Lighting Controls Can Save You Money
While upgrading to LED lights is always recommended, another way to save on energy costs is by installing lighting controls in your home. Of course you can also save energy by simply turning off your lights, but sometimes we forget or don’t notice we’ve left them on. Plus, lighting controls such as dimmers, timers, and motion sensors allow you to manipulate your lighting according to time of day or activity, which can be useful in many situations. The lighting control you should use, and where, depends on a room’s purpose and occupancy.
Dimmer switches allow you to vary the light levels in a room. When you dim light bulbs, it reduces their wattage and light output, therefore saving energy. Dimmers can also increase the service life of incandescent light bulbs significantly by reducing the average amount of stress on their filaments. They are best used in heavily trafficked rooms where you want to occasionally create a calmer or more intimate ambiance with low-level lighting, such as living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, or master bathrooms.
However, a common misconception about dimmers is that they’re compatible with any and all lights. As nice as it would be to be able to install one dimmer with any lighting system and have it work perfectly, that’s unfortunately not the case. There are many types of dimmers, all designed to be compatible with certain light sources and systems. When choosing a dimmer for your lights, whether for incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, or LED lights, make sure it is rated to operate with your lights and that the bulbs say they are dimmable on the packaging.
While timers have many uses, they can also control your lights. Timers save energy by remembering to turn lights on and off when you don’t. They are most useful when connected to outdoor security lights or Christmas lights over the holidays, though they are also useful for lighting Christmas trees for the evening and giving unoccupied homes a lived-in look when you are away on vacation.
However, since timers are designed to turn lights on or off at specific times, they may have to be reset often due to the seasonal variation of daylight. Therefore, it is best to use them with other lighting controls, such as photocells, which automatically adjust the light level in a room or space according to the supply of natural light already in the space. The best combination for time-based lighting may actually be a photocell that turns lights on in the evening and a timer that turns the lights off at a certain hour of the night (such as 11 p.m.). Like dimmers, there are many kinds of timers—the main three being mechanical, electronic, and astronomic—with each optimized for a specific purpose and space and offering its own set of benefits.
There are two different kinds of motion sensors you can sync with your lights: occupancy and vacancy sensors. Occupancy sensors turn lights on when a person enters a room and off again when they exit, and vacancy sensors require a user to manually turn them on before automatically shutting them off after a person exits. They are great energy savers because they allow you to use light only on an as-needed basis. When controlling the ambient lighting in a room, both types of sensors must be located where they will detect activity in all areas of the room. However, occupancy sensors are especially useful for task lighting applications, such as under-cabinet lighting over kitchen counters, by turning lights on when a person is doing an activity in a limited space and shutting them off when the task is complete.
Both occupancy and vacancy sensors are available in any of three main types of technology: passive infrared (PIR), ultrasonic, and dual technology. Passive infrared (PIR) sensors detect heat and motion and require a direct line of sight between the sensor and occupants in a space, whereas ultrasonic sensors detect sound and do not need a direct line of sight and are more sensitive to minor motions, such as hand movements. Dual-technology sensors work using both technologies as needed, thereby eliminating a potential false-on or false-off scenario. The sensor you need depends on the needs of your space.
In short, dimmers are best for creating low-level lighting in heavily trafficked rooms; timers are ideal in conjunction with photocells for controlling outdoor lighting; and motion sensors are optimal for making sure light is only being used when and where it is needed. With all three lighting controls, in addition to cost-effective LED or CFL lights, you are sure to minimize your monthly electric bill. Do you have any questions about where or when these lighting controls should be used or comments about any other aspect of this article? Let us know below or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram!