Saving Energy Increasingly Becoming More Important for U.S. Families

In a recently published study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research entitled ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND INDEPENDENCE: HOW THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDS, LEARNS AND ACTS, has indicated that American families rank energy issues very highly after the economy, education, and health care.

As reported by Dina Cappiello of The Associated Press, she writes that

as summer beckons, it seems Americans are thinking more about the stifling cost of energy than about making tracks to the beach.

In the bar graph above, you can see that saving money on energy costs is the second-highest ranked priority by the respondents to this survey. At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) of Colorado, we have seen a very strong demand by both new and existing customers for the latest LED lighting fixtures. In almost every case, the homeowners expressed a strong desire to decrease their energy usage.

In the U.S., previous studies have determined that residential lighting accounts for as much as 15-percent of a household’s total energy budget. Until recently, almost half of this energy usage dedicated to lighting had been wasted due to the use of inefficient bulbs (incandescent), the use of higher wattage bulbs than needed for effective illumination, and the fact that lighting systems were not automatically controlled.

The low voltage LED lighting systems (new and retrofit) that OLP of Colorado has been installing will provide a homeowner an energy savings of as much as 82-percent over the previous quartz halogen system. Later this week our crews will be retrofitting an existing customer’s lighting system to LED, and I will report our progress in a future blog post.

Come See Us at the 2012 Colorado Garden & Home Show

It’s hard to believe, but the 2012 Colorado Garden and Home Show opens on Saturday, February 11th – just three weeks from today! The show runs every day between February 11th through Sunday, February the 19th.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) invites you to visit our exhibit in Booth #1442 (same location as last year) to see the latest in landscape and outdoor lighting products and services, as well as lighting controls/home automation. At this show, we will also be launching a new 5W PAR36 LED bulb retrofit that will revolutionize the landscape lighting industry. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for additional information.

The show’s hours are Saturdays (from 10am to 8pm); Sundays (from 10am to 6pm); and Monday through Friday (from noon to 8pm). We look forward to seeing you at the show!

Celebrate Earth Day Today!

Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day today – April 22, 2010. I’m actually old enough to remember the first Earth Day when I was a sophomore at Penn State. Earth Day has certainly come a long way since then. Fortunately more and more people worldwide are beginning to live their lives and run their businesses as though Earth Day were every day of the year!

At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) of Colorado, we certainly emphasize the use of energy efficient lighting products such as low voltage quartz halogen, low voltage LED, line voltage Ceramic Metal Halide, line voltage induction fluorescent, and Lighting Control Automation™ for our residential and/or commercial customers. For interior lighting, Compact Fluorescents (CFLs) and LEDs are helping to greatly reduce homeowners’ energy usage as well.

Sometimes, even the little things add up. In OLP’s business operations we recycle copper wiring and the copper cores of low voltage transformers, stainless steel transformers, office papercardboard, and aluminum cans. For service calls and installations, we route and schedule our crews/vans to minimize travel time and mileage.  To improve fuel economy, we off-load unnecessary inventory/tools and ladders on roof racks before heading off to that day’s job tickets.

To take part in Earth Day festivities being held this week in Colorado, please take a look and participate in the events shown below:

EARTH DAY 40TH ANNIVERSARY NREL Visitors Center, Golden; April 19 – 23; free events during the week; www.nrel.gov

EARTH DAY ON EAST MOUNTAIN – 240 – 262 E. Mountain Avenue, Old Town Fort Collins; April 22. Block Party – celebrate Earth Day with live music/food, demos and presentations about growth and sustainability. www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=105316966166440&ref=ts

DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS – 1007 York St., Denver; April 22; FREE DAY for Colorado residents; www.botanicgardens.org

EARTH DAY AT RED ROCKS – Saturday, April 24; Red Rocks Amphitheater; Morrison. Eco-friendly events – musical performance by Aspen Meadow, wolves from W.O.L.F. Sanctuary, clean up event at the park and environmental displays. www.windstarcoloradoconnection.org

PIKES PEAK EARTH DAY – Saturday April 24; Cornerstone Arts Center – Colorado College, Colorado Springs. Theme – 40 Years of Earth Day – ReVision, RePurpose, ReNew. www.Pikespeakearthday.org

EARTH FEST 2010 – Sunday, April 25; downtown Boulder – Central Park, Bandshell and Farmers Market. Eco activities/events – renewable energy demos, 5th Annual Dirt Day Advanced Challenge/EXPO, live music and organice food. www.earthfestboulder.net

So whether you celebrate at one of these events or by doing something for Mother Earth at home, have a good time and remember that Earth Day should be every day of the year!

