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In recent years energy use for household lighting in Australia has rapidly increased. This is due to the construction of larger homes and the installation of more light fittings per home. Lighting now consumes between 8 and 15 per cent of the average household electricity budget.
Most homes could reduce the amount of energy they use for lighting by 50 per cent or more by making smarter lighting choices and moving to more efficient technologies.
In Australia traditional, inefficient incandescent light bulbs have been phased out. There are other more efficient types of lighting available, including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs).
The Energy Rating website has more detailed information on lighting options, as well and a light bulb buyer’s guide which includes a handy light globe conversion table to help you select the right lighting for your needs. You can also download the Light Bulb Saver App for your phone to have this information handy while you shop.
Use of natural light through windows, skylights, and light tubes, which capture daylight and pipe it into dark corners of your home, is another effective option to consider and can reduce your need for other forms of lighting.
Your choice of lighting will depend on your home’s design and the activities that will be carried out in each room. Most homes have central ambient lighting in each room and task-specific lighting that can be switched on and off, such as lamps for reading, or additional lighting for cooking and in bathrooms.
When you’re building or renovating there are a range of lighting styles to choose from including ceiling, pendant, and wall-mounted lights.
Choosing the right bulb
When choosing light bulbs for your home consider the lighting you need for each room:
Select the amount of light you need – think lumens (the amount of light produced) not watts (the amount of power they use). For a guide see the light bulb conversion table.
Consider the lifetime energy use costs as well as the purchase cost for using a particular type of lighting – LED, CFL, fluorescent tubes or halogen.
For example a 10 watt (W) LED bulb would cost $39 to buy and run over 10 years. Over the same time period, you would need two 12W CFL bulbs at a cost of $48, or five 42W halogen bulbs at a total cost of $148 [electricity price of 28.55 cents per kWh used for calculations].
Get the mood of your light right.
Warm white is a soft, warm light suitable for bedrooms and living areas.
Cool white is a neutral light suited to studies and kitchens, and task-based uses such as garages.
Daylight white is a colder light, which can appear harsh but may be good for bathrooms and laundries.
Sunlight is the cleanest and cheapest method of lighting your home during the day. Using passive lighting uses no electricity and is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.
If you’re building or renovating, see if you can add well-designed windows or skylights to bring more sunlight into your home. Properly designed, these additions won’t make your home too hot in summer and can help to warm your home in winter.
Light tubes are another cost-effective option to replace the need for interior lighting and make the most of natural light. A light tube or pipe is used to bring daylight from the exterior of your home inside and can easily be retrofitted to lighten existing dark rooms or fitted at the time of building. This technology avoids some of the disadvantages associated with conventional skylights and may be cheaper to install.
You might also think about painting your interior walls light colours, especially in the south-facing rooms. This will reflect more light inside your home and reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Good quality LED lighting can provide excellent illumination in a range of household situations. LED lighting technology offers useful alternatives to some traditional lighting technologies such as halogen downlights.
Things to know about LEDs:
LEDs are 4 to 7 times more efficient than the typical incandescent or halogen equivalent.
LEDs have a lifetime of 20,000 to 40,000 hours.
LEDs last five to ten times longer than a halogen bulb.
LEDs are more expensive to buy but cheaper overall when considering lifetime energy use costs.
Be aware that some lower quality LEDs sold may not provide you with enough light, may flicker when dimmed, change colour through life or fail prematurely and some may not be as energy efficient as the packaging claims. A consumer’s guide to buying quality LEDs will help you know what to look for when selecting an LED bulb.
The Energy Rating website has a light bulb buyers guide to help choose the best and most efficient lighting for your needs.
Fluorescent lights are very energy efficient. They might be more expensive than incandescent globes but they can last 4 to 10 times longer and use 80 per cent less energy saving you money on your energy bill. They're ideal for areas where lighting is required for long periods of time, such as the living room and kitchen. They also produce less heat, helping keep your home cooler in summer.
There are two main types of fluorescent lamps—compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and tubular lamps (fluorescent tubes).
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
CFLs can now be used in most light fittings, including older style incandescent fittings (screw or bayonet) and will provide you with energy-efficient lighting that’s also comfortable for your eyes. New CFLs are being developed to suit some less common fittings.
