The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on a mission and is urging us to use Energy Star light bulbs and replace our fixtures and lamps with more efficient models.
Why? For starters, Energy Star lighting -- the label the government has given to products that meet specific energy-efficient criteria -- uses two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent lighting. If every household in the United States changed its most frequently used light fixtures -- and the light bulbs in them -- our savings over a year could light more than 34 million homes for a year.
In addition, you can save more than $60 a year in energy costs because Energy Star lighting runs more efficiently and the pin-based light bulbs only need to be replaced about every seven years. And when it comes to protecting the environment, Energy Star products prevent greenhouse gas emissions, which means power plants don't have to produce as much energy, decreasing the amount of fossil fuels burned, resulting in less air pollution.
For the rest of this month, ENERGY STAR is partnering with retailers, manufacturers, utilities, and state organizations to bring more energy-efficient lighting choices to store shelves. Many have special offers on select qualifying products through several participating retailers and home improvement stores across the country.
As you think about your lamps and light fixtures, the first thing the EPA -- and the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- say you should do is get rid of any halogen torchiere-style floor lamps you have. The bulbs on these lamps can reach 1000 degrees Fahrenheit -- a 75-watt incandescent bulb reaches about 260 degrees.
From 1992 to 1998 there were 260 accidents reported; 232 were fire-related, and 12 people died, including 10 children.
The EPA says if you use two ceiling-mounted fixtures and one Energy Star torchiere in high-use areas, you'll save about $50 a year.
Energy Star fixtures must last 10,000 to 20,000 hours, which means you won't need to change the bulb for about seven years. And they distribute the light more efficiently and evenly than standard fixtures.
And these days, Energy Star lamps and fixtures aren't hard to find. They're at most home centers, lighting showrooms, and specialty stores. You can find torchieres, under and over cabinet lighting in the kitchen, ceiling-mounted, wall sconces, suspended fixtures and outdoor lighting.
When it comes to the best bulbs to use, 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 in places 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.
The American Lighting Association offers some additional tips for saving electricity:
Another energy-efficient option for exterior lighting is to use low-voltage and solar lighting.
"Installing low voltage lighting or solar lighting is an easy project," Lowes says on its web site. "No special skills or tools are needed and most installation can be done in under an hour using only a screwdriver. Low voltage systems are shockless and safe for use around children and pets."