The trend towards building larger houses means we're also installing more and more lights, which can increase household electricity costs. However, the increased availability of more energy efficient lighting and other technologies can help. Follow our tips to help you to stop your lighting robbing you blind.
Energy sense tips
- Switch to energy efficient lighting like compact fluorescent or LED bulbs as an alternative to incandescent or halogen lighting.
- Turn lights off in areas of your home that are not being used.
- Include dimmer controls with your lighting system to adjust artificial lighting as natural light levels fluctuate.
- Install task lighting in areas like near reading chairs, over kitchen benches, dining table and the bathroom vanity, so you don't waste general space lighting.
- Fit timers and motion sensors in areas that are used rarely so your lights are only on when they need to be.
- Use light coloured paint on interior walls, ceilings and other surfaces in your home to help you get the most out of your available lighting.
- Locate windows and skylights to allow natural light inside and reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day.
- Add well-designed windows or skylights to incorporate the use of natural light. Properly designed, these additions won't make your home too hot in summer and can help to warm your home in winter.
When renovating or building, it's important to first think about the specific purpose of lighting in each room.
Many rooms need two types of lighting and each need different lights and fittings. For example, you may use a standard ceiling light for general lighting and all over illumination for your lounge room, but you may also want small lamps to illuminate a specific area for reading or a desk – often referred to as 'task lighting'. Accent lighting can also be used for decorative or dramatic effects.
Lighting design at home should be a balance of meeting your family's lighting needs, maximizing energy efficiency and functionality, and consideration of the aesthetic impact supplied by the lighting system.
The YourHome website has more information on lighting considerations.
- Use outdoor solar lights for a cheap and easy way to light your garden or outdoor areas.
- Fit exterior lights with movement detectors or two way switches to provide convenience and security while saving energy.
- Consider strings of LED festive lights as they use less electricity and last longer.
- Use timers to limit festive light displays to no more than four evening hours a day. And, remember to turn them off if you go out and when you go to bed.
Types of lighting
Standard incandescent lamps are generally very inefficient, with around 95% of the electrical energy used by each bulb lost as heat. Compared with other types of lamps, they are less expensive to purchase but must be replaced more often.
It might seem wasteful to throw away a functioning incandescent, but when you switch from a 75W incandescent to a 15W CFL, you will save that energy back in less than 15 hours of running time.
These types of lamps are in the process of being phased out where an alternative, more energy efficient option exists.
Halogen lights are a type of incandescent lamp, which have a longer life but are more expensive to purchase. They are slightly more efficient than standard incandescent lamps, but much less efficient than a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).
If you have downlights installed at home, you may be using a lot more energy than standard lighting. Halogen downlights are considered an energy intensive lighting option as people use many more downlight bulbs in each room to light it effectively. A standard 12V halogen downlight bulb uses close to the same energy as a standard 60W incandescent bulb (when the transformer losses are included).
Halogen lights also emit a lot of heat while they are turned on. This waste heat warms your home and can add to your summer cooling costs. Ensure downlights are installed with adequate ventilation and there is sufficient clearance between lights and roof insulation so you reduce the risk of a fire hazard.
Swap downlights to more energy efficient bulbs to start saving energy instantly. There are a number of efficient alternatives available when replacing halogen downlights including Infrared Coated (IRC) halogen downlights, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
Your choice depends on whether you have mains voltage (240V) or 12V halogen downlights installed with a transformer. Also note that 12V halogen downlights can be an alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) version.
Available in a range of shapes, sizes and colour tones, this category includes fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). They are typically much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps, with a greater proportion of the electrical energy used by each bulb converted to light, rather than heat.
Both types can be more expensive to purchase, but have a much longer life than incandescent lamps.
Common CFLs are not designed to be used with dimmers. Dimmable CFLs are available but are slightly more expensive.
Colour temperature is measured in Kelvin (K), with the lower numbers giving a warmer tone and the higher numbers giving a cooler, more bluish tone. For example, if you want a cooler white light, look for a colour temperature of more than 3300K.
There are a variety of CFL 'colours' available. Warm white is well suited for home use. On the CFL box it will either say "warm white" or list a colour temperature less than 3300K. Choose a light bulb colour between 2700-3300K for general areas and 3500–4100K for kitchen or workspaces.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
The range and affordability of LEDs for household lighting has increased, with many LED options now available for replacing a variety of incandescent and fluorescent lamps.
LEDs are much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps, can be even more efficient than fluorescent lamps and can have an extremely long life. However, the quality and brightness of light offered by lamps in this category can vary significantly between brands and models.