Retrofitting Lighting to Save Energy May Cost You Complaints

In the early 1980’s I worked for an Electrical Contractor, the economy was down in the Dump and everyone was trying to cut cost any way they could.

We were hired by a company that did energy surveys and worked with the client to get rebates from various funds.  We removed many nice fixtures and replaced them with cheap fluorescent fixtures that were recommended by this energy saving consultant.  The client was getting what was promised to them, a lower monthly bill, what they were giving up would become evident.  The exterior of a restaurant went from having a nice warm glow to a bluish fluorescent glow, the interior went from an atmosphere that had dim subtle lighting that was inviting to stay a while and enjoy, became a commercial environment with the ballast Hum and lighting that makes all our make-up look, made Up. An environment that you can’t wait to leave, and may not return.

After a while and after many complaints the Business owners migrated to dimmable fixtures and Dimmers and they realized that by using dimmers on as many lights that they can they have the option to set the scene and enhance the Moods of their customers and save money at the same time.

We are back in the early 1980’s; we are once again listening to Energy saving consultants that enter all the data into a form and out comes the design.  The design say’s to remove all incandescent lamps and replace them with CFL’s and replace the dimmer with a switch.  The design states that the incandescent uses 150 watts of power and a CFL only uses 27 watts of power, no brainier right?

The design does not tell the client that the 150 watt incandescent uses 75 watts if dimmed half way and that, dimming lights creates relaxing and comfortable moods and customers may return just because of the relaxing and comfortable moods.

I was recently offered a lighting retrofit project that had all those similar items from back in the 80’s except now there is a different line item that needs to be done.  The scope called for all T12 ballast and lamps to be replaced with T8 Ballast and lamps (This is good) and it also called for all T12 ballast and lamps to be recycled due to the hazardous metals inside them (This is Bad).

To recycle a ballast you purchase a 5 gallon bucket that is sent to you empty and you fill it with as many ballast as you can, did I mention that the price of the Pre-paid 5 gallon Ballast recycling bucket is $105 American dollars, so, you will be playing Tetris with those ballast. So for those of you that believe, that, this is a reasonable cost, the ballast is a magnetic transformer that is composed of several thousand yards of fine copper wire coated with a fine layer of insulating varnish to keep it from shorting out, then all this is enclosed in a sheet metal enclosure. So when recycled you end up with metal from the case and copper from the windings, and you know that copper is a valued commodity that is why people are stealing copper wire from anywhere they find it.

To recycle a T12 fluorescent lamp you purchase a prepaid box that holds about 60 T12 lamps for the small cost of $107 dollars, now what is in this T12 lamp that demands so much to recycle?

Well there is glass, there is aluminum, there is mercury, and coiled tungsten, all these ingredients are resold by the recycler. Now most recyclers are funded by State or Federal grants that derive their money from the Tax payer, so let me paint this circle of life, you purchase a fluorescent lamp and you get charged a recycle fee, you use the lamp, the lamp’s life ends, you pay to recycle (again) and when you do your taxes a bit goes to a grant to recycle that lamp.

This time around this facility only needs to recycle the T12 lamps and ballast, but next time that it gets re-lamped they will need to recycle the T8 lamps and all the CFL’s that replaced the incandescent lamps this time around.

The point that I would like to make is that it is smart to Dim, dimming saves energy, save lamp life, saves relationships, and most of all saves the environment, although you can dim some fluorescent fixtures the effect is not the same and the cost is high.  Use Halogen lamps controlled by a dimmer like Lutron’s Maestro or go to a Radio RA2 system, or better yet pamper yourself with a Lutron HomeWorks System.


Preventative maintenance


Preventative maintenance

A common misconception in Home Automation is that when making a large investment in a Home Automation system, the system should be trouble free without any preventative maintenance.

When someone invests in a new luxury vehicle, they do not expect that   vehicle to continue to run without proper maintenance, some manufacturers are including a maintenance plan in the purchase price.  Electronic equipment is manufactured and placed in a Box and sent to a warehouse for storage until it is purchased, in the mean time the manufacturer continues to make updates to the equipment.

For instance when you purchase a new flat screen TV, did you know that in most cases the firmware needs to be updated to get the latest features and as new features are added new firmware is released.

If that flat screen TV is not connected to a Home Automation system the user does not notice any changes, but when it is connected to a home Automation system the changes that were made sometimes will affect the communication between devices making the system unresponsive.  The home owner will blame the Home Automation system.

There are several levels of equipment, starting from the equipment that is sold in Big Box stores such as Best Buy and then the equipment that is only sold to industry professionals. The lower level equipment is priced lower because it is designed to be obsolete and replaced within a year or two.  Most devices at this level will not communicate and will not accept firmware updates.  The higher level equipment is designed to communicate with more devices and to be kept longer because it is a part of a larger system; the manufacturer designs new features and releases updates, upgrading that older piece of equipment with the latest features.

With preventative maintenance your investment continues to have the latest and greatest features, this is not to say that the equipment will not become obsolete.

