Bathroom lighting can be tricky. We spend a rather significant amount of time in this often-forgotten part of the house, and yet its design doesn’t possess the elegant grandeur or thoughtful comfort of the dining or living rooms. Bathroom lighting needs to be bright enough to catch blemishes, flattering enough that it won’t prevent you from leaving the house, and soft enough to evoke relaxation during bath time. Plus, fixtures have to be approved for damp environments. You may never use the den or grand dining room, but a day doesn’t go by when you don’t use the bathroom (if all goes well). We turn those lights on and off multiple times a day – why not also make them energy efficient?
It’s thrilling how far energy efficient lighting has come in terms of design aesthetic and light quality. Most energy efficient lighting uses either LED lights or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) instead of the old familiar incandescent bulb. The difference in energy use of these newer developments from the classic light bulb is remarkable.
Take LEDs. “Light emitting diodes” started out as tiny single bulbs used for electronics, but, due to their efficiency and flexibility, creative designers have been grouping these bulbs together in new and interesting ways, creating warm, radiant – and efficient – lighting fixtures. A beautiful example is Nuvo’s Raindrop. Combining polished nickel and Lucite, the fixture has slightly retro styling with very contemporary electronics. Raindrop uses three 4-watt LED modules. Wattage is often mistakenly equated with light output, but, actually, watts refer to the quantity of energy used to illuminate the bulb. Instead of wattage, LEDs are measured in “lumens,” which refers instead to the amount of light emitted. The Raindrop uses about 12 watts, but gives off about 870 lumens. You’d need 60 watts of incandescent light to give off the same brightness. Go with LEDs and you’re using less than a quarter the amount of energy! Not only that, but they last longer – an average LED bulb will be going strong for 50,000 hours – compare that with an incandescent’s quick little life span of 1,200. A fixture like the Raindrop or Access Lighting’s sleek and minimal 31003LEDD will not only save you money on your energy bill, it’ll save you time changing light bulbs.
Even if you’re satisfied with your current bathroom fixture, it’s easy to snag a little more efficiency simply by switching out the old incandescent for a CFL bulb. Placed somewhere between LEDs and incandescents in terms of efficiency, you can generally get about 8,000 hours of use per compact fluorescent (compared with 50,000 for LEDs and 1,200 for an incandescent). Their old reputation for harsh bright light no longer stands (we’d never recommend that for the bathroom!). CFLs measure brightness in Kelvins – choose a CFL that offers 2700-300K and you’ll find the same warmth of a traditional incandescent, but use about a quarter of the wattage.
So take some time to give your bathroom a little love – and save some money and the environment by switching to energy efficient lighting options.