Published: January 10, 2014


More control = more savings

Advanced lighting controls allow facility managers to adjust the lighting based on how the space is used and occupants’ needs. These systems integrate communication technology, sensors and switches to control both power and time functions and provide the right amount of light at the right time resulting in increased energy savings.

Controlling lighting involves several strategies:

  • Scheduling – turning off or dimming lights when not in use
  • Facility-wide tuning – reducing the default light level
  • Daylight harvesting – dimming electric lights based on available natural light
  • Occupancy/vacancy sensing – turning off or dimming lights when a space is empty
  • Personal control/manual override – providing users the ability to adjust light levels based on their needs
  • Load shedding – turning off or dimming lights during periods of peak demand

Advanced lighting control systems are complex and have a range of configurations, features and benefits. They can be applied to both new and retrofit situations, but require careful planning and programming to work successfully.

Key components

Sensing devices

photosensors detect light levels and occupancy/motion sensors detect whether the space is being used

Logic circuit

receives information from the sensors and determines whether to supply light to the space and how much is needed

Power controller

implements the changes determined by the logic circuit



Market barrier(s)

lack of technical knowledge

Parking garages: generally need to be lit 24 hours a day but the amount of light needed varies depending on the level of activity. Combining motion sensors and daylighting controls with dimmable or bi-level lights, overall energy consumption can be reduced by lowering light levels when there is no activity in the garage or when there is sufficient natural light for the space.

Office spaces: lighting needs vary by task and room use and advanced lighting control systems can adjust lighting based on the amount of natural light available, schedule of activity or occupancy or can be adjusted by the occupant. Conference rooms and bathrooms, which are not continuously occupied, can be controlled by motion sensors ensuring that the lights won’t be left on when the space is unoccupied. Light levels throughout the building can be kept at a lower level, raising them only when needed for a task at hand.

Warehouses: lighting can be a significant portion of the total energy load in a warehouse and advanced lighting controls offer opportunities for savings when warehouse spaces are unoccupied. The controls can be designed to manage lighting levels within specific aisles or rows of a warehouse, reducing light levels when the space isn’t used and increasing light levels when motion is detected in an aisle.


Significant energy savings: Energy savings of 50% - 75% have been documented as a result of implementing advanced lighting controls.

Lowered maintenance costs: Lights that are used more efficiently can last longer reducing the need to replace lights. For example, in warehouses with high bay lighting, changing bulbs is not a simple task and can be costly and time-consuming. Not having to change lights as frequently saves maintenance costs as well as the cost of the bulbs.

Occupant satisfaction Advanced lighting controls can allow occupants to set the light levels in their space based on their need or preference, improving their job satisfaction.

Challenges and market barriers

First cost: While advanced lighting control systems are competitively priced, they do add to the cost of the lighting system. However, those costs can be recouped in savings within about a five-year period.

Commissioning highly recommended: Advanced lighting control systems deal with input sources differently than the previous generation of controls. While they use many of the same components (or more), these components communicate with the system and do not directly drive individual lights or zones. Commissioning the system is the process during which you decide which components are used by which lighting zones — and when, and how.

Statewide energy savings

We took a high-level look at the potential energy savings in Wisconsin from lighting control technologies. The estimate is meant to provide a sense of scale showing the impact these technologies might have on Wisconsin energy customers.

Lighting controls are gaining popularity in Wisconsin, although for purposes of this estimate, we assumed the saturation of the advanced application of this technology is very low.

To estimate statewide impacts, we assumed that this would be a retrofit opportunity to install advanced lighting controls. The technical savings rate is estimated to be 30% for commercial applications. We assumed that 50% of lighting would be applicable for lighting controls.

All data used for these estimates are from the Wisconsin Energy Statistics (2012), and Department of Energy's Commercial Energy Consumption Survey data (2003).

Financial incentives

While Focus on Energy does not have funding specific to a particular advanced lighting control technology, they do offer a Smart Lighting incentives for businesses which offset the cost of hiring a professional lighting designer. The incentive offers a performance incentive for energy that you save.

