It's all about Controls

Lighting controls are the biggest, new industry project.  As problems with LEDs grow smaller and smaller, how we can control and manipulate these lights is what people are looking for.  Many solutions have been found and are implemented in many buildings, but a big boom in the demand for controls hasn't happened yet.  A possible reason for this might be because very early controls for lighting were not as effective as people hoped, and were difficult to install.  However, with more concentration on making controls easy to use and install, we're here to give an overview for what could be the next big thing.

What are they?

Simply put lighting controls are anything that controls light from the most complex system to the simplest on-off switch.  However, most people are referring to the more intelligent systems which can automatically detect and change the light.  These can use the data they gather on occupancy, daylight, or time of day to adjust the lighting settings.  Controls are also now about controlling your homes lighting from your smartphone, and more specifically I-phone (as some apps are not yet available on android).

How do they work?

Different types of sensors work slightly differently but the basic outline is that there is input, such as someone turning on the lights, or someone walking past.  The lights then take this input and decide whether the lights need changing or not, and this then changes the output, which is normally the amount or type of light emitted.

The main types of sensor use are occupancy, daylight and time sensors.


These can work in two ways.  One way is via an infra-red (PIR) sensor, which detects heat and motion changes.  The other is Ultrasonic which detects minute sound changes, via a change in the signal pattern.  These are often used in bathrooms as the hard surfaces provide good reflection for the detection waves.


These detect the amount of light used via a photo-sensor.  They can then adjust the artificial light level to maintain a constant amount of light so that the occupants of the building don't even notice the change in source.


These are controls which can made set to operate during certain times of day.

Older versions of these controls had to be wired into the system, which often was expensive and took a lot of time.  Wireless sensors which relay information via radio waves are much quicker and make the controls much more flexible.

Where can they be used?

Lighting controls can be used pretty much anywhere, although the types of sensor and control may vary.  For some areas, manual controls may be better for some places as this gives the people the control to adjust as needed.  Also some areas such as people working with mechanics or electrics may not benefit from sensors as it can be dangerous if the light levels change or go off without warning.

But here’s just a few places you might think of installing some sensors:

  • Homes- The main controls people have in their homes are motion sensors outside, but some people have already made the move to internet and app-based controls inside.
  • Offices- Sometimes people can forget to turn the lights off when they leave an office room which can waste a lot of energy.  By installing sensors, this unwanted wastage can be turned into money via energy savings.
  • Conference Rooms- These rooms don’t need to be lit all the time, but when they are in use, lighting controls can make presentations and meetings more professional with the use of dimmers.
  • Hallways- In almost every situation, hallways waste energy being left on when no one is using them.  Motion sensors can solve this energy problem and prevent people from either forgetting to switch them off or not wanting to in case someone else needs them.


The placement of these sensors needs to be thought through carefully.  For smaller rooms or rooms used only intermittently, wall-mounted sensors can be used.  However for larger rooms, ceiling based sensors are required as the lighting load is higher and this gives the sensor a wider range.

For occupancy sensors, the people moving round need to be visible to the sensors so things such as corners or partitions need to be taken into consideration.  This is why wireless controls are becoming more popular as they provide more flexibility.  However, this need for visibility also means occupancy sensors are more likely to become damaged so making sure it is checked regularly is important.

Why use controls?

  • Energy savings- depending on the building and space provided, the energy savings can vary, but best estimates suggest around a 30-50% reduction in energy amount.
  • Longer Lamp Life- as the lights won’t be on full intensity or even on all day, the bulbs used should last a lot longer which, if CFL's or LED's are used, can mean many years of use.
  • New wireless controls- less instillation time for more flexibility!
  • Apps- With the use of apps, lighting controls can be integrated into everyday life.
  • Mood- This is especially true for dimmers as you can create a different atmosphere from sunny work area, to cosy movie night, just by changing the lights
  • Security- Motion sensor lights help a lot of people feel secure at night and can be switched off during the day to save energy.
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