Sustainable Lighting Ideas for Your Kitchen


Green Kitchen LightingThe Value of Green Lighting Ideas When Remodeling 

So you want to remodel your kitchen. Great Idea. Smart Investment.

In the bay area, in particular, a kitchen remodel will often recoup its value and make a tidy profit for the homeowner when it’s time to sell.

But let say you also want to incorporate green building practices, for instance, install sustainable wood flooring with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval, add  countertops made from recycled material, or include cabinets that are formaldehyde-free to mitigate potential health risks. All good.

But kitchen lighting and electrical practices to promote an eco-friendly home?
Yes, there are indeed many green lighting practices besides LED lighting systems that save money and promote a healthy environment. And the kitchen is a good place to start. A kitchen is the most energy-intensive room in a house.

Here are five energy efficient lighting-related ideas:

1. Fix Air leaks. Free flowing air is a Pandora’s box of potential energy issues, which can increase a homeowner’s energy bill  make home life less comfortable than it needs to be.  When remodeling  your kitchen take the time to limit air flow by tightening  seals or limiting gaps.

A recent Department of Energy study underscored this by examining energy loss associated with everyday object in the home. Their findings are startling, pointing to a host of energy-leaking sources: ceilings, wall and fans, ducts, fireplaces, doors, windows, electrical outlets and more.

Dishwasher After Cleaning Process. 2. Install Energy Star Appliances. Since 1992, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program has helped to identify and promote energy efficient building and products. For consumers who are looking to remodel, add a new Energy Star washer and/or dryer or dishwasher. An Energy Star product is a great way to go green by conserving water and reducing electrical use. And Energy Star product evaluations extend well beyond home appliances.

Energy Star also examines energy consumption for electronic components such as TVs, computer monitors, windows, HVAC systems and more. Appliances—any home-related device—can receive an energy-star ratings based on off-the-shelf testing and a strict verification process.

3. Eliminate Phantom Loads. There is an energy ghost in your home. It’s called a phantom load and it works covertly, unknowingly, against homeowners each month to increase their energy costs. A phantom load is quite simple the energy consumed by leaving appliances, electronic devices and other home apparatus plugged in when not in use. Yes, even your coffee maker needs to be unplugged.

For those who haven’t yet purchased surge suppressors, now is the time.  After buying one, or multiple devices, effortlessly plug all major household appliances or electronic devices into it. A surge supressor will mitigate damage from occurring during a power surge. It’s really that simple. At night, turn each suppressor off and you’ll be well on your way to defeating phantom loads.

4. Use Lighting Controls. When you can manually dim a light or have an automated light turn on, needless electricity isn’t wasted. Dimmers, a simple device, can be added to most lighting design systems. Dimmers are a smart green investment when remodeling your kitchen.

Inexpensive. Efficient. Reliable. These are the three hallmarks of a dimmer switch. It can also create the right mood or ambiance and, of course, install LED lights—the most energy efficient type of bulb, which can burn brightly for 15-25 years before needing to be replaced. Indoor motions censor lights, and timer lights, are also terrific energy savers . . . triggered to go at specific times, or with censors, lighting up an area only when someone enters a room.

5. Apply Passive Architecture. The notion of using available daylight or natural light to illuminate a room as been around for centuries. When remodeling, pay strict attention to the direction the room is facing and you’ll recognize many options for using natural light. Changes to a room’s architecture will change lighting dynamics. Be mindful of layering lights, too, that is,  combining lights in different ways to generate the right illumination.

For daylight to serve as the main lighting source, a minimum of 5% of the room floor should be a window area and include a low-
emissivity (Low-E) coating to reduce glare. Low-E will play a role a crucial role in heat gain during the summer and heat loss during winter.

Path Lighting: Guidelines

LED Path LightingGeneral Guidelines for Path Lighting

Start with a lighting plan — at minimum a drawing that maps things out visually. But more importantly, first clarify the main points you want to achieve: aesthetic improvements, enhanced security or simply adding financial value to your home.

Keep in mind that besides aesthetics and security, the main appeal of path lighting is to have lights which illuminate a path! So think creatively when placing fixtures — staggering them for variation and avoiding rigid symmetry. Experiment with placing path lights in bushes and other areas around a yard for novelty and excitement. On average, place light 10-15 feet apart, but this may vary by design.  Down lights  can be positioned from a tree to illuminate a path.

The Basics

You will need  fixtures, cables, lights and a transformer to begin your lighting project. Each component will vary in price by style and manufacturer. You can select inexpensive plastic fixtures that run a few dollars to brass or copper ones that cost several hundred dollars apiece. The old adage “You get what you pay for” often holds true for fixtures. So be mindful of making a purchase based on price alone.

Lighting TransformerFor ongoing safety for pets and children it is essential to reduce the electrical wattage for outdoor lighting from 120 to 12. Reducing wattage is the job of a transformer. Most household voltage is 120/240. A transformer takes this high-voltage output and transforms it into a safe level. And in case you add more light in the future, select a transformer that exceeds the amount of light you’ll need by 25-50 percent. Transformers come in two varieties, electronic and magnetic. We use only magnetic ones for landscape lighting. Magnetic transformers are highly efficient; they run quietly and will not flicker or dim. The cost of a magnetic transformer is easily recouped over time.

There are other devices to consider installing as well: a remote timer, multiple circuits, a photo-electric sensor and wireless activation. But again, before you begin, map out a plan to determine what is “mission critical.” We recommend consulting with a lighting specialist from the outset, for assistance with the planning and/or installation of your project. Click here for more information on path lighting.

LED Lighting for the Holidays

LED Christmas LightsThe  hol­i­days are here!  And this means there will be an abun­dance of hol­i­day lights light­ing up the night well into the new year.

Of course, with all the fes­tive cel­e­brat­ing there are light­ing risks, safety concerns—and  many rewards. To be sure, it’s a time when home­own­ers and busi­nesses use a lot more elec­tric­ity. And there is a smart way to think and act when bulbs are burn­ing bright to reduce costs, min­i­mize safety risks and still get the light you need.

First off,  for any­one still parad­ing out the old incan­des­cent hol­i­day lights now is the ideal time to trade them in for LEDs. I  can’t sing their praises enough for their last­ing value, energy effi­ciency and long-term sav­ings they can bring. This same holds true for hol­i­day LEDs. So if you haven’t already done so trade in your incan­des­cents and string up your new LEDs. For bay area res­i­dents con­tact Ris­ing Sun Energy, a renew­able energy non­profit located in San Fran­cisco. In years past, and pre­sum­ably for 2014, Ris­ing Sun will let you swap your old Christ­mas lights for energy-efficient LEDs—and there is no charge for the exchange.

Garden Of LightsThe ben­e­fits of LED light­ing include:

  • 90% less energy con­sumed than incan­des­cent bulbs
  • A 25,000 hour life span, which  is 25x longer than incan­des­cents and 2.5 times longer than com­pa­ra­ble CFLs
  •  Made of 95% recy­clable material
  • A gift that keeps on giv­ing (light)—sometimes for 30 years or more
  • They are afford­able: a strand of  hol­i­day lights from the big box stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal­mart run between $20-$30 per strand
  • Hol­i­day LED lights come in a vari­ety of inter­est­ing styles and colors

Make LEDs your gift to your­self this year. If you don’t already have them in your home, make the change. They will cost a bit more than other lights, but LEDs make up for it with energy effi­ciency and long-term savings.