We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Office and Home Lighting

I went against the popular trend when we built our house. Actually, two trends got bucked: recessed lights and no ceiling lights. I like ceiling lights. I appreciate walking into a dark room, flipping the switch, and having the entire room light up. I don't mean light-up bright, just be illuminated so I can see the room. I like lamps for project lighting.

After designing the house we then went about choosing lighting fixtures to suit our needs, and budget. We loved it that the local lighting store had better prices that Home Depot, except on fluorescent fixtures, so we were able to buy almost everything from him. We chose ceiling fans with lights, wall fixtures, bathroom lights, and a few can lights. The rest of our lighting is done with floor lamps.

With one exception all of our light bulbs were fluorescent; the one exception is for a big-based 3-way bulb in a lamp which doesn't get used often, and the ceiling lights in my office. We have now added one LED light to our collection. It's interesting to see how much we have learned and how much has changed since we built the house.

Ceiling Light Fixtures
Ceiling Fanceiling fan with light fixture
Tube Fluorescent Lightfluorescent light bulbs
Circular Fluorescent Lightcircular fluorescent light bulb

I used to think that all fluorescent lights were the same, but it's not so. But under that delusion we bought four foot tubes for two closets, circle tubes for a closet and the kitchen and pantry, and then pigtails for the balance of the fluorescent collection. It turns out that though fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, larger fluorescent bulbs are less energy efficient than smaller fluorescent bulbs.

For example, my 4' T10 linear fluorescent tube is a 40-watt bulb (about 3500 lumens), while my pigtail lamps range from 14-27 watts for effective 60 to 100 watts (candle bulbs I have in a couple of ceiling fans are 7 watts, with effective 40 watt light). My LED light burns 1.5 watts for an effective 40 watt light. Unfortunately, few of the CFL or LED lights -- at least the ones I have -- indicate how many lumens they are, and that's the real indicator of how bright the bulb will be.

The circline bulbs in the kitchen and pantry are double circular bulbs and burn either 40- or 58-watts for effective 150-200 watt light. My Bigger Half hates using them because of the amount of energy they consume. Here's another situation where you have to balance environmental benefit over comfort: use the higher wattage bulb because it gives you the vision you want or need, or use the lower wattage lights when using the kitchen. We haven't found our balancing act on that yet, but I'm sure we will.

One issue people often miss with fluorescent bulbs is that they wear out faster, and burn more energy, if they are turned on and off frequently. Their most efficient usage is for turning on and staying on. If you are going to turn the light back on within 15 minutes you are better off just leaving it on for the best energy efficiently and the longest life of the bulb.

While fluorescent bulbs are much more energy efficient their disposal presents and environmental hazard, potentially. There are small amounts of mercury in fluorescent bulbs, and mercury is something we want and need to keep out of landfills. Once it's in the landfill it pollutes the soil and ground water, ultimately polluting further downstream with bigger impacts. Finding places to recycle burned out CFLs is an important part of greening your life and protecting the environment.

My office is probably the most used room in the house, when it comes to lights. Since we arranged to have lights on each side of the room operate independently I'm able to keep only the lights I'm actually using on, not the entire room. And since I keep the shades open during the day, I don't need lights much at all. That's a great savings.

If you want to save on your electric consumption my recommendation to you is to replace as many of your incandescent bulbs as you can with CFLs. Then only turn on lights you are actually using. Of course, if you choose to keep a light or two burning regularly as part of your security, CFCLs or LEDs are the perfect solution for that situation. A friend of mine cut her electric bill by 75% by replacing all of her incandescent bulbs. Wow! That's a fantastic savings! And it can be yours too.

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