Photo by BridgeWorx

When people think about energy efficient lighting, they’re typically thinking about switching out light bulbs and retrofitting inefficient light fixtures.

However, sustainable lighting is more of a mindset than a simple effort to reduce watt consumption. It’s about challenging yourself to avoid wasting electricity.

The 100-watt frosted incandescent light bulb that is being phased out by is certainly less efficient than fluorescent and LED alternatives. But it’s important to remember the reason it’s not sustainable: Ninety percent of its energy is not used to create light at all; it’s released as heat. Therefore, we end up using even more electricity to offset the heat output. Sustainable lighting should do what it’s supposed to – create brilliant, beautiful light – without the waste.

The concept of using lighting controls to improve efficiency rarely enters the mainstream energy efficient lighting conversation. Rather, dimmers and other lighting controls are typically categorized as aesthetic additions.

Dimmers are inherently sustainable! They enable you reduce lighting levels to your needs, cutting out all unnecessary electricity. In fact, if each U.S. household installed one dimmer, it’s estimated we would reduce overall electricity costs by $230 million and cut down on CO2 emissions equivalent to that of 370,000 cars.

Last November, at the Washington Post’s Smart Energy conference, Lighting Science Group CTO Fred Maxik discussed the changes he predicts for lighting in the future related to communication through microprocessors. “It could be a light bulb that’s just so smart that it detects sunlight coming through the window [and] starts dimming until you get the lighting you desire,” he said.

It’s easy to become focused on light source when thinking about greening a home. However, sophisticated lighting controls and dimmers will play just as large of a role in the future of sustainable lighting.

Emily Widle is a marketing specialist and blogger for Pegasus Lighting. On the “Light Reading” blog, she covers news, tips, and trends related to the lighting industry. She recently helped launch a lighting sustainability campaign called A Greener Light in an effort to start a dialogue about efficient lighting in the U.S.