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Energy Efficient Lighting
January 14, 2013
My wife and I are in the middle of a major renovation of a home in Maitland for our family. One of the goals for the home is to achieve a bright and warm feeling, so we felt lighting was a critical component. The home has vaulted wood ceilings with exposed beams through a majority of the home, so lighting selections proved to be tricky. We learned some interesting lessons as we balanced our priorities of lighting design, light quality/color, energy efficiency, with costs.
Recessed can lights are a common and easy way to light rooms and there are numerous options for energy efficient bulbs. Only the bedrooms of the new home had space in the ceiling for recessed lighting, so we took advantage of this opportunity to install traditional recessed can housings. Home Depot and Lowes have many choices for LED bulbs, but I was really pleased with the performance and light quality of the 6” LED EcoSmart bulbs installed in the Net-Zero energy home that I constructed in Winter Park. The lights turn on quickly, are dimmable, have a nice color, and put off plenty of lumens. I was happy to find that the prices for these fixtures have decreased by 25% in the past eight months and I was also able to take advantage of an online holiday offer for an additional 10% discount. The price per bulb came in under $28 and results in a three to four year payback based on its 85% energy reduction and assumption of 3 hours of use per day. With a life expectancy of 32 years, there will be many years of savings.
The kitchen and other common areas of the home had exposed wood ceilings, so recessed cans weren’t a viable option. We also wanted lighting that would complement the aesthetics of our home design, so we decided on a combination of decorative fixtures with ambient up-lighting by mono-point lights. We found that the typical bulb for mono-points used 50 watts of energy, so ten of the bulbs in each of the large rooms would result in 500 watts of energy consumption along with the requirement for two transformers. When we began researching LED bulb options, we realized that by cutting the wattage down to 6 watts per bulb we could also eliminate one of the transformers in each room. The cost savings of eliminating a transformer helps reduce the payback period for the more expensive LED bulbs down to about two to three years for us. Throughout the home, we will reduce the energy consumption of this ambient lighting from 3,000 watts down to 360 watts – an 88% reduction.
Some other areas of lighting that we opted for more efficient fixtures or bulbs include the exterior flood lights, interior under cabinet lights, and skylights. LED flood lights proved to have a much longer payback, so we only specified them for the high-use areas that will be on for several hours each night. This helped us address our concern for security, while also providing an efficient lighting option. In the kitchen and in certain areas of accent lighting, we selected LED under cabinet lighting. This actually worked out to be cheaper up-front than traditional halogen fixtures for the type of lighting we selected. We also installed Velux solar tubes in the three darkest areas of the home and traditional Velux skylights on the large covered porch. These types of fixtures don’t actually use any power, but provide ample daylight and will allow us to use these areas without turning on lights during the day.
Our home will be finished in late January, so we will soon be able to quantify actual energy consumption and savings for the bulbs and fixtures. I expect to achieve an average two to four year payback for the LED bulbs through reduced utility bills. Besides the lower electric bills, I look forward to not having to change any light bulbs for many years - especially in the vaulted ceilings. Many of the lessons we learned while researching for our home can be applied to any other home in the area – existing or new. The numerous efficient light options available at local stores are primarily designed for the existing homes, so do some research and pick the right bulb or fixture for you!