However, it is an area which is continually being developed and enhanced by cutting edge companies like Lutron, Vantage and Control 4 who relentlessly invest in innovation to enable us to include sophisticated, energy efficient and environmentally sensitive options in our homes and workplaces. As well as enhancing our environment, lighting control and home automation can help save energy and reduce energy bills.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to save energy is to install dimmers. Lutron, for example, produces a range of dimmers and all of these will save energy and cut bills. The science behind a typical dimmer is relatively simple. An electronic dimmer component, called a triac, turns the light on and off very rapidly - too fast for the human eye to detect. When the light is off, no energy is being used. The longer the triac is off, i.e. the more the lights are dimmed, the lower the light output and the greater the energy savings. Principal application engineer at Lutron Dr Ian Rowbottom explains “Dimming your lights even 20% saves nearly 20% in energy. Dimming them more, saves even more.”
Turn it off if you’re out!
It’s all too easy to leave a room, or the house, especially on a bright summer day, with the lights left on…particularly if there are a number of you who share the space perhaps some of whom are less conscious of the bills than others! Wireless occupancy sensors can be used to great effect to detect and react when a room is empty and unused, turning lights off when spaces are vacant. Sensors can also automatically dim lights when enough daylight is present or use automated window shades, with the system adjusting electrical light levels so that the right amount of light is always present. And this sort of energy conscious light management system can be set up in a single room or an entire building saving significant wastage and costs.
Lighting control solutions offer scene settings that support the task being undertaken in that space – entertaining, working, relaxing, cooking etc. Selecting a lighting option to suit how we use our space makes us think about the lighting, so we adjust it more frequently, selecting scene settings with dimmed lighting and turning off when not required.
Different lights – different efficiencies
Also relevant to energy consumption is that certain types of light source are more efficient than others; for example LED lighting which offers a longer life with bulbs and diodes offering an outstanding operational life time expectation of up to 100,000 hours. This is 11 years of continuous operation, or 22 years of 50% operation.
With traditional incandescent light bulbs operating at 20% energy efficiency only, 80% of the electricity is lost as heat. The long operational life time of LED acts as a multiplicator and helps achieve even more energy efficiency, so you can make significant energy savings.
Lighting Control Solutions such as Lutron, Vantage and Control 4 provide solutions for dimming very low watt LED lighting so you can achieve the desired ambiance but at a fraction of the operational level.
Top Energy Benefits of Light Control
Another of my favourite benefits of lighting control, this one specifically for the building contractor or architect, is that lighting control can contribute significantly to attaining ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification for new construction’. Credits can be gained in several LEED categories eg Energy & Atmosphere, Material & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovative Design.
So, it’s really worth emphasising that lighting and home control isn’t just about function, style and sophistication, it can seriously help you optimise your energy usage in ways that have never before been possible.
My favourite six energy saving devices to incorporate into a home or office space are
- Scene setting with lighting control will enable you to create the desired atmosphere for working, relaxing or entertaining at the touch of one button – by thinking about how you use the lighting, you avoid leaving all the lights on and all the lights are functioning at a dimmed level so you save money on energy and extend lamp life!
- Remote Access Control so you can turn off all your lights off from your mobile phone or tablet.
- Automated blinds can help you manage the temperature in the house – keep heat in the winter and keep the space cool in the summer.
- Programmable heat thermostats such as Nest and Heatmiser can help you manage the temperature more effectively in your home or workplace, whether you are there or away. Nest with its built in sensors knows when no one is home, so Nest’s Auto Away feature can automatically turn down the temperature, saving more energy.
- Automatically turn on appliances such as dish washers at the most energy efficient times using a home control solution like Rti, Vantage or Control 4.
- The incorporation of the increasingly popular energy management panels such as Vantage’s ‘energy dashboard’ – energy consumption can be monitored and at the switch of a pre-set button, some energy saving settings can over-ride current settings including lights dimming and temperature control.