March 02, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
One of the most inexpensive ways to curb household energy consumption is by replacing some of your home’s toggle-style light switches with dimmer models. Studies show that by lowering the intensity of a light bulb by just 10 percent, you’ll save 10 percent on electricity costs and double the life of the bulb. Dim the bulb by 25 percent, and you’ll realize a 20 percent savings.
With dimmer switches costing as little as $10 a pop, the return on your investment is definitely worth the time and effort you’ll spend to install the new devices.
Plan of Action
So what’s the best course of action for adding dimmers? Should you change out every switch in your house or start with just a couple of rooms? According to the experts, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck in the kitchen and bath. “These two rooms have a tremendous amount of installed lighting,” says Phil Scheetz, home systems marketing manager at Lutron Electronics. In a kitchen, for example, there might be recessed lighting over the stove and cooktop, pendants above the island, a set of lights under the cabinets, some above the cabinets, and another group by the breakfast nook.
By placing all of these lights under the control of a few dimmer switches, you’ll be able to adjust the settings of the lights in a number of different ways to suit your tasks. For instance, after a meal is prepared and you’re ready to eat, you could use the dimmers to put the lights by the stove at a 10 percent intensity level but brighten the fixtures over the table to 80 percent. The other lights could go to 60 percent—a level that provides general illumination but allows you to save energy at the same time.
In addition to the kitchen and bathroom, other areas that are good candidates for dimmers are family rooms, dining rooms and the exterior of your house.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.