The old saying that natural light is best has never been more true than it is today. Natural light not only adds to the ambiance inside a home but also energy savings because it is free.
Natural light that flows in from windows, skylights utilizes the free energy that comes from the sun and can reduce energy costs substantially. Of course, having these openings also be energy efficient and tight from drafts is also important. What you gain in light can be eaten up in heating costs if equal attention is not paid to keeping out the cold. Today, thankfully, most new windows being manufactured do have energy savings and efficiency in mind.
Light coming through windows and skylights is better in certain directions. For example, south-facing windows tend to have the quality of light during daytime hours, especially during winter months. South facing windows take advantage of the lower levels of available light during the cold months, and in the spring and summer will also help in regulating heat during the hotter months. This will help with cooling and heating costs throughout the year.
North facing windows and doors are not the exact opposite that some might assume. North side window openings are very good at letting in a very even level of sunlight and reducing glare. During the summer months, windows on the north side of a home offer good light at less intensity which can cause you to spend more on cooling costs.
The biggest challenges are east and west facing windows. In winter months they can be wonderful. There is nothing like being able to watch a sunrise or sunset out your window. However, during summer months, the light and heat can be overwhelming. Having good window coverings that can help filter out the intensity of sunlight that shines through windows that face east or west is essential. Try to choose fabrics that resist fading in sunlight, and keep precious artwork and pictures out of direct sunlight.
Skylights are a wonderful way to take advantage of the sunlight in areas of the home that might normally be dark. Skylights lighten up a room and add a sense of fresh expansiveness when you can look up and see bright blue skies above even indoors. Another skylight option that features more indirect light from any direction are tubular skylights that can also add more light at no cost to the homeowner outside of installing the unit.
Other tips for increasing levels of natural light in the home are to paint walls in rooms a light color. Lighter colors such as white actually reflect the light and can make a room seem much brighter.
After the sun sets and you do need to resort to artificial lighting for the home, you can make better lighting choices to save on your energy bill. Countries around the world have agreed that incandescent light bulbs will be completely phased out of production. It is expected that by the end of 2014 incandescent lighting will no longer be produced or imported. The reason for this is because incandescent lights are 95% energy inefficient.
For the greatest savings, switch to compact fluorescent emergency light or CFL bulbs. These bulbs, which have largely overtaken the market, have made lighting 70 per cent more efficient. The CFL bulbs are available in either daylight or soft light so that they more closely resemble the color and intensity of light that homeowners may have been used to with incandescent lighting. Daylight color ranges tend to be on more intensely white or blue light and can seem too harsh in some settings such as bedrooms or living rooms. Soft white bulbs tend to cast a light that is warmer because it is more yellow and can give a softer glow to a room. In kitchen or workshop areas, many homeowners opt for a t9 circline ballast for inexpensive, yet effective lighting. Whatever lighting you choose, be sure to check for the Energy Star rating to find out which lighting choice is best for your needs.