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Get smart with lighting this spring: dimmers, timers, motion sensors

BC Hydro's Outreach team offers detailed advice on energy-efficient lighting to British Columbians at events across the province.
As a member of BC Hydro's Outreach team, Laura Chan offers detailed advice on energy-efficient lighting to British Columbians at events across the province.

Use lighting controls to maximize your savings

Posted by Laura Chan

Most of us turn our lights on and off throughout the day without thinking twice about it. While most British Columbians now have energy-efficient CFLs or LED bulbs at home, not all of us are using them as efficiently as possible.

As kids, we're taught the importance of turning off the lights when we leave a room. Lighting and lighting controls contribute to about 16 per cent of the annual electricity costs in the average home. Many of us don't realize easy changes that can be made to our lighting controls to ensure we save electricity and money.

Use dimmers to turn up your savings

Dimmers and dimmer switches allow you to control the light output of the bulb, which is especially useful during the spring and summer months when the days are longer and there is more daylight. With dimmers you can adjust the light output for the appropriate task. So if you are reading or doing very detailed work, you might want the light output to be as bright as possible, but if you're relaxing in the evening you might want lower light.

Important things to remember when installing dimmers:

  • Dimmer switches are fairly easy to install and can be purchased at most local hardware stores. There's a wide variety of switches available, ranging from products that can be controlled remotely to others that automatically adjust the light levels throughout the day.
  • Not all dimmers are compatible with LED bulbs. At low levels, the light bulb may not work, or you may experience flickering if you install an LED bulb in a dimmer designed for an incandescent bulb. Check the packaging before purchasing your dimmer, and look for one that is compatible with energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Be sure to read the packaging of all energy efficient bulbs to ensure they are dimmable. If they're not dimmable, using a dimmer with them may reduce the lifetime of the bulb and fixture.

Make things easy with timers, motion sensors

Outdoor motion sensors and timers take the thinking out of the equation for you.

Once you set the time for the light to come on and the time for it to turn off, you don't have to think about it again.

Not only are motion sensors and timers convenient, they can also act as a safety feature for your home. Instead of leaving lights on all day when you're out, set a few of your lights on timers so that they can turn on shortly before you arrive home.

When you're choosing timers and motion sensors, here's a few tips:

  • Many timers just plug into an outlet and are very easy to install.
  • You can buy smart power strips that have a timer built in. That way, you're not leaving unnecessary lights on, and you can eliminate phantom power.
  • If you're looking to be as energy efficient as possible, you can try solar-powered LED motion sensors. A small solar panel charges a battery and stores that power until needed.
  • Be sure to read all of the packaging when purchasing your energy-efficient light bulb to ensure it can be used in these applications.

Shopping for energy-efficient bulbs or fixtures? Save with special offers

If you're ready to make your lighting more energy-efficient, don't miss out on special offers on ENERGY STARĀ® bulbs and fixtures until April 30, 2014.

Check out special deals at retailers across B.C.

Pair new bulbs or fixtures with some dimmers or timers, and start saving.

Laura Chan works with BC Hydro's Outreach team.