Lighting does more than dispel the darkness. It helps us accomplish our tasks, and it can affect how things look and how we feel. Since Americans now spend 90% or more of our time indoors, according to the EPA, it's worth it to give our lighting a little thought.
The good news is that there are more options available than ever for better and more efficient lighting, with a broader range of technologies. It's not all CFLs vs incandescents any more. Much of the learning and early adoption have been driven by the commercial sector, because corporate and government buildings use relatively more lighting than households do as a portion of their respective energy budgets. But smart homeowners can now take advantage of technologies that commercial building managers have used for years, and enjoy falling prices and rising reliability.
When it comes to our pocketbooks, greener lighting can make a real impact. Improving lighting efficiency is typically one of the easiest changes someone can make, with some of the quickest payback periods and best ROIs (return on investments). It is partially in that spirit that Congress and the Bush administration passed new lighting standards that begin to take effect in January 2012.
A new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the standards will save the country more than $12.5 billion annually when fully implemented in 2020. Each household would see their energy costs drop by an average of 7%, or about $85 per household each year, when the standards are in place. Overall, the standards would eliminate the need for 33 large power plants.