Lutron’s Michael Smith on Residential Lighting Control Trends

Lighting industry journalist Craig DiLouie recently interviewed Michael Smith, VP, Sales, Lutron Electronics for an article about residential lighting trends in Electrical Contractor Magazine. The interview follows.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in residential design and construction, and how are they impacting demand for residential lighting controls?

Smith: In 2016, new homes and home renovations will be about creating comfortable, multi-use spaces – even the garage is considered a living space in many new homes. Other trends include accommodating pets as part of the family, focusing on human-centric design, and paying close attention to all the connected-home options available to homeowners.

Lighting controls plays an important role in supporting all these trends. Dimming lets you adjust the lighting for anything that’s going on in a space from a romantic dinner, to homework, to a high-energy fan fest for the big game.

New options in wireless, connected-home controls let you control your lights from your smart phone, wearable or tablet any time from anywhere. Wireless control also simplifies integration of lighting, shades, temperature, and even appliance control using centralized hubs, and easy-to-use apps. Consider these every-day situations – Already at work and you’re unsure whether you left those lights on? Check your app, and turn them off with a quick tap. Home late and don’t want to leave Fido in a dark house? One touch on your phone can remedy that problem.

As the connected home becomes more commonplace, homeowners will expect smart lighting control to be part of their new home or renovation plan, and contractors/builders will have to offer reliable solutions that are easy to install and program.

DiLouie: How would you categorize various lighting control options suitable for residential applications?

Smith: Lighting control for the home runs the gamut. From a simple occupancy sensor switch that turns lights on when you enter a room and off when you leave that room, to wireless solutions that integrate lighting, temperature and shade control from convenient wall-mounted and remote controls or from any smart device.

Lighting controls save energy, create comfort, increase feelings of safety and security, and give the homeowner total control over their lighting environment from anywhere in the world.

And, don’t forget about shades. Daylight is free and abundant, and most people find beautiful sunlight just makes them feel better. Battery operated shades are simple to use, easy to install, and affordable, helping clients invite just the right amount of sunlight into a space. Controls include wireless remotes or smart phone app, so there’s no need to reach behind furniture, and it’s easier than ever to control shades in hard-to-reach places.

Homeowners will count on their contractors to recommend products that will work simply and easily, meet their budget requirements, and offer new solutions with changing family needs. Today’s homeowner is savvy and more educated about smart technology than ever before. Lighting controls can effectively enhance their homes and improve their lives at every price point and with every light source.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of these lighting controls?

Smith: Many people never think about how important lighting control is until they have it. Then, they’ll all tell you they don’t know how they lived without it. Think about the convenience of getting into bed at night, wondering whether you remembered to turn off your lights, and being able to solve that problem by touching the “all off” button on your bedside remote, without ever getting out of bed. Lighting controls just improve your life.

Occupancy sensors can automatically turn lights on in the laundry room when both your hands are full. Battery-operated shades install in just minutes, and allow you open the shades with the touch of a button to let in just the right amount of sunshine in the morning, making that early wake-up just a little easier. New, wireless lighting control solutions allow easy centralized control of lights throughout the home, and put control as close as an app on your smart phone, or a wireless remote by your bed.

When you help clients choose the right lighting control solution for their homes, you not only make their lives better, and more comfortable, lighting controls even help reduce electricity bills. Every time you help your clients dim their lights, or lights automatically turn off in an empty room, you reduce their energy use and put a little money back in their pocket.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in residential lighting control technology, and where are they taking us?

Smith: Wireless technology is giving homeowners tremendous freedom to install lighting controls exactly where they need them, control lighting right from that smart phone that’s always in their hand, and add lighting controls to any home whether it’s new construction or just a quick, weekend room update. This is one of the most powerful trends for letting clients choose the kinds of control they need, when they need it, at a price point they can afford.

Lighting control is also becoming part of the robust, expanding smart home eco-system. Choose a lighting control manufacturer who is actively working to integrate easily with other smart home systems. Cutting edge technology today will be part of what homeowners just expect tomorrow. Work with manufacturers who are committed to delivering products that work, and who have a long history of innovation in the market.

