Timers and sensors

You don’t have to remember to turn off the lights

Did your parents nag you constantly to ‘turn off the lights!’ when you left a room? Timers and sensors can take care of the problem for you — and therefore reduce energy use in your home.

Low cost and relatively easy to install, timers and sensors control lighting and electricity when rooms and appliances aren’t being used. This saves on power and extends the functional life of bulbs and appliances. Timers can also help with security, switching lights on and off when no one is at home.

In terms of the value of switching appliances and bulbs off, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) reports that ‘simple switch-off habits’ could save your household around $200 a year.

Read on to find out more about three tools that can help you automate your life and keep power bills down:

  • strategies 
  • timers 
  • sensors.

Strategies: Put an end to vampire power

Dubbed ‘vampire power’ or ‘phantom current’, the standby mode on your appliances can waste power. However some simple strategies can provide an easy solution.

Consider grouping your devices, such as the DVD player, gaming console, decoder and television, with one timer. Resembling multiple outlet power boards, these timers will sense when the primary load, such as the television, is switched off. The timer then automatically powers down all the ancillary appliances.

When you use smart timers you extend the life of appliances and batteries and reduce energy use in your home.

Common brands are Smart Strip® and Watt Stopper® 

A second helpful tip is to begin where usage is highest, such as clusters of kitchen appliances and home entertainment electronics, and work your way down through appliances used less often.

Timers save power and hassle

Televisions, gaming consoles, computers, microwave ovens, coffee machines, lights, radios, printers… there’s no shortage of hungry, power consuming electronics in the home. Remembering to switch these electronics on and off can be a hassle.

Computers, including PCs and Apple devices, can be scheduled to shut down and go to sleep automatically. However home entertainment clusters, for example, are not so easy to control. In addition to smart strips, there are many different single plug timers for indoor and outdoor use.

You can also purchase heated towel rail timers for under $30 at your local hardware store (if left on all the time, a standard 80W heated towel rail left on all the time costs around $180 a year to run.

Reduce your power bill without a second thought

Motion sensors, traditionally employed in the security industry, are becoming increasingly popular for achieving considerable energy savings in residential homes.

Sensors come in different types and have different uses, such as:

  1. On/off sensors turn lights on for a set time when the sensor detects movement. The light turns off again between 8 seconds and 12 minutes after the last movement has been detected (depending on your settings)
  2. 0 - 10V dimmer sensors work with dimmable lights (reducing down to a low ambient light at a setting of your choice) when turning off the light completely is not a desired option.
  3. Photo sensors respond to light, and will turn the lights on when it gets dark. They are ideal for path lighting and security. Instead of leaving the light on 24 hours a day when you’re away, a photo sensor and timer will do the job for you.

It’s important to note here that common CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) may not work so well with timers, sensors and controllers.