How To Make Your Museum Lighting More Energy-Efficient

We’re teaching how to go green and save energy with the lights in every space we can think of!

The right lighting is essential for any museum. Each exhibit needs a lighting scheme that will preserve the artistic, historical, or scientific integrity of the articles on display. And it just has to look good too.

If you’ve already landed on a lighting scheme that works for your museum, you’re probably apprehensive to change it, even if you could save money.

Good news: Upgrading your museum lighting is easier than you might think. There are a ton of small, barely noticeable changes you can make to your museum lighting that will save you energy. Also, newer energy-efficient lighting options may actually provide more versatile, higher quality light for your displays.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Small Changes:  

1. Guide Lights

If you have dark areas in your museum – night simulations or moody displays – you’ll always need small guide lights to keep your visitors safe and comfortable. These are things like step lights along staircases and rope lights along pathways or handrails. These lights will never add to or take away from the integrity of your display. They’re just there. So why not save a little energy with them?

The most energy-efficient step lights and guide lights you can find on the market are probably LEDs. They’ll last much longer than older incandescent lights and most fluorescent lights, and they’ll produce the same brightness while only using a fraction of the energy.

2. Exit Signs

Exit signs are necessary features in any museum, but it’s not necessary that you use a lot of energy to operate them. A good LED exit sign only costs $2 to operate every year. Compare that to the $39 it costs to run a single incandescent exit sign. The LED will pay for itself within a year!

If you’re even more ambitious about saving energy, you can opt for photoluminescent exit signs. They’re made with a special material that absorbs ambient light and emits it when the lights go dark. No maintenance or electricity required.

3. Light Bulbs

You probably use regular old light bulbs here and there in your museum – in wall sconces along the hallways, in table lamps at reception, or in hanging light fixtures in the lobby. Switching these out for energy-efficient halogen lamps or LEDs will help cut down that energy bill more than you think.


A good LED light bulb might use as little as 13% of the energy it takes to power an incandescent light bulb of equivalent brightness. Energy-efficient halogen lamps are the perfect choice when you need that unmistakable crisp halogen light. They provide the same quality light while using 33% less energy than a regular halogen lamp.

4. Occupancy Sensors

The best way to save energy anywhere is to simply turn off the lights.

But, this is impossible and frankly dangerous for a busy public place like a museum, but it’s a strategy to consider for utilitarian areas of the building like bathrooms and storage closets. Putting those lights on occupancy/vacancy sensors will make sure they turn on when needed, and off when there’s nobody around.

Bigger Changes: 

1. Ceiling Lights

If using recessed can lights for overhead lighting in your museum, think about using them with LED retrofit modules. It’s one of the easiest ways to save energy on a grander scale, and the light provided by these fixtures matches the quality of incandescent or halogen lights.

They last between 35,000 and 50,000 hours, and use lass than 25% of the energy consumed by their incandescent counterparts.

2. Accent Lights

In rooms with bold architecture – coves, niches, columns, signs, or even sculptures – you probably already use some kind of light as an accent. Not only will replacing these with LEDs save you more energy and require less maintenance, they’ll also give you more creative freedom when planning exhibits and events.

White Accent Ceiling Lighting in a Lobby

For example, if you light your coves with color changing LED tape lights, you can keep them bright white during the normal hours or change the hue  for an evening benefit, holiday, or special showcase. LEDs are one of the most low-profile light sources, so the fixtures will never distract from the museum’s overall aesthetic.

3. Display Lights

Of course, the most important lights in a museum are the display lights. They serve your museum’s most essential purpose. They dictate how visitors see the things you display. So why change your display lights if you already love how they look?

Well, LED display lights help you save energy AND they’ll be safer for the things on display. Yes, by now you know LEDs use much less energy to achieve the same results as older light sources, but you might not know that LEDs won’t expose your artwork, artifacts, or sensitive object to any harmful UV light. UV light can easily degrade delicate objects. LEDs also run cooler than other light sources, especially halogen, which can be another benefit when lighting sensitive material.

To learn more, check out our museum lighting page here.

Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.