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As homeowners, lighting plays a major role in our everyday activities, as well as our sense of safety, our mood, and the tone and style of our home. But it also comes at a cost.

The type of light we use, along with how often it's on, factors into how much electricity we use.

Americans spend between five and 10 percent of their electric bills on lighting their homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

But doing something as simple as replacing 25 percent of your lights in high-use areas with fluorescent bulbs can cut a lighting bill in half.

When it comes to bulbs, there are two common types we use in our homes.

Incandescent bulbs are frequently used in homes due to their low initial cost. Unfortunately, they're relatively inefficient at converting electrical energy to light and have short lives, which adds up when you consider replacement costs and electric bills.

Fluorescent lamps, used mainly indoors for general/ambient lighting and task lighting, are about three to four times as efficient as incandescent lighting and last about 10 times longer.

Installing fluorescents where they will be on for several hours at a time yields the most efficiency. Fluorescents are great for kitchens, workshops, laundries, recreation rooms and home offices. Hard-to-reach fixtures are also good candidates for fluorescents.

Small fluorescent bulbs called compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are a great alternative to incandescent bulbs for home lighting because they combine the efficiency of fluorescent lighting with the convenience and popularity of incandescent fixtures. CFLs are particularly good for exterior lights or table lamps that often burn for long periods of time.

For the same amount of electrical energy, CFLs produce three to four times more light than incandescent lamps, saving up to 75 percent of the initial lighting energy.

Although fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps cost about 10 to 15 times more than incandescent bulbs, they last 10 to 15 times as long.

If you already have fluorescent lighting, try replacing bulbs with more efficient models, or even replace an existing fixture with a more efficient fixture model. Substituting one light bulb for another to save energy may not work with older fixtures, but buying new fixtures made for new lamps will produce energy savings, reliability, and longevity.

In order to save energy consumption and money, the American Lighting Association recommends two things:

  1. Reduce the amount of energy used by lights bulbs and fixtures by replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs.
  2. Reduce the length of time lights are on by using and/or installing dimmers and occupancy sensors, as well as educating family members to turn off unneeded lights.

Dimmers reduce the energy use of incandescent and fluorescent lamps and significantly increase the life of incandescents.

Occupancy sensors, typically found in closets and recreation rooms, activate lights when you enter the immediate area and then turn off when you walk away.

Here are more easy ways to save energy and money from the Department of Energy:

  • Use task lighting to focus light only where you need it. For example, use fluorescent under-cabinet lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets.
  • Use three-way lamps in common areas like the living and family rooms. Three-ways make it easier to adjust lighting levels according to the activity in the room.
  • Try four-foot fluorescent fixtures with reflective backing and electronic ballasts for your workroom, garage, and laundry areas.

    So when it comes time to replace your porch light, go with a CFL bulb. Or install a dimmer switch in the dining room. Whatever you decide, whether simple changes that cut your energy bill now, or changes that stay with the house when you sell, you (and future occupants) are sure to save down the road when you invest now in energy-efficient lighting.

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