Functional equations like the ones showing how much you’ll save every month by dimming your lights can be incredibly useful. But practical as the results make energy upgrades seem, they may not tell the whole story.
What we mean is that the real value of upgrades like lighting control may not always be apparent at first glance. Here, we’ll try to uncover a few of the not so often cited benefits of installing advanced lighting control and automation equipment.
● Security and protection
In the US, insurance companies put the cost of the average home break-in in the neighborhood of $2000. Although there are many factors that may go into why a particular home is targeted, lighting can certainly reduce this likelihood.
For decades, vacationing families have been putting their lights on timers to avoid the appearance that the home is vacant for days or weeks on end. So, there’s definitely some faith in the merits of this strategy. And from the curb, contemporary systems with remote controls, web apps, and more random scenarios may do more to confound unscrupulous onlookers.
● Behavioral influence
Most lighting controls can be easily configured to provide consistent savings. Let’s say, for example, that you install a 600W dimmer in your living room where you spend three hours every evening with the family. Dimming your lights to 65 percent of their normal capacity could save you between $35 and $40 a year.
The real value, however, may come in the form of awareness. With today’s lighting controls, energy usage gathered from lighting and electronics around the house can be conveniently aggregated on wall panels, dedicated displays, or consumer devices like tablet PCs. The impact of simply illustrating our energy use habits, according to researchers, can be dramatic. In one prominent UK study, graphic in-home displays helped users to reduce consumption up to 15 percent.
In the US, utility providers are pouring money into programs that alert homeowners to just how much power they use as well as to ways that they might cut back. These vary from door hangers to in-home displays that provide up to the minute cost and usage data, but they all employ the same basic idea: tell people how much they use, provide them with tools for comparison, and they’ll intuitively adjust their habits.
● Home resale value
While lighting control can certainly improve the aesthetics of a home, thus boosting value, there’s no simple formula that we can apply across the board to calculate gains. On the other hand, the relationship of energy efficiency upgrades to home value is something that has been more closely examined.
Research commissioned by the EPA shows that a home’s resale value increases $20.73 for every $1.00 of savings in annual fuel costs. This was a few years ago, but one could reasonably surmise that as energy costs continue to increase, so will the value associated with efficiency.
Even in a troubled real estate market, the Seatle based startup G2B Ventures sees real value in residential energy upgrades. In fact, they’ve bet more than $50 million on the resale value created by energy efficient retrofits.
The G2B business model also implies that upgrades are profitable even when the buyers don’t plan to live in the home long enough for the yearly savings to exceed equipment and installation costs.
Finite as it is, time is one of our most precious commodities. And for the energy conscious individual, trying to cut back can eat up a lot of it.
In a moderately sized home, it’s likely that you spend at least 10 minutes a day searching for lights and gadgets left on before heading to the office or upstairs to bed. At work, if you’re pulling in $60K per year, they’re paying you $1,703 for that kind of time.