Bright Ideas

Lighting Controls Part 2: Planning, Selection & Trends

Posted by Joe Lightman on Mar 8, 2016 9:50 AM

With almost 40% of a typical business’s energy bill related to lighting, controls are ever more important. Smart lighting controls are increasingly replacing traditional lighting controls in residential, commercial, and industrial environments because of the higher efficiency and enhanced energy saving capabilities. Some of the new smart technologies that have found applications in lighting controls include: motion detection (microwave), sound sensing, heating-sensing (infrared), door contact sensors, and optical cameras. In part two of the Essentials of Lighting Controls, we discuss how to plan and select the right lighting control, future trends in lighting controls and some commonly asked questions.


Planning for Lighting Controls

Although a lighting systems designer can add lighting controls to an old office, theatre, workshop, factory, restaurant, it is always better to factor the controls into the design of the building. Among other things, pre-planning ensures that space is available for the installation of wires and fixtures such as keypads and sockets. With advances in technology, lighting controls today are more often based on wireless technologies and it is therefore easy to integrate them later when they are needed. The trend today is towards light controls becoming more intelligent and adaptable to complex lighting arrangements.

Selecting Lighting Controls

These are some of the factors to consider when selecting lighting controls for your facility:

  • Facility size: For large facilities such as conference rooms and lecture halls, a centralized lighting control system is a suitable choice. On the other hand, a motion detection sensor is a suitable option for a small office.
  • Floor layout: A factory floor and an office floor have different floor plans, which makes for different lighting requirements. It is therefore important to consider the layout of a facility prior to selecting a particular lighting control.
  • Daylight penetration: Some facilities don’t require artificial light during the day. For such facilities, photo sensors can be used to switch on lights at dusk and switch them off at dawn.
  • Building use: Although two facilities may be of the same size, their lighting requirements may be different if they are intended for different uses. For instance, a social hall has different lighting requirements from a factory floor of the same size.
  • Building code requirements: Standard lighting requirements for residential, commercial, and industrial facilities are different. Although the differences may be slight, it is important to be specific when consulting the building code requirements.

The Near Future of Lighting Controls

With the greater focus on energy savings, sustainable building and growth in the range and sophistication of LED lighting technology, the demand and market for lighting controls is set to grow rapidly in the coming years. According to research from Memoori, the global market for lightings controls will grow from US$ 2.208 billion in 2015 to US$ 3.669 billion by 2020, an increase of more than 60% (see chart).


Lighting controls will also continue to grow in technical sophistication as LED technology has opened the door to a wider range of applications for lighting. The technology (known as Li-Fi) is now available to allow LED lights to transmit wireless data, providing an alternative to traditional broadband and other wireless data transmission technology. LED data transmission offers a solution to the rapid increase in information flow and resulting overcapacity of networks.  As this TED talk by Harold Haas illustrates, beyond just lower energy use, using LED lights to transmit data provides a sustainable alternative to building more infrastructure such as cellular towers to support the increase in data flow and provide universal access to data. The future of lighting clearly holds a lot of promise.

Lighting Control FAQ's

Q. Can I upgrade the lighting controls of my building?

A. Yes, you can easily upgrade the lighting system of your facility by selecting suitable lighting controls that will meet your needs without straining your budget. For retrofit projects, a wireless lighting control system is a suitable choice since it has minimum wiring needs.

Q. How do I know how many sensors I need for a factory floor or warehouse?

A. To get the exact number, you will need to factor the size and the layout of the factory floor. In addition, you will need to consult the building code requirement for industries to understand the standard lighting requirements for factories. If you have specific questions, one of our RAB Design lighting consultants would be happy to help, just connect with us through the button below.

Q. How do I use my phone or tablet to control the lighting in a particular space?

A. Some automated lighting controls allow you to regulate the lighting of your room or office using a mobile device. This might involve using an application on your smart phone or tablet. Obviously the lighting control would need to have this capability.

Q. What is Li-Fi?

A. Light Fidelity (li-Fi) is a form of high speed wireless communication technology similar to Wi-Fi, which relies on visible light instead for radio frequency waves to transmit data at a speed that is about 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. The term Li-Fi was coined by Harold Haas, a researcher and teacher at the University of Edinburgh.

Lighting is obviously a big topic and it’s hard to know everything. Our RAB Design lighting consultants deal with all kinds of questions every day, including many about lighting controls. If you have any specific questions, please send your request in through the button below.

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Topics: Lighting Essentials