Celebrate Earth Hour Today!

Tonight from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm in each local time zone around the world, supporters of the World Wildlife Federation’s annual EARTH HOUR campaign will turn off their lights to take a stand against global climate change. While the energy savings for this one-hour effort may be minimal, more important will be the global show of support by making a visual statement for the sustainability movement.

Started in Australia in 2007, EARTH HOUR’S support has grown worldwide and some of the most famous buildings will go dark for one hour during their local 8:30 to 9:30 pm time period including Toronto’s CN Tower, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colisseum, and Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

In Colorado, both the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol building will go dark for one hour. Governor Bill Ritter said that Colorado has become a great example of how a state can implement aggressive energy reduction goals while growing a New Energy Economy. I am proud that Colorado can be a part of this worldwide effort to bring attention to the dire consequences of global climate change.

Please join Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado in supporting this worldwide effort. We of course are trying to do our part by reducing the energy/carbon footprints of both our residential and commercial lighting installations. By introducing and installing energy efficient LED lighting systems for residential applications as well as Lighting Control Automation™ we are greatly reducing our customer’s usage of electricity. On the commercial side, we are installing energy efficient Ceramic Metal Halide fixtures.

Safe and Secure Entry

One of the lighting jobs we completed last week included additional work with our Lighting Control Automation™ (LCA) system. This particular lighting scenario is called Safe/Secure Entry.

This lighting control can be set up in a number of ways to give homeowners additional security when they arrive home after dark. For example, interior lights can be triggered to turn on as soon as the garage door opens after dark – but not during the daytime. Key fobs can also provide manual controls to a homeowner when approaching their home after dark.

In the following video by Winston Edwards (Outdoor Lighting Perspectives corporate factory in Nashville), the use of a key fob remote that turns on the driveway and interior lights after pulling into a standalone garage is demonstrated.

I hope that you enjoyed the LCA demonstration – I’ll be posting additonal videos in the near future.

Another Reason to Use Lighting Control AutomationTM – Please Note the Intermatic Timer Recall

In a previous post, we highlighted state-of-the-art whole-house lighting control systems available today including the one we use, Lighting Control Automation™. We also mentioned some of the older technology still in use including the Intermatic electronic in-wall timer.

We just learned today that Intermatic has RECALLED 240,000 of their in-wall electronic timers because the product might pose a shock hazard to consumers trying to replace a battery. The model numbers include ST01, ST01C, ST01AC, ST01AC70, ST01C70, ST01CL, EI600C, EI600LAC, EI600LAC8, EI600WC and EI600WC8. These switches typically replaced an existing toggle or decora switch, and were sold at electrical supply houses and other retail outlets nationwide between March 2007 and June of this year.

If you have one of these switches, you can obtain details about this recall by calling 877-417-4316; online at Intermatic.com; or by accessing the website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That is truly one of the great benefits of our Lighting Control Automation system, in that each intelligent switch does not need or even require a battery back up. Once the switch is programmed, the program is preserved forever and batteries are not required to back up the memory. In addition, there is no need to keep reprogramming the on and off times throughout the year since Lighting Control Automation does that for you automatically.

Lighting Controls Save Energy/Money and Enhance Security

For many years, lighting control was simply thought of as a manual switch that enabled a homeowner to turn on or off the front porch or carriage lights, or outside landscape lighting system. The problem with that control system is that someone would either forget to turn the lights on when it got dark or invariably forget to turn them off during the daytime. That inevitably wastes energy and money. Many homes today still have three or four sets of switches along the entire length of the house that someone has to manually control twice each day.

