While heating may be the costliest energy consumer in your home, lighting is one of the easiest DIY improvements you can make.
Q: Any tips on efficient lighting options I don’t have to rewire the whole house for?
A: The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that 10 percent of residential energy consumption comes from lighting. While heating may be the costliest energy consumer in your home, lighting is one of the easiest DIY improvements you can make.
The newest lighting technology is strides ahead of its earliest ancestors — think LED vs. incandescent. Other ways you can save energy, and ultimately money, might surprise you.
There’s one lighting trend that has taken off in recent years: the Edison bulb. These vintage light bulb reproductions are reminiscent of an earlier time when complicated, winding filaments produced a warm yellow, even reddish, hue.
Popular in rustic or traditionally styled homes, these light bulbs in their original form will certainly add to your energy bill. Luckily, there are plenty of LED versions on the market today that don’t produce excess heat and use much less energy. They look just as stylish and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can even find some with a three-year warranty — something you definitely can’t get with a traditional light bulb.
Remember, no matter the technology or bulb you use, the end of a product’s lifecycle is just as important as when it’s plugged in. Those corkscrew shaped CFL light bulbs may last much longer than an old incandescent, but they contain small amounts of mercury that should not be disposed of in your trash bin. Find a local recycling site online and take the time to dispose of them properly.
Timers, sensors and smart tech, oh my! Today’s technology can help you make changes in your home without changing your habits. Occupancy sensors, infrared for heat and ultrasonic for sound, turn on lights only when a room is in use.
Even a traditional timer is useful as a failsafe. How many times have you left for the day, only to return from work to find your kitchen light is still on? Set your most used lights on a timer that will turn them off after a given period. You can also invest in a smart power strip that automatically turns off some or all of the plugged-in devices from consuming energy.
Despite the array of myths and facts you’ve likely heard, power adaptors (the bulky box at the end of a cord) will draw energy from the wall even when not in use. Popular home automation company Nest has tech that integrates easily with a variety of lighting systems. Companies such as Insteon and Belkin also offer lighting- and outlet-control capabilities. It’s almost 2017, let the tech do the work!
Don’t overlook your outdoor energy use. Porch lights are just as easy to accidentally leave on as the kitchen light. The same goes for decorative driveway lighting. Swap out your path lighting for one of the many solar equivalents on the market today. Even landscaping spotlights used to highlight trees and shrubbery are readily available with solar panels. Don’t worry about the Pacific Northwest clouds; you’ll still get plenty of power to those panels rain or shine.
Light can be a major concern during construction of a new home or a remodel. If you’re eyeing one of those investments soon, think about your lighting before you build. Skylight tubes, such as Solatube, are highly effective alternatives to the traditional skylight. They let plenty of light in without compromising the envelope of your home.
You may also consider putting more windows on the south-facing side of the house to let light in without adding as much to your heating and cooling costs.
Make big changes for lighting when building, but use these quick tips in your existing space to make your home healthier and more efficient today.
Jason Legat is the owner of Model Remodel and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.