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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Yes, no or maybe
Bright ideas from Magazine readers

There must be a national effort to bring about a "green revolution", says the government. But what simple things can we all do to save the Earth?

Green Light is a series of bright ideas from Magazine readers to help save the world
Everyone could help save the planet by making just a few changes in our household energy use. So the Magazine's inviting you to tell us how you think we could all be greener and more energy efficient at home, and that includes saving water - and we'll publish one a day.

The three-position light switch

Andrew Rogers proposes this innovation:
    This device is designed to eliminate the amount of power wasted by lights being left on unnecessarily. The light switch has three positions that it can be set to; off, permanently on and motion-sensor-activated. Depending on what a room is being used for then you would set the switch accordingly. If it's set to motion sensor and no activity is detected in a room for a preset period, maybe five minutes, the light goes off. This would also save you from having to grapple for a switch in the dark or with full hands. This motion activated setting is ideal for people doing housework or playing children. I would also like to see a light sensor in every room that determines if natural light is adequate and prevents lights from being turned on where they aren't needed.
Expert verdict

Nice idea, but there might be more pressing concerns, says environmental author Donnechadh McCarthy.

"If there's any idea that can help people reduce their energy consumption then let's go for it," he says, though he does worry a bit that lights might go off if someone was just sitting still.

But for him there's something which could make a much bigger impact - avoid "designer lighting".

A friend had renovated their lounge and had installed a total of 19 halogen lamps in the one room. Most of them were in recesses - meaning half the light wasn't showing anyway. But a tally of all the lights in the friend's house revealed a total wattage of 3860W - compared to just 190W for McCarthy's own home.

Everyone installing low energy bulbs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs would have a huge impact on the power usage of the country - which ultimately would be an easier goal to achieve than developing and installing motion-sensitive light switches.

How Green Light works

Send us your ideas - whether they are technology innovations, new or improved gadgets or simply tips on energy-saving behaviour - to the Magazine using the form below. If possible include drawings explaining how your gadget or idea might work. Send these to the.magazine@bbc.co.uk, please making sure that the subject line is GREEN LIGHT.

Your comments

Rather than simply saying 'no designer lighting' it would be better if much more emphasis were put on making designer lighting efficient. I was very annoyed, having just bought a big stock of low-energy bulbs to find that - if I were to change any of my light fittings - the only decent fittings available all have weird G4 or G7 or G11 bulbs. Make them have standard bayonet or ES cap bulbs.
Basil Long, Newark Notts

Get the government to ban the sale of incandescent bulbs, not overnight as that would be unworkable. Maybe phased withdrawal, standard household bulbs by September 2007.... and in 5 to 10 years all incandescent bulbs would be withdrawn depending on the time it would take to develop fluorescent or LED alternatives. At the same time, the ubiquitous DIY shows could also do there bit replacing halogen "designer lighting" with the fluorescent or LED alternatives or even something more efficient. As an aside is it better to replace a working incandescent bulb with an energy efficient one, or is it best to wait for the incandescent bulb to burn out then energy efficient one, taking in to account the energy needed to make, run and dispose of both?
JohnK, Reading, UK

It's more sensible to reduce wastage of electricity by making streetlights more efficient, by maximising the amount of light that is directed down into the street, where it matters, instead of being lost to the heavens above. That has the added benefit of reducing light pollution. Taking down decorative lighting and regulating advertising signboards might also help. Equally much can be accomplished by reducing energy use as coming up with new ways to generate energy, but the former requires lifestyle and paradigm changes which require more time and cajoling to implement.
Brandon, Singapore

Hmm. I'm not sure how this saves energy over simply, say, turning the light on when you go into a room and then turning it off when you leave. In fact it could end up costing more money as people would leave the setting on "auto" and let the five minute timer turn off the lights when they leave rather than turning them off straight away manually. This seems to be more of a laziness device than an energy saver.
Rich Pereira, Whiteley, UK

The toilets in my old place of work had motion detectors to control the lights. Since there were no windows this did a good job of keeping the lights off when not necessary. The problem was if, for any reason, one were to remain in one place for too long... There were a few stories of people being caught in the dark with their trousers down!!
Paul, UK

How about a European Directive stipulating that ALL new light fittings MUST utilise low energy lamps?
Gerry T, Faringdon

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