The Future of Lighting: Controls and Sensors

The world of lighting has been changing rapidly in the past few years. LED technology has made leaps and bounds in its effectiveness and applications, offering homeowners and businesses alike the opportunity to save even more money by installing energy efficient lighting in their spaces. Along with the influx of LED technology coming into the market, we have also seen more automation and sensor technology become an integral part of lighting systems in homes and commercial spaces, allowing many people to radically change the way they use energy, and making it so that lights are only on when they’re needed.

Lighting controls and sensors, when paired up with LED technology, are quickly becoming the way that businesses and homeowners of the future manage their energy use. It’s easier than you think, once you grasp the fundamentals of how today’s sensors and controls work.

Lighting Controls: The Basics

The best part about lighting controls is that you don’t have to worry about turning on or off your lights manually like you have in the past. Everything from dimmers to occupancy sensors help make your lighting more flexible while also making your life easier. To accomplish this, you can utilize many different sorts of lighting controls for different spaces and rooms in your building, effectively managing your energy usage while making it that much easier for you to get the color and mood of your lighting just right.

Here are a few of the lighting controls used today:


Dimmers can be used to get the light intensity in any space to a specific level. A dimmer adjusts the lumens output (light output) of a bulb, allowing you to easily adjust from full brightness to a dull glow. If you run a business where you need to capture a distinct atmosphere in certain rooms and areas, dimmers can you give you the control to do that.

Dimmers can be adjusted whenever you please, allowing you to adapt your lighting to whatever activity you’re doing at the moment. Plus, today’s dimmers can often connect to a smart lighting system, allowing you to control the brightness of your lights from any smart device. Along with this comes the ability to set schedules so that your lighting follows a pattern that suits the operations of the business.

LED lighting is able to be dimmed, but that’s where it can get a little confusing. When you purchase a dimmer and an LED fixture, you have to make sure that everything is compatible in order for the dimming to function properly. That’s where Shine Retrofits can help you sift through the options and make sure your products work how you need them to.

Motion Sensors and Photosensors

Exterior motion sensors, which turn on lights whenever they detect nearby motion, are usually used in outdoor applications where lights don’t have to be on all the time. Oftentimes they are coupled with a photo-sensor, which keeps the power off when it senses ambient light, like daylight, and then turns back on at night. Used together, you have a light that only turns on when it detects motion at night.

Using these sensors in various applications can be a very effective way to save energy. LED nightlights often use photo-sensors so that they are on only at night, and motion sensors can be used for spaces that aren’t commonly used, like patio areas during the evening hours.

Daylight Harvesting

In an indoor application, a combination of photo-sensors, dimmers, and daylighting can ensure that the lights turn on as soon as a space isn’t adequately lit by sunlight anymore, maximizing energy savings based on optimal light conditions in the room. This process is called “daylight harvesting,” and its hands-off functionality might be exactly what your business needs.

Occupancy Sensors

You might consider installing occupancy sensors in your infrequently-used indoor spaces, like meeting rooms and lounge areas where employees congregate for concentrated times throughout the day. Other good applications are in restrooms and stairwells. Occupancy sensors function by turning lights on when someone enters the room, then turn lights off a few minutes after that person has exited the space.

Occupancy sensors use two different methods to determine if anyone is in the room: infrared or ultrasonic detection. Ultrasonic is based on sound, and infrared uses heat and motion to sense if a person is in the room. Depending on what space you need to put a sensor in, both types can be very effective.

Vacancy Sensors

Similar to occupancy sensors, vacancy sensors operate by having lights be turned on manually, then turning them off as soon as everyone in the room has left. The benefits of these are that the lights will never be automatically turned on for any reason, which can lead to increased energy savings. They’re great for storage rooms, laundry rooms, and closets.

The applications of occupancy and vacancy sensors are far and wide. They can be effectively used in bathrooms, storage areas, break rooms, and many other types of spaces. They are extremely useful for saving money on energy, especially when you consider that you won’t have to worry about lights being left on anywhere in the office. If no one is actively using the light, then it should be off.


These are pretty self-explanatory. Timers can be used to turn on or off indoor and outdoor lighting at specific times, allowing you the peace of mind to know that your lighting will only be on when you need it to be. These can be very useful for a business that operates around set hours, and means you won’t get home from the office and worry that lights have been left on anymore.

For outdoor applications timers can often be used with photo-sensors so that lighting comes on only at night, and then stays on for a set amount of time (until 9 pm, for example).

All of these lighting controls and sensors can be very effective when applied to how you manage the lighting in your business’s spaces. You can utilize one or more of these controls in various combinations to see what works best for you, then adjust your system so that your lighting is efficient while still effective for the operations of your business.

For those who want an even better system, investing in smart lighting can be a great way to manage all your lighting controls and sensors. A smart system allows you to manage all of your connected lighting from any of your smart devices, adjusting lighting schedules and sensor functions as needed.

Shine Retrofits carries many products that help you control your lighting more effectively than ever before. Please call 1-800-983-1315 anytime from 6AM to 6PM MST, Monday through Friday, to speak with one of our lighting experts. We’d love to help you plan out your new lighting system and take your energy efficiency to the next level.