At the annual CEDIA Electronics Lifestyles Awards Banquet this past Saturday, Lutron’s founder Joel Spira was presented with the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for his contributions to the custom installation industry. The award recognizes an individual who has exhibited outstanding creative, innovative, and visionary leadership in the growth and advancement of the residential electronic systems industry.
Joel Spira, chairman and founder, Lutron Electronics, holding the company’s seeTemp thermostat (left) and Radio Powr Savr occupancy/vacancy sensor.
Earlier this year, Spira donated 12 “artifacts” from Lutron’s history to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, where they will join other artifacts in the museum’s Electricity Collection, including experimental light bulbs from Thomas Edison. Throughout his illustrious career, Spira is credited with having 266 design patents and 226 utility patents.
Although Lutron will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, at CEDIA Spira wasn’t interested in looking back on where his company has been, but was more so in discussing what the future held and what he hoped Lutron’s ultimate legacy would be: energy management.
In an exclusive interview with the CEDIA Daily, Spira cited how much easier it is to save electricity than to build it, claiming it takes between $1.40 and $7.40 to build one watt of energy, whereas a dimmer saving one watt costs just $0.35. Spira also said that Lutron lighting control products reduce energy usage by an estimated 10 billion kilowatt hours, resulting in $1 billion utility savings annually. Additionally, he noted that if every American household replaced just two regular light switches with dimmers, it would save an additional $1 billion in electricity costs and reduce 25 billion pounds of CO2 from going into the environment (the same as removing 1 million cars from the roads) and stop construction of three power plants per year.
“We have now developed a system for saving energy throughout the home for total home control,” Spira said, but lighting is only the third largest energy consumption device. By a combination of shading control — which can block light and heat from the home in the summer and allow light to warm the home in the winter — thermostat control, occupancy detection, and plug-in device control, Lutron products are now able to address the number-one (HVAC) and number-two (appliance energy) users.
By integrating with the astronomic timeclock functions in Lutron processors, the system can automatically raise and lower shades at different times of day, cut back heating and cooling systems, and cut power to major energy hogs like hot water heaters when they won’t be used.
“Another of our biggest contributions is occupancy detection,” Spira offered. “We have developed a new technology that is better at detecting people and motion than ever before.” With this small device, homeowners can be sure that lights are never accidentally left on again, lighting — and using energy — for an empty room.
To simplify homeowner operation, Lutron has a new Green button that can place the home into a pre-programmed Eco mode; adjusting shading, lighting, appliances, and thermostat as needed.
“Our policy and intent is to save energy economically and in a fashion that is pleasant for the homeowner and that will also be beneficial and sustainable. Lutron energy saving devices will pay for themselves many times over, anywhere from three to 10 times over their lifetime in energy savings,” Spira said.
For the complete text of Joel Spira’s CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech, click here.