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More efficient lighting is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy bills. For residential homes, an average of 12% of total energy use goes to lighting, while for commercial buildings the average ranges from 25% - 35% of total energy. 

The traditional incandescent light bulb is seeing the end of its life, with increasingly better alternatives in fluorescent and now LED technology offering better performance for less power. Compared to a 
traditional incandescent, a modern compact fluorescent, or CFL, uses up to 75% less energy, while an 
LED bulb will use 75% - 80% less energy.                     

For commercial buildings there are a number of available lighting replacement and upgrade options being offered, ranging from high bay replacements to linear fluorescents to LED open signs. Importantly, many of the statewide lighting standards are being updated in 2012, which will affect the program offerings and financial incentives with various technologies. Expect a strong showing from LED lighting technologies, as continuously improving performance and lowering costs are enabling LEDs to take center stage.                                                                                                                                                     CFL (top) and LED bulbs

This video from the U.S. Department of Energy explains how to compare different lighting options with the new "Lighting Facts" label.  For best quality products, look for the ENERGY STAR label. 

Incentives for lighting 

Because the pay-back, or return on investment, for installing energy-efficient lighting is so good, lighting is often considered the "low-hanging fruit" in terms of energy efficiency investments. Over the last few years, the transition from incandescent to fluorescent, and from fluorescent to more efficient fluorescent, have been the core focus of lighting incentives. Starting in 2013, the state of California is moving toward more aggressive lighting efficiency offered by LED technology, so old incentives around T12 linear fluorescents, for example, will be phased out in favor of LED programs. 

Incentives for commercial lighting

The incentives for commercial lighting retrofits are changing in 2013, but currently the Energy Fitness program offers businesses low-cost or no-cost replacements for: 
  • High bay fixture replacements
  • LED "Open" signs
  • LED "Exit" signs
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)
  • 4-foot (2-lamp) T12 conversion to 4-foot (2-lamp) T8 

Incentives for residential lighting 

Currently there aren't any lighting-specific incentives for residential buildings. The Energy Upgrade California program offers large rebates for a whole-house approach, which often includes lighting retrofits.