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Indoor Lighting: Use and Care

Use & Care

Light bulbs are the just the first step to more efficient lighting. Dimmers, sensors, lighting controls, natural light or even the right wall color can all enhance indoor lighting quality. We’ve collected some helpful tips below:1

Keep It Clean

Regularly clean all reflectors, diffusers, and lenses on lights and replace any parts that have yellowed or lost their reflectivity. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Fixture Fit

Use the right fixture for the right bulb to eliminate possible thermal and glare problems. For example, CFLs installed in an incandescent fixture may overheat, and put out less light over time.2 Also, some screw-based CFLs reduce their light output by 20% if inserted base-down, as in table lamps.3

Do the Electric Slide

Dimmers extend bulb life while saving energy. Compact and tube fluorescents are available in dimmable fixtures that slide from bright to dark.

All in the Timing

Timers save energy by turning lights on when you need them and off when you don’t.

Sensors & Sensibility

Sensors turn lights on only when they are needed. Ultrasonic motion sensors are designed when properly installed to respond to movement, infrared sensors are designed when properly installed to respond to body heat, and photo sensors are designed when properly installed to respond when ambient light is above or below certain levels.

Energy-Smart Décor

Change the color of a room to enhance the existing light in the room. For example, replace dark paint and carpet with lighter colors to reflect more light.

Natural Light

Use natural daylight that comes through windows, skylights, and light tubes to reduce the need for electric lighting and take advantage of its economic, health, and aesthetic benefits. Daylight produces less heat per unit of illumination than electric lights, reducing cooling bills as well.  Install windows that use spectrally selective glazing and tints or low-e coatings to reduce heat transfer. If you can’t replace windows, add film to existing ones to let the desired amount of light and heat in.

Bright Green: Please Recycle CFLs

CFLs that have burned out should be dropped off at the nearest CFL recycling center. There are about 4 milligrams of toxic mercury in each modern CFL, yet using CFLs actually creates a net reduction in the amount of mercury released over the life of the bulb.4 5 That’s because the largest sources of mercury in the air are coal-burning power plants.  Using a CFL instead of an incandescent bulb may reduce the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere by up to 36%.6 Also, if the CFL is recycled at the end of its life, the amount of mercury released is reduced by 76%.7

Buyer’s Guide

Before you shop for efficiency upgrades, visit the Indoor Lighting Buyer’s Guide for easy facts and figures that can help you choose the best equipment and materials for your home, needs and budget.


If you’re thinking about making efficiency improvements, the Indoor Lighting Overview is a great place to get acquainted with the basics and your options,before you buy or install light bulbs or fixtures in your home. Return to Lighting.

1 Goorskey, Sarah, Wang, K., Smith, A. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #2 Lighting. Snowmass: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from (p. 3-5).
2 Ibid (p.3).
3 Ibid (p.3).
4 ENERGY STAR®. (2010). Frequently Asked Questions:  Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from (p. 1)
5 Goorskey, Sarah, Wang, K., Smith, A. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #2 Lighting. Snowmass: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from (p. 4).
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.

This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.