“The exterior is the most overlooked area in a lighting plan,” says Grant Sullivan, product marketing manager for Leviton. “But what household really needs its outdoor lights burning at full intensity all night?” He suggests dimming these lights to 50 percent to save energy and provide enough light for people returning home late at night.
Selection of Styles
After you’ve decided which rooms deserve dimmers, your next task is to choose the dimmer switches themselves. Dimmers come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges. You’ll find old-style rotary dimmers that work by twisting a knob, dimmers that regulate the lights via a small slider bar, and those that adjust the lights according to the position of your finger on a touch-sensitive wall plate. Some dimmers are basic in design while others look like a piece of art.
Dimmers also differ by how many lights, or loads, they can handle, as well as their ability to communicate with home control systems. Naturally, you’ll pay more for a smarter, prettier dimmer than a plain-Jane model. However, with prices ranging from $10 to more than $200, you’re sure to find a style that suits your home’s decor and fits your budget.
Maximize Your Potential
You might be tempted to stick with the least expensive dimmers, but pricier models have the potential to save the greatest amount of electricity. A dimmer managed by a home control system, for example, can be programmed to adjust automatically at prescheduled times of the day and to react to certain conditions around the home. For example, if a daylight sensor notices that there’s ample light coming through the windows to illuminate the space, it could signal the home control system to turn off the lights and open the shades. Another scenario could involve your entertainment system.
Still another energy-saving feature could involve the activation of a GREEN button on a home control keypad or touchscreen. When this button is engaged, the home control system could sweep through the house, dimming every light to a predetermined percentage. “The homeowner would work with his or her home systems installer to decide which fixtures to put on the GREEN button and how much to dim them,” explains Scheetz. Expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a system with features like daylight sensing and green commands, but they’ll definitely make it easier to curb your household energy costs.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.