The Daily Green is thrilled to announce the publication of TDG editor Brian Clark Howard's latest book, Green Lighting, a slim (218 pages) but comprehensive reader-friendly guide to energy efficient lighting (McGraw Hill, $24.95). Whether you can't remember the difference between a CFL and an LED, or you're a professional designer considering the merits of solar tube lighting, this book has the information you're looking for. (CFL is a compact fluorescent bulb, by the way those usually corkscrew-shaped bulbs; an LED is a light emitting diode, like those on alarm clocks and flashlights.)
The Daily Green sat down with Howard for a Q&A about some of the interesting facts he learned from writing this book.
Some experts told me dimmers are arguably more important than changing bulbs. A modern dimmer that uses electric circuitry is more efficient and will cut energy use by a minimum of 5%, if it isn't used at all, and much more when it is used.
And definitely give halogens more of a second look. They're roughly 30% more efficient than incandescents (CFLs are about 75% more efficient and LEDs 90% more efficient) but they are a really good stopgap, and they last several times longer. Most designers say that if you want dimming, you should go with halogens today. LEDs are dimmable but there are few on the market, so they're relatively expensive now, although prices are falling fast.
Even with newer CFLs, which really are much better, you still hear complaints about low quality. Not all CFLs will last as long as people expect, but the good ones will.
It's important to save your warranties. Usually there's a manufacturer warranty, especially with CFLs and LEDs.
The first thing to do is to look for Energy Star, because that cuts out the worst offenders. Energy Star certification includes not only energy, but several other attributes, too. (The bulbs have two-year warranties, they must last at least 6,000 hours, they must be low in mercury, they can emit no audible noise and they must produce quality light.)
The FTC will be mandating new labeling in 2011. Like nutrition labeling, it will provide a lot of basic information on things like brightness, energy usage and estimated life. That should make it easier to compare.
If you use lighting a lot, it would probably pay off in a year. I wouldn't necessarily change everything, though. I'd use a mix of halogens and CFLs.
Interestingly, when the ban was first proposed, GE said they were going to put a lot of emphasis on redesigning the incandescent. Since then, they've back-peddled a bit... I've heard some rumblings that there will be some things coming out that will meet the new efficiency standard, but most people think that in the next decade, LEDs will be everywhere.
There's already 100% LED penetration for things like flashlights and desk lamps. People say, "They seem really bright, why is it so hard to get a room bulb?" For directed light, like a beam from a flashlight, they are really efficient. But LEDs haven't been as good at emitting light in all directions. They are rapidly improving, and manufacturers are able to use more LED chips and better reflect and control the light. There's a kind of Moore's Law for LEDs, called Haitz's Law: Like with computer chips, there's a doubling of brightness for the same cost with each new generation of LED.
Even right now, LEDs will pay for themselves in a few years, so they can be a smart investment for those who own their homes or businesses especially those that use a lot of lighting. Typical consumers may want to try out the exciting new bulbs that are hitting major stores over the next few months: a good quality LED will cost around $20.
A single downlight on the ceiling is the least flattering, and that's the most common in construction because it's easiest to install. You can really change the appearance of a room with light. The biggest rule of thumb is to have more than one source of light per room.
Check out the new book Green Lighting for more tips and tricks on getting the most out of your lighting. And check out the upcoming book tour, and listen to Brian and Seth Leitman talk green lighting on Blog Talk Radio:
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.