The switch to energy-saving bulbs has inspired creative new ways to illuminate spaces.
Designer Michael Sestak does more than light up a room.
He transforms space with artful use of light, and helps clients see their homes in a different way.
"You want to make it magic," Sestak said. "You don't want to see the wires or the glare of bulbs."
And with today's LEDs (light-emitting diodes) there are a lot more options on where lights can go.
LEDs are coming into their own, pushed by both industry innovation and recent federal mandates to develop energy-saving alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs.
The nationwide switch to more efficient lighting not only saves electricity, it offers opportunities to put lighting in different places in different ways.
"The technology behind lighting is different, but we still see it as light," Sestak said. "We've also become increasingly aware of the cost when we open our electric bill."
While more expensive to install, LEDs can save a lot of money over their long lifetimes.
"The LED market virtually exploded the last five years," Sestak said. "The whole industry readjusted in such a short time. But that also meant that designers had to adjust."
Sestak's own house in Carmichael, Calif., is a prime example of what can be done with LEDs. For example, the path to the pool and outdoor bar is lit with 25 in-ground LED fixtures that can put on a colorful light show.
More LEDs turn glass plates into a fanciful sculpture. After dark, they make glass ornaments sparkle and the water in bubbling fountains glisten. These little lights make the nighttime garden come to life.
Indoors, LEDs work their electronic magic, too. In the living room, they offer pinpoint spotlights to accent paintings and sculpture. Tucked under cabinets, they brighten kitchen counters. Behind glass plates in the master bath, they seem to light mirrors from within.
Sestak uses other energy-saving options. Over the dinner table, halogen spotlights on a circular track create an unusual chandelier. The lights make ribbon-hung glass ornaments dazzle. At the same time, diners can still comfortably see their food, thanks to other lights focused at the table.
"In this chandelier, it catches the light instead of being illuminated from within," Sestak explained. "Other lights illuminate the center of the table like a little stage."
As LEDs evolve, so do their appeal and acceptance in the marketplace.
"We've seen tremendous growth in the LED category," said Alyssa Steele, an associate merchant at Home Depot's national headquarters in Atlanta. "The retail prices have dropped, too. People are reaping the benefits of energy savings."
LEDs offer a lot of lumens, along with exceptionally long life and energy savings.
For example, Phillips recently introduced a 17-watt LED bulb that offers as much light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb.
"It's 1,100 lumens and gives 25,000 hours of light," Steele said. "That's roughly 22.8 years in a typical table lamp.
"The easiest transition to make with LEDs are lights that are hard to reach, such as a ceiling fixture," she added. "You put one of these LED bulbs in and you'll never have to get the ladder out again."