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How to light: with lighting controls

June 2021, by Mitch Waite

A guide to lighting controls

Lighting control systems greatly enhance any environment in which they are installed. Commonly used in both indoor or outdoor settings, for residential and commercial use, a lighting control system is an input/output device or system which receives information and adjusts lighting power accordingly to provide just the right amount of light where required. Often referred to as ‘smart lighting’, a lighting control system provides a customisable and flexible way to light any project.


For the individual responsible for specifying a lighting installation, whether that may be a car park or a high street, there are six important questions you need to ask yourself when determining which lighting control option is right for you:


  1. Why do I want to use controls?
  2. What do I want it to do?
  3. How do I want to control it? Phone/Tablet/PC?
  4. Who will control it?
  5. Am I adapting existing luminaires or investing in new ones?
  6. Do I want to scale up and expand in the future?


Ranging from simple to advanced, there are three levels of lighting control systems available to suit your project requirements; a stand-alone system, local network and a wide network.

 mitch dww website articles author round5

Mitch Waite, Senior Product Manager

Mitch has been working in the lighting industry for over 13 years and been with the DW Windsor Group since 2018. His experience and passion for light and lighting have made Mitch a key member of the Windsor's team, driving the development of new and innovative products.   

Option One: A simple stand-alone system

Providing direct control in its simplest form, this reliable and straightforward stand-alone system utilises electronic devices such as photocells and motion sensors to manage the lighting. With full manual and dependable control, the benefits associated with this system include improved security and safety of your building, automatic daylight dimming, pre-set dimming regimes and an eco-friendly on/off motion detector.

When extra light is unnecessary, this system makes it possible to conserve energy when not in use, therefore a cost-effective means to reduce consumptions whilst also ensuring a safe and pleasant environment. It is the perfect solution for areas with light traffic, whether that may be the perimeter of a building, pedestrian zones or access roads that need basic smart lighting.

Option Two: Local network solutions

Before building up to a full Central Management System (CMS) choosing a local network where the dimming profile can be adjusted on site, usually by connecting a device wirelessly (via Bluetooth or Near-Field Communication) to one luminaire, is a great first step and a future-proofed solution that in time has the capability to be customised or adapted remotely. This ultimately offers much greater flexibility than a standalone solution. Commonly selected for areas such as car parks and publicly accessible parks and squares, this lighting solution is highly recommended for settings which may require direct control and monitoring by a facilities manager.

This is a flexible and easy to use lighting control solution which offers secure access through device ownership and cloud backup without requiring specialised commissioning or central control modules. Enabling one-to-one control, or the opportunity for luminaires to communicate together in a small closed wireless network, this system is compatible with luminaires using sensor-ready drivers and can be further enhanced through features such as dimming schedules or dusk/dawn switching.

Option Three: Wide network solutions

Built on robust wireless communication networks and connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices, the wide network is a state-of-the-art remote CMS solution which provides the foundations for local authorities to build Smarter Cities through strategic flexibility.

A fantastic example is the City of London who took a proactive approach to their lighting system with a clear ambition to improve the quality of life for its workers and residents by avoiding light pollution, over-lighting, excessive glare and inconsistencies in lighting design. Home to some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral, the City embarked on an LED replacement programme in 2018 in partnership with Urban Control, who provide local councils and contractors with the knowledge and tools to deliver a scalable, future-proofed Smart City strategy.

There were a number of specific requirements, such as replacing old stock with newer lighting technology and providing the City with a Smart City Network. After an extensive evaluation process to balance performance and cost, the City now benefits from a low maintenance, energy efficient lighting solution. The combination of Urban Control’s CMS and an 80% dimming schedule has enabled the City of London to save more than 40% in energy consumption. Having exceeded all expectations, it is now possible to reduce the dimming schedule to 60% resulting in an additional 10% in energy savings. 

This flexible system provides a myriad of benefits for local authorities and private networks alike including: real time control, inventory management, interactive data history, energy metering, failure tracking and analysis, and dynamic management of lighting infrastructure all enabled by CMS.

And finally...

Choosing the right lighting solution for you may feel like a daunting task. There are clear benefits to each, whether that may be reduced energy consumption or lower maintenance and operational costs. With a range of options available, it is essential to consider all the specific requirements at the outset and be sure to ask yourself the five important questions before making any decisions. Undoubtedly this will help to clearly identify your needs and determine which lighting solution is the best option for you and your project.

For guidance on choosing the right solution for your project, speak to our experienced applications team today.


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