Sustainable Bathrooms and Closets

One of the things that (used to) happens around my household is that lights and bathroom fans get left on, a lot. There have been days I’ve come home and found the bathroom light and fan on, and it had been running all day. Once after a weekend trip, I discovered our walk in closet light AND the bathroom fan had been left on since Friday night. Lots of wasted electricity there.

With small children, that can easily (and does) happen. Adults often make the same mistake because they don’t want to leave the bathroom, ahem, odoriferous for the next person, so they leave the fan on then forget to turn it off.

I’ve solved the problem with a simple light/fan timer switch, available at Lowe’s for under $25.


Just push the button once, and you get 10 minutes of fan time, plenty of time to do the job. Push again for extra time if you’ve spent all that time reading the newspaper or magazine.

All the bathrooms have this now. So does our walk in closet. I’ve also installed this same switch on my front porch lights (the one that does 1-12 hours) and on my living room indirect soft lighting so as not to forget it when we retire for the night.

I had looked at the units that sense body heat (IR) but found they can’t handle motor loads (fans) or fluorescent lights with ballasts, so this was the next best thing.

Wasted electricity is no longer a worry with me. Sure it will take awhile to recoup the costs, but the minimized annoyance at discovering fans and lights left on is well worth it now.

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November 25, 2007 4:51 pm

We have one of these in our bathroom and we love it. They are convenient and they really work well.

George M
November 25, 2007 5:57 pm

CA title 42, 2006(i think?) mandated motion detector light switches in new and remodel jobs. Some fellow started selling the switches on eBay for $15 or so, and I bought some for projects. They work fine on fluorescents and small motors like the fan in a bathroom, as the actual switching is a set of relay contacts, not a semiconductor. The new feature over previously available switches of this type is manual on, automatic (or manual) off, where the older types always came on when they sensed motion. My primary application was the old soldering iron on the bench. Now, when I walk away for more than 5 minutes (adjustable) the iron shuts off, and I don’t have to worry about whether it is going to set the bench on fire when I get pulled away for some other task.
Where did you get the info on load sensitivity? Those made to meet the CA mandate have to work with fluorescents, and a bathroom fan is not reactive enough to make any difference. For your closet, get a door switch, although that has to be installed by a licensed electrician, like my son. Hey, you gotta get something back.

November 25, 2007 8:58 pm

I like the 12 hour timer for the porch lite, and the 5 minute timer for glue guns/soldering irons. Since the bathrooms use incandescents, I put a 4 preset dimmer ($15@Depot) on them. That way midnite runs aren’t greeted by blinding lite, especially when I work grave on occasion. I already put hottub timers($20@Depot) on the bathroom fans. The Lowe’s one is better with the hold button, though.

Evan Jones
November 26, 2007 1:07 pm

Hmm. Very nice.
By the bye, just how much energy does it cost to produce these-here gizmos as compared with how much they save? Oh, and don’t forget to account for energy expended on advertising (both in terms of sales and advocacy), inventory and storage issues, delivery, disposal, and whatnot.
I’d include the hot air expenditure of the legislature, but that’s a constant.

John M
November 26, 2007 5:09 pm

Do these work in two-way and three-way circuits? Has anyone tried one in that type of set-up?
The reason I ask is that I have a stairway/hallway combination with three switches (bottom of stairs, top of stairs, end of hallway). It’s amazing how often I find lights blazing away (~200 watts total), even though someone turned the lights on just for a ten second transit.
Funny thing is, I’m the only “skeptic” in the house. 🙂

John M
November 26, 2007 7:35 pm

Thanks, Anthony.
That was helpful. Looks like they have digital versions for three-way switches.
For anyone who is interested, models EI400 and EI600 seem to be compatible with three-way operation.
Had to go to Wikipedia to find out that a three-way switch only allows operation at two locations. Need a four-way in between two three-ways to make my set-up work.

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