Energy-efficient lighting products are beginning to catch on with consumers, and Congress has given the trend a big boost in recent years. In 1992, it passed the National Energy Policy Act, which required lighting manufacturers to replace outdated lamps with brighter, more energy-efficient models.

Three years later, Congress created the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which requires power utilities to sell their power on an open market. These steps have encouraged businesses and consumers to think more about the energy they consume, and manufacturers are developing new products to meet the growing demand for energy efficiency.

This trend prompted the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, using money from manufacturers, to begin a national campaign to inform consumers about the benefits of energy efficiency.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined the fray in 1997 by creating its Energy Star[R] label, which manufacturers may voluntarily display on energy-efficient lighting fixtures if they meet program guidelines. Fixtures carrying this label can trim the cost of lighting high-use areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, by 50 to 60 percent. And bulbs and lamps for these fixtures last three times longer than incandescent bulbs.

When it comes to electrical projects, common sense does not always prevail. That’s why it’s important for retailers to remind consumers of the dangers posed by household electrical systems. Don’t forget to tell them to shut off electrical power at the fuse or circuit breaker box before beginning any wiring project. Make sure they consult local building codes before embarking on an electrical project.



Interior lighting must satisfy two requirements: function and design. A customer replacing an existing fixture will be concerned mainly with the design; whereas a person remodeling or adding a room may be concerned with both function and design. Task lighting gives localized light for specific activities such as reading, writing, sewing and food preparation. The light should cover the entire task area and be located so shadows are reduced to a minimum.

General lighting provides comfortable background brightness in a room. Light reflected from walls and ceilings or from large sources overhead reduces lighting contrasts and contributes to the comfort of the environment.

Accent or specialty lighting adds individuality and interest to a room. This kind of lighting is primarily for decorative effects and should be used in conjunction with task and general lighting.

Recessed and surface-mounted fixtures are designed for certain maximum wattages. Increased amounts of light are achieved through the use of additional fixtures. This should be strictly observed because of the heat produced. Maximum wattage limitations are indicated on all fixtures and should be followed.

The following guidelines suggest lighting standards for various rooms.

Living Areas

Permanent lighting fixtures are not a major consideration here because so many homes depend on table or floor lamps. Wall lighting (fluorescent tubes shielded by a cornice or valance) and recessed down lights are frequently used permanent fixtures, Track lighting is also applicable.

A room larger than 225 sq. ft. will require separately controlled wall lights along two walls or multiple ceiling fixtures rather than a single light source.


Bedrooms under 150 sq. ft. use a total of 120-200 watts in a ceiling fixture, 4[feet] to 9[feet] of wall lighting or one 150-watt recessed fixture. Over 150 sq. ft. use 120 to 200 watts in a ceiling fixture, 12[feet] to 16[feet] of wall lighting, or five to eight 20- to 75-watt reflector bulbs.

For closets, use a 40- to 60-watt fixture and 60 to 100 watts in walk-in closets. These should be ceiling mounted at least 18[inches] from clothing or stored items, or use a 20-watt fluorescent above the door header.


Overall lighting should consist of at least one recessed 75-watt unit for each curtained tub or shower area. If the lavatory counter is wider than 3[feet], overhead fluorescent tubes should be installed along the entire length of the counter in a soffit extending at least 18[inches] from the wall. Smaller lavatory areas need 20-watt fluorescent tubes mounted on either side of the mirror and centered 60[inches] from the floor.

A ceiling fixture over the lavatory mirror can provide extra light for the mirror.


Every 50 sq. ft. of floor space needs about 150 watts of incandescent or 50 watts of fluorescent light from a ceding fixture. Additional fixtures should be installed over sinks, work areas,: etc. A 20-watt fluorescent tube, mounted under cabinets above the counter top is considered adequate for every 3[feet] of counter space to be lighted. Sink and range areas can be lighted with a wall bracket 14[inches] to 22[inches] above the surface using a 30-watt fluorescent tube.

Dining Areas

A single ceding fixture. or hanging lamp with at least 150 watts of incandescent lighting will usually suffice for an average size dining area. Flexibility can be added with a dimmer switch to control light levels. Chandeliers with open sockets should contain decorative bulbs.

Recreation Areas

Relatively even lighting throughout the room can be accomplished with one recessed incandescent box, with a 100-watt bulb for every 40 sq. ft. Number of fixtures can be reduced by using fluorescent tubes, which produce as much as four times more light than incandescents.


Recessed or surface-mounted downlights installed over a bar or service counter make glasses sparkle. Use small 25- to 50-watt reflector bulbs 16[inches] to 24[inches] apart for a glamorous effect.


Use ceiling-mounted fixtures with 75 to 100 watts for every 10[feet] of hall or one recessed fixture with 75 to 100 watts for every 8[feet]. Locate fixtures near closet or powder rooms. For halls that need light all day, recommend fluorescent fixtures, which save energy and reduce bulb replacement.

Laundry Areas

Center a diffusing fixture with 50 to 80 watts of fluorescent or 120 to 150 watts of incandescent light over appliances.

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