In recent years energy use for household lighting in Australia has rapidly increased. This is due to the construction of larger homes and the installation of more light fittings per home.
Most homes could reduce the amount of energy they use for lighting by 50 per cent or more by making smarter lighting choices and moving to more efficient technologies.
In Australia traditional but inefficient types of lighting (incandescent) are being phased out. There are other more efficient types of lighting available, including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent lights. LEDs and CFLs are the most energy efficient of these options. Light tubes which capture daylight and pipe it into dark corners of your home is another effective option to consider and can reduce your need for other forms of lighting.
Inefficient incandescent lighting
The older style pear-shaped incandescent globes have been the common type of lighting for many years. They work by heating an electric element until it is white hot and gives off light. Almost all the energy is converted into heat, with only a little being converted into light making them the least efficient type of lighting.
Incandescent globes will be phased out in stages over the next few years. A ban on importing them already exists. This means that by 2020 Australians will save around $380 million each year by using more energy-efficient lighting.
Other forms of incandescent lighting will be phased out in stages once efficient and effective replacements are available.
Fluorescent lights are very energy efficient. They might be more expensive than incandescent globes but they use 80 per cent less energy and can last 4 to 10 times longer. They're ideal for areas where lighting is required for long periods of time, such as the living room and kitchen. They also produce less heat, helping keep your home cooler in summer.
There are two main types of fluorescent lamps—compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and tubular lamps (fluorescent tubes).
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
Compact fluorescent lamps can now be used in most light fittings, including older style incandescent fittings (screw or bayonet) and will provide you with energy-efficient lighting that is also comfortable for your eyes. New CFLs are being developed to suit some less common fittings.
CFLs are cheaper and much more efficient to run than incandescent lights. For example:
- If you use incandescent lights to light a large room like your lounge room, you could reduce your costs by about 80 per cent by converting to CFLs.
- If you want to use mains voltage halogen lights in the same type of room, you could be paying 4 times as much in lighting costs.
Use a globe conversion table to help choose the best and most efficient lighting for your needs.
There are a few things to remember when using CFLs:
- CFLs cannot be used with dimmer controls unless labelled 'dimmable'. This may damage the control and the lamp. More dimmable CFLs are expected to become available as the phase-out continues.
- CFLs shouldn't be used in enclosed fixtures unless especially designed for them as they need to be reasonably well ventilated.
You can now choose CFLs in a variety of shapes and sizes, and in different colour temperatures. For example, warm white for living rooms, cool white for bathrooms and kitchens, or bright daylight for garages.
Tubular lamps, also known as fluorescent tubes, are available in a straight or circular style. They are cheaper to buy than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), but unlike CFLs require special fittings. Tubes are ideal for kitchens, garages and workshops.
Cleaning up and disposing of fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps (including compact fluorescent lamps CFLs) contain small amounts of mercury, so take care when cleaning and disposing of them at the end of their working life. They should not be disposed of in your normal garbage going to landfill.
Sunlight is the cleanest and cheapest method of lighting your home during the day. Using passive lighting uses no electricity and is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.
If you are building or renovating, see if you can add well-designed windows or skylights to bring more sunlight into your home. Properly designed, these additions won't make your home too hot in summer and can help to warm your home in winter.
Light tubes are another cost effective option to replace the need for interior lighting and make the most of natural light. A light tube or pipe is used to bring daylight from the exterior of your home inside and can easily be retrofitted to lighten existing dark rooms or fitted at the time of building. This technology avoids some of the disadvantages associated with conventional skylights and may be cheaper to install. Look on the internet for more information.
You might also think about painting your interior walls light colours, especially in the south facing rooms. This will reflect more light inside your home and reduce the need for artificial lighting.
For more information on natural lighting and window design see:
Halogen globes are a type of incandescent lamp most commonly used as downlights. They are often mistaken as energy-efficient due to being low voltage lights—12 volt rather than the standard household 240 volt. However lower globe voltage doesn't mean more efficient to run or cost effective. You need to choose low wattage globes to make the biggest savings.
Halogens use an average of around 50 watts and use somewhere between 4 to 20 times as much energy as the compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) alternatives. They also require special wiring and fittings and several halogen lights are often needed in the place of one incandescent or fluorescent light.
At the moment halogen globes are still available, but the least energy-efficient ones will be phased out over time.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs)
LED lighting is an energy-efficient option for replacing downlights.
Their main advantage is their very long life—up to 50 times as long as an incandescent bulb. They can also be manufactured in sheets or strips. The main barrier for widespread adoption is cost and slightly lower light output, but as the technology continues to improve and demand goes up, the cost is coming down.
Solar garden lighting
Solar powered lights are an energy efficient way to light your driveway or garden path or to add decorative lighting to your garden or highlight a special feature.
Solar garden lights store energy from the sun during the day and turn on automatically at dusk. The light provided is not as bright as mains-powered garden lighting, but they're easy to install as they don't need wiring and come in a range of styles and types.
The storage capacity of many garden lights is quite small but improved models are becoming available. You can also connect solar garden lights to a battery back-up to increase power and life span.