Inventor Turned Up Energy Savings by Dimming the Lights
Joel Spira was aiming for mood lighting when he invented the solid-state light dimmer switch. More than 50 years later, his company, Lutron, is recognized as an energy efficiency pioneer.
Joel Spira wasn’t thinking much about saving energy when he began experimenting with the idea of interrupting the flow of electricity to a light bulb. It was the late 1950s, and not only were Americans buying lots of new homes, they were hosting dinner parties with mood music. Spira thought that through the right lighting, he could provide the ambience.
“I wanted to create a nice environment,” recalls the 83-year-old physicist whose invention—the solid-state dimmer switch—has just been added to the Smithsonian Institution’s collection as one of the icons in the story of electricity.
But Spira’s work is not only found in museums. His company, Lutron, based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia,