The lighting around your home is important in terms of both practical and aesthetic applications. The simple light bulbs that we often take for granted illuminate our homes at night, highlight points of beauty, provide security and create ambiance. American’s consume a ton of power in order to light our home. To be precise, we consume roughly 91 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) each year, per a report produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. To put things in perspective, the commercial sector consumes in the neighborhood of 141 billion kWh. Keep in mind that the commercial sector includes commercial and institutional buildings, as well as street and highway lighting. Smart lighting can reduce these numbers across the board and save everyone a few dollars.
Lighting accounts for approximately 6% of a home’s energy consumption.
The development of the smart home has made it possible for you to take full control of your home lighting via smart lighting. This technological advancement also allows you to reduce your energy usage. Smart bulbs are a great starting point. However, they aren’t always the best fit for every smart home. This is especially true for homeowners who want to incorporate a smart home assistant into their energy-saving smart lighting system. Energy saving light switches, dimmers, and energy-efficient timers can be programmed via a smart hub or other home energy management systems to save energy and increase home security.
Control your Lights with Smart Switches
A smart light switch is an easy way to control home lighting and save energy. Once installed, a hard-wired energy-saving light switch can be controlled from a smartphone app or a smart hub. You can even use voice controls to toggle hard-wired smart light switches.
How Smart Light Switches Save Energy
Energy-saving light switches typically come with their own smartphone app. Once you’ve installed the necessary app on your phone, you can then turn lights on & off from any location. If you’re unsure if you left a light on after you’ve pulled out of the driveway, all you need to do is check your phone!
The ideal light switches are ones that you can program. Programmable lights allow you to set up a schedule that will turn your lights on and off automatically at certain points throughout the day or night. This feature is not only convenient, but it also saves a lot of energy since your lights won’t gobble up kilowatts when nobody is benefiting from the illumination.
How to Choose a Smart Light Switch
- Single-Pole Smart Switch: A single-pole switch is wired to a light fixture via a single physical location. This method is often used in bedrooms and home offices. Single-pole switches are the most common style of smart light switch.
- Three-way or Four-way Smart Switch: The larger rooms throughout your home may have three- or four-way switches that control one fixture from multiple locations. If this is the case, you don’t need to replace all switches with smart switches. Replacing just one switch with an energy-saving switch will usually do the trick.
- Plug-In Smart Switch: Free -standing floor and table lamps are not typically wired directly into your home’s electrical grid. Rather, they’re plugged into wall outlets. The ideal light switch for such a situation are plug-in switches that give you control of the light at the outlet level.
Install Smart Dimmers
Smart dimmer switches are an easy way to save electricity. Like smart light switches, smart dimmers can easily be paired with smart home assistants, and these can be programmed or controlled simply by speaking.
How smart dimmers save energy
Without getting too technical, dimmers are able to adjust the amount of voltage moving through the switch circuit. Higher voltage results in a brighter light. Lowering the voltage reduces the amount of power reaching the light bulb, so the bulb consumes less energy and produces less light.
What types of bulbs do dimmers work with?
Your choice of smart dimmer depends on several considerations. The number of switches controlling the light is a factor, as is the amount of wattage you need. You should also consider the type of dimmer control you prefer and the type of light bulb used in the fixture.
Can all light bulbs be dimmed?
Technically, yes, all light bulbs can be dimmed, although several types of bulbs don’t pair well with dimmer switches. Four of the most common types of light bulbs are well suited for use with dimmers. Choose carefully, as the amount of energy these types of bulbs consume varies significantly.
- CFLs: Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, are highly energy efficient. If you’d like to use these with a dimmer switch, however, you’ll want to use dimmer-compatible CFLs. CFLs that are not designed for dimmer use will have a shorter life span and may flash or flicker. Noncompatible CFLs will have “not for use with dimmers” marked on the bulb or packaging. Using dimmer-compatible CFLs from the same manufacturer will provide the best results when pairing CFLs with dimmer switches.
- LEDs: Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are some of the best bulbs for use with dimmer switches, especially if your goal is to reduce the amount of energy your lighting consumes. LEDs consume much less energy compared to other light bulbs. Furthermore, their lifespan extends into multiple decades. Look for LED bulbs designed for use with dimmers, and use them with LED-compatible dimmer switches.
- Halogen bulbs: When used with dimmer switches, halogen bulbs consume up to 20% less energy than when they’re undimmed. There is, however, a downside: Dimmed halogen bulbs are less efficient, which potentially negates any benefits of using the dimmer switch. Instead of a halogen bulb and dimmer, most homeowners are better off simply replacing the halogen with a lower-wattage bulb.
