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Lighting Controls

Simple forms of lighting control are commonly found in homes and commercial buildings, consisting of dimmer switches, timers, and motion sensor-controlled lighting. Traditionally, motion sensors, using ultrasonic sensor technology, are notoriously bad when controlling lights in an office where people are not very active. However, occupancy sensors are becoming more sophisticated in that they combine motion sensors with infrared sensors to detect the heat of people. Occupancy sensors can be used to control a variety of lights through out a house, but they are most often located in rooms like hallways and bathrooms where use is intermittent.

A variety of different dimmer switches are shown. Some have a slide dimmer, some have a knob dimmer.

Variety of dimmer switches for lighting control
Credit: www.neo.ne.gov

Dimmer switches are a more manual form of lighting control, but using dimmer switches to reduce the lighting output of a fixture can extend the life of the bulbs and save the occupant money on their electricity bill. Timers are also an easy way to control lighting, and are great for special occasion lighting such as Christmas lights. Currently, most of these pieces of lighting control are disjointed and not used to their full potential in the residential building space.

Commercial buildings have made more progress in lighting control as lighting makes up a larger part of the building's energy use and there are often building managers in charge of building operations.

A number of different sensors used with lighting control are shown. These sensors could be motion sensors, infrared occupancy sensors, or light sensors.

Different sensors used for lighting control
Credit: www.energycodes.gov

While most homes don't have a building manager to oversee energy use, more advanced residential lighting control systems are starting to come onto the market that manage lights based on input from occupancy sensors, light sensors, and schedules. These respond to the programmed control logic to turn lights on or off, dim them, and even open and close shades. There are also control systems that can be used to create a whole house "green switch" that could be programmed to turn all lights off in the house with the press of a single button by the front door. Combining more sophisticated lighting control systems with more efficient lighting should eliminate a large chunk of electricity spent on residential lighting.