How we light up the places we live and work makes a significant impact on how we feel. It also makes a significant impact on the environment. The kind of bulbs, the type of fixtures, the kind of power, and the habits we keep can all add up to a very significant greening. Please start with the fact that a conventional incandescent bulb turns only around five to ten percent of its consumed energy into light, the rest goes out as heat. From there, there’s no limit to how green your lighting can be.
CFL: The better bulb
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are those swirly little guys that look like soft-serve ice cream cones. Actually, they come in a myriad of different shapes, sizes, and colors of light. Economically speaking, they’re a great deal, too. CFLs cost a bit more than an incandescent, but use about a quarter as much energy and last many times longer (usually around 10,000 hours). It is estimated that a CFL pays for its higher price after about 500 hours of use. After that, it’s money in your pocket. Also, because CFLs release less heat, not only are they safer, but your cooling load is less in the summer. CFLs aren’t hard to find anymore, and many cities will give them away for free.
LEDs: Most Effective
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are a technology that allows for extremely energy-efficient and extremely long-lasting light bulbs. LEDs are just starting to hit the consumer market in a big (read affordable) way and still cost quite a bit more than even CFLs, but use even less energy and last even longer. An LED light bulb can reduce energy consumption by 80-90% and last around 100,000 hours. They even light up faster than regular bulbs (which could save your life if there are LEDs in the brake lights of your car). They are almost always more expensive presently, but we have seen the cost go down steadily. It’s no coincidence that the Millennium Technology Prize went to the inventor of the LED.
Most LED lamps on the market have bulbs built into them, so you buy the whole unit. For screw-in bulbs, check out Ledtronics, Mule, and Enlux. For desk lamps, check out a few affordable ones from Sylvania and Koncept. For more designer models, look at LEDs from Herman Miller and Knoll. Vessel rechargeable accent lamps represent some of the interesting new things LEDs can do as well.