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Lighting Control Intro

The World of Lighting Controls

April 1, 2022
Here’s an overview of the key trends in the lighting controls market and EW’s picks for the best sources of information about this important product segment.

The post-Covid era is a particularly interesting time for the lighting controls market right now. Most lighting salespeople were not able to meet face-to-face with many customers over the past two years to demonstrate new lighting controls, LED and fixtures. That’s a big deal in lighting, because a huge part of the sale being able to compare and contrast different lighting systems for potential customers.

Merger and acquisition activity in the lighting market hasn’t slowed down, either. GE Current bought the Hubbell Lighting division in 2021, and Signify closed on its acquisition of Eaton’s Cooper Lighting unit in March 2020. In 2021, Signify acquired Telensa, a developer of lighting networks for smart cities and Fluence, a provider of lighting products for the agricultural market.

As electrical distributors, independent reps and manufacturers recalibrate their sales and marketing strategies to increase their share of an important product area that accounts for 2.2% (approximately $2.64 billion) of the estimated $120 billion-plus in sales through full-line electrical distributors they will be confronted with four major trends now reshaping the lighting controls market:

  •  App-based lighting control is commonplace for homes and other smaller applications.
  •  Wireless lighting control is popular for applications with a small footprint and retrofit work with a relatively limited number of fixtures to control.
  •  Networked lighting control systems are often tied in with HVAC, building automation and security systems in larger applications.
  •  Field-selectable CCT (correlated color temperature) and wattage is now widely available across the lighting industry.
App-based lighting controls. When someone says, “There’s an app for that,” they may be talking about one of the lighting manufacturers that over the past 10 years have developed apps for smartphone or tablet-based control of LED lighting systems. One of the first smart apps controlled the hue LED lighting systems introduced by Philips Lighting/Signify in Oct. 2012. The company promoted it ability to save favorite lighting scenes, tune white light from warm candlelight to vibrant, cool white light; and control and monitor lights remotely when not at home for security. Since the hue LED system hit the market, app-based lighting control for residential, smaller offices and other commercial lighting applications have become commonplace.

Wireless lighting control. When customers need to manage lighting in a medium-sized office, commercial or retail application with a dozen or two fixtures and moderate square footage in an open design, wireless lighting control may be an option. Paul Farris, Northeast regional manager for Leviton’s Lighting & Controls business, says wireless lighting control systems many also be an option in some retrofit applications where it may be difficult to install a hard-wired control system. He has seen them used in schools that want to convert underutilized areas into classrooms.

Networked lighting control systems. When building owners and tenants want to maximize their energy savings, they may need to link their lighting controls systems to a building’s HVAC, security and automation systems. need more sophisticated control of their lighting systems. In the recent LEDucation seminar, “Evaluating Lighting Control Sequence of Operations for High-Performing Buildings,” Acuity’s John McBride and Mark Lane said users want lighting control that’s simple, easy to access and capable of producing major energy savings. Lane said another customer benefit of linking these building systems is cutting down on the number of maintenance contracts for HVAC, lighting systems and other building systems. One interesting product that helps monitor these building systems is Amerlux’s O3 Sensor Hub, a multi-sensor device that mounts to the ceiling and monitors temperature, humidity, motion, sound and light level and color.

Field-selectable LED control. Over the past few years, Electrical Wholesaling’s editors have seen field-based control of color temperature and wattage and evolve from a product feature most common in higher end lighting fixtures and systems to one that’s now available in basic downlights on the shelves of big-box retailers. This feature makes it super-simple for electrical contractors and other installers to customize color temperatures and wattage in the field. But there’s an added bonus for electrical distributors, too. Because one fixture can cover so many different applications, it cuts down on the number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) a distributor must carry. 


Where to go when you need to learn more about lighting controls

With all of the technological changes in lighting controls over the past few years, getting the latest available information on products and trends is critical. The associations, government resources, publications, websites and universities listed below are EW’s picks for the best lighting education, information on trends and new products, and networking/educational opportunities at lighting industry events. We also listed the largest lighting vendors in the sidebar on page 15.


