The Energy Management Side of Lighting Control Systems.

One of the benefits of a home lighting control system is the ability to better manage the energy consumed by your home lights when in use. This finer degree of control over just changing the bulb wattage saves $$ and makes your home a little greener.

An article published earlier this year in CEPro by Julie Jacobson states: "In energy management, virtually every lighting-control vendor is touting the green theme, boasting membership in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and pumping out marketing materials that declare the energy-saving potential of dimming.

Crestron ( and Lutron (, among others, have established Web sites for the environmentally inclined.

Lutron’s site includes a virtual dimmer that tells visitors, in real-time, how much energy they save by dimming. Slide the dimmer to the 24-percent mark, and you’ll see that savings can amount to about 20 percent—or roughly $51.67 over five years for a single bulb".

It helps to compare the Lutron estimate above to the actual electricity cost in your area. If you turned a 50 watt bulb on for an hour a day for 5 years and saved $51.67 with a 20% reduction in brightness (dimmer level at 80% brightness) to 40 watts consumption, the cost per kilowatt-hour (KWH) would have to be 0.11559 cents. Which is exactly the baseline cost per KWH in our local area.

However, the Lutron estimate is very conservative, as some home lights are on for longer than an hour a day. If your automation system turns lights on at sunset and turns them off at 11 PM every day, these lights are, on average, lit about 4 hrs per day throughout the year. The savings by dimming the same 50 watt light bulb 20% is now $206.68 over 5 years, and if you really use 100 watt bulbs for these lights the savings is $413.36. Mulitply these savings times the number of actual lights used in your home and the savings can blossom to well over a $1000 total or much more over 5 years depending on your home lighting needs.

This calculation of savings can be futher compounded by tiered pricing for electricity which includes a baseline rate and increased rates for tiers of usage above the baseline. If you always have a percentage of your electricity usage at the highest tier, then the top-tier rate would be more indicative of the savings you might expect in your area. For example, in our area the 201-300% of baseline rate is 0.31304 cents per KWH. If you're not dimming your lights everyday now, your real savings for a single 100 watt bulb turned on for 4 hours a day at 80% brightness becomes $1,119.46 over 5 years!

If you trust your math skills you can easily make assumptions about the number of lights used per day and the average duration of use to calculate total KWH consumed per day by home lighting. Factor in the average brightness level, as some lights may be dimmable to 50%. You can then calculate the estmated savings due to dimming for your home based on your assumptions.

Depending on your choice for lighting controls, energy management will not be limited to just dimming your lights. The CEPro article also mentions: "Both Control4 ( and HAI ( are working with utilities on load-shedding solutions that let users cut back on energy automatically when rates rise or utilities reach capacity.

Control4’s system lets users set parameters through a TV interface (On-Screen Navigator), specifying which lights to adjust in the event of a utility crisis.

HAI’s forthcoming Load Control Modules will similarly facilitate communications between utilities and electronics in the home".

Of course energy cost savings aren't the only reason to invest in a lighting control solution. Coordinated lighting levels via lighting scenes contribute greatly to the "look and feel" of your home inside and outside. As do the design of the lighting devices themselves, with many suppliers offering European style components for switches and dimmers.

Also, the wireless technology behind today's lighting control systems enables a simplified installation project without having to add or change your house wiring.

August 22, 2008 /