Conducting a four-part do-it-yourself home energy audit can help you find ways to cut cooling costs and save money off your electricity bill this summer. Once you've completed the first three parts of a DIY home energy audit — detecting and sealing air leaks, checking your home's insulation and inspecting your HVAC equipment — you're ready to move on to the final step: lighting.
Evaluate the Type of Lighting You Use
Since lighting your home accounts for up to 10 percent of your monthly electricity bill, it's important to take a closer look at the type of lighting you use.
Incandescent bulbs are cheapest, but you're going to go through a lot more of them. Additionally, incandescent bulbs are incredibly inefficient and do a far better job of producing heat than making light.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
CFLs can be four or five times the price of equivalent incandescent bulbs, but they can last eight times longer and use 75 percent less electricity to produce the same brightness. Drawbacks include environmental concerns — CFLs contain mercury — and shorter lifespans when turned on and off frequently and used in humid parts of the home, such as bathrooms. CFLs are also knocked by some for taking a short time to reach full brightness. Check out these tips for getting the most out of CFL bulbs.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LED lights are clearly the future champ of home lighting. While they're the most expensive to buy, they consume 20 percent or less of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer — without any of the drawbacks associated with CFLs.
For more information, check out our post comparing the money-saving benefits of CFLs and LEDs.
Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Lighting Where You Can
Where you can, you should upgrade to energy efficient lighting. Not only will the bulbs pay for themselves in a short time — because you'll save electricity every time you turn on an energy-efficient bulb — but once the bulbs are paid for you'll start saving real money on your electricity bill. To make upgrading even more attractive, some utilities even offer retail discounts on energy-efficient bulbs to customers in their area.
When Shopping for Energy-Efficient Bulbs, Use Lumens, Not Watts
It's important to note that watts are not a measure of a light bulb's brightness. Instead, brightness is determined by something called lumens. When shopping for an equivalent CFL or LED, use the bulb's lumens rating – printed on the packaging – to find a similarly bright bulb.
Develop an Overall Lighting Strategy
There are certain things you can do to increase the lighting efficiency of your home that go beyond upgrading your light bulbs, like using more task lighting or using a brighter-colored paint for walls and ceilings.
For these and other additional lighting tips, check out our post on energy-efficient home lighting.
You can also browse our glossary of energy-efficient lighting terms to help you navigate your options when it comes to lighting and bulbs.
Review the Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit
There are four steps to a fairly comprehensive do-it-yourself home energy audit. Here are the other three parts, in case you need to review them or if you missed one earlier:
Part 1: Detect Air Leaks
Part 2: Check Insulation
Part 3: Inspect HVAC Equipment
Part 4: Lighting
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments."