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By Lauriston Muirhead     Lauriston is chair of WATCH (Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health)

What do Playboy, the latest bodice ripper and the Bible have in common, apart from some boring bits and some jolly good bits?  They all need a good light to be thoroughly enjoyed.  Daylight is the best and is free.  Even an overcast day is about 20 times brighter than the average office. 

Try to arrange your home and workplace to make the most of the available natural light. Position your favourite reading chair/ desk/ sewing machine etc. so your back, or at least your side, is towards the window to avoid “silhouetting” what you want to see.    

Night and poor architecture mean that we often need artificial light.  Incandescent globes are being phased out. These heat a thin wire until it is white hot. Up to 90% of the energy used is lost as heat!  Now compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) produce the same amount of light for about one fifth the electricity consumption (and cost) e.g. a 20 watt CFL is about the same brightness as the old 100 watt incandescent. CFLs can be “bright” or “warm” white so go to a lighting shop and ask experienced sales staff what is appropriate for your application and see the lights operating before you buy. 

CFLs are more expensive to buy than incandescent globes but last longer and use much less electricity so are actually cheaper over their life.  Also don’t be put off by the tiny amount of mercury in CFLs.  More mercury is released to the environment by making the extra electricity to run the old incandescents over their lifetime. So the least harm is done to the environment by using CFLs.  In Australia we release about 40 kg of mercury into the environment every day from burning coal in power stations.  (Another great reason to replace coal fired power stations with renewables.) 

 Some tips:

  • Turn off all lights when not required. (Fluorescents do not use significant extra energy to turn on)
  • Skylights bring daylight further into buildings (can be expensive if retrofitted into an existing building.)
  • Reflecting light off white ceilings/walls increases the amount of available light per dollar of electricity.
  • The outside of your house does not need to be lit at night!
  • Position and manage sensor lights so they are not triggered by traffic, pets etc.

Let there be light (but make sure it does not cost the earth!).