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The Lutron story began in the late 1950s in Joel Spira’s makeshift lab in New York City.
A young physicist fascinated by the aesthetic manipulation of light, Spira commandeered the spare bedroom in the apartment he shared with his wife, Ruth, and set out to invent a solid-state device that would enable people to vary the intensity of the lights in their homes.
The very idea was radical. At that time, lighting control was a complicated and expensive affair, requiring bulky rheostats that used a lot of energy and generated a great deal of heat. Consequently, lighting controls were used primarily to dim stage lights in theaters. Most people would never think of having dimmers in their homes because they were just too difficult to install.
That all changed in 1959, when Spira emerged from his lab with a solid-state dimmer that could replace the light switch in a standard residential wallbox.
Spira’s key technical innovation had been to replace the rheostat with a thyristor. A thyristor is a type of transistor, which had been invented a few years earlier.
The substitution was effective because rheostats and thyristors worked in completely different ways. Rheostats dimmed lights by absorbing electrical energy into the rheostat, meaning that electricity was converted to heat in the rheostat rather than to light in the lamp. By comparison, thyristors dimmed the light by interrupting the power flowing to the lamp.
The use of a thyristor shrank the size of a dimmer until it could fit into a standard wallbox. Spira’s dimmer also generated much less heat than a rheostat and used much less energy.
By 1961, when Joel and Ruth Spira incorporated Lutron Electronics, they knew that lighting control could contribute to society in multiple ways. Dimmers were both elegant and useful, and they allowed people to control their lights as never before.
Dimmers were practical too. They saved energy, and the more you used them, the more energy they saved. With energy costs already going up, the Spiras believed that the energy-saving aspects of the new invention would ensure the long-term appeal of lighting controls.
They were right.
Spira’s first invention – a simple rotary dimmer that can still be found on many dining-room walls today – marked the birth of the lighting control industry.
Lutron holds over 2,700 worldwide patents. In addition to the solid-state dimmer, Lutron innovations also include the first electronic dimming ballast for fluorescent lights and the first self-contained preset lighting control system.
Lutron was also the first to successfully mass-market the dimmer, the first to successfully market systems of linked dimmers, and is still the only company to create systems of dimmers and motorized window shades that control both electric light and daylight.
In almost 50 years of innovation, Lutron has invented hundreds of lighting control devices and systems, and expanded their product offering from 2 products to 15,000. The company has advanced the technology of lighting control while maintaining top market position by focusing on exceptional quality and design. Lutron continues to lead the market in high-quality lighting controls for fluorescent, halogen incandescent, magnetic low-voltage, electronic low-voltage and LED light sources.
Lutron has also led innovations in window shade technology for the control of daylight, as well as wired and wireless systems, to integrate the control of both daylight and electric light.
Another facet that keeps Lutron successful is the company’s commitment to its customers. Since the beginning, the company has maintained exceptional service, offering 24-hour technical support for its products, and a friendly customer service department that sustains close relationships with Lutron clients.
Lutron light control products range from individual dimmers to total light management systems that control entire building complexes. Some of the larger Lutron light control systems in the US include the 52-story New York Times Building in New York; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; and the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.On the commercial side, light controls are essential in hotels, restaurants, retail stores, conference facilities, educational facilities, hospitals, museums, and public spaces. Lutron light control systems beautify some of the world’s most prestigious public locations: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; and the Bank of China headquarters in Beijing, to name just a few.As world-renowned as they are, Lutron light controls continue to perform the most valuable of personal services – helping to keep people safe and comfortable in their own homes.On the residential side, light controls are installed everywhere from single-room apartments to palatial homes, including the White House and Windsor Castle.Individual dimmers create a cozy atmosphere at the touch of a button, or can be operated from the car to turn lights on as you approach the house. Groups of dimmers can be operated remotely from a cell phone, PDA, laptop, iPod, touch screen, or universal remote control.
No matter where they’re installed or how big the system, every Lutron product saves energy by reducing electrical consumption. Taken as a whole, Lutron light controls have reduced electrical use by 9.2 billion kWh, which reduces our customers’ electric bills by $1 billion annually.
Lutron also protects the environment by decreasing the demand for light bulbs. Since dimmers extend lamp life, customers have to buy fewer bulbs, and that reduces the energy and environmental impacts associated with the manufacturing of fluorescent, incandescent, halogen, and other types of lamps.
A privately held company, Lutron is headquartered in Coopersburg, PA, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia.
Lutron sales and service offices are located worldwide, with offices in London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing.
Over the years, our business has continued to grow dramatically, both domestically and internationally. We began with only 2 products, and now provide over 15,000 products to our global customers. Lutron’s success is a result of the strong principles and philosophies, which guide our growth. Our founder, Joel Spira, developed five principles:
These principles guide each of us in the business decisions we make each day.
Electrical Wholesaling Magazine