Gallery: Green Lighting 101: Your Guide to Energy Efficient Interior Li...


When it comes to energy efficiency, the easiest way to start cutting down your monthly bill is through your home’s lighting. By making simple changes to the types of bulbs you’re using, you can be more eco-friendly while saving yourself a pretty penny. Due to all the changes the green lighting industry has undergone in just the last few years, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the options that are available. But fear not – if you’re looking for some insight into the wealth of green lighting alternatives available today, this handy guide will give you the basic foundation you need to upgrade your bulbs and reap the financial and environmental benefits of energy-efficient lighting!


Watt: This unit measures the power that is needed for a certain application – for instance you need 100 watts to run a 100 watt light bulb. Technically, this is defined as the amount of Joules per second.

Volts: A unit of measure that expresses how many electrons flow through a given circuit. For example, if you compare this concept to the water in pipes, it is equal to the water pressure, or more specifically, how fast or slow the water is flowing. Generally speaking, the US standard for homes is 110 Volts but in Europe it is 220 volts.

Lumens: These units are used to measure the power of light that is perceived by the human eye. These measurements are intended to gauge the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light,

Kelvin: This unit is used to measure temperature. In relation to lighting it is the most important number to look at to determine the color of fluorescents and LEDs. The lower the Kelvin temperature the warmer the color of the light, and the higher the temperature the more blue and cool the light is.


The Incandescent: A fading standard.

Although we all love Thomas Edison, his original tungsten-based light bulb was never known for its efficiency. Although they were the lighting standard for decades, the lighting industry is finally moving away from incandescent bulbs at a quickening pace — even making some bulbs illegal, such as any flood lamp greater than 65 watts. Thankfully, there are lots of better, more efficient, and longer-lasting options out there.

Halogen and Zenon

A halogen lamp is an incandescent lamp that houses a tungsten filament contained with an inert gas and a small amount of a halogen such as iodine or bromine. Halogen and Zenon technologies allow you to get more light from fewer watts, but they are still rather energy-inefficient. Although a 100-watt Halogen provides about 250 watts of incandescent equivalent light, the bulb still requires 100 Watts — whereas a fluorescent would only need to be about 60 -75 Watts (although such a high wattage CFL is not made.) The benefit to Halogens and Zenons are that they are small in size compared to incandescents or fluorescents. Zenon bulbs are also significantly more efficient than halogens, as they operate at a lower temperature and maintain a better quality of light. Halogen Energy Savers (from Philips) are uniquely designed to provide the same crisp, white halogen light as standard halogen bulbs, but they use much less energy. When using Halogen or Zenon bulbs, the best option is usually to choose low-voltage systems that operate at 12 volts as opposed to the standard 120 volts seen in regular incandescent light bulbs.

Compact Fluorescents or CFLs

Compact fluorescents boast many improvements over standard incandescent light bulbs, and they have now become the industry standard. Fluorescents, and more specifically compact fluorescents, use spiral glass chambers filled with gas and ballasts. Typically these bulbs use about a third or less of the energy that an incandescent uses — a 23 watt CFL can produce about 100 watts of light and runs much cooler while turned on. The bulbs also come in variety of shapes and sizes, and some even come mercury-free.

The greatest hiccup to the CFL’s popularity has been issues related to color and warm up time. However, technological improvements have given way to CFLs that emit a much more pleasing color, ranging from daylight to cool whites. Moreover, the new technology driving the starters allows the bulbs to instantaneously reach between 50-60% power at “on”, and reach 100% within a minute. Currently the biggest obstruction to complete adoption of CFLs is the fact that they are hard to dim, or rather, that the bulbs or systems that can dim are slightly more expensive than the standard ones.


LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are vastly superior to CFLs in terms of efficiency, dimming, and lumen output. An LED is a semiconductor light source; when a light-emitting diode is switched on, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. The resulting color of the light corresponds to the energy of the photon, producing an effect called electroluminescence.

LEDs have been the go-to solution for task lighting for some time now, but they are slowly showing promise as incandescent replacements. Improved technology has given way to more ambient LEDs, and these bulbs are extremely energy-efficient — You can now replace your standard 60-watt incandescent bulb with an LED bulb that uses only 12.5 watts of energy and will last a whole lot longer. LED lights use only 10-20% of the electricity needed for the equivalent light in incandescents, and they last about 50 times longer. Due to their unique design, LEDs dim beautifully, emit hardly any heat, and are cool to the touch.


OLEDs, or Organic Light Emitting Diodes, are made from flexible organic materials that can be placed in almost anything. However, this technology is still in the early stages of development. Currently OLEDs are more prevalent in technological applications, such as flexible screens and TVs, but goes comes without question the future is bright for this technology.

Natural Daylight

For obvious reasons, natural daylight is the greenest way to illuminate any space. For most people this can be achieved through strategically placed windows and skylights, but not every space has the same direct access to the sun. Fortunately, there are several different technologies that do not require direct sunlight to function, but still remove electricity from the picture. Light transmitting systems place a light gathering receptacle on your roof which uses fiber optics to redirect the natural sunlight into your home or other spaces.