DiLouie: What progress have lamp and controls manufacturers made in ensuring compatibility between LED lamps, luminaires and dimming controls?

Smith: Compatibility between LED lamps, fixtures and dimming controls can be confusing, but high-quality, customer-centric manufacturers are committed to providing clarity, and simplifying your LED purchase. Look for manufacturers who publish, and continually update, compatibility lists that clearly show which LED bulbs work best with which controls – check out your manufacturer’s websites, and make sure this information is readily available before you invest in a control or a bulb.

Several manufacturers, and the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) are working together to develop a new LED standard, called SSL 7A, that will make it even easier for clients to select compatible controls and LED bulbs.

LEDs are also getting closer to providing the warm, familiar light that we all know and love from the good old incandescent light bulb. As the technology continues to improve, so will consumer choice in high-performance LED controls. Be sure you look for manufacturers with a proven history in the LED control market, and with online support tools that help ensure that you have the right combination of LED bulbs and controls.

DiLouie: What are common pitfalls in selection of residential lighting and controls that electrical contractors should avoid?

Smith: Don’t be intimidated by wireless technology. There are lighting control companies who have been in the smart home arena for more than 20 years, and will be around in another 20 years. Count on these manufacturers to deliver wireless control solutions that are easy to purchase, install, and program.

Be sure to choose a company that offers the greatest flexibility with its control solutions. Your clients may not want to replace all the switches in their home at once. Many wireless, connected systems can start with a simple dimmer or a few lamp controls, and capability can be added over time without complex wiring or difficult programming. Wireless remote controls also allow homeowners to add control points in virtually any location without having to pull additional wires. Look for wireless remotes that features 10-year battery life for greatest versatility and user convenience.

LED compatibility is critical for a happy customer. Check the manufacturer’s website to make sure you are installing bulbs and controls that work with the latest control systems and deliver the lighting performance and color your clients expect.

Remember the simple solutions, too. Your client may not want to focus on a lighting control system. Helping them control their lights might be as simple as installing a $20 occupancy sensor switch in the laundry room. Make sure you work with the client to understand how controls will best meet their budget and performance needs.

DiLouie: There’s been a great deal of talk about the Internet of Things and how it might play out in the commercial building sector. What is the current state of development and future potential in the residential sector? What role will lighting controls play in this?

Smith: As the Internet of Things becomes a more common household term, savvy clients are willing to invest in smart products such as connected lighting, shade, temperature and security systems that make their lives easier. They are not interested in paying for technology that doesn’t work as they expect it to, or doesn’t add value to their lives.

Greater mass-market acceptance, and our combined success, ultimately depends on offering products and solutions that are easy to use and provide obvious benefits such as making their homes more welcoming, more comfortable, more accessible, and more efficient.

Lighting control systems are particularly essential in the universe of home systems products. The best way to make sure clients are happy with their connected home controls is to offer them world-class, reliable, long-life products that will work well and make their lives better.

DiLouie: What should electrical contractors be doing right now to maximize the value they offer to their residential clients with lighting controls?

Smith: Whether your clients live in a 400 square foot rental property or a 50,000 square foot retreat, they want the technology in their homes to improve their lives, save energy, and perform reliably every time they use it. Lighting, in particular is essential to every day life, so make sure you work with manufacturers who are committed to delivering products and solutions that work – the first time, every time.

Recognize that virtually every client has a smart phone, and more and more of them have wearables and tablets. Provide lighting control solutions that work easily with the technologies they already have and use every day. Show them how, with the right lighting control solution, they can easily control lights, shades, and thermostats, and they can also save energy and enhance peace of mind.

Finally, recognize that there is a lighting control solution for every space, and every home. Introduce your clients to the benefits of lighting control, help them choose the right option for their needs – you’ll have a customer for life!

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about the current state of the art in residential lighting products and design, what would it be?

Smith: Success in the connected-home market will largely depend upon meeting customer expectations, simplifying their lives, and enhancing convenience. Smart phones are becoming our held-hand computers, every day communication devices, new-age encyclopedias, and entertainment centers. They’re not going away, and that presents tremendous opportunity for our entire industry.

5 Top Reasons to Connect the IIoT Through Lighting

Five reasons why connecting the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) through lighting makes sense, courtesy of Eaton Corporation.


