Many homes come standard with toggle light switches, making the norm for most households “on or off.” Some homeowners may find it difficult to remember to turn off the lights when they leave a room, wasting energy to light a room with no one in it. Others may find the lights too bright, wishing for a way to bring the amount of light down. With modern lighting control technology, there are choices out there that allow you to dim your lights, set timers, and even install motion sensors to manage your light and save on energy costs.

Dimmer switches come in a few varieties and allow homeowners to control the light output of their fixtures. Dimmer switches are a fantastic way to save on energy costs, as dimming a light by just 10 percent can extend the life of your lightbulbs by a great deal, reducing their wattage along with their light output.

  • A single-pole dimmer switch will control all the lights that you will dim; this type of switch is great for controlling under-mounted lighting in shelving or kitchen cabinets.

  • A three-way dimmer switch comes with a slider for dimming as well as an on-off switch. Three-way dimmers are great for rooms that you wish to keep at a certain level of light, like a formal dining room.

  • Multi-control dimmers control the light from four or more locations and are great for rooms with multiple types of lighting installed, like a living room with both table lamps and overhead lighting.

Timers are a great way to control light usage, especially outdoors. Timers can turn on your outdoor lights automatically and then turn them off for you after a certain hour, saving you the trouble of having to remember to do it yourself as well as the energy that would have been used had the lights simply been left on all night. Timers are also useful if you are traveling and your house will be standing empty for an extended period of time—using light timers to light a few rooms in your house while you are away will make your home look lived in and deter opportunistic criminals.

Motion sensors are useful in spaces that only require light when a person is present, such as near a utility box or just outside the garage. These sensors will turn on the light for you as you move past and then turn the light off again a short while after you leave. Motion sensors are also great for outdoor security, as any movement near them will illuminate the area.

Occupancy sensors work similarly to motion sensors by turning the lights inside your home on and off based on what their detection sensors pick up. These tools will turn your lights on only when someone is present within range of their sensors. Occupancy sensors come in two types, ultrasonic and infrared. Ultrasonic sensors detect sound, while infrared sensors detect heat and movement. Occupancy sensors turn the lights on as they sense someone’s presence in a room and will turn the lights off again soon after the room becomes unoccupied.

Photo sensors work by detecting the amount of light already present in an area and keeping additional lights off until they are necessary. They can also turn your lights on at a certain brightness to work with the existing daylight and provide a constant level of light, even as you transition from day to night. Photo sensors can be especially useful when used in tandem with motion sensors outdoors to ensure that outdoor lights only come on at night, even if people are moving within range of the motion sensor during the day.

Using these lighting add-ons will help you conserve energy and allow you to better control the light in your environment. Whether it’s motion sensors to manage your outdoor lighting or a dimmer to set the mood for a nice holiday dinner, lighting control features can help you say goodbye to your simple toggle switches and make the most of your energy use.

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Sources: Electramedics Electrical Services; HGTVRemodels; GreenYour; US Department of Energy.

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