Conversations about "greening up" your home's lighting typically begin and end with a recommendation to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
In more sophisticated circles, LED bulbs might also get a mention. But other technologies are also available to improve the lighting efficiency in your home--and they have nothing to do with light bulbs. Some of them are really cool, too.
When it comes to efficient lighting, the focus has almost exclusively been on what actually provides the light, i.e. the light bulb. This is understandable to a degree, but it misses an important point--the best way to make a lamp more efficient isn't just to change its bulb, it's to turn it off when you don't need it. A couple of new devices, and one relatively old one that is gaining in popularity, make it easier to do just that.
Wireless Light Switches
Wireless light switches can improve efficiency in a number of ways. In new construction, they eliminate the need to run wires from light fixtures to switches, which saves on materials. If you're adding light fixtures to a room, you no longer have to cut into walls to run wires for a switch, which eliminates construction debris.
And being wireless, they are also portable. What could be more convenient than a light switch that travels with you? You can use a single switch for multiple light fixtures, which makes it easy to turn an entire room's lights on or off with the push of a button. But the coolest thing about the latest wireless light switches isn't that they make it easier to turn lights off, it's that they use no electricity themselves. The simple act of pushing the on/off button on the switches generates the electricity needed to transmit the signal to the switch's receiver.
Motion and Light Sensing Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting that is controlled by a timer almost certainly wastes electricity by turning the lights on when they're not needed. Replacing outdoor house and driveway lights with motion sensing lights ensures that you or your guests are never in the dark at night, but turn the lights off when there's no one around to need them. For decorative and landscape lighting, new outdoor fixtures include photo sensors so that the lights won't come on until the sun goes down and won't stay on after the sun comes up.
Home Control Center
Though not limited to lighting, home control systems allow you to control energy usage in your home from a computer or Internet-capable wireless device. Did you leave the lights on? Forget to arm the burglar alarm? Do you want to have the heat come on at 10 instead of 6 because you're working late? Home control systems allow you to monitor and control all of these things via the Internet.
Changing a light bulb is easy. Turning a light off is easier. And, increasingly, there are devices available that make it easier still.
About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.
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