Legrand Announces Technology Partnership and Integration with Lumenetix araya5® Platform and New Wattstopper DLM Color Control

Legrand, North America recently introduced the Wattstopper Digital Lighting Management (DLM) Color Control, the industry’s first code-compliant circadian rhythm lighting system. As a controls partner for Lumenetix, the DLM Color Control will be interoperable with Lumenetix’s cutting edge araya5® LED light engine.

DLM Color Control marks a significant expansion in Wattstopper DLM capabilities. With increased market adoption of LED lighting and growing interest in functionalities like color control and circadian lighting, this system helps accelerate advanced lighting by solving the challenges around cost and complexities of the control system involved.

The system comprises of an in-fixture control module integrated into the DLM platform with wall box mounted astronomical clock and timer. DLM Color Control is ideal in all areas where high quality LED lighting and features are needed. The module uses standard DMX protocol to communicate with LED drivers and controllers, and enables control of dimmable LED drivers and controllers for CCT and color control applications.

Click here to learn more.

VTTI Tests On-Demand Roadway Lighting

Vehicles are expected to play a big part in the Internet of Things. By 2020, 250 million connected vehicles will be on the road, creating new services and driving capabilities, according to Gartner, Inc.

Infotainment is high in demand, though other capabilities are enabled, including crash warning, traffic violation warning and relaying weather, traffic and other data. Vehicles share basic safety information, including their position, heading and speed.

Another capability is adaptive lighting that responds to these signals, resulting in potential for “on demand” roadway lighting systems that save energy by operating only when needed. Low-traffic roadways are considered a major application for this approach, notably roadways with low night-time traffic levels and rural roadways with no roadway lighting and high accident rates.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) recently put this idea to the test on the Virginia Smart Road, creating a responsive roadway lighting system now ready for a wide range of human-factors and other testing. The project won a 2015 Lighting Control Innovation Award of Merit as part of the Illuminating Engineering Society’s Illumination Awards. The Lighting Control Innovation Award is sponsored by the Lighting Controls Association.

The Smart Road Project
The Virginia Smart Road is a 2.2-mile stretch of road that serves as a closed test-bed for new transportation technologies. Scientists and product developers have conducted more than 20,000 hours of testing on the road since it opened.

The road features dimmable LED lighting connected via a wireless mesh network. LED lighting is instant-ON, with negligible wear and tear on the system during activation.

VTTI envisioned a customized lighting control scheme in which roadway luminaires are turned ON in front of a moving vehicle and OFF once the vehicle has passed, without affecting driving performance.

VTTI recognized dimming and response to weather and traffic conditions as additional capabilities but considered these outside the scope of the project.

The on-demand control system
The Smart Road on-demand lighting control scheme marries LED roadway luminaires, connected-vehicle technology and DSRC wireless communication. It consists of a lighting controller, or processor, receiving inputs from both vehicles and luminaires, and then acting upon luminaires using custom programming.


The vehicle continuously broadcasts its GPS location, speed and heading information. Roadside receivers pick up this information and pass it on to the lighting controller. Meanwhile, luminaire status (ON/OFF) is fed to these receivers or directly to the lighting controller. As for luminaire location, it’s stored in memory.

The lighting controller decides how far in advance of the vehicle to turn a luminaire ON and how far behind it to turn the luminaire OFF. This decisionmaking is based on a sophisticated algorithm that accounts for vehicle information and other variables such as pavement type, friction distance required to stop, and potentially visibility conditions.

Communication occurs using dedicated short-wave communication (DSRC); VTTI already had DSRC-enabled vehicle and receiver stations being used on the Smart Road. VTTI identified DSRC at 5.9 GHz as the most reliable, effective and efficient technology. However, it has a limited range of 3,280 feet.

Another option is cellular, which has a longer range (2.5-3.7 miles), though it has an end-to-end latency of 1.5 to 3.5 seconds (compared to less than 100 milliseconds for DSRC). The vehicle broadcasts via cell phone to base transceiver stations, which relays the signal to a traffic management center.

