Sell dimming on every job—your customers will thank you for it

By Michael Smith, vice president, residential sales, Lutron Electronics

To upsell your customers to dimming, help them understand what they’re missing when they install just a switch. More than a century ago, the light switch was revolutionary. But today, it’s almost like a rotary phone. It still works, but why settle for antiquated technology when you can get so much more for just a small premium?

Photo gallery: 8 new dimmers on the market 

The first step to upselling is to emphasize that with even the most basic dimmer there are huge benefits. Dimming allows your customers to choose the exact light level they want for whatever they’re doing. Dimmers also extend bulb life (whether those bulbs are incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, or LED)—a significant advantage for hard-to-reach fixtures with expensive light bulbs.

And, dimmers save energy. By dimming the lights even 10%, you save 10% lighting electricity. The more you dim, the more you save. As energy prices continue to rise, a dimmer can pay for itself very quickly. Once your customers have all this information, they may never settle for a switch again.

The next step is to help your customers choose the exact features and functionality they need. There are light control options available at virtually any price point:

  • Simple wallbox dimmers in styles and colors that match any decor.
  • Wireless remote controls to adjust lights without getting out of bed or leaving that comfortable chair.
  • Whole-home light, shade and temperature control systems for the highest level of functionality and control—customers can even control their system from an iPad®, iPhone®, iPod touch®, or other smart device1.

For both residential and commercial customers, occupancy/vacancy sensors are quick, easy options for delivering energy savings and adding convenience. Occupancy sensors provide hands-free light control that automatically turns lights on and off. Ask your customers how often they struggle to turn the lights on with their arms full of groceries, or with a coffee cup in one hand and a stack of work in the other.

For even greater energy savings, your customers can install vacancy sensors. These controls have to be manually turned on, but will turn off automatically when a room is vacant. These are perfect for bedrooms (especially kids’ rooms), closets, and storage areas, Occupancy/vacancy sensors save energy, and eliminate one more worry in a busy day.

Commercially, energy retrofits are your greatest opportunity. It is important to remember that there are more than 500 million T12 lamps still in use in commercial office spaces today2. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has regulated a phase-out of these lamps effective this month, which virtually guarantees that you will be involved in retrofit and upgrade projects.  Don’t miss the opportunity to add value and expertise by offering light control upgrades with fixture replacements.  New technologies make options much more affordable than in the past—when customers are upgrading their lighting, they can add dimming and controls for less than 20% of the project cost. 

Simple light control strategies (such as high-end trim, occupancy sensing, and daylight harvesting) will enhance the flexibility and comfort of the space, while providing up to 60% lighting energy savings3.

And what about shade control? Light control is about both electric light and daylight. One of the most exciting product introductions this year is a remote controlled, battery-powered honeycomb shade featuring a 3-year battery life. These shades install in minutes without unsightly wiring, and can be operated from an attractive remote control anywhere in the room. The cost? About the same as a standard, manual honeycomb shade. When you can offer solutions that meet every need, and provide answers to almost any light control question, it’s easy to upsell on every project!

Finally, experiencing the benefits of dimming is so important to making the sale. When you don’t have product samples with you, or you’re not in a demonstration space, new, online tools make it easier than ever to create the light control experience with your customers. Use your smart device or tablet to access online videos and product demonstrations.  Show your customers all the design and color options available, and direct them to energy-saving tools that clearly show how light controls can save energy in a home, an office, or even an entire building.

The most important message for all your customers is that stepping up from a light switch to more versatile light control is within their budget, delivers energy savings without sacrifice, and improves comfort and convenience in any space.

Michael Smith is the vice president of residential business at Lutron Electronics in Coopersburg, Pa. He is active in CEDIA, USGBC, NARI, and NAED, and works to accelerate the adoption of energy efficient light control solutions in residential applications.


1. iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple®, Inc. registered in the U.S. and other countries.

2. National Lighting Bureau (August 20, 2010). Too few commercial-lighting decision-makers use the cash for “clunker-lighting” program and we all pay, Retrieved from

3. Glenn Hughes, director of construction for The New York Times Company building in New York City reports 75% lighting energy savings using light control systems.  Jeff Choma, manager of mechanical and electrical systems at Georgian College in Ontario Canada reports 70% lighting energy savings using light control systems.  Lighting energy savings exceeding 60% is frequently reported by customers using light management solutions as part of an overall energy-savings design program.

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