Many consumers feel that the Custom Electronic Contractors or Custom Electronic Consultants like Vsys Automation specify the higher price equipment based on price alone.  We specify this equipment keeping Design, Communications, and latest technologies in mind (keeping in Mind the Highest Value for our customers) unlike the contractor that Low Bids with equipment that will most likely be obsolete by the time the project is complete.

I have learned by trial and error that “You get what you pay for”.



Lutron Hailed as Most Used Brand by Top 100 Custom Electronics Industry Integrators

Lutron Hailed as Most Used Brand
by Top 100 Custom Electronics Industry Integrators
Coopersburg, PA (June 23, 2009) –– Lighting control manufacturer Lutron Electronics was ranked as the most used brand in the Lighting Control and Shade Control categories in a recent survey by CE Pro magazine, a publication targeting the custom installation community.

The top 100 custom product integrators were featured in the May 2009 issue of the magazine. The most used brand analysis was compiled using the data provided by the top 100 integrators.

Of the 100 integrators profiled:

69% prefer Lutron as their lighting control supplier and
64% prefer Lutron as their shade control supplier
Lutron has been a part of the custom installation community since the early 1990s when its HomeWorks® total home lighting control system debuted with rave reviews and created the category of whole-home lighting control. Since then, the company has gone on to introduce several new lighting control solutions, including Sivoia QED™, an automated shade and drapery system.

About EH Publishing
EH Publishing is an integrated media company, producing market leading publications, event and e-media for the technology and construction industries.

About Lutron Electronics (
Lutron Electronics Co., Inc., headquartered in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, designs and manufactures lighting controls and automated window treatments for residential and commercial applications. Lutron products save energy and make light bulbs last longer, making them an eco-friendly addition to the home and office.

Originally posted at


Wine Cave

Things are really starting to come along on this project. More info coming soon. Bad photos taken by my iPhone.


How can fabrics be sustainable?

Often fabrics are manufactured with chemicals
to make them more durable. Lutron® sustainable
fabrics reduce or remove many of these
chemicals in order to improve indoor air quality.
Others are made from 100% recycled content in
order to protect the environment. Refer to the
sustainable fabrics guide (pages 4-5) to find a
fabric that meets your sustainability needs.

The Gallery CollectionTM brochure
p/n 367-1528
(1.62 MB)
download pdf
Sustainable fabrics brochure
p/n 367-1529
(716 KB)
download pdf
Drapery Systems brochure
p/n 367-1527
(6.5 MB)
download pdf
Skylight shade brochure
p/n 367-1530
(385 KB)
download pdf

Illumination Software Green Features

green_bulb1Illumination Software New Green Features

Recently released HomeWorks Illumination Software version 1.401 Beta includes three new software features that make automated lighting control an even greener solution.

A Green Button allows many different zones to change their actions to something that uses less energy. Dimmable zones are trimmed by a percentage instead of dimmed to a level. For example, you would trim the lights by 10% and make the fade 10 minutes. This long fade assures that the light level change is not abrupt – most homeowners will not know the light level has changed. For all the details on the Green Button, please email

Vacation Mode Trim is another easy way that you can save energy with HomeWorks. ‘Trimming’ refers to being able to set a light level back (lower) by a fixed percentage – say trim back by 25%. In standard vacation mode playback, lights are played back at their exact light levels, day or night. With Vacation Mode Trim, you do two things – 1) Trim back the light levels during vacation mode playback, and 2) only play back the lights at night. By trimming the lights back, and doing it only at night, you save energy and still make the home appear as though it is inhabited. To learn more about Vacation Mode Trim, including a software implementation example, please email


GRAFIK Eye® QS Wireless

Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. continues to grow its roster of wireless products with the addition of GRAFIK Eye QS Wireless. The system provides seamless integration of Lutron light and shade products for complete light control in a space.
Lutron’s GRAFIK Eye QS, introduced to the market in June 2007, is a fully customizable preset light and shade control system, providing convenient control, energy savings, and enhancement of the visual environment.
GRAFIK Eye QS Wireless provides all of the same advanced features as before, along with new wireless connections to Sivoia® QS Wireless shades, wireless occupancy sensors, and additional GRAFIK Eye QS Wireless units. The wireless interconnects allow for reduced installation time and cost by eliminating the need to run or pull wire from the GRAFIK Eye QS to several components.

GRAFIK Eye QS Wireless also can be equipped with an integral bus supply providing direct control of Lutron’s revolutionary EcoSystem™ digitally addressable ballasts, or Hi-lume™ 3D ballasts. Another optional component is the Hi-lume LED driver.graffik-eye-qs


Lutron qed/qs

Awesome new things from Lutron! Sivoia QS is an AC motorized shading solution to be paired up with the recently released graphic eye qs for single room solution, though not able to communicate with a homeworks system. A few new types of fabrics out. QED now has a skylight shading solution with min of 2′x3′ and maximums of 12′x6-1/2 or 8′x10′. Great new additions!