Control & Automation

Live from California: Why Title 24 Lighting Laws are Stupid

California's Ill-conceived Title 24 "energy efficiency" law leaves us with a 2,100-square-foot apartment that has virtually no overhead lights.

A standard light switch controls standard light fixtures right next to the lights controlled by an "energy efficient" occupancy-sensor-enabled switch. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?
Julie Jacobson · July 17, 2012

Just to prove that I am an equal-protection technology hater since my move to California, I will now rail on something other than the crappy Time Warner Cable service here.

My new grudge is against California’s Title 24 “Energy Efficiency Standards” law, which mandates (among other things) that dimmers, occupancy sensors and/or energy-efficient lighting be installed in certain areas of the home (and commercial buildings).

We know well that many builders and contractors in California flout the law by complying with it only until the inspector has blessed the premises. Then the occupancy-sensing light switches are swapped out with traditional switches and headed to the next place that needs to pass inspection. Ditto with the “high-efficiency” lighting.

Now that I live here, the stupidity of the law becomes evident.

I rent a work/live loft, where the bottom floor is zoned for commercial, and the upstairs space includes an open kitchen/family room and another floor for the master suite.

I was first struck by the mandated occ sensors in the bathrooms and laundry area. Next to each “energy efficient” switch is a standard on/off switch that controls a second bank of lights right next to the “automated” ones. How dumb is that? Kind of defeats the purpose of occ-sensing lights, no?

RELATED: Politicians Sorely Misguided on Energy Policies

The rule says that energy-efficient lighting must be present in these spaces, but it does not prohibit standard energy-sucking fixtures and switches adjacent to them. Dumb.

But the most debilitating effect of Title 24 is this: Because it mandates a certain percentage of energy-efficient lighting solutions in most spaces … our apartment chose to exclude overhead lights altogether, except for the few places where occupancy sensors or dimmers are required by law.

Our work space of about 800 square feet comes without can lights. There are accommodations for such lighting but the facility skirts the law by simply failing to include fixtures. There are some switched outlets as well so tenants can BYOL (bring your own lighting).

Likewise, there are no overhead lights provided in the large master suite, nor (worse!) the enormous open-space great room that has two-story-high ceilings. So we need to hire a pro to come in and screw in a light bulb or install a light fixture?

Oddly, the walk-in closet has standard switches, in a place where occupancy sensors might be the most helpful.


Why doesn’t California just leave lighting and other energy efficiencies to the consumers and manufacturers themselves? We’re heading that way all by ourselves.

Are you kidding me?!
No overhead lights are provided in the work space, the great room or the master suite above, so the apartment isn’t liable for Title 24 compliance.


How California’s Title 24 Lighting Law Affects Dealers
Politicians Sorely Misguided on Energy Policies
New Federal Energy Law Creates Lighting Control Challenges

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

Control & Automation · Lighting · News · Blogs · Title 24 · All Topics
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