Lighting energy-efficiency continues to improve, and last fall the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended Energy Star labeling to LED fixtures. While few Energy Star-labeled LEDs have yet made it to market, and some see the labeling as premature (see BuildingGreen.com post from 9/5/08), this move nevertheless signals a significant step forward for “green” lighting.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), too, have come a long way from their humble origins. They are smaller and are available in several colors (soft white, natural white, daylight) and lamp styles. (For lots of useful information, go to www.energystar.gov ; on the “Products” tab, click “Lighting”).
All Energy Star fixtures are required to use at least 75% less energy than incandescents, and both CFLs (~10x) and LEDs have far greater longevity (~20x) than their incandescent cousins.
Even so, designing low-energy residential lighting systems remains a challenge for several reasons:
- Many people have strong feelings and preferences about lighting aesthetics;
- Fluorescent lighting has a bad rap from its history of poor color rendition and buzzing (problems which have been largely rectified);
- Relatively few places in the US are subject to energy-efficiency standards for lighting (California is—does anyone know of others?);
- As a result, the lighting industry has been slow to innovate and provide energy-efficient fixtures in a wide range of design styles, models (pendant, sconce, etc.), and finish options;
- Relatively few home lighting systems are designed by energy-savvy designers.
When we did an extensive energy retrofit of our home in 2005-06, we wanted to replace the majority of the home’s lighting with Energy Star fixtures. California had just updated its lighting efficiency standards, so I went to the showrooms optimistic about finding what I wanted. I was sorely disappointed. I saw little improvement in selection from a decade prior. I could find Energy Star fixtures, but if I found a pendant I liked, I could not find a companion sconce or couldn’t get the finish I wanted. Even when I broadened my criteria to consider any fluorescent fixture (LEDs were few and far between at that point, and out of our budget range anyway), I had little to choose from.
I’d like to encourage the lighting industry to step up to this challenge and provide the design community with more options! Any takers?