Save money on energy with Grass Valley company’s lighting fixture  |

Save money on energy with Grass Valley company’s lighting fixture 

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

During challenging economic times, with technological innovation, financial efficiency not only can be a priority, but a possibility.

Western Nevada County’s Al McBride and Joseph Cochran developed SMART Light System, a light-dimming system that makes light usage more efficient and cost-effective.

“I came up with an idea for dimming fluorescent lights with a simple control mechanism,” McBride said.

“Most are sophisticated wires into walls and expensive and hard to configure, but not our system.”

“If we install energy-saving products that don’t disrupt business, we free up a bunch of power.”
— Joseph Cochran

After toggling light switches on or off, the duo found a way to control the lights anyway desired.

By doing this, lights can
be dimmed in intervals of 10
percent or changed to full brightness.

The system can also be set to dim down to a certain level when a room is empty and then dimmed up once a motion detector’s infrared technology detects movement.

Rather than require a new light switch or fixture, the SMART Light system works with the current set up, which is a cheaper alternative to other light-dimming installations.

“We learned people want to be green, but don’t want to spend a lot of green, so we’ve been trying to address the not a lot of green part,” McBride said.

The kit is $165 or less with quantity orders and requires one kit per fixture. Included are the SMART Dimmer Plus Controller, the SMART Motion Sensor and a GE Dimming Ballast.

The products are produced in part by Grass Valley assembly company Comprep.

“It’s basically a dimming control with an integrated motion sensor, a controller and motion sensor, and installs up in an overhead fixture, and by using that you can save 50 percent of energy cost of fluorescent lights,” McBride said.

Cochran said the savings from energy could be spent in more productive ways, such as job hiring, for instance.

“One hotel in Reno has 450 light fixtures which costs about $50,000 a year. Imagine saving 30 or 40 percent of that. You could hire someone with those savings,” Cochran said.

In order to install the SMART Light system, the ballast in a current light fixture, which is a device installed to maintain the constancy of the electrical current by varying its resistance in order to counteract changes in voltage, will need to be replaced with the kit’s dimming ballast. Cochran said that takes only about 15 minutes of a certified electrician’s time.

Cochran said the system is ideal for large buildings that keep lights on unnecessarily for extended periods of time.

“There are 120 million fluorescent lights in commercial buildings in California, which can mean big savings,” Cochran said.
“If we install energy-saving products that don’t disrupt business, we free up a bunch of power.”

SMART Light was installed in a Super 8 Motel in Liberal, Kans. in areas with less traffic, like hallways.

“I like it because where there’s not a lot of traffic the lights are dim and it lowers our monthly electric bill,” said Super 8 manager Rosa Castaneda.

Rather than call SMART Light a revolution, Cochran said it is a small way to help reduce wasted energy, as it’s going to take a bunch of small things to impact a larger change.

“It’s not a savior, but it is yet another small device that does work and does help,” Cochran said.

The product is offered through direct sales, Internet sales, and distribution out of the office in Grass Valley.

More information can be found at

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call (530) 477-4230.

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