Choosing Light Fixtures

Dedicated LED and CFL Fixtures

Efficient lighting goes beyond selecting the right light bulb for your existing fixtures. ENERGY STAR endorses a wide range of indoor and outdoor fixtures that are designed for use with LEDs, CFLs, and linear fluorescent lamps. These fixtures are available in most home improvement centers and lighting showrooms. Many of the indoor fixtures incorporate dimmers or two-way switches. Outdoor fixtures automatically shut off during the day or come equipped with motion sensors.

Ceiling Fan Fixtures

ENERGY STAR also endorses high-efficiency ceiling fan/ light combination units and ceiling fan light kits. Because the lighting component represents a great energy savings opportunity, be sure that your ENERGY STAR ceiling fan is also equipped with a qualified light kit. 

Torchiere Lamps

It is important to distinguish halogen torchiere floor lamps from the other halogen lighting discussed above. These fixtures, which became popular in the 1990s for providing pleasing indirect light at a low up-front cost, are actually quite inefficient and costly, since they consume 300–600 watts of electricity yet direct the light to the ceiling. These light fixtures pose a fire hazard due to the extremely hot temperatures produced by their high-wattage bulbs.

Fortunately, as of January 2006, efficiency standards ban the manufacture of lamps that consume more than 190 watts, thereby eliminating harmful halogen torchieres. If you currently have a halogen torchiere in your home, replace it with a torchiere designed for use with fluorescent lamps or LEDs that feature full-dimming or three-stage dimming (three light levels) and are much safer than halogen floor lamps, while using only a fraction of the electricity. 

Outdoor Lighting

The lights you use to illuminate your walkway, driveway, patio and front or back doors can have a significant impact on your energy bill as well as on others in your community, especially if you tend to leave the lights on through the night or (horrors) during the day. The main difference between saving energy with indoor and outdoor lighting is that more efficient outdoor fixtures can benefit both your pocketbook and the safety of your home and community. Poorly designed outdoor lighting, which is brighter than necessary, illuminates too broad an area, or directs light skyward or next door, can create glare and deep shadows, irritate neighbors, and even damage surrounding wildlife! A growing body of research indicates that artificial night lighting that disrupts natural exposure to “dark hours” can be detrimental to nocturnal ecosystems and even to human health.

In order to have energy-efficient and visually effective outdoor lighting, first determine if there is a true need for light, and then consider the purpose and placement of the light. Where needed, fixtures should shield the light source from view to eliminate glare, they should be directed properly to the ground, and they should employ efficient light sources at appropriate wattage levels. Suitable technologies include LEDs, compact fluorescents that can operate at cold temperatures and ceramic metal halides. Light your property to avoid areas of deep shadows because they are difficult to see into and provide criminal-friendly hiding places. Additionally, security and landscape lighting usually do not need to be on all night.

Motion controls, infrared sensors, dimmers, and time controls are cost effective tools to help eliminate unnecessary attention toward your property, particularly in the hours after midnight.

To get an idea of the types of fixtures to use, the International Dark Sky Association certifies dark-sky friendly fixture products and lists manufacturers that are also a good choice for the energy conscious.

Outdoor lighting should be shielded and take advantage of solar power when possible.

Solar-Powered Walkway and Patio Lights

Another energy-conscious idea in lighting is the use of solar energy to power outdoor lights. During the daytime, a photovoltaic (PV) panel generates electricity, which is stored in a battery. At night, the stored electricity is used to power the light. Some models are turned on manually, while others are turned on automatically by light-sensing controls or activated by motion-sensing devices. Most of these walkway or security lights require no wiring or installation other than pushing a stake into the ground or screwing the fixture to a garage wall or fence.

Most of the widely marketed solar walkway lights do not put out a whole lot of light — don’t expect to read the newspaper under a $30 walkway light — but they are very useful for lighting the path to your door so your guests can find their way. Larger solar lights are available that do provide a lot of light, but these are more expensive.

Solar-powered outdoor lights can be found in many hardware and department stores or purchased through catalog retailers of alternative energy and stand-alone power equipment. You can install them yourself in a few minutes without having to bury wires or hire an electrician.