CFLs are cheaper and much more efficient to run than incandescent lights. For example:
If you use incandescent lights to light a large room like your lounge room, you could reduce your costs by about 80 per cent by converting to CFLs.
If you want to use mains voltage halogen lights in the same type of room, you could be paying 4 times as much in lighting costs.
The Energy Rating light bulb buyers guide has a globe conversion table to help choose the best and most efficient lighting for your needs.
There are a few things to remember when using CFLs:
CFLs cannot be used with dimmer controls unless labelled ‘dimmable’. This may damage the control and the lamp. More dimmable CFLs are becoming available.
CFLs shouldn’t be used in enclosed fixtures unless especially designed for them as they need to be reasonably well ventilated.
You can choose CFLs in a variety of shapes and sizes, and in different colour temperatures. For example, warm white for living rooms, cool white for bathrooms and kitchens, or bright daylight for garages.
Tubular lamps, also known as fluorescent tubes, are available in a straight or circular style. They are cheaper to buy than CFLs, but unlike CFLs require special fittings. Tubes are ideal for garages, workshops and storerooms.
Cleaning up and disposing of CFLs and fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps including CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, so take care when cleaning and disposing of them at the end of their working life.
Check with your state environment agency, local council or Planet Ark’s RecyclingNearYou for information on where to recycle CFLs and other mercury-containing lamps in your local area. Some states have introduced household chemical collection programs or drop-off points that accept small quantities of CFLs and fluorescent tubes for recycling
Halogen lights are a type of incandescent lamp most commonly used as downlights.
There are two main types: the 12 volt (12V) with transformer and the 240 volt mains voltage halogen (MVH) light. The 12V option is often mistaken as energy efficient due to being low voltage. However, lower globe voltage doesn't make it more energy efficient or more cost effective. You need to choose low wattage globes to make savings.
Halogens are less energy efficient than CFLs and LEDs. Halogens use between 4 to 20 times as much energy as the CFL or LED alternatives and don’t last nearly as long. The 12V variety also requires special wiring and fittings. In many lighting situations several halogen lights are often needed in the place of one incandescent or fluorescent light. Halogen downlights can also compromise the effectiveness of your insulation.
At the moment halogen bulbs are still available, but the least energy-efficient ones are likely to be phased out over time.
Downlights are concealed lights that are generally recessed into the ceiling space. Keep in mind that recessed downlights should be avoided if you wish to maximise the effectiveness of your insulation and are aiming for a high energy rating for your home. Even energy-efficient LED downlights can create air leakage into the ceiling space. Meeting building and fire safety requirements for clearances around downlights is essential. However, the subsequent ‘hole’ created in the insulation barrier results in heat losses and gains not present when you opt for ceiling, pendant or wall-mounted lighting. If you decide to use downlights ask your lighting specialist to pair your light bulbs with approved downlight covers or alternatively ask about sealed downlights, to help reduce any impact on the effectiveness of your insulation.
The older style pear-shaped incandescent globe was the most common type of lighting for many years. They worked by heating an electric element until it was white hot and gave off light. Almost all the energy was converted into heat, with only a little being converted into light, making them the least efficient type of lighting.
Tungsten filament incandescent globes have been phased out in stages since 2009. A ban on importing the standard pear-shaped tungsten filament bulbs also exists. This means that by 2020, Australians will save around $380 million each year by using more energy-efficient lighting.
Solar powered lights are an energy efficient way to light your driveway, garden path or to add decorative lighting to your garden or highlight a special feature.
Where safety is a consideration you should always rely on conventional lighting to ensure pathways are adequately lit. Solar lighting can be used in combination with regular lighting.
Solar garden lights store energy from the sun during the day and turn on automatically at dusk. The light provided is not as bright as mains-powered garden lighting, but they’re easy to install as they don’t need wiring and come in a range of styles and types.
The storage capacity of many garden lights is quite small but improved models are becoming available. You can also connect solar garden lights to a battery back-up to increase power and life span.
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Did you know?
Switching to energy-efficient lighting could halve your household lighting costs.