Energy Fixer: Light Right

How do you make an older house more energy efficient? This year, we’re following Sarah, a PGE employee, as she updates a 55-year-old, 1,500 square-foot, all-electric house, which she purchased in November 2014.

Free LEDs inspire changes

After Sarah completed Energy Trust of Oregon’s free, online Home Energy Review earlier this year, she requested a free Energy Saver Kit from Energy Trust, which included six high-efficiency, ENERGY STAR® LED light bulbs.

Easy savings

Switching out light bulbs is an easy way to improve a home’s energy efficiency. Sarah knew her smartest step was to use the LEDs in fixtures that are on for long periods so she could capture the biggest energy savings.

“I installed three in the bathroom because between me and my girls those lights are on a lot and often left on. I put two in the hall, which has a dimmer — those are the lights I leave on at night if I’m not home. And I put one in the kitchen because those lights are on for long periods too,” Sarah said.

Love at first light

How does she like the light quality of the LEDs?

“The tone is pretty nice. These particular bulbs are not quite as “warm” looking as an incandescent but certainly warmer than a CFL,” Sarah said. “And the light quality is really good.”

She liked the LED in the main kitchen fixture so much, she bought another LED bulb.

“My kitchen has only two light fixtures — a single bulb in the middle of the ceiling and one over the sink. Each can take only a maximum 70-watt bulb, and with incandescent bulbs, it just wasn’t enough light,” she explained. “The new LEDs are much brighter and the light quality is great for cooking and cleaning — I can really see what I’m doing. Plus, they use just a few watts.”

In fact, LEDs use up to 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and are more efficient than CFLs too.* An LED bulb can save up to $80 over its lifetime in energy costs.**

They last longer too — up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and three times longer than CFLs.* That means Sarah will buy a lot fewer bulbs over the years.

Sarah is sold on the savings. “I’m going to buy more LEDs to use throughout my house,” she said. “I really want to get some for my outdoor lights that are on for long periods.”

She appreciates LEDs’ other advantages, too: They don’t give off heat like incandescent bulbs, and they provide instant full brightness with no warm-up lag.

6 shopping tips

Ready to upgrade to LEDs in your house? It’s easy to do. LEDs have come a long way in the last few years, and they’re now available a wide array of styles, including reflector bulbs for can fixtures and track lights, globes for bathroom vanities and candelabra styles for chandeliers.

When you head to the store, here are some things to keep in mind:
  1. Read the lighting facts label. This looks similar to the nutrition label you see on food packages. It tells you the brightness or lumens, estimated yearly cost, life expectancy, light appearance or color (warm to cool) and watts.
  2. Think lumens, not watts. If you’re replacing a 60-watt incandescent, you want to find a LED that will give you the same lumens or brightness. The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. Many packages now have statements like “60-watt equivalent” to make it easier to find the right replacement.
  3. Choose the color tone. If you want a warmer light appearance, similar to an incandescent, look for an LED marked 2700 K. Higher numbers provide cool, crisp tones that are good for work areas.
  4. Consider dimmability. Check the package to make sure a bulb is dimmable. You may want to install a special LED dimmer.
  5. Check the light spread. Some bulb packages say “omnidirectional” while other styles provide more focused, directional light.
  6. Find reduced prices. Look for the Energy Trust logo in select stores to find qualifying bulbs. Learn more.

**Source: Energy Trust of Oregon