The new king of indoor lighting is without a doubt the light emitting diode (LED). This technological marvel can slash the amount of money spent on lighting without giving up the aesthetics of the bulb itself or suffering with the poor color rendition that plagued earlier energy efficient alternatives to incandescent. As the technology has advanced, dimmable and three-way LEDs are now available.
There is an LED option for just about every indoor lighting application. Table and floor lamps, recessed ceiling lights, chandeliers, sconces and floods or spots can all receive an LED upgrade. There are some caveats; if you have a chandelier using a candelabra base bulb, LED options may not be the best in terms of appearance. Fortunately, these types of incandescent lights are still manufactured. There is a cost factor, but the more expensive LEDs are dropping in price rapidly.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the benefits of LEDs is with a total cost of ownership (TCO) example. In the example, an LED is used to replace a traditional incandescent lamp in a recessed can ceiling fixture. Please note that the energy cost in this example does not reflect EEA's energy cost, which is currently $0.09599.
|LAMP TEHNOLOGY||PRICE||WATTS PER LAMP||LIFE IN YEARS|
|Price per kWh||$0.13006|
|Hours of Operation per Day||5|
|TYPE OF LAMP||1ST YEAR||10 YEARS|
|Cost of Lamps||LED||$12.95||$12.95|
|Cost of Energy||LED||$2.85||$28.48|
And the winner in every case is the LED. In this example, it pays for itself in a little over a year. Looking at it another way, when replacing an incandescent lamp, it pays for itself in less than a year.
Another advantage of the LED over its nearest rival, the CFL, is that most do not contain the small amount of mercury used in CFLs, so they can be disposed of with normal trash unless otherwise directed by your local municipality.
When considering lighting upgrades, go for the LED as often as possible. Even changing a handful of bulbs at a time will have a nice impact on your energy use and lighting costs.
There are three main uses of outdoor lighting:
- Increase safety and security
- Extend the use of outdoor areas
- Enhance the appearance of the home
As with all lighting, outdoor lighting was benefitted from the application of light emitting diode (LED) alternatives to incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL) and various high intensity discharge (HID) forms like mercury vapor, halogen and sodium.
LEDs are an ideal outdoor light source because they have significantly longer lifespans (up to 10 years), use substantially less energy, can have their light pattern carefully controlled to prevent light pollution on neighboring areas, have excellent color rendition and perform well in colder temperatures.
Replacing all exterior lights with LEDs is a good idea. If this is impractical, select lights that are difficult to access, such as flood lights on upper stories and replace those. This will limit the number of times you will have to risk life and limb with ladders to replace them.
Because of their lower power consumption, LED lights can be powered by small solar panels that charge internal batteries. This allows placement of LEDs whenever they are needed or desired without the expense of running wires. A trip to the local hardware store will reveal a wide range of solar panel equipped lights that can be mounted on a structure, placed alongside a path or walk, installed on patio/deck areas, and set in landscaping to enhance the appearance of the home.
Safety and Security Lighting
Outdoor lighting provides a safe and secure perimeter around your home. In terms of safety, using outdoor lighting to illuminate walkways and areas where a trip or fall hazard might be present is generally the primary application for safety. Lights at the entrance to the home also provide for safety illuminating steps and convenience, making it easy to see to open the door.
A pole mounted light at an unlit and potentially hazardous spot of the driveway is also an excellent application. It allows drivers to see curves and turns and navigate them safely.
When it comes to security, outdoor lighting is typically installed in remote or partially obscured locations where intruders might be able to hide. Having a brightly lit exterior deters most intruders but it can also annoy neighbors, so it is a good idea to equip security lighting with motion and daylight sensors. The impact of a bright light suddenly turning on is a great way to chase off trespassers while limiting the amount of time it shines on neighboring property. The daylight sensor conserves energy by keeping the light off during daylight hours.
Extending Hours of Use
For homes with outdoor areas that could be used after dark such as tennis courts, basketball hoops, or areas for lawn games, exterior lighting makes it possible for your family to use that well after the sun goes down. Such lighting is generally mounted on some sort of structure or pole to keep it above the "field of play" and to provide better light dispersion. Equipping these lights with motion and daylight sensors like used for safety and security lights makes a lot of sense. They won't turn on until someone comes to use the area and they automatically turn off when everyone leaves.
Landscape lighting is used to enhance your home's image after dark. Properly applied, it highlights architectural features and focal points within the landscaping such as a fountain or unusual planting. Landscape lighting is typically mounted on the ground in front of and within the landscaping itself. Low voltage kits are frequently used to provide landscape lighting. A transformer powers low voltage lights making it easy to plug it into an outside outlet. These systems require wiring and are a good choice where the area doesn't receive enough daylight to charge a solar powered light's battery. For landscape lighting, use solar lights or a daylight sensor or timer so lights only operate when you want them to.
There are several simple things you can do to keep lighting costs to a minimum.
- As already mentioned, move to LEDs as quickly as possible, even if only replacing a few at a time.
- Go with the lowest equivalent wattage you find that suits your needs.
- Avoid wasting lighting energy by turning off lights when they aren't needed. The rule of thumb is if you expect to be away for more than 10-15 minutes, turn the lights off.
- Install occupancy sensors to lights go off automatically in infrequently used rooms like attics and storage areas.
- Outside use motion sensors, daylight sensors and timers to be sure lights only come on when needed.