How to Manage Light Use in the Fall and Winter

September 28, 2015

When fall—then winter—settles in and the days grow shorter (and colder), your use of electric lights increases—and your utility bill too. Managing light use throughout these darker months is one of the more difficult challenges when it comes to saving money on energy bills. It’s a common problem: people leave them on, turn on too many, don’t use energy efficient bulbs. So here are some tips to help you manage your light use this fall and winter to ensure that you’re getting all the light you need without spending more than you should for it.


  • Use ENERGY STAR® certified lights in your five most-used lighting fixtures. You likely know which lights you use the most. So to save some money, be sure you’re using ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs in those lights before fall begins. This single step will likely be one of the best you can take to save money on lighting.


  • Use the sunlight. The most powerful source of light we have is free: sunlight. So during the day, to cut down on the use of electric lights, try to make sure you’re maximizing the sunlight entering your house. In the morning and during the day, keep the drapes and shades open to let in light. And use that light. If you’re reading or doing something that requires light, do it in the sunlight rather than turning on an electric light.


  • Turn them off. Simple, right? Maybe you remember growing up and hearing your dad always ask you to make sure you turned out of the lights when you left a room. The request probably didn’t mean that much when you were a kid. But now that you’re paying the bills, it makes sense. Remind your family to always turn off lights when they leave a room. Try even offering rewards for doing it regularly. And keep an eye out for rooms or areas where the family often leaves the lights on most often.


  • Put lights on timers or motion detectors. You may want to leave a few lights on at night for safety reasons—to show people that you’re at home. But you also want to make sure that you don’t leave those lights on in the morning (or during the day) when you don’t need them. This is particularly important for outdoor lights—which use more energy than most indoor lights. Put your lights on timers or motion detectors to make sure they’re on—and using energy—only when you want them to be.


  • Keep an eye on outdoor lights. Floodlights and other outdoor lights often are a higher wattage—and use more energy—than most indoor lights. They’re also the ones that are easiest to leave on by accident, since they’re shining outside—where you might not see them. If you don’t put them on timers or motion detectors, make a habit of checking to see if you’ve left on outdoor lights on before going to bed. That small routine could save you big money on your electric bills.


  • Switch to LEDs. If you haven’t already. In the summer, you’re probably not as aware of every type of bulb you’re using throughout the house. But when you enter into the fall and winter—when you use lights more often and extensively— you want to make sure the bulbs are as energy-efficient as possible. LEDs are definitely the way to go. They come in common wattages while using less energy. And they can be used outside, as well.


  • Install dimmers. Because dimmers enable you to control how much light you use, they allow you to limit your light use. Installing dimmers on some of the light fixtures that have the most lights (and use the most energy)—such as chandeliers in kitchens, dining rooms, or hallways—can help you save money on those high-cost fixtures. And be sure that any new energy efficient light bulbs you use in them are dimmable.


As with all our seasonal tips, there are likely energy-hungry issues specific to your house. Think about the ones related to lighting, and address them, too. Take the steps we mentioned above, combine them with your own needs, and you’ll be sure to save energy—and cash—on lighting your home this fall and winter.

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