Lighting Controls

You can cut your home and workplace lighting costs by simply turning off lights when you don't need them. Remembering to do that, however, is often easier said than done. Fortunately there are a number of simple, inexpensive lighting controls - both automatic and manual - that will turn lights on and off, helping you to reduce your energy costs.

A simple automatic timer can control when and how long a light stays on. It can be located at a light switch, at the wall plug or in a light socket. A timer will turn lights on and off on at prearranged times. This can prevent inadvertently leaving lights on all night, for example, and a timer can turn on a light before you get home in the evening. By automatically turning lights on and off for you, timers can give your home the appearance of being occupied - a valuable safety precaution when you're away.

Photosensors measure light levels and turn on lights when it gets dark. These are particularly effective with lights that stay on all night - outdoor security lights or even small night-lights inside. If you only wanted a light to stay on from dusk until, say, 10 p.m., however, a timer would be a better choice.

Motion detectors or occupancy sensors can identify when someone - or something, like a pet - is moving about in a room. These switches will turn lights on when someone enters and will turn them off when movement hasn't been detected for awhile. They are an excellent way to save energy in rooms where lights are frequently left on. They are also popular outside, for walkways or security lights.

Dimmers allow you to manually adjust the intensity of light in a room. Because most lights use less electricity at lower settings, you don't need to pay for more light than you need, and you can change the mood of a room with a simple adjustment. Dimmers can be used with incandescent lights, including low-voltage systems, but only with new-screw-based dimmable fluorescent bulbs. Other fluorescent lights must have their own dimmable ballasts.

Switches should be installed in several locations if an area has more than one entrance. A switch at each end of a hallway or at the top and bottom of a stairway, for example, means that you can turn a light on and off as needed. You're much less likely to just leave it on.

Rooms where you have several kinds of lights -overhead and counter lights in a kitchen, for example - should have separate switches for the various types. And a three-level switch on table and floor lamps is an easy way to use one fixture for several lighting needs, even as you cut down on your electricity needs.

Beware that some screw-base compact fluorescent light bulbs can not be used with timers or with motion detectors. Check manufacturer's recommendations.