Besides these two options, VTTI recognized that other communication pathways could be used. VTTI acknowledged its DSRC-based approach requires a centrally managed system that may not be possible on roadways lacking required infrastructure. Many new roadway luminaires have individually addressable wireless controllers, which may allow a distributed scheme.

Photo by Ronald Gibbons

In “An Experimental On-Demand Roadway Lighting System,” a paper by Matthew E. Palmer, Ronald Ribbons PhD and Arash Jahangiri of VTTI, the authors concluded: “The on-demand roadway lighting system developed by VTTI is working as designed and is ready for human-factors experimentation. The system can turn luminaires ON and OFF with good performance. The latency is low enough to be unnoticeable to the vehicle operator at speeds up to 55 MPH.”

What’s next
On-demand roadway lighting has the potential to produce significant energy savings while respecting traffic safety. VTTI considers its on-demand roadway lighting system to be superior to typical motion-based technologies because it is dynamic and can be tuned to the vehicle.

The researchers intend to conduct human-factors experiments and refine the system by potentially enabling the algorithm to run on multiple servers, testing at speeds higher than 55 MPH, incorporating variable luminaire spacing, addressing driver age, including motorcycles and heavy trucks, and adding dimming and response to weather factors.

Leviton Announces Intellect™ Intelligent Fixture Control System

Leviton recently announced its new Intellect™ Intelligent Fixture Control System, an energy-saving, code-compliant solution that simplifies fixture control integration and operation. The system is designed for out-of-the-box Title 24, ASHRAE 90.1, and IECC code compliance.

Intellect delivers a fast and easy OEM solution for fixture manufacturers to integrate intelligent controls into their lighting fixtures.

The plug-and-play Intellect fixture control system features self-commissioning capabilities, which locate, assign, auto-group and auto-zone all light fixtures in the space and set lighting levels based on a pre-determined logic without expensive wiring or commissioning. It utilizes local and cloud control for advanced lighting control, including 0-10V dimming, occupancy sensing and daylighting strategies. The Intellect mobile application (app) allows the system to be wirelessly configured, controlled, monitored and scheduled via a Bluetooth enabled iOS or Android smart phone or tablet. Intellect also includes an energy metering feature which monitors energy usage for each fixture via the Intellect app.

Click here to learn more about Intellect-enabled luminaires from Intense Lighting, a Leviton Company.

Virginia Smart Road Project Wins 2015 IES Lighting Control Innovation Award

The Lighting Control Innovation Award was created in 2011 as part of the Illuminating Engineering Society’s Illumination Awards program, which recognizes professionalism, ingenuity and originality in lighting design. LCA is proud to sponsor the Lighting Control Innovation Award, which recognizes projects that exemplify the effective use of lighting controls in nonresidential applications.

This month, we will explore the role that lighting controls play in an innovative project involving just-in-time roadway lighting. Lighting control design by Ronald Gibbons heading a design team at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Customized lighting control system with a Suvari vehicle communication system.

Realizing the issues with ongoing cost and maintenance of roadway lighting, a challenge to develop a system to reduce energy consumption by as much as 80% was undertaken. This design uses lighting only when and where it is needed without reducing driver performance. A custom lighting control system to provide “Just In Time” Lighting for roadway applications was developed that turns luminaires on in front a moving vehicle and turns them off once the vehicle has passed.


An in-vehicle connected vehicle system, to be mandated in new vehicles starting in 2020, is used to communicate with the control system. The vehicle transmits the GPS location, speed and orientation of the vehicle through a dedicated short range communication (DSRC) system to equipment located along the roadside.


This information is then passed to a processor that determines which luminaires are required for the vehicle. The system allows for variable luminaire spacing in front and behind each vehicle to allow for driver comfort and safety considerations.


The on and off signal are then transmitted wirelessly to a custom lighting control box at each luminaire location. As this system is a research-based configuration, the custom luminaire control allows for the selection between 3 luminaires mounted on each tower and the dim level of each.


This approach to controls is superior to typical motion-based technologies as the control system is dynamic and can be tuned to each vehicle. This system allows for a variation in the lighting behavior based on vehicle speed, presence of other vehicles and potential vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to infrastructure conflicts. Future enhancements include variations based on driver age and incorporation of next generation DSRC enabled mobile phones. This project was completed with funding from the Connected Infrastructure University Transportation Center on time and on budget.


