Energy Efficient Lighting Controls Charleston SC
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Saving Energy with Lighting Controls
Lighting accounts for about 15 percent of an average home’s energy costs, so it’s a good place to start if you want to reduce your monthly utility bill. By switching out standard incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which consume 75 percent less electricity, and substituting lower wattage lamps where you don’t need as much light, you can appreciably reduce your energy expenditures.
However, you can go a step further by taking advantage of lighting controls, which will maximize energy savings, add convenience and boost safety and security around your home.
Lighting control manufacturers offer a broad array of devices that can help trim your energy bill. And you won’t have to run new electrical wires or cables throughout the house, because these devices can fit easily into your existing wiring system. There are options for every budget, starting with stand-alone controls for lights and ceiling fixtures and extending all the way up to wireless whole-house automated lighting control systems.
Start With Dimmers
By replacing standard on/off light switches throughout your house with dimmers, occupancy sensors, vacancy sensors or timers, you can reduce your lighting costs by a third or more. According to Carlos Villalobos, product manager with Watt Stopper/Legrand, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based manufacturer of lighting controls, the use of these devices can typically achieve savings of 40 to 50 percent in bathrooms and bedrooms, 30 to 40 percent in laundry rooms and garages, and 20 to 30 percent in closets and pantries.
You can start by installing dimmers in place of standard wall switches and use them to control light levels. This will conserve energy as well as improve aesthetics, alter a room’s mood and extend the life of your lamps. Dimmers are available in a number of different styles, including rotary, slide, toggle, touch, preset, digital and wireless.
Occupancy and Vacancy Sensors
Occupancy and vacancy sensors are also installed in place of standard wall switches. An occupancy sensor automatically turns on a light every time someone walks into range and automatically turns it off when no occupancy is detected after a specified amount of time. This type of sensor is a good choice for rooms you’re likely to enter with your hands full, such as a laundry room or basement. Used outdoors, these sensors can activate lighting for a garage area, backyard, entranceway, porch or deck.
Some occupancy sensors feature manual dimming, timer settings and/or “alert to off” notification, which dims the lighting by 50 percent for several seconds before switching it off.
Vacancy sensors automatically turn off lighting a preset number of minutes after the unit detects a room is vacant. (The lights are turned on manually, like a typical lighting switch.) These are good choices for bedrooms, bathrooms, living and dining rooms, pantries and closets — places where it is easy to turn on a light when entering.
Because you have to actively switch the light on, presumably you will do so only when you need the illumination. During the day, when there is ample natural daylight, vacancy sensors are more efficient than occupancy sensors, which automatically respond every time someone enters the room, regardless of the level of ambient light. (Some occupancy sensors have built-in light-level sensors that will keep lights off if adequate ambient light is detected.)
Vacancy sensors are also good options for rooms that are often lit by light from other rooms or if you have pets who roam the house, says Tom Braz, general manager of Hubbell Building Automation, an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of lighting devices and systems. The idea, Braz notes, is to avoid unnecessary triggering that can occur with occupancy sensors.
Vacancy sensors use either heat or sound to determine whether a room is occupied. Devices using passive infrared-sensing technology detect heat emitted by a person in motion and require a clear line of sight, while those that use ultrasonic sensing technology do not require an unobstructed view but rather rely on minute changes in sound frequency caused by motion. Some devices use both technologies.
Saving With Sensors
With many occupancy and vacancy sensors, you can adjust the time delay between the last occupancy or motion sensed and the switch-off of lighting. The shorter the time delay, the more energy you will save. Common time-delay settings might be as short as 5 minutes for hallways, pantries and garages and as long as 30 minutes for bedrooms, bathrooms and dining rooms. An on/off button on a vacancy sensor enables users to override the sensor at any time.
Some occupancy and vacancy sensors incorporate a minimally energy-consuming LED night-light that automatically turns on when the lighting is off, making it easy to locate the switch or navigate safely in a bathroom or child’s bedroom.
Multi-way vacancy sensors, which can be installed in place of three-way switches, feature multi-way control as well as automatic shutoff. “Because they offer both energy savings and convenience, they can be good choices for stairways, hallways or any space that is entered from multiple entrances, such as family rooms or bathrooms shared by two bedrooms,” notes Villalobos.
While some sensors control only incandescent lamps, most control incandescent, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps. A typical sensor has a maximum load limit (usually 500 to 600 watts), which should not be exceeded, and a maximum coverage range of 180 degrees and about 600 square feet.
Timer switches offer convenience, flexibility and security. They can serve as energy-efficient anti-theft deterrents in unoccupied homes by turning lights on at dusk and off at a pre-determined time, or by turning lights on and off at preset time intervals. If you’re arriving home after dark, they also can prepare the home for your return by switching on the lights.
Typically, wall-switch timers can be preset to turn lights on and off multiple times within a period of 12 to 24 hours, with varying time intervals between on/off cycles. Some timers provide audible and/or visual alerts shortly before turning off the lights, so occupants can avoid being left in dark.
Unlike timers of yesteryear, which ticked, ticked, ticked through the cycle, today’s solid-state electronic interval timers operate silently.
Lighting Control Systems
In contrast to stand-alone lighting controls, which work independently, a wireless lighting control system offers remote control of any lighting load, combination of lighting loads or all lighting in a home. In an integrated network, switches for wall and under-cabinet fixtures, receptacles for table and floor lamps, dimmers, ceiling fans and lights, and controllers used to activate and de-activate lighting all work together.
Because the homeowner has complete control of all the lights from just about anywhere with a whole-house system, energy savings are easy to achieve. “You can put different circuits on individual timers or schedules, allowing single or multiple circuits to turn on or off at preset times,” points out Grant Sullivan, product marketing manager for home automation products at Leviton, a Little Neck, N.Y.-based manufacturer of lighting control devices. “For example, you can set all outdoor lights to run at 100 percent between the hours of dusk and midnight, and then dim to 50 percent until sunrise.”
In addition, homeowners can program preset lighting “scenes” — combinations of actions that provide the desired mood or task lighting or enhance safety and security at the touch of a single button. Popular scenes include lighting scenes for a dinner party or family movie night.
One increasingly popular technology for wireless lighting control systems is a standardized protocol called Z-Wave. It works on its own radio frequency, which will not interfere with any other wireless system in the home. Any manufacturer’s Z-Wave product added to the network will work with any other manufacturer’s Z-Wave device.
Wireless lighting control systems do not require new home wiring. These systems consist of individual lighting controls (called nodes) and the controllers to activate them. Because each node is capable of communicating with every other node, a signal sent from a remote controller anywhere in the network will find its way to the circuit or circuits it is activating, regardless of distance or impediments along the way. Essentially, each device acts as a repeater, ensuring that every command is carried out, regardless of its location within the house.
Installing the nodes is similar to replacing a standard switch or receptacle, though the initial programming setup required to integrate each node into the system can be challenging. For that reason, a professional installer familiar with the particular system often handles the setup.
Systems are scalable, which makes it easy to add additional nodes anywhere in the home. In addition to lighting, many systems are capable of controlling other devices in the home, such as garage doors, window shades, the heating and cooling system, and security components.
Whether your opt for the whole-house approach or decide to build your lighting control system one stand-alone device at a time, you will be taking advantage of smart devices that can help reduce your energy costs and make your home a more efficient place to live.
William and Patti Feldman are frequent contributors to Smart HomeOwner . They are based in New York.
Lighting Control Resources
Cooper Wiring Devices
HAI (Home Automation Inc.)
Hubbell Building Automation
Pass & Seymour