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Quick energy-saving ideas

By Christopher Buck

As energy costs rise, creating an energy-efficient space is becoming a top priority for businesses and homeowners. In many cases, energy-saving efforts may qualify for federal and state rebates, as well as incentives from utility companies. Light control is a simple, effective solution for enhancing energy efficiency in these spaces without sacrificing comfort or convenience. 

Lighting accounts for up to 20% of a household’s yearly electricity usage, and up to 40% in commercial buildings1. The figures climb higher in specialized settings such as healthcare facilities (43%) and hotels (55%). Energy-saving light control solutions such as dimmers, sensors and timers, along with other strategies, can reduce lighting energy use by up to 60% and help buildings meet and exceed new codes and standards2. Furthermore, wireless solutions offer simple, quick installation, saving time and reducing material and labor costs.

Begin with Dimming

Installing a dimmer is one of the quickest and easiest ways to start saving money and energy. For every percentage reduction in lighting level, there is nearly equal reduction in lighting energy usage. A single dimmer can pay for itself very quickly and commercial dimmers are often designed to last at least 10 years. Upgrading a light switch to a dimmer not only improves the return on investment, but can be as simple as swapping out a toggle switch or plugging into a table lamp.

Add Occupancy/Vacancy Sensors

Occupancy/vacancy sensors can be integrated with lighting to further curb operating costs. Many new sensors feature reliable technology and configurable modes and timeouts that allow them to be tailored to the specific needs of the space. An occupancy or vacancy sensor is ideal anywhere lights are often inadvertently left on –

  • Small spaces such as utility closets, laundry rooms, single bathrooms and private offices can benefit from simple in-wall occupancy sensors, which can pay back in less than 1 year.  Designed for smaller rooms with unobstructed views, these in-wall sensors can be installed in minutes with no additional wiring.
  • In public spaces, such as restrooms, conference rooms, and hallways lights often remain on even when the space is unoccupied. For these larger spaces, wireless controls and ceiling or corner-mounted sensors simplify installation and can dramatically reduce installation time. 

Incorporate Timers

Timers are another energy-saving option for applications where sensors are not preferred. Featuring digital programming and adjustable countdown ranges, timers ensure shut-off of lights or exhaust fans in a predetermined amount of time. Timers are especially useful in spaces like bathrooms, closets or pantries. 

Combine Sensors and Daylight Controls for a simple lighting system

Installing simple wireless systems in heavily trafficked spaces increases energy savings while enhancing comfort level. Spaces such as K-12 and university classrooms, as well as offices, can realize significant energy savings through strategies such as daylight harvesting in which sensors measure available daylight in a space and reduce the electric lighting in the room when it is not needed.

Light control is a quick and easy way to save energy and is being increasingly recognized in energy codes and standards.  For example, ASHRAE 90.1 2010, set to be adopted nationwide in late 2013 requires daylight harvesting and occupancy sensing in a variety of spaces. New dimming and sensing technologies provide solutions to help meet and exceed emerging energy code requirements, and do so with minimal cost and disruption to building occupants. When you help your customers stay ahead of the curve by implementing these quick energy saving ideas today, they’ll thank you for it later. 

1 Energy Information Administration, 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, released September 2008

2 Lighting energy savings exceeding 60% is frequently reported by customers using Lutron solutions as part of an overall energy-savings design program.


Christopher Buck is the Energi TriPak™ product manager at Lutron Electronics Co., Inc, based in Coopersburg, PA.  He has both a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from Lehigh University.

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