Ask Brian: Lighting Energy Improvements Add Home Value



Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to askbrian@realtybiznews.com.

LED lighting

Question from Fredrick in ID: Hi Brian. I’m not necessarily planning to sell my home anytime soon but I like to spend a couple of weekends each month dabbling at home improvements. It makes sense that I might as well add value to the house as long as I’m working on projects. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend a lot of money. This is mostly my hobby. What’s a low-cost DIY that still adds home value?

Answer: Hello Fredrick. Let’s talk lighting. A home lighting DIY project is too often overlooked considering the low cost and high impact. Just as importantly, the right lighting starts saving you money immediately. It makes living in your home more enjoyable. And it adds value for when you do decide to sell. We know lighting has come a long way from man’s time in caves with nothing but a fire to light the night. Then some caveman invented the torch to carry the light outside into the dark night. Next came candles to light individual rooms and gas streetlights. Finally, the incandescent bulb turns on and off with the flick of a switch.

The LED lights now available for our homes have more advantages than everything that came before them. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase the value of your home is by doing a full LED modernization. Consumer Reports says that using LED lighting in your home can boost its value by at least 1% to 3%. Rather than having to constantly replace old, dim light bulbs, you won’t have to change LED bulbs for years. You can expect to save about 5% of your overall energy costs just by switching to LED lights (compared to heat and other major energy uses). In addition to their longer life expectancy, they use 80% less energy than incandescent light bulbs.

Their life expectancy can be as long as 23 years — saving you money, both immediately and in the long run. Estimates are that you can save about $750 per replaced fixture by installing LED lighting in your home. LED lighting also saves cooling costs because they emit minimal heat. These significant savings easily and immediately translate into a higher home value.

LED lighting is also eco-friendly. They save up to 10,350 pounds of greenhouse gases per replaced fixture and do not contain hazardous mercury. They can also benefit the interior design of your home. It may be time to update fixtures to a more modern look. Proper lighting makes a room look far bigger, cleaner, and compliments a fresh paint job perfectly. It draws the eye to places in the room hidden by shadows, illuminates artwork, and stimulates a viewer’s imagination. When someone sees a well-lit room, the visual style of the room comes alive. The fluorescence of traditional lighting is harsh on paint and room decor. Changing to a softer, warmer lighting fixture makes the whole room much more pleasant to the eye. Lighting all of your rooms properly can add substantial value to your home for less than $1,000 in most cases.

LEDs are more flexible with light direction. Incandescent bulbs radiate light in all directions, making directing that light almost impossible. LED lighting is directional, so you can better focus the light where it’s needed and wanted.

LEDs are dimmable but the LED driver quality and its compatibility with the control are two factors that determine true dimming performance. Not all LEDs are going to be compatible with your current dimmer switch. You want some advice from the hardware store instead of using trial and error. While dimming is possible, be sure to double-check that everything is going to be compatible and will function to your desires.

Plug-and-play LED bulbs vs. LED fixtures. It seems like there is an endless sea of LED light bulbs to choose from these days. But LED lighting has changed much more than just replacement bulbs. There is also a whole new category of options — LED fixtures. LED fixtures provide some of the best modern visual appeal, along with some of the longest life ratings and highest efficiency options in lighting systems.

LED fixture replacement pros

  • Maximum control over light output and placement (great for situations where lighting design is paramount).
  • Longer life rating and efficacy than LED replacement bulbs.
  • Lower maximum fixture wattage than traditional fixtures, which is advantageous for meeting strict building codes and California Title 24 standards.
  • Excellent performance for controls and dimming.

LED fixture replacement cons

  • Takes longer and costs more to install than only replacing with LED bulbs.
  • Unknown compatibility with possible future technologies.

Plug and play LED bulb pros

  • Super easy, quick installation.
  • Major efficiency improvement over traditional lighting (incandescent, halogen, fluorescent).
  • Long-life compared to traditional lighting (incandescent, halogen, fluorescent).
  • Fixture replacement is not required.

Plug and play LED bulb cons

  • No improvement in fixture wattage.
  • Challenges with dimming (may require replacing switches).
  • Using existing fixtures can shorten the life of LED bulbs (depending if the fixture is enclosed or open).
  • Using exiting fixtures doesn’t allow for décor updates, remodeling, etc.

Fredrick, LEDs are easily the most cost-effective “green” technology to add compared to anything else. Not only because they lower energy costs, but LEDs are also recyclable to reduce landfill impact, as well as outlast and outperform the competition for years of continuous operation. And they add to your home value.

Lets’ hear about the LED upgrades you are using. Please add comments.

Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to askbrian@realtybiznews.com.

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 12 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, near a national and the Pacific Ocean.