Benefits of Energy Saving Lighting Techniques
by: David Miller
Saving energy is a topic that's on the mind of many people in the United States. With fossil fuels dwindling, the cost of energy is increasing for both the environment, and people's bank accounts. As a result, people are seeking alternatives that can fulfill their energy needs in a more efficient manner. One of the most consuming uses for energy is lighting. According to estimates made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting uses approximately 13 percent of electricity in the United States. Fortunately there are smart alternatives available that save both energy and money.
Light, in some form or other, has lit up the lives of mankind since man learned to create fire. The earliest form of controlled lighting dates back as far as 70,000 BC where natural hollowed out objects, such as shells, were used to hold lit moss that had been soaked in animal fat. Later, in 4500 BC, oil lamps were created followed by the invention of candles in 3000 BC and kerosene lamps by 900 BC. By the late 18th century inventors began experimenting and eventually produced gas lighting. By the mid-19th century, an incandescent lamp was invented by Heinrich Gobel, and in 1879, U.S. inventor Thomas Edison patented the first incandescent lamp with a carbon-thread. In 1926, the fluorescent lamp was patented by Edmund Germer. In the 1970s, Ed Hammer invented the compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb, which was introduced onto the market in the early 80s. CFL bulbs have become the popular, efficient lighting alternative to incandescent lighting.
Increased energy efficiency reduces or eliminates society's use of natural resources. Energy saving appliances and devices are designed to reduce the consumption of resources and as a result, lower the cost associated with operating them. In fact, making energy-efficient choices when buying items such as lighting, can cut energy bills, and environmentally damaging greenhouse gases, by a third. Unfortunately, not all items that claim to be energy-efficient live up to their potential. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created a program called Energy Star. Products with an Energy Star label have been tested to meet certain criteria established by both agencies. When choosing light bulbs for the home or the office, people should select items that have the Energy Star label. Energy saving lights may be purchased at various retail outlets, including home improvement, grocery, drug, and even discount stores.
Switching to CFL bulbs has several benefits. Although they are as bright as incandescent bulbs, they last approximately 10 times longer, and they also consume 75 percent less energy. People who use these bulbs as replacements will notice a reduction in their energy costs, as well. Replacing five bulbs with Energy Star labeled bulbs can reduce one's yearly energy costs by $70 dollars. This would also reduce U.S. energy costs by $8 billion and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that amount to removing the emissions of 10 million cars.
When buying CFL bulbs, telling the difference between them and incandescent bulbs is obvious by the appearance. Most are easily identified by the spiral appearance of the bulb, as opposed to the smooth globe of incandescent lights. Other versions of CFL bulbs look different according to their purpose or the buyers' preference. For locations where bulbs are visible, there are CFLs that have a globe covering the spirals. In other cases, CFL bulbs may be shaped like straight tubes, instead of spirals. To use energy-efficient lights, and ensure that they last, they should be handled with care. Leaving lights turned on for at least 15 minutes will help with the effectiveness of the bulb. Using the right type of bulb for the light is also important for its longevity. Three-way and dimmer CFL bulbs should be used for three-way lights and dimmer switches. When screwing them in or removing them into lighting fixtures, a person should hold the bulb at its base, as opposed to the spiral or straight tubing. Because they contain approximately 5 mg of mercury, CFL bulbs should be disposed of according to state laws, which in some cases prohibit them from being thrown out in the trash. If bulbs crack or break, the pieces should be removed using gloves, the room ventilated, and the area cleaned thoroughly.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs live longest when they are used in areas where they will stay on or off for extended periods of time. They are best for floor or table lamps, in ceiling fans, and covered fixtures in outdoor environments. On the other hand, CFL bulbs will burn out quicker when they are turned off and on in short intervals. This means that they should not be used in areas like closets, hallways or basements, where people are prone to switch lights on and off in short intervals. Most bulbs do not work well with devices like motion sensors, because they turn on and off frequently.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe to use outside as long as they are shielded. This means using light bulbs that are Energy Star-rated for outside use. These bulbs are designed to be protected against the elements. Covered fixtures are also sufficient to protect these types of bulbs when they're used outside. Because some bulbs are also not rated for persistently cold temperatures, it is advised to check their starting temperature ratings before buying. Reflector bulbs are typically designed to work when exposed to rain or snow conditions.
Energy efficient lighting is also useful when it comes to vehicles. Light emitting diode (LED) lights are a highly efficient innovation that is being put to use in a variety of vehicles. For instance, they are being used on boats as spotlights and even floodlights. As many as one in three new cars now use LED lights for tail lights, daytime running lights, headlights, or as supplements to headlights. These types of lights put less strain on the battery, making them ideal for electric or hybrid vehicles. Motor homes use a combination of LED lights for both the tail and headlights and compact fluorescent light bulbs for internal use.
Although it takes minimal effort, changes that people make in terms of lighting will have a huge impact on the environment. Simply by changing the type of bulb used for lighting, a family can save on their energy bill, and do their part to conserve natural resources. Efficient lighting is not only for residences. Businesses can also make changes and reap the rewards of using energy-efficient lighting.
For more information about energy-saving lighting and lighting techniques, please read the following links.
- The Energy Star Choose a Light Guide
- Energy Savers Tip - Lighting
- Lighting Milestones
- Father of the Compact Fluorescent Bulb Looks Back
- Tips: Indoor Lighting
- Compact Fluorescent Lamps and the Environment
- Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home: Lighting (PDF Page 22)
- Ten Ways to Go Green and Save Green: Smarter Lighting - A Bright Idea
- Energy Efficient Lighting FAQ
- What is the Difference Between Energy-Efficient and Regular Lightbulbs
- Porch Lights Can Use CFLs Too
- Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs: How Much Do You Really Save?
- LED Lights Will Shine Bright on 1 in 3 Cars
- How Much Energy is Used for Lighting in the United States