Of course we want to save energy. Lower wattage lights equal lower electric bills. You save money by using longer lasting compact fluorescent and LED lighting, but the lighting quality can be very different from what you’re accustomed to.
The danger is that by reducing the lighting in our homes, we may be increasing risk to ourselves and others.
The trick is to manage an overall lighting scheme that softly illuminates the major traffic areas. Avoid areas of high contrast and you may reduce the hazards.
When your house is dark, or when you move from a bright room into a dark passage or stairway, it takes our eyes a second to adjust to the lack of light.
For example, when it’s time for bed, notice how black the room is immediately after you turn out the light. But after a moment or two, shapes appear as our night vision kicks in. The chair, the nightstands, and the foot of the bed finally come into view.
This effect is much stronger as we grow older, as it takes longer for our eyes to adjust. Glare is also an issue when older eyes look into a very bright room from a dark space, or across shiny surfaces such as polished floors or countertops.
The solution is simple, for safety, keep a light on (even during the daytime if necessary) to gently illuminate stairways and halls that you frequent. To reduce your energy bills, though, use compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs especially in places where they’ll be on for a length of time. (Turning off and on a compact fluorescent bulb can reduce its lifespan.) These lights should be brighter than a nightlight but not so bright that they cause glare or contrast hugely with a dark hall or stair.
If you’re in and out of a room a lot, leave a small lamp on. On timers, these lamps can be security, too, giving the impression that someone is home even if you're not. Turn on a brighter light while you’re in there, and turn it off as you leave. You may need only the dim light for some tasks. But, again, even this small lamp may need to be brighter for an older person.
Also, exterior lighting, for safety and a sense of security, is a very good place for energy efficient lighting, since these are often left on for hours. Glare and high contrast lightings cause as many problems outside as they do inside, especially around doors, steps, uneven pathways and driveways, etc.
Take a second to consider the problem areas in your own house, and save energy at the same time you think safety.
Until next time!
Photo courtesy of Elaine Bothe