows large enough to let in sunlight without affecting the heating or cooling load. Proper orientation with overhangs or roofs can let in plenty of light in winter and control light in summer.”

Good planning also includes minimizing light coming from a home or property, according to the Lighting Research Center, a lighting research and education organization at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. Low-reflective surfaces and downward-directed lights are some ways to reduce glare that ruins access to the night sky, light spillage on neighboring properties, and glare that affects passers-by.

To keep occupants comfortable and safe, plan for easy control over accent, task and general lighting with accessible switches and outlets and height-adjustable fixtures. Make life easier as you age by shielding light sources, reducing glare, and providing greater contrast between transitional areas in your home.

lighting fixtures

light sources

The lighting market is evolving. When making your lighting choices, match your light source with fixtures that will ensure they work properly and for a long time. Determine the light level, light uniformity and distribution, as well as the color of light you want. Figure in ease of replacement, both in real physical access and market availability. Here are some options.

Incandescent lighting

Our main source of electric light for over a hundred years is basically a glass bulb filled with an inert gas that has a wire filament. Electrical current is sent through the filament, producing high heat and some visible light. The typical life of an incandescent lamp is 750 to 1,000 hours; however, it is inexpensive to purchase. Under the 2008 Energy Act, inefficient incandescent light bulbs will be gone by 2014.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

This light has an electronic or magnetic ballast and a tube lined inside with white phosphorous and filled with gas, including mercury vapor. Electricity flows through the gas, producing ultraviolet light that excites the coating, which then emits visible light. Some, but not all, CFLs are Energy Star rated, meaning they are supposed to meet government standards. The main benefits of an Energy Star-qualified CFL include using approximately 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent and lasting up to 10 times longer, saving up to $35 on energy bills over its lifetime prolonged. Among the downsides: their mercury content and the need for proper disposal, some may not work with dimmers or 3-way switches, should not be used in temperatures colder or higher than the manufacturer’s range, and can burn prematurely if they are turned on and off frequently. Most compact fluorescent lamps are made abroad, especially in China.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

According to Patricia Rizzo, program director and adjunct professor at the Lighting Research Center, LEDs are semiconductors, materials that are among those that can conduct (such as metals) or insulate (such as wood and rubber) electricity, and have properties remarkable. They can act as conductors or as insulators; work at room temperature, at low voltage or with direct current; and can turn on and off almost instantly. While LEDs share all of these characteristics with other semiconductors, Rizzo says, the difference is that, depending on the materials used to make the semiconductor “crystal,” one byproduct is light. Benefits of LEDs include a long lifespan of 50,000 hours or more, low voltage, and durability. Disadvantages include high initial cost and not being available for all general lighting needs.



Improved lighting efficiency

Rizzo and her colleague, Jean Paul Freyssinier-Nova, a lighting research specialist and research assistant professor, say there are several ways to improve the efficiency of home lighting. Among them:

  • Use compact fluorescent lamps when appropriate, such as table and floor lamps. Select CCT, Correlated Color Temperatures from 2700 to 3500 Kelvin, based on preference for how the warm or cool light source should appear.
  • Indirect lighting, such as linear fluorescents, will maximize room surfaces as extensions of the light source, softening shadows, reducing glare, and creating the impression of brighter spaces. It is also a good technique to hide light sources so that only the effect of the light is appreciated.
  • Dimmers on all incandescent lamps will significantly increase their lifespan and create atmosphere.
  • Use occupancy or vacancy sensors wherever they make sense, like in children’s bedrooms, laundry rooms, bathrooms, closets, basements, and garages.

Rizzo said that LRC has been cautious in recommending LED products so far, but there are better products on the market. “In the area of ​​recessed lighting, under-cabinet lighting, and trim lighting, we can safely say that certain LED products perform well and are becoming easier to install,” he says. “The heat sinks are built into the design of the fixture and can be plugged in or wired to run on 120 volts instead of requiring a controller to run on 12 volts.” She suggests viewing products to determine the warmth or coolness of the light.

So which light to choose? Each light source has its own characteristics and fulfills a specific function. “We still use candle for mood and atmosphere,” says Rizzo. “For example, if you want to accent a piece of art, you won’t do well with a CFL. It has no center beam punch, no filament, so you’ll just get a diffused bath of light, no dramatic effect. Each source has its place in our lives.”



Green Lighting Tips

If you want to install ecological lighting in your home, here are several tips:

  • If you use CFLs, check with your local government now to find out how to dispose of a bulb if it breaks. According to the EPA, these are the initial steps. If a CFL breaks, a small amount of mercury escapes. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. Do not use bare hands to lift it; wear disposable rubber gloves. If the bulb was broken on a flat surface, collect the fragments and dust with stiff paper and place them in a plastic bag. Clean the area with damp paper towels or disposable baby wipes and place them in the plastic bag. Seal the bag. If a CFL breaks on a carpet, remove as much of the material as you can with duct tape. Once you’ve removed all visible material, vacuum the area, remove the vacuum bag, and place the bag and remaining tape in a plastic bag and seal. In both cases, place the first sealed bag in a second plastic bag and seal it. Dispose of the bags according to the local disposal regulations in your community.
  • Given that energy use to light homes is only about 10 percent, says Jay Hall, interim director of LEED for Homes, changing many or all of the incandescent light bulbs in a home may not have much of an impact on one person, maybe $100 a year, but it will have an impact on the big picture. According to the Department of Energy, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star-qualified light bulb, the effort would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and more than $600 million in annual energy costs as a result. as well as avoiding greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

When checking light output equivalency, compare lumens. If a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 800 lumens and a rated CFL, 13 to 15 watts, produces 800 lumens, you’ll get similar light output but with different amounts of energy needed to produce that amount.

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