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Renovating With Light

Lighting to Improve Efficiency and Elegance

An essential element of any do-it-yourself makeover or full-scale redesign is the lighting system. In search of style and savings, energy-conscious Canadians find excellent returns on their renovating dollar in ENERGY STAR® qualified lighting products. These balance elegance and versatility with economic and environmental value. The high-efficiency international ENERGY STAR symbol is a simple but effective tool that is helping consumers make the connection between energy consumption, cost savings and the environment.

The larger the job, the bigger the opportunity to cut needless energy demands. Lighting a typical Canadian home starts at about $200 worth of electricity every year. Installing energy-efficient lights in place of standard incandescent bulbs could carve approximately $60 from your electricity bill each year. It would be better for the environment too.

Renovating Tips

  • Choose a contractor familiar with energy-efficient lighting systems who can recommend design options that utilize the wide range of ENERGY STAR qualified products.
  • Determine lighting needs and desired effects before you renovate. Workspaces need to be brightly lit, but leisure areas are better suited to such energy-saving devices as dimmer switches and accent lighting.
  • Use fluorescent or ENERGY STAR labelled compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to retrofit rooms requiring lighting for more than three hours a day, such as kitchens and family rooms. Since CFL bulbs last an average of seven years, they are also perfect for hard-to-reach places. CFLs can be screwed into traditional lighting fixtures. Better still, opt for lights or fixtures that are designed specifically to hold a CFL.
  • Buy a fixture that complements the lamp for the intended purpose. For example, when installing linear fluorescent lighting, insist on tubes marked T-8 rather than T-12. Lamps marked T-8 use 25 percent less power than a T-12 for the same amount of light output. Recessed CFLs should have a properly designed reflector so that the light will not be trapped inside.
  • Create unusual effects with decorating tricks. For example, use linear fluorescents for indirect light, or use efficient track lighting or valances with CFLs to create wall washes for a softer feel.

Building Toward an Energy-Smart Future

Incorporating energy efficiency into the design of a new home is a sound and healthy investment in the future. In addition to the many energy-saving household appliances and heating devices now on the market, Canadian homebuilders can also choose from an array of advanced and sophisticated lighting products that meet every need, inside and out.

The electricity to light an average Canadian home of 186 m2 (2000 sq. ft.) costs between $200 and $250 per year. By using only energy-efficient lighting systems with ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs and matching fixtures, you can cut up to $150 from that expense. ENERGY STAR is an international symbol for energy efficiency that will help you quickly identify products that are the most energy efficient.

Energy-efficient lighting products can be found in local hardware or home improvement stores and independent retailers. Look for:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs for areas where lighting is needed for three or more hours a day, such as the kitchen, family room, recreation room or workshop
  • linear fluorescents, which are best suited for kitchens, laundry areas and family rooms
  • halogen infrared lamps, which can be used for recessed or track lighting

Asking architects and contractors to install energy-efficient lighting fixtures wherever possible is not only environmentally sound but also fashion-smart. Generating less heat than standard incandescent lighting, ENERGY STAR labelled products help to keep your house cooler in the summer, reducing the load on air conditioners. At the same time, they allow you to create a range of moods, from soft glows to crisp bright light for work areas.

Building Tips

  • Choose the right fixture for the intended purpose.
  • If installing a fixture for a compact fluorescent, choose one that takes a pin-based CFL.
  • Determine how much light is required in each room before you purchase direct-wire fixtures since light output is specific to each fixture. Before you can use the right light for the right application, it helps to know the number and wattage of bulbs needed.
  • Conceal linear fluorescents on top of kitchen cabinets for indirect lighting that uses 30 percent less energy than similar incandescents. Fluorescents and ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs can also be used in fixtures above the sink.
  • Install wall-mounted fixtures in bathrooms to house twin two-foot fluorescent tubes.
  • Install attractive valances on family room walls to direct the light from linear fluorescents above and below the fixture.
  • Choose dimmable ballasts for fluorescent and ENERGY STAR labelled CFL fixtures. Improved controls such as timers, motion detectors and dimmers improve the usefulness of light and reduce wasted energy.
  • Choose T-8 bulbs with electronic ballasts when using linear fluorescent lamps. As they are 25 percent more efficient than T-12 lamps, they save you money in the long run. electronic ballasts minimize the flicker and noise of older lighting systems with magnetic ballasts.


The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.