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Lighting Control

When it comes to smart lighting, replacing existing lamps with more efficient fluorescent and LED lamps is a start—but there is so much more that can be done.

Your mother was right when she told you to "Turn off the lights!"
Turning off lights when they are not needed is one of the best ways to save energy. This is especially true in commercial buildings, where lighting accounts for up to 40% of the building's total energy cost.

With automated lighting solutions you don't need to rely on employees to turn lights on and off. Instead, you can take advantage of things like scheduling and occupancy sensors to help deliver the optimal level of light in all situations while minimizing wasted energy.

Lighting Control Systems

Wireless (removing the wires)


Lighting control systems

In short, lighting control systems deliver the correct amount of light, where you want it, when you want it. Lights can automatically turn on, off or dim at set times or under set conditions, plus users can have control over their own lighting levels to provide optimal working conditions. Lighting control helps to reduce costs and conserve energy by turning off (or dimming) lights when they are not required.Back to the top of the page

In addition to the lights themselves, a lighting control system includes the following:
• on/off and dimming controls
• schedules or timers that can turn lights on and off for preset periods of time
• occupancy sensors to detect whether rooms are occupied
• photosensors to detect the current illumination levels being provided by electric lighting and sunlight
• a centralised control system to turn on, turn off, and dim electric lights throughout the building Back to the top of the page

Schedules and timers

The simplest lighting control system turns off (or dims) lights at a specified time when the building is assumed to be empty, and turns lights back on again before people arrive for work the next day.

This is a start, but with today's offices where people are increasingly working longer, more flexible hours, additional controls are needed. Back to the top of the page

Occupancy sensors

These are useful not only to address flexible working hours, but also to control lights in areas with irregular usage patterns.

For example, lights could be dimmed by default in a large room like a laboratory or warehouse. When the sensors detect that someone has entered, the lights corresponding to the location in which the person is detected can be brightened to provide sufficient illumination.

Occupancy sensors can also be used to create "corridors of light" to follow people like security guards and cleaners as they move through a building. Back to the top of the page

Photosensors and daylighting

When sunlight comes streaming in through windows, electric lighting can be dimmed or even turned off. And as the natural light fades, the electric lights can automatically come back on again.

This helps not only to conserve lighting energy, but also to reduce the amount of heat being emitted by the electric lights, which in turn, can help save money on air conditioning costs.Back to the top of the page

Personal control

In addition to the automated control provided by the scheduling and sensors, lighting control systems can also place control in the hands of individuals. People often require different levels of lighting depending on factors such as their age and the type of work they are doing. Lighting systems can provide the ability for office workers to adjust personal lighting levels directly from the PCs on their desks. Back to the top of the page

Preferred and acceptable lighting levels

System administrators and individuals can specify both preferred and acceptable lighting levels, where the preferred level is the ideal amount for each area within the building, and acceptable is the minimum lighting level required. This provides the ability to drop to the acceptable level during an emergency where energy needs to be conserved, or to take advantage of demand response initiatives. Back to the top of the page

Scene-based lighting

The lighting system can be programmed to create different "scenes", allowing the function of rooms or areas of a building to be changed at the touch of a button. For example, in a room that is used for both meetings and audio-visual presentations, you might have three lighting scenes:
1 Meeting—with comfortable light levels for face-to-face communication and note taking.
2 Tutorial—with dimmed lights in part of the room for the audio-visual presentation, plus enough light for an audience to take notes.
3 Presentation—with all lights dimmed to provide optimal audio-visual viewing conditions. Back to the top of the page

Control one or many lights

Each device within the system has a unique address. The lighting system uses these addresses to control individual lights, groups of lights, entire floors and entire buildings. Individual lights can belong to multiple groups to provide great levels of flexibility.Back to the top of the page

Removing the wires

Costs can be further reduced, and functionality greatly increased, by removing the wires between the lights and controllers.
For example, floors can be partitioned without the cost and disruption of rewiring—by simply reprogramming the existing lights. And wireless controls provide the ultimate flexibility when it comes to office reconfigurations. You can place controls exactly where you want them when you're not limited by wires.

The cost of wiring alone is incentive for many building owners to look at wireless systems: typically saving 20–80% of the installation cost of controls.

In addition to saving time and money on cabling, multiple devices are able to communicate wirelessly with a single controller. This not only saves money through purchasing and installing fewer controllers, it can also simplify programming of the system (through programming fewer controllers), plus improve system performance by providing more direct communication (with commands being relayed to a single controller rather than through multiple ones). Back to the top of the page

How wireless works

Wireless lighting systems are usually organized in a mesh. What this means is that each device in the network (e.g. light, sensor, controller) is typically connected through at least two pathways, and can relay messages for its neighbours.

Data is passed through the wireless network from device to device using the most reliable communication links and most efficient path until the destination is reached.

The mesh network is self-healing, in that if any disruption occurs within the network (such as a device failing), data is automatically re-routed. The built-in redundancy of having multiple pathways available helps to make the mesh network both robust and reliable.Back to the top of the page


Wireless solutions provide increased flexibility in the way building space can be used. Instead of placing controls where wiring permits, building owners are free to place controls where they are needed to improve building performance.

For example, in buildings with glass or concrete walls, you no longer need to worry about where the wires are going to go. You simply put the controls where they make the most sense.

