Article
If you're a residential lighting professional or electrical contractor, you already understand the importance of helping customers save energy. Everyone loves to get a break on their utility bills. If you can save them money on their electrical energy costs, you're their hero for life.

Residential Energy Savings. Starting Simply.

Steve Maurer, IME
If you're a residential lighting professional or electrical contractor, you already understand the importance of helping customers save energy. Everyone loves to get a break on their utility bills. If you can save them money on their electrical energy costs, you're their hero for life.

But you also realize that each job may have a unique set of circumstances.

Not every homeowner is enamored with the latest "smart" technology. I am … but my neighbor down the street?

Not so much.

He's rather old school, to be honest.

But that doesn't mean you can't help him save on his electric bill. You just need to keep it simple, that's all.

And while saving money is important, deep down we all like convenience, too.

So, what can you offer that will supply both?

Simple, yet elegant solutions for energy savings
Toggle switches and dimmers have been used for residential lighting control for decades. Their premise and operation is simple. A toggle switch is simply a single-pole, single-throw contact, operated by a toggle or rocker.

The dimmer switch is just as uncomplicated. It combines a contact with a rheostat to control the amount of power sent to the lamp. Whether a rotary switch or a slider, the operation is the same.

So, how can you provide an enhance version of these two switches that will be just as easy to use, and yet still help the homeowner realize the potential energy savings?

The simplest and most elegant way is to replace the old switches with models that contain occupancy sensors.

The switches can be replaced one at a time, giving the homeowner the chance to see how they work. Or you can retrofit all of the switches at once, helping the customer achieve savings immediately.

Here's how they work.

Understanding occupancy versus vacancy
Most of these sensors are generically called occupancy sensors. You may even have heard the term "motion sensors."

Most models have two settings: occupancy and vacancy.

Here's the difference. An occupancy sensor switch setting is totally automatic. It senses when someone enters the room and turns the lights on. They remain on until the switch no longer senses movement. Then, it shuts off the light.

In the vacancy setting, the switch is turned on manually via the wall switch. Similar to the occupancy setting, when no movement is sensed, the switch turns off the lights.

Lutron's Maestro line of occupancy switches are perfect examples of this technology.

The setting chosen may depend on the room you're installing the switch in. For example, the homeowner may want the occupancy setting in the laundry room because their hands may be loaded down with baskets of clothes. Even closets might be best served by this setting.

Kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms are often set to the vacancy setting. The light is turned on manually when required, and the light is turned off automatically when the room is vacated, and lights are no longer necessary.

If the homeowner has children, you can imagine this would be an important selling point for occupancy switches. They might tell their kids to turn off the light when leaving their room. An occupancy sensing switch ensures it gets done.

Additional option for light levels and motors
The switches described above are simple on/off motion sensing units. They'll work with any lamp type found in the home.

However, there is another option that allows additional dimming capability. This can be great in children's rooms where the lights are bright for studying schoolwork, and dimmed for use as a night light.

Living rooms, dining rooms, and any room where reduced lumen levels enhance certain activities will benefit from switches with dimming technology.

There is one caveat. Dimming switches work with most, but not all lamps. Incandescents, LEDs, and halogen lamps work well with them. However, fluorescent lamps and fixtures must be rated as dimmable.

Finally, let's not forget the bathroom exhaust fan. Most bathroom have a separate switch for both the light and the fan. You can replace the old fan switch with one that turns on the fan manually, but turns it off via a settable timer. Add in an occupancy sensor for the lights, and you have a smarter bathroom, simply.

For living rooms and other rooms with ceiling fans, you might provide a Maestro fan control/lighting dimmer. The dimmer works as usual. However, the fan switch has four speed settings.

Explain to the homeowner that they'll never have to reach up and yank on a pull chain again. They'll like that.

Now, people who don't want all kinds of hi-tech gadgets in the home can benefit from the energy savings afforded by simple, yet elegant switch solutions.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
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