This article was originally published in the November/December 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1994





Lighting Is the Litmus Test

Chances are, buying a new furnace or water heater is not going to have much effect on the aesthetic character of your house. Changing your lighting, on the other hand, can have a tremendous impact--not just on aesthetics--but also on productivity and comfort.

Energy-efficient lighting is the litmus test for the efficiency advocate. This is because individual preferences play such a large role in all facets of illumination. For better or worse, lighting retrofits serve as the front line of energy efficiency. Relatively cheap and painless (anybody can screw in a light bulb and bulbs are considerably simpler to replace than furnaces), lighting is nevertheless one of the most important energy-efficiency improvements a consumer can make. A consumer who is satisfied with a lighting retrofit is much more likely to consider other, less obvious and more expensive, measures. Conversely, an unhappy consumer who has removed a defective or otherwise unsatisfactory compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) may be loath to try other energy-saving technologies.

Lighting has made enormous strides since Home Energy first published Lighting the Way Towards More Efficient Lighting, in 1988 (see page 53 for the updated version). A whole new generation of energy-efficient lights are now on the market. If we use a familiar formula and equate miles per gallon (mpg) with lumens per watt, the new CFLs with solid state ballasts get 50 mpg. Contrast that with an ordinary 75-watt incandescent which gets 15 mpg, much like a moderately efficient car in 1974.

What is even more amazing is the longevity of the new, energy-efficient lighting products. CFLs last ten times longer than their incandescent counterparts. (Imagine consumer response to a car that lasts 50 years!)

The new CFLs are smaller, brighter, and more user-friendly than ever before, but efficient lighting is far from perfect. This issue of Home Energy presents the warts, as well as the overall beauty of the new lighting technologies. In addition to the hardware, we discuss the software of matching lighting to occupants' needs. Ultimately, the success of any lighting product depends on its ability to illuminate our lives appropriately and efficiently.

Alan Meier


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