When you take a step back and look at the lighting world, you quickly realize it’s made up of several dozen individual communities, each with their own distinct areas of interest. While lamps, lighting controls and lighting fixtures account for 25% to 30% of the typical full-line electrical distributor’s sales, there are hundreds of retail lighting showrooms, lighting reps, lighting designers and consultants, landscape lighting installers, lighting maintenance companies and other companies that focus on lighting 100%. The trade associations below capture the diversity of business interests in the lighting industry.

American Association of Independent Lighting Agents (AAILA)

This new group brings together independent lighting reps and lighting manufacturers to discuss issues of common interest. AAILA plans to offer online training and commissioned research for members. At press-time, the association had 26 reps and 28 manufacturers as members. The group plans to hold a member event on June 20 at LightFair in Las Vegas.

American Lighting Association (ALA)

One of the larger trade associations in the lighting industry, ALA provides educational and advocacy services for operators of retail lighting showrooms, residential lighting reps, manufacturers of residential lighting equipment and other companies in the residential lighting market. ALA also publishes Lighting magazine and will be holding its annual conference Sept. 11-13 in Austin TX.

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES)

The 8,000-member IES focuses on helping members design quality lighting systems, and it’s respected throughout the lighting world for its training, advocacy, standards, awards and communications programs. It publishes LD&A (Lighting Design & Accessories) magazine.

International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD)

IALD has 1,500 independent lighting design professionals as members. The association provides widely respected training programs and product innovation awards.

InterNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO)

NALMCO members focus on the installation and maintenance of energy-efficient lighting systems for the retail commercial and industrial markets. The association’s annual meeting will be held Oct. 16-19 at the Renaissance Phoenix Hotel & Spa, Glendale, AZ.

Lighting Controls Association

The Lighting Controls Association is part of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and focuses on educating the professional building design, construction, and management communities about lighting controls.

National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

While not focused specifically on lighting, NEMA develops electrical products standards and is an advocate on Capitol Hill for legislation favoring its members’ interests. It has historically been quite active in the development of federal energy-efficiency standards. NEMA recently published two new standards for lighting controls and other devices that report energy data.

National Lighting Bureau (NLB)

The National Lighting Bureau’s main mission is lighting education. It also offers a Trusted Lighting Warranty program and two awards programs for its members. Its Annual Lighting Forums, available on YouTube (, are always interesting panel discussions on current lighting topics of interest.

National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO)

NAESCO members provide performance contracting services in lighting and other building energy services for customers in the government, institutional, educational and Fortune 500 sectors. In these performance contracts, the ESCOs typically install the equipment specified and guarantee the customer certain specific energy savings. The ESCOs in the association are independent companies and the performance contracting arms of manufacturers and utilities.

National Association of Independent Lighting Distributors (NAILD)

This group of specialty distributors focus on the sales and supply of energy-efficient lighting products and systems. The group’s 2022 annual meeting will be held on Sept. 13-16 at the Dallas Market Center in Dallas, in conjunction with the ArchLIGHT Summit. NAILD says the ArchLIGHT Summit will “showcase new products from hundreds of leading commercial brands reflecting the latest lighting trends and technologies, combined with a full slate of accredited educational and hands-on experiential sessions facilitated by the sharpest minds in design and lighting.”


Along with the various events hosted by the trade associations  mentioned in this article, these are some of the key lighting events being held over the next 12 months.

 LightFair, June 21-23, Las Vegas (

 LightSpec Midwest, Oct. 4-5, Chicago (

 LightSpec West, Sept. 21-22, Los Angeles (

 Lightovation, Dallas International Lighting Show, June 22-25 (

 LEDucation 2023, March 7-8, 2023, New York (


These are the best sources of information on utility lighting rebates and other financial incentives offered by state or local government entities.