Flexibility and control are further enhanced by a single switch being able to communicate with multiple devices, and a single device able to be controlled by multiple switches.

As the needs of a space change, wireless controls can be reconfigured or expanded to accommodate alterations without the cost- and time-intensive process of tearing apart walls and ceilings for rewiring.

Lights are grouped using addressing and software rather than through hard-wiring. Therefore, changes can be made at any point simply by reprogramming.Back to the top of the page


Once a wireless network is established, additional sensors and switches can be easily added at the cost of an additional wireless device, with minimal labour and disruption.

The nature of mesh networks means that simply adding new devices can extend the communication coverage of the network. And the wireless nature of the devices allows you to place them in areas that were previously difficult or costly to access.

The scalability of your system can extend beyond the lights themselves. Many of the standards-based wireless lighting control systems can interoperate with other building automation systems (e.g. security, HVAC) that are based on compatible standards.Back to the top of the page

Ease of use

Few of us want to take the time to learn how a new lighting system works. We should be able to work out the basics ourselves, and not have to ask too many questions to be able to do the more complex things.

This is especially important for occasional use rooms (like shared meeting rooms and dedicated audio-visual rooms). It needs to be easy for people to work out how to turn on, off and dim lights where and when required without the need for retraining each time they enter the room.

Lighting scenes can greatly simplify this—with the touch of a single button being all that is required to address complex lighting requirements. Some lighting systems support remote (hand-held) lighting controls, to provide even greater flexibility for presenters. Back to the top of the page

Fitting and refitting

Wiring and installation costs are often cited as major barriers to deploying advanced controls in existing buildings. Wireless controls help to overcome this by enabling lights to be connected with robust, secure controls that lower electricity costs, while enhancing the long-term value and viability of buildings.

The decision to use wireless controls is even easier in a new building, where cost savings are immediate through reduced hardware and installation costs. A wireless lighting control system also helps to meet the wide range of requirements for today's commercial buildings:
• flexible working environment
• changes in building use over time
• increased and demonstratable energy efficiency
• building service monitoring for maintenance and cross charging
• return on investment for developers and ownersBack to the top of the page

Integrating wired and wireless

Existing lights can be adapted for new wireless control systems by adding small radio transmitters that allow them to communicate with the wireless controllers. For example, radios can be added to the light fixtures themselves, or to wall sockets or lamp holders.Back to the top of the page

Improved maintenance

The two-way communication available through mesh networks means that not only can a lighting control system send commands to lights, it can also receive information back from those lights.
This allows the control system not only to quickly find out the state of each light (e.g. on or off), but can also help with maintenance, informing when lights are malfunctioning or globes need replacing.
Maintenance service levels can be improved since faults can be automatically raised to maintenance staff or even pre-empted by alerting staff to impending service intervals on hardware.
Systems can be monitored and controlled from centralized areas, even remotely. This provides the ability to change the running of building services to cope with rapidly changing circumstances.Back to the top of the page

Cost savings

Rising electricity costs mean any investment you make in energy savings today will be even more important to tomorrow's bottom line.
The following table shows an indication of the types of cost savings smart lighting can deliver by reducing or eliminating over-lighting:

Timers: Dim and turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied.
up to 40%
Photosensors: Adjust electric light levels to take natural light into account.
up to 15%
Occupancy sensors: Adjust lights based on occupancy detection.
up to 50%
Personal control: Individuals set light levels to suit personal preferences.
up to 15%
Overall control: Set system-wide lighting levels to avoid over-lighting. up to 20%
Demand response: Reduce lighting levels to take advantage of demand response incentives from utilities. up to 10%
Combined savings up to 70%

Back to the top of the page


Dimming lights to avoid over-lighting cannot only save energy, but also extend the life of the bulb.

Dimming the light this much Saves this much energy And extends the life of the lamp by this much
10% 10% 2x longer
25% 20% 4x longer
50% 40% 20x longer
75% 60% > 20x longer

For example, limiting maximum light levels to 90%, which is a difference most people would barely notice, can provide 10% energy savings while doubling bulb life, which reduces the hassle and cost of bulb replacement as well as landfill waste. Back to the top of the page

Demand response

Utilities are increasingly offering demand response programs as an incentive to get users to reduce their energy consumption at times of peak usage or when retail energy prices are high.

A lighting control solution can automatically react to these events, and adjust lighting to pre-set acceptable levels to take advantage of these cost savings. Back to the top of the page

Tax incentives

In addition to the money you save with the reduced cost of running a smart lighting solution, many governments are also offering tax incentives to help pay for the purchase and installation costs of these solutions.

When you include both the cost savings and the tax incentives, it can take as little as two years for a new lighting system to pay for itself.Back to the top of the page


Energy savings and user satisfaction are two major design considerations for modern lighting systems.

A wireless lighting control solution can provide both significant cost savings in an office environment, as well as a great level of flexibility and control for the building administrators, and great comfort for the occupants.

The most effective way to reduce lighting energy is to turn lights off. The second most effective way is to turn them down. An automated control system can do both for you based on factors such as occupancy, available daylight and time of day.

Removing the wires from the lighting controls provides additional benefits, including greater flexibility in where devices can be placed, and significant savings in installation (by avoiding the expense and disruption of wiring).

You save money not only on the installation and usage costs, but many governments are providing tax incentives to encourage "greener" buildings. In short, these solutions save money and make sense.Back to the top of the page