In an older home, lighting fixtures are a leading cause of poor lighting, high electricity bills, and household waste. Whether it’s a stormy day and too dark to keep the lights off or it’s late at night and the sun set hours ago, you need the lights on, but it also drives up your electricity bill. At the same time, older fixtures require bulbs and technology that is outdated and hard to recycle.
What can you do? Switch your home lighting to a sustainable option. You can have a well-lit room without purchasing bulbs that are hard to recycle and dangerous for the environment. Think about sustainability as you make home improvements or begin shopping for new bulbs. Here are five tips to get you started.
Choose Fixtures Made From Recycled Components or Make Your Own
When shopping for new light fixtures, shop for fixtures that use recycled components. You can also make your own lamps. That green glass bottle that you can’t recycle in your district could become an amazing table lamp by adding some colored gravel, investing in a lamp socket, and drilling holes for the electrical cord to pass through.
Turn a piece of driftwood into a stunning dining room fixture by adding hanging lights to the driftwood. All you’ll need are the hanging lights and a way to attach them. Pinterest and DIY websites are packed with ideas on how to turn unused items into stunning lamps and light fixtures.
Create an Open Floor Plan
With fewer walls, natural lighting travels farther around your home. Take out a few walls and open things up. If there’s a wall between your kitchen and dining room that’s not a support wall, consider removing it. You don’t have to remove all of it, but you could add a pass-through or reduce it to a half-wall and allow light from the dining room’s patio door or large windows to better illuminate the kitchen.
Many open floor plans today have the dining room, kitchen, and living or family room open to each other. Light from windows and patio doors flows in and doesn’t get blocked by walls. Plus, an open floor plan allows families to chat openly no matter what they’re doing. You’re not alone in the kitchen if others can see you from the living room.
Repaint Dark Rooms
You may love the dark paint color in your room, but dark colors absorb light. Light colors reflect it. If you use a light paint color, it’s going to reflect it so that it bounces to another area of the room. Look for environmentally-friendly paints that do not contain VOC or latex.
Light colors don’t have to mean you paint a room white. A pale yellow, guacamole green, light gray, cream, or robin’s egg blue will reflect light and allow you to embrace some color. Use accents to make the room pop. Colorful furnishings, flowering houseplants, and paintings allow you to bring in color without going overboard.
Stop Blocking the Sun
Privacy is important, but if you always have your shades drawn, natural light can never enter your home. Avoid using heavy curtains that keep the light out. Open the shades or blinds and let the sun’s rays light up your home.
If you’re worried about privacy, you can get window film that allows the light through but makes it hard for others to see you. If they try to peek in, the window looks like it’s frosted, and they can’t see more than blurred shapes. This is an easy DIY product. Wash the window, trim the film to fit the area you want to be covered, and peel and stick the film to that part of the window.
You could also get blinds with slats and angle them up just enough to keep others from seeing in without having to shut them all of the way. These blinds are easy to install and come in fabric, bamboo, vinyl, or recycled wood options. Fabric will be the hardest blinds to keep clean and that should be a factor in your final decision.
Another way to maintain privacy without blocking the sun is by installing blinds that offer top-down, bottom-up technology. Lower the top of the blind so that the lower half of the window is still blocked. If you want to expose the full window, lift the bottom to the top. To see in, people would need to get a ladder. When you’re shopping for them, look for those that are made from sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled wood.
Upgrade to LED Fixtures
Upgrade your home’s lighting fixtures to LED ones. You can hire an electrician to install them. If you’re comfortable doing minor installation work on your own and know what you’re doing, it’s even easier. Pick out your LED fixtures and start upgrading all of the older fixtures in your home.
You can also buy LED bulbs and switch out incandescent or CFL bulbs that are in your existing lamps and light fixtures. LED bulbs aren’t as expensive as they used to be and will help trim your electricity bill. Search for LED bulbs on EnergyStar.gov to see if there are energy-efficiency rebates available in your area. You might find rebates that bring the price of these bulbs below a dollar.
Clean your bulbs each month. By removing dust, you help prevent dust and grime from filtering out any of the light. Your room is brighter and your light bulbs won’t start to smell like burnt dust when they’ve been running for a few hours at night. Clean the glass covers on ceiling lamps and vacuum lampshades at the same time.
How Do You Recycle Light Bulbs?
Fluorescent bulbs and CFLs need to be recycled. Both of those bulbs contain mercury, glass, and metal components. Other bulbs like DLP and projector bulbs also can contain mercury and should be recycled and not trashed the same way you recycle fluorescent bulbs.
Even with laws requiring fluorescent bulbs and tubes to be recycled, they are often disposed of in the trash and go to landfills where they do not decompose. Not every state has these laws, but California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington do.
Some of the alternatives to CFL, such as halogen bulbs, aren’t usually toxic as the amount of gas within a bulb isn’t high, but there’s another danger. When lit, they get incredibly hot and pose a fire risk. The gas makes them hard to recycle though, so you’re supposed to put them in the garbage.
No matter which bulb you are recycling, wrap them in a bag or newspaper before throwing it away. This protects the workers from getting cut by smashed glass or stabbed by filaments or metal components.
Why doesn’t everyone recycle them? The truth is that many areas don’t offer curbside or convenient recycling options. You often must go to a large retailer like Home Depot or your county’s solid waste district when they’re open. If your job has hours that cause a conflict, it becomes hard to recycle them.
There are mail-back programs, but people have to securely package the bulbs and pay shipping charges, so it may be unappealing to those on a fixed income. If you don’t mind paying for shipping, look into lamp recycling boxes from ERI.
How do you know if a bulb should be recycled or thrown away in your city or town? Use Recycle Nation’s directory to quickly find where to bring your used light fixtures and bulbs. It’s easy to use. Enter your ZIP and choose the item you wish to recycle. Learn more about recycling light fixtures and bulbs by visiting Recycle Nation.