LIGHTING CONTROL GUIDE. - Lighting Association The early systems developed to control the use of lighting

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    LIA Copyright © 2018. All information stated within this brochure is correct at time of publication – October 2018.


    The aims of this guide are:

    To provide an appreciation of the benefits of lighting controls

    • To demonstrate that the benefits and abilities extend beyond electricity use reduction

    • To make the terminology of lighting controls more familiar

    • To inform those who are considering the use of lighting controls

    • To help match controls and light sources to ensure optimum results

    • To show where expert and reputable advice may be sought

    • To provide an introduction to a deeper understanding of the subject through training

    • To provide a decision tree to assist in the selection of the most suitable lighting controls

    The creation of this guide would not have been possible without the valuable help provided

    by members of the LIA Controls Equipment Technical Committee (CETC).

    Automatic lighting controls are often thought to be a dark art. In reality, they work in

    the background to manage the lighting without fuss.

    You can rely on a number of reputable suppliers to sort out the details to suit your

    application. Just explain how, and when, your business works and they will design the best

    control strategy and system for your needs.


    This guide has been structured to give the reader a logical progression

    through the subject of lighting controls. The subject is divided into a

    number of sections, which are defined in the table below. Each section

    can be read independently, and links will guide the reader to any

    logical connections, both within this guide and to other relevant


    NAVIGATING THIS GUIDE Route to determine the control type for the application.

    EVOLUTION OF CONTROLS FOR LIGHTING This section provides the context for the guide and begins to familiarise the reader with the

    reasons for using lighting controls. It describes the origins of the solutions and products

    available today, while demonstrating that it is an established and reliable industry.

    BENEFITS Lighting controls are not only provided to reduce electricity use; there are much wider benefits.

    They can be the means to deliver good lighting designs; to set moods and ambience. Controls

    ensure that the right light is provided in the right place, at the right time.

    TECHNIQUES There are a number of ways to control lights; from simple wall switches to fully networked

    management systems. This section describes the various ways lights are controlled both

    manually and automatically; including daylight references and occupancy control.

    APPLICATIONS Different building types and accommodation require different lighting control solutions. The

    most common applications are described and appropriate controls suggested. Sub-

    headings include offices, industry, schools, hospitality, museums, floodlighting and shops.

    TECHNOLOGIES A brief technical description of generic lighting control products and systems is provided in

    this section. All the component parts of a lighting control system are introduced, including

    manual overrides, sensors, lighting control modules, software and interconnections.

    STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS An overview of the standards, regulations and guides that are relevant to the specification,

    application and use of lighting controls. A number of links to Government and professional

    bodies are provided here.

    GLOSSARY A dictionary of lighting and control terminology.




    Lighting controls have existed for as long as we have had electric

    artificial lighting. However, today the term lighting controls is

    generally taken to refer to some form of electronic, or automatic

    solution, rather than the simple, mains ON/OFF switch.

    This section is intended to create a context for the understanding of lighting controls by explaining

    their origins, and how they have developed over time; both technically and functionally.

    Lighting Controls - the two branches and how they came about

    The first lighting controls can be traced to the theatre / entertainment world where there was a

    need to vary light output as well as to turn it ON and OFF. Initially largely manual in nature,

    theatrical controls evolved into highly complex systems and began to spread to wider - but related

    - applications. This branch has become known today as scene setting lighting controls.

    More recently - from the late 1960s onwards - automatic lighting controls entered the commercial

    built environment. The first systems were little more than an electronic switch that allowed the

    use of pushbuttons and extra low voltage wiring. The first energy crisis in the mid-1970s brought

    energy use in buildings into focus for the first time and gave purpose to this branch of the lighting

    control evolution - to reduce lighting electricity consumption. The two branches of lighting

    controls familiar to the built environment are, therefore: - Scene setting and Energy Saving

    Dedicated theatrical control systems continued to evolve separately, but today they have

    returned to influence the main stream market.

    In order to assist the designer to select the most suitable lighting controls solution for the

    application, a decision tree is provided for this purpose – follow this link.

    Scene setting

    The applications related to theatre lighting that led to scene setting lighting controls moving into

    the built environment were auditoria, lecture theatres and conference facilities. The term scene

    setting was derived from the fact that the systems generally allowed the user to select a specific

    lighting effect; normally by pushing one button. This action would set the various lighting circuits

    into a pre-set state - ON, OFF, or at a specific dimmed level.

    These systems were usually manually operated and offered a wide range of static scenes - i.e.

    once selected the lighting remained fixed until another scene was chosen.

    Scene setting systems also dictated the choice of lighting source because not all could be

    readily dimmed. Even today there are restrictions on certain light sources with respect to their

    control. These systems were seen to be an integral part of the lighting design and often

    specified by the lighting designer

  • Energy saving

    The early systems developed to control the use of lighting electricity relied heavily on the use of

    localised switches overlaid with an automatic function that ensured lighting was turned OFF when

    the building was expected to be empty. These functions included day light levels and time of day.

    Most of the early energy saving lighting control systems were retrofitted into existing installations

    and therefore had to be economical to install; they also only needed to be able to turn lights ON

    and OFF. Dimming had not yet become practical in the commercial building world. And, in stark

    contrast to the scene setting branch, energy saving lighting controls generally ignored the lighting

    design. Little or no notice was taken of the original design intent.

    This was especially true when pull switches were fitted to individual fixtures, allowing staff to

    choose which lights were ON and which were OFF. The resulting ‘non-uniform’ lighting levels

    were the subject of much debate (back then) in the world of lighting designers.

    The impact on the original lighting design was, however, somewhat relieved by the fact that

    most of these systems gave individual users far more control of their local lighting. This led

    to higher satisfaction being observed in affected staff, and avoidance of the design issue.

    +25% +50% +60% +75%

    No dimming Manual PIR + manual Daylight linked Daylight linked

    dimming dimming dimming dimming + PIR


    The two branches of lighting control began to converge when dimming became a practical

    element of the energy saving systems. The introduction of the dimmable high frequency electronic

    ballast for fluorescent lighting was the enabling technology.

    As already mentioned, the past scene setting systems were all about dimming and levels and

    energy saving systems relied on ON and OFF commands. Now the dimming function was

    easily implemented in the building wide lighting controls; the basic functions of a light were no

    longer just ON and OFF but DIM or BRIGHT according to current need.

    Convergence, DALI, DMX and LEDs

    In the meantime pure theatrical lighting control had moved down its own evolutionary path and

    developed its own protocols; the most used of which is the DMX512. (See Sections 5 and 6.)

    This protocol was developed to allow theatres to buy stage lighting from multiple vendors and

    link it all to the ever more complex show c