Seventhwave's Madison headquarters

In November 2013, Seventhwave (formerly the Energy Center of Wisconsin) moved into a new building that incorporated many high-efficiency elements into the design, including advanced lighting controls that adjust the lights based on occupancy and available natural light. Fewer lighting fixtures were used because daylighting is employed extensively. Tall window head heights allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building and skylights add natural light to interior rooms. Overall, finishes are light-colored with high reflectance values. LED task lights in the workstations supplement the natural light if needed. MORE


Kaiser Permanente has a 350,000 SF warehouse facility located in northern California that underwent a lighting upgrade. Before the upgrade, most of the lighting stayed on for 24 hours a day throughout the week. Some areas were over-illuminated and other areas were under-illuminated. The lighting upgrade included lighting controls as well as new lamps that provide better color rendition, fewer shadows and less glare. For each aisle of the warehouse, occupancy sensors turn on lighting as a worker approaches the area; lighting in some aisles now stays off all day. Motion sensors were used in other areas of the warehouse, including open office spaces, lunch and break rooms. The lighting controls ensure that lights in many areas are not turned on unless they're needed and are turned off when the space is no longer occupied. Kaiser Permanente saw a savings of over 40% of their utility bill, and employees express more comfort working in the space. MORE


The City of Pleasanton Library was designed to take advantage of natural light through multiple skylights and large windows. However, until recently, there was no way to adjust light levels based on the amount of natural light available. Instead, the library's electric lights were constantly on during occupied hours. In 2011, the library was retrofitted with new lamps and ballasts and a wireless control system. With the new system, lighting is adjusted based on occupancy, natural daylight and programmed schedules, saving the library $21,000 annually on their electric bill. MORE

Direct Energy Centre Underground Parking Integrated Light Control System

This underground parking garage serves the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. It is Canada's largest tradeshow facility and has 565,460 square feet of underground parking. Use of the parking garage varies based on the Centre's event schedule. The building automation system was only capable of controlling the east and west halves of the parking garage resulting in unnecessary lighting. An integrated lighting control system, capable of controlling lighting based on occupancy, time schedule and other strategies, was installed. The existing lighting fixtures and circuits were not replaced but control was improved by increasing the number of zones within the garage from 2 to 26. As a result, energy consumption was reduced by approximately 47%. MORE

Code Compliant Lighting Control Solutions for Warehouse Buildings

summary This best practice guide from WattStopper focuses on lighting control systems that are appropriate for warehouse buildings. The guide helps readers understand how to reduce lighting operation costs and save energy and meet the building occupants' needs. The guide also provides background on relevant lighting energy codes for nonresidential buildings.
citation "Code compliant lighting control solutions for warehouse buildings" WattStopper. Accessed February 28, 2014. LINK

Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Warehouses and Self-Storage Buildings

summary This Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) is published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
citation "Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Warehouses and Self-Storage Buildings" ASHRAE. Originally posted 8/14/08 and re-posted with errata incorporated, 4/27/11. LINK

Responsive Lighting Solutions

summary The General Service Administration's (GSA) Green Proving Ground program takes advantage of the many buildings that the GSA owns to apply energy efficient technologies with the goal of better understanding technology impact. In this report, the GSA evaluated a comprehensive lighting retrofit package which included workstation-specific luminaires, dimmable ballasts for individual occupants, cubicle occupancy sensors and a Lighting Management Control System. The evaluation included calculation of energy savings, photometric performance and occupant satisfaction.
citation "Responsive Lighting Solutions" Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Prepared for the General Services Administration. September, 2012. LINK

Controls Contribute to 40% Energy Savings in Kaiser Permanente Warehouse

summary Kaiser Permanente used WatttStopper products in a lighting upgrade in a distribution warehouse in Northern California. This case study describes the upgrade and savings.
citation "Controls Contribute to 40% Energy Savings in Kaiser Permanente Warehouse" WattStopper, 2010. LINK

Direct Energy Centre Underground Parking Integrated Light Control System

summary Final report from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund's LightSaver project reporting results from the installation of an advanced lighting control system in an underground parking garage at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.
citation "Direct Energy Centre Underground Parking Integrated Light Control System," Toronto Atmospheric Fund, 2010. LINK

Pleasanton Library cuts lighting energy use 46% with wireless lighting controls and fixture retrofits

summary Lamps and ballasts were replaced and a wireless lighting control system was installed in the city library in Pleasanton, CA. The lighting energy use was cut by 46%.
citation "Pleasanton Library cuts lighting energy use 46% with wireless lighting controls and fixture retrofits," Energy Solutions, 2011. LINK