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One way to save energy around the house is by using smart green lighting. While lighting is often used to enhance the ambience of a home, it is also a key opportunity for reducing your energy bills. Green lighting is about more than just switching the bulbs; it is also about making choices that minimize your energy and resource footprint in as many ways as possible. Making green decisions about lighting includes incorporating daylight when possible, taking care when installing and disposing of lighting products, and choosing the right equipment (e.g. fixtures, bulbs, controls) for the right place within your home. Keep the following considerations in mind before you design, install, and dispose of lighting products.

Check out the Green Product Buying GuideDownload PDF 500 K.


  • Take advantage of natural daylight in your home. Keep lights off when daylight is sufficient, and promote optimal daylight by keeping furniture and window coverings away from windows.
  • Use a combination of light-colored paints and well-placed windows to enhance the daylighting within your home.
  • Use blinds to control glare and heat gain (although exterior shading is best for controlling heat gain – see Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation

Lighting installation

  • Seal any penetrations in the ceiling or exterior wall. Use low-VOC caulk rated for electrical boxes.
  • Ensure each fixture group has its own control in each room. For example, in a room with a central pendant, accent lights and task lighting, be sure these all have independent and conveniently-placed controls (and dimmer switches where applicable) to allow your family to use only the amount of light that is necessary.

Lighting disposal

  • Follow the EPA’s guidelines for Cleaning Up a Broken CFL. Compact fluorescent lamps and linear tube fluorescent lamps contain mercury.
  • King County makes it easy for you to find Fluorescent Bulb & Tube Recyclers through the “Take it Back Network.”
  • King County prohibits the disposal of fluorescent bulbs and tubes in the garbage or at King County transfer stations and household hazardous waste facilities.
  • Be sure to properly dispose of your magnetic ballasts. Use the Take it Back Network to determine where to take your old ballasts.
  • The City of Seattle prohibits the disposal of bulbs/tubes in residential or commercial garbage and at Seattle transfer stations.

The following includes considerations when choosing lighting equipment – including fixtures, lamps (bulbs) and controls.

Lighting choices

Equipment Type

Product Options

Additional Considerations



Consider repurposing your own fixtures or looking for used fixtures that can be fitted with high-efficiency LED or CFL lamps. Many salvage or second-use stores carry fixtures that can work with modern lighting, while also adding character to your project. See Resources for Salvage Stores.


Look for the ENERGY STAR label on new fixtures.

Can Lights

If possible, avoid recessed lights. Products that are advertised as being “air-tight” may still be very leaky. These fixtures act as little chimneys and can cause a lot of heat loss into your attic or out the side of your house. If the fixtures are not rated to be in contact with insulation (IC-rated), extra work must be done to build boxes around them before insulation can be added to the attic.

Consider replacing can lights with surface-mount LED fixtures that mimic the look and feel of can lights. Ensure a good seal at the drywall before mounting the fixture.

Bulbs (general)

Look for the ENERGY STAR label on bulb packages to ensure high performance.

Consider replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs.

The economic payback on many of these lights is very short, especially with current local utility lighting discount programs. Check out this Guide to More Efficient and Money Saving Bulbs external link before shopping.

Bulbs by type


Compare the color temperature of different bulbs depending on where and how you use the light. Some people prefer a warm temperature, whereas a cool or daylight temperature may suit your needs. Also look at the brightness when replacing bulbs – LEDs can provide a similar level of brightness as CFLs or other types at a fraction of the wattage.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)

Ensure the CFL will fit in the socket you are using. Some wider CFLs do not fit into wall or ceiling sconces with low profiles.

As with LEDs, shop wisely to match the brightness and color temperature with your tastes.

Linear Fluorescent

Older fixtures may use magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts. Magnetic ballasts tend to hum and flicker and are less efficient than electronic ballasts. You can use your smart phone or camera external link to check what kind of ballast you have. Have an electrician convert these to electronic ballasts, which do not flicker.

Switch old T12 tube fluorescent lamps with 32 watt T8s or LED tube replacement bulbs.


The U.S. is phasing out incandescent bulbs. Utilize CFLs as your default light bulb and upgrade to LEDs where cost-effective. CFLs last 10 times longer and modern CFLs have comparable sizes and colors to incandescents. LEDs last five times longer than CFLs and up to 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs.



Consider the best control for a light; use timers or occupancy sensors / motion detectors, especially in rooms where lights are frequently left on.


Dimmers can help save energy, allowing you to change the amount of light to suit your needs and extend the life of the light bulb.

Be sure to select dimmer-compatible bulbs, whichever type you buy.

Outdoor Controls

Outdoor lighting is best controlled by motion sensor or dusk sensor. Make sure dusk sensors are CFL and LED bulb compatible.

Lighting resources

Utility rebates

Lighting fixture suppliers – salvage options

Other resources  

Related information