- Incandescent bulbs: Incandescent bulbs can be used with dimmers, but don’t expect any energy savings with them: Dimming a 60-watt incandescent bulb to 40 watts actually requires more energy than simply switching to a 40-watt bulb.
Set up motion sensors to automatically turn on lights when you enter the room.
Motion sensors can also be used to save lighting energy. Some of the best light switches include smart motion detectors, which send notifications to smart home hubs when lights turn on. This feature increases your home security, as you can set your smart home assistant to push alerts to your phone should motion detectors to register suspicious activity when you’re not home.
Here are a few ideas to spark an outdoors smart lighting project
How motion sensors save energy
Motion sensor lights and light switches save energy by automatically turning off lighting in rooms where no activity is detected. Many can be set to only trigger lights in response to human activity so the family cat won’t be turning on lights as she moves through the house.
As effective as motion detectors are, though, in many cases, it’s more energy efficient to switch to CFLs or LEDs. Even when left on constantly, CFLs and LEDs consume less energy than motion detectors.
Pro Tip! The U.S. Department of Energy recommends turning off CFLs only if you plan to be out of the room for more than 15 minutes. If you do choose to combine CFLs with motion-detecting light switches, set the time limit on the motion detector to at least 15 minutes.
Where to place energy-saving motion sensors in your home
Motion-sensing light switches offer the most energy savings when used in locations where lights are often left on by accident.
Appropriate places to use motion detectors:
- Children’s rooms
- Guest rooms
- Outside lights
Motion detectors are less useful in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and living rooms. Furthermore, lights in these locations tend to be left on for extended periods of time, so the motion sensor won’t be activated often enough to be worthwhile.
Use energy-efficient timers to turn lights off automatically.
Even the best light switches can’t control lights that aren’t wired into your home’s electrical system. If you want to control when table and floor lamps turn on and off, you can use energy-efficient timers instead.
How smart timers save energy
Energy-efficient timers are placed between a wall outlet and plug and can be set to turn off the plugged-in item at a specific time. Also known as timer switches, smart energy-efficient timers have multiple uses, but they are most often used to turn off devices and lights that have been left on by accident. Timers can also be used to turn on lights at predetermined times, such as just before you come home from work.
How to use energy-efficient timer switches around your home
Furthermore, turning off forgotten lights, indoor timers also have a security component: they turn lights on and off in an empty house to scare off potential burglars. Some timers even have a random settings so anyone watching the house can’t judge occupancy by repetitive, to-the-minute lighting changes.
Energy-efficient timers have outdoor energy-saving applications as well. Furthermore, timers can turn off outdoor lights on set schedules, so lights are only on when you need them, and outdoor timer switches are often used to control holiday or patio lights.
Be sure to choose timer switches designed for outdoor use when using them to control outdoor applications — indoor timers won’t be able to resist rain, snow and other elemental stressors.
Energy-efficient timers can be used to control:
- Heating lamps
- Hot tubs and pool filters
- Indoor lights
- Outdoor security lights
- Small appliances (computers, radios, flatirons, etc.)
- Water heaters
Turn a light into a smart device with smart plugs.
Smart plugs offer an easy introduction to smart home devices, even if you don’t own a smart assistant or hub. Turning a floor or table lamp into a smart device is one of the most common uses for smart plugs: Simply plug the smart plug into an outlet, and then plug the lamp into the smart plug.
How smart plugs save energy
Smart plugs control when and how connected appliances use power, allowing you to optimize appliance use and save energy. A smart plug is controlled from an app on your phone so you can set timers for appliance use, turn devices on and off from anywhere and even view how much energy the appliance consumes.
How to use smart plugs around your home
Connecting smart plugs to your most frequently used lights, you can control lighting directly from your phone. Furthermore, other practical uses for smart plugs include monitoring the energy usage of appliances, turning on coffee pots at specific times and controlling power flow to appliances that would otherwise continue to use power when not in use, such as gaming consoles and televisions.
The top of the line light switches, smart plugs, timers and motion detectors all offer energy-saving strategies for smart homes. Combining smart lighting controls with LED or CFL bulbs further increases your energy savings. As smart homes become the norm, home energy management systems allow homeowners to take full control of how much energy their home consumes while improving their quality of life and home security. Examining your habits and home helps determine which smart devices are best suited to your lifestyle.