When Scott Singer and Mary Jo Romano decided to renovate their home in Norwalk, Connecticut, they wanted to lower their electric bills. So they tapped into the power of the sun, adding several sets of French doors and large windows to the south side of the house to capture solar gain and bring in more natural light.
“We used glass that was well-insulated, with high R-values,” Singer says. “To control light and heat, we use room-darkening shades on the huge bedroom windows.”
In common rooms, they used translucent shades, which will let light in but help slow heat transfer. “Our house faces southeast, so on winter mornings, we lift up all the shades. This allows the low sun to come in and light and heat the home. In summer, we put the shades down in the morning to block the heat from streaming in those big windows, but we raise them up later in the day when the sun is high,” Singer says.
Shortly after the renovations were complete, the family heard that their electric company was offering free compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFs) to its customers. “So we got our first batch,” says Singer. “Over time, we swapped out most of our lights that weren’t on dimmers.” In the kitchen alone, they replaced ten 65 W incandescents with 13 W CFs. “That’s going from 650 watts to 130 watts, and that’s just one room,” he says.
The Singer-Romano household is now almost exclusively using CFs, and between that technology and reduced need for artificial lighting during the day, they are seeing the savings.
Singer’s one regret? Not installing solar tubes, which can provide natural light in rooms that have few or no windows. Installed through the roof and into interior spaces, solar tubes can be an easy addition during new construction and a fairly straightforward retrofit project (see “Designing with Daylight” in HP109 and “REview: SunPipe Light Tube” in HP118). Plus, solar tubes can bring daylight into homes without compromising the home’s thermal envelope.
Enlightened Energy Savings
When Scott Singer first began changing to CFs, he also changed some dimmer switches to standard switches, since quality dimmable CFs weren’t widely available. But dimming capability is helpful for mood lighting, flexibility, and saving energy. The more you dim, the more you save, and the longer your bulbs last. Halogens and many LEDs work great on dimmers, and if you do have incandescents, by all means, dim them.
Installing occupancy sensors and timers makes a good, cheap DIY project that can slash your electric bills. Put motion sensors in your garage, porch, hallway, and bathroom, and you’ll never have to worry about leaving the lights on again.
If you have DC power available, low-voltage lighting requires less energy; plus, the bulbs will last longer.