Brighten Your Home
Other Energy Saving Ideas
Automatic controls & lighting savings
You may use controls to turn-off or to reduce lighting to appropriate levels and get energy savings.
These main automatic controls are:
- Photo-sensors: used to respond to sunlight
appearance and disappearance.
- Timers: used to limit lighting to within certain operating periods or to turn on lights for short periods.
- Motion sensors: used to either turn on or turn up
lights, whenever somebody appears.
- Dimmers: used to regulate the light output.
Adding photo-sensors, motion sensors, timers and dimmers can help you save energy by adding light only where and when necessary.
Photo-sensors react automatically to outdoor daylight levels, allowing lights to turn off when the sun comes up and to turn on when the sun disappears.
Use these controls to turn lighting on and off when desired: there are many types of timers, with different possibilities. Common models allow weekly settings,
with different timings every day.
Motion sensors are key elements in indoor lighting
(in stairwells, closets and utility rooms, where they can turn the light on or off without human interference).
But they are also excellent options in outdoor lighting,
namely in driveways and pathways.
Incandescent lights/motion sensors are a common and good option, since incandescents only have to operate for short periods and are independent to temperature impact.
Dimmers are controls used to vary the intensity of the light output, which may be an interesting feature in both
indoor and outdoor electricity savings.
Be aware, however. New dimmers are devices that turn the switch on and off very rapidly, causing problems with Compact Fluorescent Lamps, causing them to burn out quickly. Some manufacturers have designed special CFLs to deal with this problem, but those CFLs are more complex
and expensive, and do not work satisfactorily with many dimmers. Present dimmers work best with incandescent bulbs.
Installing lighting controls
Most of lighting controls are easy to install and if
your system is simple, then their installation is a
do-it-yourself job, if you are comfortable with basic wiring.
Just follow the product's instructions.
Low voltage lighting:
Low-voltage is a type of outdoor lighting that uses 12 volt instead of the common household 110/120 volts. Low-voltage is energy-efficient, and also cheap and easy to install – a reason that explains its increasing popularity.
Be careful, anyway: use low-voltage outdoor lighting parsimoniously, only and where necessary.
And do not forget controls (timers, photocells...)
that can be used to avoid light pollution.
Low-voltage outdoor kits:
There are many pre-packaged kits with
all the correspondent components:
- the transformer (or power back),
- cables and
Kits are often conceived to be expanded: you can add
lights in the future as necessary, or you can purchase a second (and a third…) kit to expand your system.
There are low-voltage outdoor lighting kits for all prices. Prices of some inexpensive kits range from $15 to $100, but the best ones are $300 and more. It all depends on the number and type of fixtures and materials. Be aware: low prices usually mean low quality and non-friendly environmental solutions.
The low voltage lamps are, obviously, the kit’s source of light.
Lamps can be of very different types and watts. Halogen lamps
are the most common and the ones presented in most kits, but the market is beginning to offer low voltage fluorescent, which are much more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. Obviously, you should use lights rated for outdoor use.
Outdoor lighting fixtures should be rated as
water-resistant and for outdoor use.
There are many options concerning low-voltage fixtures,
with endless styles, most of them of low quality
and source of light pollution.
Transformers (Power-Backs) and outlets:
Low-voltage transformers supply the electricity and are conceived to plug into standard outlets in order to reduce the 110/120 volts household current to just 12 volts. Many transformers, even the cheaper, have automatic timers in order to switch lights on/off at preset times. Configurations are variable, but even cheaper and common 100-watt transformers have a manual on/off switch and an automatic timer.
The outlets used by transformers are usually outdoor ones,
but it can also be indoor outlets (just be sure that
the transformer is rated for inside use and there is enough space around it, in order to avoid heat negative side effects).
There are several options concerning
transformers and their capacities.
The number of garden lights/fixtures that can be connected to a particular transformer depends on its capacity and on the total wattage demanded by the fixtures. If the transformer is, say, 100-watt, then the total wattage of the lights should not exceed 100 watts (10 garden lights with 10-watt bulbs, for instance).
In the above example, if you wanted to install 20 lights or 30 lights (instead of 10) you could purchase a second/third transformer… The alternative to these standard packages, is to buy a bigger transformer and configure a less standardized system: the size of transformer, in this case, depends on the number of light fixtures you may want to install...
Some basic calculations will be needed, in this case. If, for instance, you intend to install 10 path lights of 18 watts (180 W) and 2 down-lighting lights of 50 W (100 W) then you will need a 300-watt transformer – or a larger one to allow future expansions (the extra wattage should not exceed one-third of the total needs, anyway). Typically, transformers can range from 150 W to 900 W.
Low voltage cable:
The low voltage cable transmits the electricity. Low voltage cable must be weather-resistant. Typically they begin and end at the transformer (creating a looped run).
Popular sizes include 12-, 14- and 16-gauge (gauge
depends on the amount of watts required to operate the system). Typically 16-gauge cable can carry 150 watts,
while 14-gauge cable can carry 200 watts and 12-gauge (the standard wire gauge) cable can carry 300 watts.
Installation & Low-voltage
Some pre-packaged low-voltage systems are relatively
simple and safe to install and may not demand
a professional electrician.
Take into account some basic design techniques.