Introduction to Lighting Controls

What are lighting controls?

We’re all familiar with the simplest of lighting control – the humble on/off switch. The next step up is to want to either automate the lighting with a time switch or to be able to control the light level. Typically when we want to combine the two and add further sophistication we need to employ a lighting control system:  an intelligent network based lighting control solution that incorporates communication between various system inputs and outputs related to lighting control with the use of one or more central computing devices. (Wikipedia)

Why use lighting controls?

Lighting control systems have many applications.

  • Setting a scene: different moods for different times of the day
  • Adjusting to personal preferences
  • Energy saving: they can respond to daylight and occupancy to reduce the wasteful use of lighting

Types of lighting control systems


  • DALI – a digital system using a two wire bus and allowing 64 addresses per channel. Often used in large commercial applications a DALI system can be connected up to a larger building management system using a gateway. Requires programming before being commissioned, products from different manufacturers may behave in different ways
  • 1-10V – an analogue system that uses a simple variable voltage to control light levels. Easy to understand and available from a wide range of suppliers. Most lighting control systems can be connected. Each control group needs its own circuit


A large number of incompatible wireless control systems have been developed over the years, each requiring specific controllers and interfaces. There is some hope for a new standard based on the BlueTooth Smart protocol. This has the advantage that it can be controlled and set up from a standard smartphone.