which lights should you be installing these days?

Anyone wanting to lighten their house's carbon footprint needs to think about lighting (I'm cringing at the unintended pun). The good news is unlike a few moons ago, when we really didn't have many choices for eco-friendly lighting (incandescent versus CFLs), now we have a plethora of options. Which as I said is great, but, really, things can get confusing. And annoying. Who wants to spend Saturday afternoons at lighting shops staring at 394059302 types of globes and light temperatures? Who wants to expend valuable decision-making energy on lighting? CFLs v halogen, 10w v 12w, warm v cool, dimmable v non-dimmable... uh.

I should know, my husband and I are in the midst of renovation 'fun times'. Which is why I was almost fell over backyards with glee when the lovely Marisa from Brightgreen, an Australian lighting company started by two brothers (David and Barry), contacted me and offered to have one of their lighting specialists, Alexander Miller, give us a bit of advice on how to navigate the latest in Earth-friendly lighting options. "Hell, Yes", I said. (And just so you know, this is not a sponsored post. Just some sensible info from people who like lights.) Alex came back with a run down of our options and other important things to know about lighting, as well as a very interesting insight into planned obsolescence.

Over to you, Alex:

How to make smarter, greener lighting decisions
It’s currently estimated that lighting accounts for almost 20% of the world’s electricity consumption. This pits it as one of – if the not largest – electricity guzzlers in the world.

While this statistic seems alarming, we can also look at it as an opportunity to make lighting one of the most energy-efficient areas in our homes.

In order to make smart lighting choices, there are a number of things to consider:

What type of lights should I choose?
Different types of lighting have different levels of energy efficiency:

Halogens are the modern cousin of incandescent lights, the second-oldest form of lighting. Due to their inefficiency, however, the Australian government has banned the import of some halogen globes. This has further compounded the need to find an alternative.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are regarded as an efficient form of lighting, however their light quality leaves a lot to be desired. Colour Rendering Index (CRI) is a way of measuring how vibrant a light source makes colours appear and is rated out of 100. Tellingly, CFLs only have a CRI of around 50. 

A recent study also reports that CFLs may cause skin damage due to the UV light they emit. They also contain small amounts of mercury, which is harmful to the environment.

-        Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are a safe alternative to other types of lighting as they don’t emit UV light. As this report by global non-profit organisation Climate Group states, LEDs are set to revolutionise the energy efficiency of lighting. Some LEDs draw the same brightness as their halogen counterparts on one-fifth of the power, demonstrating superiority in terms of energy efficiency.

Are there any tools that can help me?
Google ‘retrofit calculator’ to find an online tool that will help you determine the savings you make by switching technologies.

There are also apps available that help you determine how many LEDs you need to adequately light your spaces. Brightgreen has just released the Brightgreen App, which generates lighting suggestions tailored to the specific dimensions of your room. You can download it free for a limited time here.

How long should my lights last?
It’s a myth that light bulbs can only last for one year. The short lifespan of lights actually stems back to the 1920s, when a number of lighting heavyweights came together as the Phoebus Cartel and made it standard practice to deliberately design products to break (planned obsolescence). You can learn more about it in this film Light Bulb Conspiracy below:

That old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ couldn't ring truer for lights. While more expensive, some LEDs have the ability to last around 70,000 hours. That means popping them in and not having to think about changing a globe for another 30 years.

How do I know what wattage to go with?
A common misconception about lights is that a light bulb's wattage equals its brightness. A 75w bulb isn’t brighter than a 50w bulb – it just uses more power. Lumens are the units that actually measure how bright a light is. According to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, halogens burn at 720 lumens. Use that as a reference point and only purchase lights with the same, or higher output.

Can I recycle my lights?
One of the major drawbacks of CFLs is that they contain heavy metals that are harmful to the environment. This makes it difficult to safely dispose of bulbs after they no longer work.

Alternately, halogens generally do not contain any hazardous materials, however there aren’t that many recycling opportunities for these types of lights.

In terms of recyclability, LEDs are your best bet. Some LED lights are made out of fully recyclable materials and can be disassembled by hand to ensure that each part is properly recycled.

Recycling options for light bulbs vary according to where you live; check Recycling Near You to see what options exist near you.

What’s next for energy efficient lighting?
Technological advances in lighting are being made all the time. While first generation LEDs weren’t even bright enough to illuminate your glove box, today’s lights are matching, or even surpassing, the brightness of halogens.

We predict that the focus for the next generation of energy-efficient lighting will be on aesthetics. Lighting designers will aim to reward you for small-footprint living by improving Colour Rendering Index (CRI) levels (which measure how vibrant a light makes colours appear) of their products to make your spaces look their best.

Cheers Alex. If you're thinking of replacing your lights for a friendlier option, remember to download the Brightgreen app, available for free for a limited time:

It does neat things like presents you with lighting designs based on information you enter about your rooms, like room size and type (it tells you how many lumens you need to light up your room). For a full run down, check out the app page here.


  1. This article could not have come at a better time for me. Thanks!!

  2. Thanks Maria. Certainly LED lights are the way to go! I have done some research into what is available, and have purchased a few in the last year or so. You're right, it is evolving rapidly, and it pays to go for quality. Although I would prefer to buy locally, I found that, at least in Hobart, the best range is available online. My favourite supplier is Energy Reduction Systems, who sell the Ecofire range.

    It is important to look for "warm" globes, i.e. wavelengths about 3000K. Otherwise you will get harsh ("blue") lights which are hard to live with. The range of warm LED lights is growing all the time. There are also now quite a few that can be used with dimmer switches, which is great!



Flickr Photostream

Twitter Updates

Meet The Author