Interior Design Guide to Energy Efficient Lighting

Energizing Your Home Efficiently

Implementing energy-efficient lighting into your home can highlight your décor and personal sense of style.

Many homeowners are constantly looking for ways to make their homes more economically and ecologically friendly. Thankfully, these days, the two often intertwine. LED light bulbs have been changing lives in recent years. They ease the harsh hues that tend to come from their counterpart: the CFL, and these LED bulbs have also made many of  their own technological advancements.

Everything that’s used for practical purposes in the home currently seems to be “smart.” Whether it’s in the form of your TV, Bluetooth speakers, or even a thermostat, something in your home probably is a “smart” device. LED light bulbs are no exception to this. The ease of having a source of light that can connect to an app on your smartphone is enticing to many. However, if that seems a bit intimidating, there are also traditional LED bulbs that get the job done.

Finding out where to start is often the hardest part. While it seems that there are a plethora of options to choose from, knowing the ins and outs will help immensely. Having a solid understanding of basic terminology will allow you to choose lighting that will complement your space.

Color Rendering


One of the first of these terms that you should familiarize yourself with is “color rendering.” This is essentially how an object looks to the naked eye due to its source of light. When applying new lights into your home or updating current ones, the Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a notable factor. If you’ve ever noticed an object that looked less “real” under certain lighting, that’s due to the light’s intensity. For example, if you’ve ever had trouble figuring out if an object is navy or black, that’s due to the CRI.

Interior designers aren’t the only ones that need to focus on a light’s CRI. Artists often have to focus on gallery lighting with a specific piece. They want to make sure the piece remains authentic, and therefore have to ensure that the lighting in the room complements that. An incandescent light will have a much higher CRI than other kinds, which we will get into later.

How to Calculate CRI


The most important thing to note is that the “score” of a CRI can total up to 100. If a light has a high CRI, it’s considered to be higher in its ability. Any score that falls lower than 80 is considered to be less than ideal. This unit of measurement is only valid for artificial light sources. That means that the amount of sun peeking through your windows does not have a CRI. The goal of unnatural light, such as LEDs, is to mimic the results of natural light. CRI compares the similarities between colors that are reflected by the light source. It is calculated by an average of values that are determined by these similarities.

While a CRI of 90-100 is considered to be “excellent,” it is uncommon for light in the home. Typical lights found within homes usually have a CRI of about 80. Higher CRIs are important for bigger buildings that rely on brighter, fluorescent lights.

Why is CRI important to Interior Design?


The effect that a CRI can have on a room is impressive. A piece of furniture can look completely different, given new light. For example, if the CRI is much higher, the most authentic version of the furniture’s color will shine through. If you’re looking to change the appearance of a particular room, the first place to look is most likely the CRI of the lights. Also, people tend to react differently to varying colors. Some may prefer warm yellows while others prefer cool blues.

Using warm, yellow light in a room meant for relaxing is ideal. Studies have shown that lighting promotes relaxation. This is why many people will dim their lights while they read before bed. Or, why romantic, “mood” lighting is also typically much dimmer. To contrast this, using a cool, blue light in a productive area such as a home office is beneficial. If you’re updating the lights in your study, pay attention to the CRI. These seemingly minor changes can heavily impact your productivity levels. Having an idea of how CRI works can help you pick the right bulbs for the space you’re designing.

Types of Energy Efficient Bulbs

How Much Money do Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Save
How Much Money do Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Save

The most common and cost-effective type of bulb is the LED. These grace the aisles of your local convenience stores. They often feature grandiose promises of financial savings by switching to them. To make them more enticing, this would not be incorrect. LED bulbs can save you hundreds of dollars each year due to their energy-saving nature. Of course, this depends on the brand you purchase as well as the outcome you desire. Regardless, switching to these bulbs has proven to be a game-changer for many interior designers and homeowners.

They typically fall under the $5-20 range and can be found at most convenience or grocery stores. Additionally, “smart” bulbs are available that can connect to your smartphone via an app. These provide various color settings for almost any mood.

When shopping for energy-efficient lightbulbs, there are several elements to consider, including:


Many of today’s energy efficient bulbs are designed to last for years, making burnouts less frequent and frustrating than they used to be. The average LED bulb will last as long as 10 to 20 years as the longest-lasting models, and while CFL bulbs have a lifespan of several years, you’ll likely need to replace your halogen bulbs once every other year, at least. Incandescent lightbulbs, on the other hand, will burn out after around 1,000 hours of use, with the exception of some models designed to last longer.


