Lightbulbs-Morgue-225x300Whether by making small changes, like changing the type of bulb you use, or by installing a skylight in your ceiling, choosing eco-friendly lighting is one of the wisest things you can do to improve your energy efficiency and decrease your carbon footprint. Here are some ideas to get your started on saving money and the environment.

Compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED lights are better for the environment because of their ability to direct most of their energy consumption to making light. This isn’t the case for an incandescent bulb, which contains a filament that must heat up in order to create light. By doing this, it wastes 90% of the energy that it uses, leaving only 10% of that energy to actually create light.

A CFL does not have this same process and it uses one-fourth of the energy an incandescent would use.  Additionally, CFLs last longer and give off less heat. Switching to CFLs has created some controversy. They contain small amounts of mercury, which means that technically they are considered hazardous waste and can’t be disposed of with regular household trash. Recycling centers are gearing up to receive more of them, and you can find the closest center near you on Earth911.com.

Other complaints are that you can’t use the lights with a dimmer switch and some of them give off an unattractively colored light. These objections do not apply to all CFLs, so it is important to read the package before purchasing. For instance, to avoid a bluish cast to your light, buy bulbs that have a color rating of 2,500-3,000 Kelvins (K).

If having even small amounts of mercury in your lighting doesn’t satisfy your quest for the perfectly eco-friendly bathroom, consider Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. The benefit of LED lighting is that they concentrate light in one direction, stay cool when in use, and are at the height of energy efficiency. To give you an idea of how superior they are to all other lighting options, consider these facts: incandescent bulbs last between 1,000-2,000 hours, CFL lights last between 6,000-25,000 hours, and LEDs last between 40,000-80,000 hours! But be prepared to pay a little more upfront.  LED light bulbs come at a premium.

In addition to the type of bulb you buy, consider regulating how much electricity is used. Timers and motion-sensor lights are a creative option for people who can’t break the bad habit of leaving lights on. Houses with children may also benefit. Additionally, we don’t always need the brightest light available, so dimmers could be an attractive option, especially for rooms that already have a good amount of natural light. Compared to traditional light switches, dimmers can save 4-9% of electricity while the dial is still on the brightest level.

Of course, the cheapest light is natural light. So if possible, consider inserting skylights in your ceiling. In order to take advantage of the optimum energy efficiency they can provide, you have to take into account a few factors. First, the direction your skylight faces will affect the type of energy efficiency that it provides for your home. A shaded skylight facing west will provide cooling during the summer, whereas a southern-facing skylight will take advantage of heat from the sun during the winter. Next, consider using double-paned windows as well. The extra cost can help you save $2,000 in energy savings by keeping heat in during the winter months. Lastly, you can also control the amount and type of heat let in through the glass by using tinted windows or low-emissivity (low-e) coatings.

When looking for light fixtures, consider recycling and repurposing. A flea market find, cleaned and repainted, can be a cheap alternative to new fixtures. Interior designers and artists have come up with a multitude of chic, modern designs for fixtures made of light bulbs, bottled water, and other unexpected items. The best part of using repurposed items is that, if you have an artistic bent, you can choose your material and create them yourself—no need for expensive designer prices. Check out this Pinterest board to find more directions.

For more information on light-saving techniques visit Energy.gov and then find your nearest Statewide representative, who will help you choose which options are best for your home.