ETC Expands Unison Echo Product Line

Echo Expansion Bridge

Echo Expansion Bridge

ETC continues to expand its Unison Echo® line of products with two new products – Echo Expansion Bridge and Echo-Echoflex Interface.

The Echo Expansion Bridge extends the Echo control system. Each Echo Expansion Bridge can contain up to four Echo segments, each segment supporting the existing Echo maximum of 16 spaces with each space allowing up to 16 zones of control. This means that Echo control systems are now able to include up to 64 Echo devices, such as Inspire® stations, Occupancy/Vacancy sensors, light sensors and output products.

EchoFlex interface

EchoFlex interface

When combined with the EchoAccess™ mobile app, Echo Expansion Bridge is able to allow access to the Echo network over a secure wireless access point, allowing users to configure and control the Echo control systems from tablets and smartphones. Echo Expansion Bridge also provides all-inclusive control between Unison Paradigm® and Echo control systems. Paradigm systems can output commands to the Echo control system, letting users activate and deactivate presets in Echo spaces and directly control zones.

Another addition to the Unison Echo family is the Echo-Echoflex Interface. Using a built-in 902 MHz EnOcean radio, the interface enables communication between Echo and Echoflex wireless devices without any additional wiring. Four inputs and outputs let users expand their current system with devices such as Keycard and Switch Stations, and Occupancy/ Vacancy Sensors. Plus the Echo-Echoflex Interface facilitates control of Echoflex power controllers from any Echo control system.

Synapse Wireless Unveils New Feature Sets to Controls Platform

simplysnapSynapse Wireless recently announced new feature sets to the company’s wireless lighting control platform, SimplySNAP.

SimplySNAP is an on-site lighting solution that monitors and controls lighting installations from a mobile device without requiring an Internet connection. This solution enables storage and display of power data, alarms and critical events for maintenance and troubleshooting. The system partners with low-voltage switches, photocells and occupancy sensors using Synapses’ line-of DIM10 lighting controllers.

Additions to the latest SimplySNAP release include auto-discovery of controlled lights, which greatly simplifies the commissioning process. Users can also upload their own floorplan images or site drawings to create custom scenes for granular control. Synapse has also added a new member to the SS420 site-controller family, the SS450, which comes equipped with a cellular option, providing more network connectivity options to the user that doesn’t have local internet available and wants to access their installation remotely. In addition, SimplySNAP has made adding controls even simpler by introducing the TL5-B1 wireless lighting controller that is compatible with the ANSI C136.41 dimming-compliant receptacle.

Synapse Lighting Control Solutions have been recognized in the past with several industry awards, including a 2015 Connected Home & Building Innovation Award, a 2015 Communications Solutions Product of the Year Award, a 2015 Smart Machines Innovation Award, and most recently were awarded the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Product of the Year Award for 2015.

Click here to learn more.

ENERGY STAR Consumer Guide to Dimmable LED Lighting

energy star

NEMA Says DOE Efforts on Border Enforcement Fall Short

In written comments filed with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) emphasized its support for federal energy conservation standards and efforts by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to prevent noncompliant products from entering the country. However, NEMA expressed concern about the DOE’s strategy regarding noncompliant products and recommends that government agencies better utilize available data to protect consumers from illegal imports.

“NEMA welcomes the DOE’s attention to the issue, but the proposal falls well short of accomplishing the goal because the agency is not addressing noncompliant products that have never been declared,” said NEMA President and CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff. “Moreover, why should the DOE impose duplicative paperwork burdens on compliant manufacturers when the agency already has the information on file?”

This is the second set of comments that NEMA has submitted on this rulemaking, as the DOE reopened the comment period on May 16 for its December 2015 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. NEMA’s initial set of detailed comments on the proposal were filed in March.

“The DOE appears to be ignoring the issue of interdicting imports of products for which documentation does not yet exist,” explained Cosgriff. “In addition, the DOE has not responded in writing with its views on the viability of a trusted trader approach that NEMA recommends, especially for high-volume importers. Such a program would address regulatory burden concerns for law-abiding manufacturers and importers.”