You can modify the functionality and mood of a room with the color temperature of your lighting. If you
want more relaxing and comforting lighting for areas such as dining rooms and theaters, go with a soft bulb
that produces yellow lighting, while other areas such as office spaces where you want to encourage more
productivity or visibility will benefit from cooler white lighting.


Watts are the unit used to measure the energy used by lightbulbs. Halogen and incandescent bulbs have the
highest wattage, which makes them less energy-efficient. While CFL bulbs have less wattage than
incandescent bulbs, you’ll find that LED bulbs are the most ideal for energy-efficient lighting with 8 or 9
watts producing as much light as a 60-watt incandescent model.

Understanding Energy Efficient Lighting

Lumen Output Comparison: LED vs. CFL vs. Incandescent

As energy efficient lighting options become increasingly popular among home and business owners,
incandescent bulb have given way to more efficient LED, CFL, and halogen bulbs. All of these bulbs use
around 25 to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Considering the average home spends around
25 percent of its energy on lighting, this can make a huge difference.

Both LED and CFL lights have unique qualities that can help you meet your energy efficient lighting needs.
The various features include differences in brightness via lumen output, amount of time needed to reach max
brightness, color, ability to function outdoors, and ability to dim. The overall efficiency and pricing are other
factors to take into account if you want to find the right lighting for your home.

Pros of CFL Lighting

CFL bulbs feature several benefits, including:

  • A lifespan of 7-14 years with 3 hours of use per day
  • Use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent lightbulbs
  • Can save around $6 per year per bulb with CFL over incandescent

Cons of CFL Lighting

While the lifespan and efficiency make CFL bulbs appealing, there are several cons that come with these
models, including:

  • Shortened lifespan when frequently turned on and off
  • Slow to brighten, particularly in colder temperatures
  • Doesn’t show the accurate colors of objects in the area
  • Contain mercury that can pose a health hazard when broken
  • Most CFL bulbs aren’t compatible with timers, dimmers, or motion sensors


CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) are the alternative. These fall within a similar price range ($2-20) and provide a similar wattage. Many worry about CFL bulbs containing mercury. This was one of the leading causes that had people switching to LEDs. The dangers of CFL bulbs are often mildly exaggerated. However, they are not unwarranted. Considering the vast availability of the much safer LED, it is no wonder that people have been switching.

Incandescents are the most commonly used bulbs out there. They’re the kind you can find at the Dollar Store when you’re in a pinch. This classic bulb is in the process of being phased out. People are being encouraged to switch to CFLs and LEDs for their energy-saving properties and overall longevity. Halogens are a good step up for those who aren’t quite ready to make that switch yet. They’re similar, but could be considered as about a half step above an incandescent.

The Right Light for Each Space

Now, we need to focus on Lumens. A Lumen is a unit of measurement that determines brightness and the amount of light that will come from any particular source. When you’re planning out lighting arrangements for particular spaces, working with Lumens is essential. This can help you plan out a room’s furniture layout. If a couch’s color is important to the overall outcome of the room, focus on the Lumens and CRI to find the perfect balance.

The color correlated temperature (CCT) is measured in kelvins and can help us determine the warmth or cool hues a light will radiate. An incandescent light has the lowest CCT, while the sun typically has the highest. CFL bulbs often appear to have harsher hues because of their CCT. This is why it’s beneficial for people with more sensitive vision to switch to LED bulbs from incandescents or CFLs. These bulbs tend to be less harsh on the naked eye.

Perhaps you remember the viral “dress” meme that drove millions of people wild from a few years ago. This meme featured a photo of a dress that appeared to be different colors to different sets of eyes. Some saw the dress in black and blue, while others swore that it was white and gold. This controversial image sent the Internet into a frenzy for weeks. It even found its way to dinner table conversation and news headlines.

The culprit of the dress meme was its color accuracy. The lighting of both the image and the room where the image was being viewed drastically affected the viewer’s perception of its color. After much deliberation, it was determined that the dress was actually royal blue and black by the retailer. Even after this confirmation, many refused to believe that this was the case. Their eyes didn’t adjust to it simply because they were told the scientific explanation. They were still perplexed because of the way color accuracy was tampering with the image. Since then, a few similar internet sensations have gone viral. The next time you see one, think about the concept of color accuracy and lighting. Things like a person’s skin tone are often affected by this concept.

