They’re found on the patio, back porch, kitchen, bathroom, in every room of the home, and some are outside and used as motion detector devices. What are they? They’re lights, and they may be costing you money at your home or business. Lights are one of the most common sources of energy used in the home (10% of an electric bill). But updating light fixtures is also one of the quickest ways to save energy on your bills. Entire energy audits are useful and recommended, but with light audits, you see a faster return on your investment. With so many lights in your home being used, where does one begin an audit? What is an audit anyways? And how do we finally convince the kids to turn the lights off after using them? Here are a few tips on how to conduct a lighting audit of your home.
What is a Home Lighting Audit?
A lighting audit is the process of checking the inventory of lights in a structure. This means every place where light and electricity is used, including the interior and exterior of a property. You then measure how all of that light is delivered compared to illumination standards. This might include the quality and quantity of light measured to a specific area. The goal with a lighting audit is to gather as much data as possible, to make lights as efficient and effective as possible. This is so you can cut costs and save money in the home. (This same process can be used for a small business, or wherever else you may be using light.)
The lighting audit is measuring the performance of lights compared to how they should be performing. Once this is determined you’ll be replacing or retrofitting all the existing lighting systems to provide acceptable light to all areas of the home, in an efficient and cost effective way.
How to Conduct a Lighting Audit
For interior lighting you’ll need a floor plan of the inside of the home and a landscaped plan to check out the exterior of the home. Go even further by using tools like tape measures, electrical power meters, and a light meter capable of measuring lumens, candlepower, and color temperature with a color chart and audit sheets.
To make sense of the audit:
- Know hours of operation for all lights
- Record the exact location of every light on the floor plan
- Make a worksheet and mark down every lighting fixture with relevant details: location, wattage, type, model number of bulb
When performing the audit, always have a checklist so you can keep track of the information that you’ve gathered throughout the home:
- Start by counting how many lightbulbs you have in the home, find out how much energy they use to light the home every day, and calculate the cost.
- No matter where the light is, it still counts as a source that’s taking away energy and power. Don’t forget to check for all light bulbs in the home. They may be in a closet, shelves, under appliances, or outside.
- Take a tape measure and check the distance of each light fixture from the areas it’s supposed to be shining light on to make sure it’s doing its job.
Quick Fact: The international unit scale for measurement of visible light by the human eye is known as a lumen. It’s referred to as lumen per square feet or as “lux.” The older way to measure this was known as “candlepower” and measured the intensity of light, because every unit was about the equivalent of light intensity as that of an individual candle
How are Audit Results Measured?
Results are measured by how the lights in your home compare to industry standards, and how much energy and money you can save.
Should You Go with a Pro or the DIY Route?
Before you embark on a home lighting audit, understand that the process takes time. The audit can be done yourself (DIY), because it is a walkthrough of the home that determines and finds any and all trouble spots, but the best way to get the job done is oftentimes a professional.
Some details, objectives, and variables are slightly technical. If you have the patience, did the research, and trust yourself, then move forward with the process. Otherwise, hire a professional. There are a number of lighting audit analysis companies and professionals that can be hired or used for those that aren’t quite capable (or don’t want) to figure out their lighting situation on their own.
Remember: A home lighting audit is time consuming and a long process. It will be worth it in the long run, and you may want to segway this into an entire energy audit of the home and the home’s appliances.
LED vs. CFL Lights
Replacing inefficient light bulbs for more efficient choices that save energy is an important thing to do. You can replace energy-sucking incandescents light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). But there’s often a battle between which light is better, LED or CFL. Which one should you go with?
Compact fluorescent lamps (or CFL): Also known as compact fluorescent lights, are energy-saving lights and compact fluorescent tubes. These last eight to fifteen times longer than incandescent, and they use one fifth to one third of the electric power. In its lifetime it can save as much as five times the price the light was purchased at.
Light Emitting Diodes (or LED’s): These are the new competing technology for energy efficient lights. These are two-lead semiconductor light sources. LED’s are said to be as cheap, or cheaper than their CFL counterparts, with sources of comparable output. LED’s are said to be more energy efficient and have less environmental concerns with their disposal, because the main concern with CFL is the mercury in the products harming the environment when being disposed of.
Quick Facts to Save Money on Lighting
The quickest way to save money on lighting is to install cost-efficient light bulbs and run the audit on your home to see what areas are costing you. These other simple steps can help save some bucks as well:
- Use home automation to schedule lights and turn on and off
- Go with the tried and true method of using natural light in the house
- Always turn your lights off whenever you leave the home or they aren’t in use
- Remind kids and other family members to turn lights off and only use when needed
Quick Fact: According to mortgage calulator, if every home traded old light bulbs for ones that were energy efficient, the amount of greenhouse gases reduced would be equal to the gasses that are spewed from 10 million vehicles.
Going Further with an Energy Audit
Lights in the home are one part of the energy ecosystem that makes up a house. To save as much energy as possible, the rest of the home will need to be audited as well. It’s important not to assume that just because your home was recently constructed or functions properly, that everything’s a-okay and you can skip over performing any audits.
Auditing the entire home will take more time and effort. An audit includes checking on insulation, heating and cooling, air leaks, and other parts of the home that are energy-suckers. Prioritize the areas in the home that use the most energy to fix them first. Light auditing is simply the quickest way to see an impact and save money.