In the United States alone, the Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2011, we used 461 billion kWh to light our residential and commercial properties. That equals about 12 percent of the total electricity consumed in North America.
Our first response to these numbers is to reiterate to ourselves that we should be turning off the lights when the rooms are empty. But that really depends on the light bulb you have installed. For example, with an incandescent light bulb, you have a 90 percent energy loss when it's on, so keep that thing off as much as possible. Halogens, too, should be turned off whenever possible. Yet, when it comes to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), they can consume more energy by being turned on and off than by just staying on, depending on how often you turn them off (Hint: If you’re coming back into the room in 15 minutes, leave it on).
The recommendations are confusing, and if you’re like me, you don’t pay attention to the type of light you have in the room. And maybe, like me, you hear your father’s voice yelling in your head to “turn off that light” every time you leave the room. Bad advice, since now I’m turning on and off my hallway CFL light bulb a few dozen times a night as I pass in and out of rooms.
This is why the new smart home market, especially smart lighting, is so important. We shouldn’t have to know what type of light bulb is in a fixture, or know what type of energy loss the bulb has. Actually, why do we even have to turn on and off lights at all? With sensors, the bulbs can figure out themselves if we’re in the room or not, and if we add in a hub and some sensor fusion, the smart lighting in your house will even be able to figure out your habits and trends to estimate how long you’ll be out of the room.
Want to save energy? This is a good place to look. Smart lighting has some amazing potential not just to reduce our energy consumption, but also change our lives with smart controls and pattern recognition, which is why Semico is hosting a half-day conference on Smart Lighting and Building Automation in Santa Clara on April 23. Secure your seat by registering now!
Michell Prunty is a senior analyst for consumer markets at Semico Research Corp.