BriteSwitch’s specialty is finding and capturing local, utility, state and federal rebates and incentives for commercial buildings across the US & Canada. Company founder Leendert Jan Enthoven is a regular contributor to Electrical Wholesaling and talked with EW on a recent EW Executive Insights podcast.

DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency)

DSIRE is another resource for information on rebates and other financial incentives for lighting products and renewables. The organization was founded in 1995 and is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.


EW’s editors first met the UtilityGenius folks at LightFair 2021 in New York. Like BriteSwitch and DSIRE, they collect and update rebate information. They offer some data for free and have monthly and annual plans for full access to the data.


Dozens of lighting publications and websites are out there, and most of them covering specific tight verticals or communities withi the lighting industry. The information sources below do a nice job of providing a broad perspective on the overall lighting market.

Edison Lighting Report

Edison Lighting Report is recognized for Randy Reid’s coverage of breaking lighting news. Reid also publishes the “Today in Lighting” YouTube video, a regular update on industry news.


Designing Lighting’s website and magazine profile innovative lighting designs and provide business information to the lighting design community. Randy Reid is the editor.


InsideLighting’s website says its goal is to help lighting professionals do their jobs easier and quicker. The website is loaded with informed takes on industry news, video Q&As and other interesting lighting content. Lighting industry veteran Al Uszynski launched the website in 2016.

Lighting Design & Accessories (LD&A)

You can always count on LD&A for solid profiles of beautiful lighting projects and coverage of technical issues in the lighting world.

LEDs magazine

A more technical read, the publication’s readers are engineers, researchers, scientists and technical professionals involved in the development of solid-state lighting (SSL) technologies.

US Lighting Trends

A new content source for the lighting world, US Lighting Trends is a bi-monthly digest of the latest lighting news and trends.


If you want to get a sense of which lighting products are attracting the praise of the industry’s designers and consultants, check out these annual lighting awards programs.

IES Illumination Awards

IES Illumination Awards

LightFair Innovation Awards

NLB Art & Science of Lighting Awards

NLB Tesla Awards


IALD offers a listing of the colleges and universities in the United States and abroad that have a focus on architectural lighting design. The U.S.-based universities in the listing are: New York School of Interior Design / New York

Otis College of Art & Design /  Los Angeles

Parsons-The New School for Design / New York

Penn State University / University Park, PA

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute / Troy, NY

Texas Christian University / Fort Worth, TX


You will also find plenty of solid lighting info on the websites for the Designs Light Consortium, DOE, IES and Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center.

Design Lights Consortium

The DLC is a non-profit organization focused on rigorous testing for lighting performance. It’s best-known for its DLC Qualified Products Lists. DLC says these lists are the “largest verified lists of high-performing and energy-saving LED lighting solutions in the world,” and that the LED lighting products on them undergo thorough vetting and review by DLC experts to ensure they meet rigorous energy and quality requirements. Lighting manufacturers whose products pass this testing often proudly display the DLC listing logo on product packaging.

Department of Energy’s Solid State Lighting Program

Within the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy is a federal program that over the past 20 years has helped save an estimated $20 billion in annual energy costs and 185 billion kWh annually by funding 347 R&D projects in the lighting field. It also promotes best practices in energy-efficient lighting product design and offers online and in-person education for lighting professionals.

IES Progress Reports

The Progress Reports published by the Illuminating Engineering Society are intended to serve as an impartial annual gauge on development of new lighting technology, and the public reports are a good read if you want to cut through the promotional gobbly-gook that often obscures which new lighting products are offering something truly different. IES says its Progress Committee’s mission is to “keep in touch with developments in the art and science of lighting throughout the world and prepare a yearly report of achievements for the Society.”

The organization says all submissions are judged by an impartial panel of lighting experts on their “uniqueness, innovation and significance to the lighting industry.” A surprisingly small number of submittals make it into the report. In 2020 there were 171 submittals, but only 82 were accepted into the report. 

Lighting Research Center

The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute now focuses its research and advocacy efforts on LED lighting, 3D printing for lighting, aviation lighting, photometry and lab testing consultation and industry education.