Tips for Going Green in Remodeling Projects
March 7, 2012 - 4:24pm

As energy prices continue to climb to record highs, the push to make sure homes are as energy efficient as possible has become more important than ever.

Usually, newly constructed homes get most of the attention when it comes to green building practices, but on March 14, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will unveil its REGREEN program at the American Society of Interior Designers’ annual conference in New Orleans.

REGREEN is a series of guidelines and best practices that residential designers, construction professionals and homeowners can strive to implement in existing homes to improve their energy efficiency.

Obviously, lighting is one of the key factors of energy consumption within a home, and therefore, lighting solutions was one of the key components of the new REGREEN guidelines.

We evaluated the guidelines to give you a quick recap of some of the lighting recommendations made by the USBGC. For a more in-depth analysis of the guidelines, get the complete report at

1. Provide daylighting

One of the best ways to reduce energy consumption in a home is to take advantage of natural sunlight. So the REGREEN guidelines recommend that in a gut-rehab or other major construction project, more windows, skylights and tubular skylights be installed to increase daylight (although the windows should have the correct glazing on them to allow in light but not conduct too much heat). The guidelines also suggest painting interior walls and ceilings in a light color to help distribute daylight into the house.

As it says in the recommendations: “If this daylighting can satisfy ambient lighting requirements, only task lighting will be needed during daytime house, and electric ambient lighting will only be need at night or on very dark days.”

2. Use fluorescents

For additional ambient lighting, REGREEN recommends using indirect fluorescent lighting.

As it says in the recommendations: “Attractive fixtures are available in many designs (sconce, recessed, surface-mount, indirect cover, etc.) for straight-tube and compact fluorescent lamps that fit in well with most kitchen designs.”

The USBGC, however, recommends that the fluorescent lamps that are installed are low-mercury. “Not all fluorescent lamps are created equal in terms of mercury content,” the guidelines say.

3. Mix ambient lighting and task lighting

Especially in the kitchen and bathroom, the REGREEN guidelines suggest supplementing the ambient light with task lighting that only will need to be turned on where it is needed. The recommendations suggest using either recessed compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or or LED light fixtures for task lighting.

The USBGC says CFL downlights should be installed in an insulated ceiling, using insulation-contact fixtures (IC-rated) that can be properly sealed to prevent air leakage and moisture migration into the attic space, and you should avoid layouts that force recessed lights into the building envelope.

In one sample project in Santa Cruz, CA, for example, airtight insulation-contact-rated, recessed fluorescent cans were used for ambient lighting and under-cabinet fluorescent lights and over-table light fixtures made from 100 percent recycled cast aluminum were installed for task lighting.

4. Provide adaptable lighting for multi-use spaces

When it comes to living rooms, offices and other rooms that have varied uses, the USBGC recommends installing a variety of light sources to address different needs as different times of day. The recommendations suggest installing a mixture of recessed cans for directional light, wall sconces and cove lighting for ambient light, task lighting and moveable lamps that homeowners can move to where they need additional light.

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