Lighting & Daylighting

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Lighting & Daylighting

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Although lighting accounts for only 3.3% of the energy use in homes, it often accounts for a large fraction of the electricity bill.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs can replace the incandescent light bulbs in most light fixtures in your home, and they are now widely available. Compact fluorescent lights use one-fourth the amount of electricity that incandescent lamps use, and they last seven times longer. Another reason to get rid of incandescent lights is that they give off heat, increasing the need for cooling in hot climates. Because compact fluorescents use less electricity, they reduce carbon emissions, which is good for the environment. For a detailed analysis of the lights in your house to see which ones should be replaced, see Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Energy Advisor.

Torchieres are a fashionable and inexpensive means of lighting a home, but they are large energy wasters. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed atorchiere that uses compact fluorescent light bulbs to significantly cut energy use. These are now commercially available.

For outdoor lighting, consider combining energy-efficient light bulbs with motion sensors that only turn on the lights when people are present. This approach provides convenience and security while greatly reducing energy use.

When choosing any kind of lighting fixture, whether indoor or outdoor, look for the ENERGY STARŪ label.

Indoor Lighting

Use linear fluorescent and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in fixtures throughout your home to provide high-quality and high-efficiency lighting. Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 6 to 10 times longer. Although fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they pay for themselves by saving energy over their lifetime. Look for the ENERGY STARŪ label when purchasing these products.

Outdoor Lighting

Many homeowners use outdoor lighting for decoration and security. When shopping for outdoor lights, you will find a variety of products, from low-voltage pathway lighting to high-pressure sodium floodlights. Many lights can be controlled with motion detectors, so they only turn on when they are needed. Some stores also carry lights powered by small photovoltaic (PV) modules that convert sunlight directly into electricity; consider PV-powered lights for areas that are not close to an existing power supply line.


Daylighting is the use of direct, diffuse, or reflected sunlight to provide supplemental lighting for building interiors. Effective daylighting is difficult to achieve as a retrofit to an existing house. Although skylights are an obvious approach, they often cause overheating in the summer and heat loss in the winter. Triangular "roof monitors," with vertical glazing, are a more energy-efficient approach.

You can also enhance your use of existing daylight through careful interior design. Bright interior colors help reflect daylight into the interior of the house. Desks, reading chairs, and dining room tables can be strategically located to best use the available light, but beware of glare problems if locating a computer in a daylit area.

Credits: US Department of Energy (

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