Bright Ideas

What is the difference between Commercial, Industrial and Residential Lighting?

Posted by Joe Lightman on Jan 11, 2016 2:39 PM

For 2016, RAB Design has resolved to provide lighting tips from the field to help our customers and the lighting community. So this is the first post in a new series covering Commercial and Industrial Lighting Essentials.

Unlike some products, with lights or lighting systems, what you see is not really what you get. A luminaire (fixture) or light source (bulb) that looks almost the same from a distance might be completely different when you open up the hood. So whether you are facility manager, electrician, contractor, architect or DIYer, the next time you are considering lights for your next project (or just browsing around at a big box retailer) these are some things to think about.

First let’s be clear about what we mean by Commercial, Industrial and Residential grade lighting.  

Commercial lighting – Basically this includes all types of businesses that aren’t manufacturing -hotels, restaurants, retail stores, warehouses, offices, hospitals, schools, condos. Public lighting on streets, bridges and government facilities is also typically included in this category 

Industrial Lighting – These are lighting fixtures and bulbs used in manufacturing facilities – think factories - but these might also include lights used in specialized situations - as in those tough looking lights used in “hazardous locations” such as chemical plants, mines and refineries.

Residential Lighting – Well this one is easier, we are talking about the lights you use inside and outside your home, such as your kitchen, garage, garden and driveway. Sometimes there is a separate category for landscape lighting.

Comparison of Residential, Commercial/Industrial Lighting Systems

Industrial Commercial Lighting RAB Lighting

The table above simplifies the variables and requirements to consider and help to generally compare the pros and cons of residential and commercial/industrial lighting systems.

As a final takeaway, whether for commercial/industrial or residential, key things to think about are: flexibility, energy efficiency and maintenance costs.


Generally commercial/industrial grade fixtures mean better quality, less maintenance, more versatility of lighting output and longer life.  If your needs are more simple or short term, residential grade lighting, might make sense.

We’d love feedback or suggestions for future topics to cover. Simply submit a comment through the form below.  

We have also prepared a short eBook covering 8 Considerations when Comparing Residential, Commercial and Industrial Lighting. Download the eBook below.

Download the eBook

Topics: Commercial and Industrial Lighting Essentials