This concept works for physical spaces as well. It is also crucial for interior design. As you plan lighting arrangements, it’s important to remember color accuracy. Equally as important to note is the role the light will play in the room. A more productive space such as a home office will require brighter lights than a living room that is designed for relaxation. This is because of how the human brain responds to varying degrees of lights. Retail stores will always have brighter lights than homes. While this is for practical reasons mainly, it’s also because we’re usually meant to spend less time there. Thinking back to the concept of CRI, productive spaces require higher scores, closer to 90. The more ambient rooms in the house, such as bedrooms and dens, can host CRIs of 80 and above. Naturally, the higher the CRI, the brighter the light will be.

Color temperature is one of the more personal preferences when it comes to lighting a room. There are some things that are standard, like the tips mentioned above, but in some scenarios, it’s all up to personal preference. For example, if you absolutely cannot handle cool-toned lights, adding warm tones is still possible. Many modern light fixtures also offer dimming settings, so you can change the intensity as the day goes on. Dimming the lights closer to bedtime has proven to be beneficial for a good night’s sleep. This can also help with versatility in multifunctional rooms.

Thankfully, most LED bulbs are pretty simple to set up. It’s usually just as simple as the bulbs you’re probably currently familiar with. Even in older buildings, it’s typically unnecessary to create new lighting fixtures to install modern bulbs. This depends on what you’re working with, but most fixtures are compatible with them. While shopping for bulbs, pay close attention to qualities such as Lumens, Color Accuracy, and Color Temperature. Each of these will determine the quality of the product you’re purchasing. This will also help you determine what is the correct product for your specific needs. These properties should be conveniently listed on the packaging. Alternatively, if you’re purchasing them online, the product’s description section should list these. The description should be found directly under the product on most websites.

Types of Light Bulbs

While CFL and halogen bulbs come with certain benefits including energy-efficiency and long lifespans,
you may find that LED lights are more ideal in many spaces.

LED Light Bulbs


LED bulbs use the least amount of power and have the longest lifespan at up to 50 years. Unlike CFL bulbs,
LED lightbulbs are also environmentally friendly due to their lack of mercury or lead. They also work with
dimmer switches, timers, and motion sensors. You’ll find LED bulbs to be ideal for any space in the home,
with plenty of options available depending on your needs and lighting preferences.

How to Select an LED Bulb

When choosing an LED bulb, consider the color temperature and brightness you want.

First, when it comes to temperature, you can follow this guide to help determine which warm or cool
lighting you want, based on the physical heat in Kelvin:


  • 2,700 Kelvin – warm yellow lighting
  • 3,000 Kelvin – white light
  • 3,500 to 4,100 Kelvin – bright white light
  • 5,000 to 6,000 Kelvin – blue white light

When it comes to brightness, keep in mind that LED bulbs with the certain wattage will be brighter than
incandescent bulbs of the same wattage. You’re better off choosing bulbs for brightness based on lumens.
So, say you want to replace a 60-watt incandescent light. Instead of buying a 60-watt LED light, try to find a
model with around 800 lumens.

Common Types of LED Bulbs


There are plenty of types of LED bulbs out there for you to choose from depending on your needs, including:

  • Table lamps
  • Floor lamps
  • Pendant (hanging) lighting
  • Vintage LED bulbs
  • Undercabinet lighting
  • Surface lighting
  • LED strips
  • Recessed lighting

In conclusion, the key points to think about when designing lights for energy-efficiency are:

  • CRI (Color Rendering Index)
  • Lumens – a unit of measurement to describe the brightness of a light
  • The space you’re working with
  • The type of bulb you’re planning on purchasing

As we approach more modern advancements in technology, consider lighting as one of the easiest ways to promote energy-efficiency. It’s often as simple as switching out your lightbulbs. When designing a room, think about how these bulbs can be implemented. If it seems natural for an LED light to be there by design, the resident or owner of your space will be more inclined to keep using them. Incandescent lights are quickly being phased out. While they’re still easy enough to find, it’s a good idea to switch over to LEDs now.

Designing lighting in a room is just as important as the other features. The light in a room creates the whole environment. It may seem complicated at first, but knowing these concepts will get you far in your designs. With this knowledge at hand, you’ll be able to place lights in any space expertly. Understanding the science behind these concepts makes planning easier and solidifies your designs. Hopefully, with this expertise, you’ll be ready to make the switch to LEDs or CFLs. There is no better time than now to save money and energy with lighting!

Post Author: Randy E

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