Photocells were sometimes added to control exterior line voltage lights as well as low voltage lighting systems over the years – and the lights run at full power from dusk to dawn or longer, depending on the location of the photocell. The other problem is that if you have several lighting zones, it is virtually impossible to synchronize the lights; i.e, some lights may be turning on or off as much as an hour earlier/later than other lights. Photocells work great for public or commercial properties where dusk to dawn lighting is deemed necessary for public safety/security. However, for most residential applications, a photocell is wasteful because the homeowner is paying for lighting all night long – even when they might only need it to say 11:00 PM.

Then someone got the bright idea of combining the photocell with a mechanical timer (on a low-voltage lighting transformer) or an electronic timer on a switch inside the house that controls carriage lights, for example. In the case of the low voltage lighting system, that works great until there’s a power outage and the timer no longer has the correct current time. And if you have multiple lighting zones, the lights are invariably coming on and going off at different times. The other disadvantage is that you also do not have the ability to manually turn the lights on and off from inside the house.

In the case of the electronic timer used in an in-wall switch (Intermatic is used a lot), it may work fine for one set of exterior lights but there is no way to synchronize all of the lighting circuits so that they operate at exactly the same time. Most of these Intermatic switches have been installed by do-it-yourself homeowners – and many times we’ve found that they’ve actually been unsafely overloaded.

More sophisticated whole-house automation systems have been in use in recent years including Lutron (hardwired and RadioRA), Control 4, X10 and others. The hardwired Lutron systems are typically used in large new homes over 10,000 square feet and we have many lighting systems that interface with this control system. We also have experience with Control 4 and Lutron’s RadioRA systems – both of which use wireless technology. Our experience is that the more control nodes that the homeowner adds throughout the house, the more robust and reliable the control system becomes. So if you need to send a signal over long distances and there are not many nodes in between, this wireless technology can be problematic.

We started off using the X10 control system ten years ago – but dropped it over three years ago because of unresolved technical issues. As it turns out, the X10 technology was not able to overcome the signal interference problems caused by the new electronic devices increasingly common in today’s home.

So what we’re now using for all of our residential installations is Lighting Control Automation™ (LCA) which is based on Universal Powerline Bus technology. We can control all of the low voltage lighting transformers and any or all of the interior/exterior line voltage lights from a single controller that is plugged into an interior outlet.

Once the controller has been programmed, you can plug it in and forget it. The device automatically adjusts on/off times according to the daily astronomical sunset/sunrise times for the home’s specific latitude/longitude, and it automatically adjusts for daylight savings/standard time and leap year as needed.

What once were standard “dumb” mechanical switches can be converted to Lighting Control Automation “intelligent” switches with a series of different faceplates  – that would enable you to be able to control from one to eight different other circuits throughout the house.

The beauty of the LCA system is that it can do roughly 85-percent of what a Lutron control system can do – at about one-third of the price. And the LCA system does not have to be hard-wired because it uses the existing house wiring and is an excellent choice for remodels as well as retrofits.

So what kind of applications can be handled by Lighting Control Automation? Almost anything and everything:

–  automate your front carriage lights to operate at 85-percent power to save energy and to turn off automatically; never waste power again because you forgot to turn the lights off before going to bed. This dimming level will also ensure that the carriage lights become integrated with the overall lighting effect, instead of otherwise ruining an effective design because they cause too much glare.

–  automate the lights in any room of your house and randomize the on/off times when you are away to give the house a lived-in look to deter vandalism.

–  automate a SECURE-ENTRY scenario whereby interior lights turn on when you turn into your driveway or use your garage door remote.

– automate your basement and rec-room lights so that they never get left on overnight again

–  provide a warning light to notify the homeowner that the garage door was left open before turning in for the night

–  in hot weather, automate a ceiling fan or automatically lower solar blinds to keep the house cool.

–  provide an ALL-LIGHTS ON scenario in case a noise is heard in the middle of the night.

–  if you have children who have difficulty waking during the dark mornings during the wintertime, LCA can mimic a sunrise by having a table lamp slowly get brighter over time.

The number of possible applications for Lighting Control Automation is endless, and it provides a lighting designer the ability to fully coordinate and integrate the overall lighting scene for maximum effect.

LCA Timer

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