Article
 There's no denying it. We've come light years from the age of campfires and candlesticks. The invention of electricity sparked a new era in many areas and industries. From Ben Franklin's famous kite experiment in 1752 to Michael Faraday's research in the 1830's, the harnessing of this powerful energy source made a change in the way we work and live and play.

Smart Home Energy Savings in the Digitally Connected Age

Steve Maurer, IME
There's no denying it. We've come light years from the age of campfires and candlesticks. The invention of electricity sparked a new era in many areas and industries.

From Ben Franklin's famous kite experiment in 1752 to Michael Faraday's research in the 1830's, the harnessing of this powerful energy source made a change in the way we work and live and play.
Electronics tech development brought on the digital age. And it wasn't long before we became "connected" by and to the cloud through wireless technology.

If you're a residential/commercial electrical contractor or professional lighting designer, you probably have an important little slice of technology like mine strapped to your belt. My smartphone goes with me everywhere. I don't leave home without it!

I check my emails, send texts, browse social media, and communicate with clients and customers through apps. And yes, I do make the occasional phone call.

But our phones aren't all that have gotten smarter.

Our homes become smart homes with the addition of a little digital tech. Our phones integrate seamlessly into that scenario. Your home can be controlled from literally anywhere in the world.

You can offer smart home technology to your residential customers, showing them several ways to save money on their electricity bills.

And while lighting accounts for about 20% of that bill, you can offer even more than just remotely turning lights on and off.

Wireless Remote Control Lighting
There are several options for designing and creating a smart home lighting schema. One of the first that comes to many people is installing smart LED bulbs in fixtures.

With that type of lamp, you connect to an app and home assistant device via Bluetooth to the phone and Wi-Fi to the voice assistant.

It's not too difficult to do. But, it can be rather time consuming as each lamp in each fixture must be individually added to the app. And since they're individual lamps, if you need them to work in unison, they must be placed in groups or rooms.

Aside from the time spent setting them up, there's another downside: cost. The cost per bulb can range from five dollars each, up to $40 for high end, multi feature lamps.

You may or may not need a "bridge" to connect them to home assistant devices for compatibility.
Another issue is that all the bulbs in the fixture must be "smart" if you're going to control them. And by the way, the vast majority of them are LED bulbs with screw in bases.

So while it is a viable, do-it-yourself option, as a professional lighting designer or contractor, there is another option you can suggest to your customers and clients.

Instead of controlling the lamps. Control the controller … the switch.

Recommend smart switches to your clients instead
One of the main benefits of using smart switches is they work with almost any existing bulb. Incandescent, halogen, LEDs, and CFLs can all be controlled by the ON/OFF smart switch. If you use a dimmer, you need to ensure the LEDs and CFLs are dimming compatible.

Many solutions operate as standalone features or can be integrated with smartphone apps and voice activated assistants, such as Google Home and Alexa.

Additionally, your customer may have fixtures with LED strips instead of lamps. For example, the ceiling fixture in my kitchen uses them. By installing a smart switch, these fixtures can also be controlled.

There are several manufacturers that offer smart home solutions. The one I'm most familiar with is Lutron, which provides various options to connect your smart home.

With several lines of smart switches and other control, you'll find the package that's best suited for your lighting design customer.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be a lighting plan for new home construction. In fact, there are ways to bring virtually any home, regardless of age, into the digitally connected world.

With options ranging from Caséta, connecting up to 75 devices, to HomeWorks that has capacity for up to 10,000 devices, you can design the lighting plan of your clients' dreams.

Smart switches make sense for automating and regulating lighting. Since they can work with existing lamps and fixtures (with a few exceptions), upgrading to smart technology doesn’t have to mean replacing every component.

For retrofits, many components can be installed at separate times, helping the homeowner stay within any budget constraints they have.

Offer more than just lighting control
Artificial lighting is the most common upgrade people think about for smart home tech. However, the technology goes far beyond that. For example, automated window shades can enhance the ambiance of any room by providing the perfect balance of indoor and out door lighting. They synchronize and integrate with the lighting. The right shades also benefit heating and cooling energy consumption.

One more option I'll mention is the control of standby power, also known as "vampire" energy. Many appliances and electronics still consume small amounts of energy when turned off. Walk into any room with the lights off and look around. If you see little indicator lights glowing, that's just one example.

Add smart receptacle adapters to the mix and this can be controlled easily. They may be small amounts of power draw … but they can add up to increased energy cost savings when handled properly.

Finally, along with smart switches for lighting control, there are switches made specifically for fan control as well. Don't forget to consider temperature control. Along with lighting and shade control, smart thermostats offer even more savings for your customer.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
Lutron C·L is now LED+
advertisement
LED Temporary Work Site Light - 100W
advertisement