girl sitting at window reading

Home lighting has a significant impact on interior design and home decoration. It shapes our mood — it even affects our perception of a space’s size and the colors within that space. Lighting also contributes to our mental performance and the ability to complete a given task. Accent lighting can draw us into a room by highlighting colors and treasured possessions.

Lighting can also have a considerable impact on the energy efficiency of a home. Lightbulb technology has advanced significantly in recent years, and more options are available than ever before. High-efficiency lighting is now available with excellent color quality and a variety of light outputs. Energy-saving lighting initiatives are also easy for renters to implement and don’t require owning the home.

Switch Out Inefficient Bulbs

Incandescent and halogen bulbs use 4 to 10 times the energy than a fluorescent (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulb to produce the same amount of light. Incandescent and halogen bulbs also create a lot of waste heat, which is especially inefficient in the warmer months when the air conditioner is running.

Replace incandescent and halogen bulbs with LEDs, the latest and best lighting technology. LED light bulbs are highly durable and can outlast incandescents by years or even decades.

Unfortunately, CFLs are efficient but also contain mercury. They also need a little bit of time to reach their full brightness, use a bit more energy, and don’t last quite as long as LEDs, making them less desirable. The downside to LED bulbs is that they cost a bit more upfront than CFLs and sometimes also contain heavy metals, but they don’t need to be replaced as often. Be sure to look for LEDs made without heavy metals.

changing to LED lightbulb
Switch to energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. Image: Adobe Stock

Use Natural Light

The greenest lighting of all comes from the sun. Whenever possible, use daylighting to reduce or eliminate the use of artificial light. Open curtains and window treatments during the day and try to conduct activities that require light near a window.

Another option is adding skylights to your home. Check out the Department of Energy’s guidelines for window and skylight insulation, then search for well-insulated skylight hardware and ask the installer to ensure that the insulation used has the correct R-value for your region.

Get Artistic

Numerous LED lighting fixtures and unique LED bulbs are available on the market. LED light strips are a great way to create accent light in a home and can even be controlled from a smartphone. Vintage Edison LED lightbulbs cast an amber light and have an antique appearance. Some light fixtures even come with LED bulbs installed.

vintage Edison LED lightbulbs
These Vintage Edison LED bulbs cast an amber light and create an old-world atmosphere. Image: Amazon

Recycle Used Lightbulbs

Incandescent and halogen bulbs are difficult to recycle but can be safely disposed of in the trash bin because they do not contain heavy metals. CFLs contain mercury and are not safe in landfills and should only be recycled. Wrap or package CFL bulbs carefully to ensure that they do not break in transport.

Home Depot has a free CFL recycling program, and the Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of mail-in CFL recycling programs. Although CFLs are not accepted in curbside recycling programs, many communities have local CFL recycling drop-off sites. If you’ve made the switch to LEDs, it will probably be a while before you need to dispose of them, and right now, take-back programs are few. Be sure to check with your local waste disposal or recycling provider for proper LED disposal.

Turn Off Forgotten Lights

Leaving lights running when a room is empty wastes energy. Turn off incandescent, halogen, and LED lightbulbs right away when nobody is in the room. The useful life of a CFL lightbulb is shortened by being turned on and off, thus recommends turning off CFLs when nobody is in the room for more than 15 minutes.

This post was originally published on January 4, 2019.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.