Increased natural daylight can also be achieved with mirrored devices (also known as heliostats) that redirect the sun’s rays from your lawn or garden into your home. A single heliostat directed through a window or skylight can deliver the equivalent of 40 100-watt incandescent bulbs. Both of these options are a great way to add light to any dark room, but as you can imagine, neither option works after the sun goes down.

Philips Lighting Company

Philips has always been at the forefront of green thinking and design innovation. They’re a leading innovator of lighting technology that saves energy, carbon and offers a higher quality of light so that we can all enjoy a greener future. Their recently released A19 AmbientLED maintains a light output of 800 lumens, while using just 20% of the energy consumed by a standard incandescent bulb. All of their green products reduce costs, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. They offer a significant environmental improvement in one or more of our green focal areas: energy efficiency, packaging, hazardous substances, weight, recycling and disposal, and lifetime reliability. Purchase the 12.5W AmbientLED bulb at any Home Depot location or by visiting them online here.

+ $39.97 at Home Depot


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Bill486 June 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Great effort for efficiency!!

  2. lkohan March 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I find your article informative, but I would like to add a couple of comments about your information on natural day-lighting. Heliostats are a mainly a commercial “concentrator” technology used for heating as well as lighting and are usually mounted on flat roofs.

    A major, and highly affordable natural day-lighting technology which you did not mention are solar tubes (aka tubular skylights, solar pipes, sun pipes, etc.). A solar tube uses a clear dome that passes sunlight through highly a reflective tube that then diffuses the natural light into a space. They resemble round ceiling-mounted light fixtures (with no switch), and are great used in hallways, closets, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. They are inexpensive (on the order of a few hundred dollars or less), and do not alter your roof structurally, since they fit between the attic rafters. While this technology has been around for about 20 years, it only improves, and comes down in price. Solar tubes are a great way to bring in natural light to areas where windows are not feasible. It’s hard to walk by these and ignore the impulse to turn off a light switch.

  3. greenlivingguy February 2, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Hello all. My first comment on this site. Yeah!! Anyway, for further reference, please consider checking out my book Green Lighting with McGraw-Hill. As it says on the site and book:
    Flip the switch to energy-efficient lighting

    This do-it-yourself guide makes it easy to upgrade residential and commercial lighting to reduce costs and environmental impact while maintaining or even improving the quality of the lighting. Filled with step-by-step instructions, Green Lighting shows you how to save money and energy with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), solar lights, windows, skylights, fixtures, controls, and other bright ideas. Methods for calculating return on investment, plus recommended sources for energy-efficient products, are included in this practical resource. Thanks!!!

  4. joppe January 24, 2011 at 3:02 am

    “a 23 watt CFL can produce about 100 watts of light”

    no, it can’t. i presume you meant to say “about the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandecent”

  5. solidapollo January 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    “Why do the LED bulbs I have in my light fixtures at home glow at night even with the light switch turned off? Am I wasting electricity or is there something wrong someplace?”

    The reason they still shine is the following:

    1. You have a dimmer in the wall.
    2. You have a timed switch, like timed switches in bathrooms.
    3. If the answer is NO to number 1 and 2 it is because the phosphur in the LEDs is still excited and it take a couple of minutes to loose the “excitment”.

  6. solidapollo January 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Pierre F:

    That is because you have not seen good quality LED lightbulbs. Light is exactly like incandescent, you can even notice the difference.

  7. Pierre F. Lherisson January 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I still prefers the 100 watts incandescent light bulbs for reading because they are much brighter

  8. AGAPETUS January 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Why do the LED bulbs I have in my light fixtures at home glow at night even with the light switch turned off? Am I wasting electricity or is there something wrong someplace?

  9. DORGD January 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    guess what you have to do if you break one in your home??? 3 pages of instructions because they contain MERCURY!!! But don’t eat fish with mercury in them but go ahead and put these all over hour home!

  10. itz4me515 January 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Why didn’t you cover cold cathode lighting?

  11. solidapollo January 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    LED Lighting has more uses than you can imagine. For example, LED are being installed in carpets.

    Look here to see what I mean:


  12. Charly January 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Hello! I saw this LED lamp first in a documentary called “Buy, discard, buy”, it shows how lamps and many other products are designed to fail in a determined time of use, wich is called “planned obsolence”. I let all of you here the link:

    (it’s in spanish, didn’t found it in english)

  13. kdalnation January 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Great article! I had no idea how much I didn’t know about green lighting. Time to get my home up to par.

  14. Andrew Michler January 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Living off grid lighting take up 40% of my energy budget- LEDs are going to make a huge difference.

  15. David Brodeur January 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    A great guide for the lighting newbies out there, I can’t wait for those OLEDs to become more commonplace!

  16. Rebecca Paul January 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    This article is great! I’ve definitely found myself lost from time to time when it comes to eco friendly lighting. This post is informative and easy to understand. Excellent work.

  17. Kestrel Jenkins January 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    brilliant post. the explanations of lighting terms help clarify some of the specifics i was a bit fuzzy about. history aspects are super interesting as well.

  18. Jessica Dailey January 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    The OLEDs look really cool — seems like they would be perfect for street lights!

  19. Diane Pham January 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    thanks for this post dan! this is great guide for people who are looking to change out their bulbs and don’t know what their choices are!

  20. Jasmin Malik Chua January 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    This is infinitely helpful—thank you!

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home