Automatic lighting controls becoming increasingly more popular

The fact that many homeowners have the option to keep their lights on or use water excessively usually causes them to do so, even when they do not need to. New technology, though, could take this power out of the hands of consumers while lowering their energy bills in the process.

For years, consumers have used timers to control their appliances and lights. The devices plug directly into an outlet and can be set to turn off power after a set number of hours. They are somewhat limited, however, in that most can only be programmed for a 24-hour period.

More advanced devices, which are routed directly into the hardware of the home, can be tailored specifically toward a homeowner's unique needs, such as when a family goes on vacation for an extended period of time. Families could, for example, set the lights to stay dimly lit in the evening and then turn out when the family normally goes to sleep. The technology can be adapted outside of the lighting field.

"It's only a matter of time before more people use home automation technology to control lighting and even water, including the sprinkler system," Carnes Audio owner Matthew Carnes told Mashable. "You don't need to water your lawn when it's already raining. Technology helps cut back on unnecessary energy use and costs."

According to industry experts, the next step will be consumers who can control these appliances using smartphone applications. Hardware that can be controlled with mobile applications used to only be available for high-end homes, but as costs go down, more consumers should have access to them.

Whatever savings consumers generate through energy-efficient lighting, such as LED or CFL bulbs, exponential savings could be possible if these lights are only allowed to be operated during certain times. Additional utility savings could be generated following an energy audit led by a home inspection company in the Washington, D.C. area.