Energy-saving ways to light your home’s exterior
Recent innovations in lighting have made it easier and more energy-efficient than ever to brighten up a home’s exterior. The clearest advantages of energy-efficient exterior lighting are that most fixtures require little maintenance, involve simple installation and provide long-range cost savings. But before you choose a system, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
First, determine your outdoor lighting needs. This will help you choose the type of system in which you should invest and decide if you will need to hire a professional. Many homeowners learn the importance of this through trial and error— by purchasing do-it-yourself, solar-powered pathway lights, for example, not realizing they’re not ideal for every illumination need. While pathway-type lights can serve a purpose—such as casting light on a step by a deck for safety purposes—sometimes homeowners expect it to give off more light than it does.
Next, set your budget. Check with a local home-improvement retailer or lighting designer for prices on specific products and services. Lighting options that require professional installation, such as a mercury-vapor system, will call for a bigger budget—starting at around $2,000.
Whatever you spend at the outset, the long-run savings are worth it. Fluorescent bulbs can save you as much as $42 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb if they have the ENERGY STAR rating. The ENERGY STAR label is given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, so the product must meet tough energy-efficiency guidelines.
Whether it’s providing security, brightening a focal point or creating a certain mood, the right outdoor lighting can do plenty for your home’s exterior, all while using less energy. In addition to brightening up the structure and its environment, the right exterior lighting also may pay dividends when selling a home. Choosing the right lighting for your home’s exterior may take some time and research, but the payoff will be visible, in more ways than one.
Before you decide how you want to brighten your home’s exterior while saving energy, make sure you enlighten yourself to the options.
• Solar lights are often used to light pathways. These easy-to-install lights, which have built-in solar panels, can illuminate areas that need ambient or safety lighting.
• Compact–fluorescent light bulbs are for porch lights or post lamps and use about two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.
• Fluorescent bulbs have an extended life—they can last 6 to 10 times longer than their incandescent cousins—which means you might not need to change your bulb for as long as 7 years.
• Photocells automatically turn the light on at night and off in the morning. The device is installed in the bulb outlet.
• Low-voltage lighting (typically 12 volts) uses less energy than household currents and is easy to install.
• Timers can be set to turn lights on and off at certain times, helping reduce unnecessary energy use.
• LEDs (Light emitting diodes) are very low-voltage and have a very long life.
• Mercury-vapor lighting systems can simulate moonlight, casting a realistic and aesthetically pleasing glow. The mercury vapor burns for 24,000 hours.
secure the perimeter
Good lighting is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to reduce
break-ins. Low-voltage lighting kits can be installed in an afternoon. Most operate from a transformer that can be plugged into any standard electrical outlet, so no wiring is required.