Saving energy on lighting
In every house, there are switches for lights that tend to be used infrequently (basement lights, for instance). People often turn on these lights and forget to turn them off because they don’t see that the light is on. Three-way switches exacerbate this problem because the switch position (up/down) doesn’t correspond to “on” or “off.” Is there a way to overcome these problems and avoid wasting electricity?
Fine Homebuilding editors, via email, None
Clifford A. Popejoy, a licensed electrical contractor in Sacramento, Calif., replies: There are several ways to make sure that lights are turned off when they’re no longer being used. If you leave lights on a lot, one simple solution is to replace conventional switches with illuminated ones. These switches have a tiny neon light that comes on when the switch is off. The neon light uses such a negligible amount of electricity that it would take years to rack up the watt-hours used by a bulb left on for several hours. So compared to leaving a light on, the switches save considerable electricity.
As an alternative, you can use a pilot switch, which is illuminated when the switch is turned on.
The problem that remains with both illuminated and pilot switches is that someone still has to notice that the switch needs to be turned off. For more fool-proof energy savings, you can rely on timed switches or motion-sensitive switches. Different timer-equipped switches are available, priced from around $20 for a basic switch that allows you to select a 2-, 5-, 10-, or 15-minute delay before the switch goes off. Another option is to use a motion sensor with a timed shutoff. You can buy a sensor that screws into a standard incandescent socket (photo above), or get motion-sensing circuitry integrated into switches or light fixtures.