Holistic Homes

Homeowners’ interest in green homes extends beyond four walls into their patios and gardens
Xeriscaping isn't the only way that outdoor trade contractors address environmental concerns. (Photo: AE Design)

Lighting it right the first time

When it comes to lighting a commercial business or home, everyone wants sustainability, but it always comes down to the bottom line, says Addie Smith, senior lighting designer for AE Design in Denver.

“For commercial businesses, the most common default for lighting means meeting the code minimum,” says Smith, adding that the code enforces how much energy they can use and how the lights need to be controlled. “For homeowners, they have to choose to value sustainability in the first place, because it can cost more up front to have landscape and exterior lighting on a dimmer or control system.”

Homeowners most often leave their lights on all night. But smart LED lighting is becoming more readily available, allowing consumers to control their light use automatically. This often can be done easily with an app on their smartphone.

“LEDs have been around for 10 years, and they’re the baseline for what everybody uses now, but how you’re controlling that light, consciously or unconsciously, is going to have the biggest effect on energy consumption,” Smith says. “If a homeowner leaves lights on all night, they will be using much more energy than if the lights are turned off at 10 p.m.”

AE Design encourages their clients to be selective with the landscape or building’s features they choose to highlight, rather than illuminating everything equally. Their designers integrate concealed luminaires with minimal glare in the architecture and landscape, using dimmers and timeclock controls.

“We are forgetful people and we have a lot going on in our lives,” Smith says. “Automation takes the thinking out of it. Make the decisions during installation to enhance energy savings, and then you can forget about it or tweak it if it’s not working for you.”

[Related: Let the outside in with oversized doors]

A recent study in Science Advances found that more than 80% of the world, and 99% of European countries and the U.S., live under light-polluted skies. This excessive use of artificial light prevents 80% of North Americans from seeing the Milky Way at night.

“Simple solutions, such as using fewer lights or up-lighting fewer trees can help prevent light pollution,” says Kathleen Menyhart, AE Design project designer. “It’s also important to choose the right lumen output to avoid overlighting, and to aim well-shielded accent lights intentionally to avoid hot spots and glare.”

After all, she adds, “We all love to see stars.”

Kathleen Bohland is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected] or through her website, KathleenBohlandCommunications.com.

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