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Introduction To Energy Efficient Lighting

Energy Efficient Lighting Technologies

"Incandescent light bulbs are incredibly inefficient, using only 10% of their consumed electricity to emit light. The remaining 90% of energy used is wasted as heat. Halogen lamps also waste a great deal of power and generate intense heat that can potentially cause burns or fires."


"Wasting electricity carries both global and personal health consequences. In burning fossil fuels such as coal to supply electricity to homes and workplaces, power plants discharge clouds of soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Among these are mercury - a brain-damaging metal that can cause learning disabilities - and carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that is a primary culprit in global climate change. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity used in a home or elsewhere, power plants release an average of 1.34 pounds of CO2 into the environment! Electricity generation from nuclear power plants poses a health risk to surrounding communities and generates radioactive waste."


Excerpt from the National Geographic Green Guide


"Specifying low-energy lamps can reduce electricity consumption. However, in temporary and travelling exhibitions it is important to rescue and reuse long-life lamps to ensure that the greater capital cost to the client is recouped in the longer term. Compact fluorescent lamps use a fifth of the energy of the tungsten filament equivalents and last up to six times longer.


"As light sources, light emitting diodes (LEDs) require very little power, have low maintenance costs but relatively low light output based on current technology. The challenge for designers is in creating the most appropriate lighting for particular purposes and each type of project whilst resisting the temptation to over-specify. Although in museums light levels are strictly limited to the lowest comfortable levels to protect sensitive collection material, in commercial exhibitions there is a tendency to literally try to outshine the competition. "


From Sustainable Exhibit Design: Guidelines for designers for small scale interactive and traveling exhibits


Compact Fluorescent (CFL)

"For each incandescent you replace with a CFL, you will reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by over 700 pounds over the life of the bulb. While CFLs will cost you more per bulb, they can last up to thirteen times longer than incandescents, and use 75% less energy, ultimately saving money." Excerpt from the National Geographic Green Guide


Disadvantages to Consider: "Although fluorescent lamps are common in most institutions, they have decided disadvantages in exhibit areas. Fluorescents cannot be dimmed, and most emit UV radiation. There are many brands of fluorescent lamps, however, and they vary greatly in the amount of UV they produce, from 0.5% to 12%. Purchase those with low UV output, not more than 2% UV.1 For added safety, cover all fluorescent tubes with UV-filtering plastic sleeves. Be sure the sleeves are long enough to cover the ends of the tube, where much of the UV is emitted." Guidelines from the Northeast Document Conservation Center.


Light Emitting Diode (LED)

"Light-emitting diodes give off light when electrons in a semiconductor oscillate. Unlike ordinary bulbs, they don't have filaments (the part that burns out easily), nor do they get hot like incandescents do. Plus, LEDs last far longer than standard bulbs, sometimes up to 100,000 hours. In lab tests, some LEDs have proved to be more efficient than compact fluorescents, though it may be a few years before we see those LEDs on the market... In the next few years, as LEDs get brighter, we'll likely see a major shift away from incandescents and fluorescents." From Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century.



Fiber Optics

"An Ohio-based company called Fiberstars has come up with a way to combine lamps with fiber-optics to create lighting systems that consume far less energy than traditional fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. A single 70-watt metal halide lamp combined with fiber optics can provide as much lighting as eight 50-watt incandescent bulbs. Fiber optics also do not contain mercury like fluorescents. The Declaration of Independence is lit by a Fiberstars system because the light source does not emit ultraviolet rays or heat. "We just did the Magna Carta a couple of months ago," John Davenport, CEO of Fiberstars said."- Excerpt from article on Fiber Optic lighting




For information on maximizing natural light in your home and building design, see the Daylighting wiki.




  • CeeLite Light Emitting Capacitor Flexible, thin luminescent panels made from phosphors and screen printable, recycled compositions. Color temperatures from 6,500 to 7,500 Kelvin, available up to 3'x6', can be die-cut, powered by low voltage sources.
  • Lunabrite Light Rope Flexible luminescent rope that is rechargeable and does not require batteries or electricity. Child/pet safe and non toxic.
  • GloFab Light Radiating Textiles GloFab textiles are woven from fiber optic strands that create a light emitting fabric.


California Lighting Technology Center

The CLTC, a UC Davis/Lighting industry partnership, conducts cutting edge research with energy efficient lighting technologies including CFL and LED. See the CLTC web site for more information.


Lighting Resources



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Green Options › Articles › Introduction To Energy Efficient Lighting