Last month we talked about way to make your heating more efficient. This month, as we eagerly await the winter solstice, we wanted to discuss lighting options for your home.

A well-designed home ultimately offers lots of opportunities for natural light during the day, decreasing the need for daytime electricity. There are a variety of options to improve the natural lighting of your home during the daytime, including the installation of skylights or larger or additional windows. Another option for increasing daylight are solar tubes. Solar tubes reflect natural daylight into the home, even into centrally located rooms with less invasiveness, more cost effectiveness and less solar gain/loss.

As much as daylighting options help during the day, in the winter in Seattle even the best daylight benefits us for about 6 hours and supplemental light is extremely necessary.

The most energy efficient option for your home is choosing LED Bulbs and all of your lights on dimmers, so you are only using the electricity you need. There is now a wide array of conversion bulbs on the market, including decorative bulbs and replacement tubes for fluorescent fixtures.

CFL Bulbs (the twisty kind that are readily available everywhere and may be what you think of when you think of energy efficient lighting) are only 2nd best, and are still a ways off from LED.

One major problem with CFL’s is the issue of dimming, which usually offers an opportunity to use less electricity. Normally, dimmers work by breaking up the amount of electricity reaching the light fixture and actually making the light flicker (though invisible to the human eye). This is fine for a traditional light bulb, but is not compatable for the way a CFL bulb works. A dimmer (even when not used to dim) dramatically shortens the life of a CFL bulb (even the ones on the market that say they are dimmable), making the CFL last a very short period of time. Similarly, because CFLs are more sensitive to heat than ordinary bulbs, they should not be used in air-tight fixtures and recessed cans unless they are specifically rated for such use. The heat build-up will harm the electronic ballast and can also dramatically shorten its life.

Finally, in addition to their persnickety nature, CFL’s contain a small amount of mercury and need to be recycled through special drop-off locations and not tossed into the regular garbage.

If you do nothing else, consider investing in dimmers and using them. Dimmers on incandescent and LED bulbs reduce the amount of energy you use when you reduce the light you use. By only using the amount of light you need, you can reduce your consumption of electricity.

Give us a call if you would like to get more advice on how to choose energy-efficient lighting solutions for your home.

Update 2/25/2014:

Compact florescent bulbs and LED’s are now cheaper to buy and easier to find than ever before! The more specialized the bulb, the more likely you’ll have to shop online, but there are a plethora of options in both technologies and stores are following demand by carrying more in stock all the time. Save more with Seattle City Light’s Twist & Save Program, which provides instant savings on the bulbs at in-city hardware stores.