Project Title:

Development of a Prototype Wireless Lighting Control System

This low-cost system may lead to short payback periods for energy-saving lighting retrofits.

Status (updated 7/17/2013): Complete

Funding sources: CBE Industry Consortium, Research Grants


Project Objective

Develop and test a wireless lighting control system based on miniature, low-power radio network technology currently being developed at UC Berkeley. Create low-cost a system that is appropriate for both retrofit and new construction, and could result in significant energy and peak demand savings.

Significance to Industry

Lighting energy accounts for nearly 50% of commercial building electricity consumption and represents 11% of California peak electrical demand (>5.4 GW). In many buildings, much of this energy use is a result of lighting that is on unnecessarily because of inadequate controls. Traditional wired switches are expensive to install, inflexible to changing requirements in the workplace, and unable to respond to available daylight or occupancy. For example, many buildings have adequate daylight along the perimeter, but the installed switching is not adequate to turn off the unnecessary lights.

There are wireless lighting controls on the market, but each has its own specific limitations. Residential systems on the market tie a specific switch to a specific relay or relay channel, and do not provide the flexibility needed for commercial building applications. Commercial systems require that specialized ballasts be installed to replace existing ballasts, making them expensive and unlikely to be used in existing buildings. Our system would not require replacing existing fluorescent ballasts or fixtures—the control relay can be installed in a fixture in a few minutes. With the development of low cost components and simple installation, our system would have great potential for low-cost retrofit applications.

Research Approach

Our team has been engaged in the design of low-power wireless sensor networks and their applications in buildings. We built a prototype wireless lighting controller capable of switching commercial light fixtures on and off, and installed our prototype system in a UC Berkeley open plan office space in July 2005. Occupants were given remote switches to control the lights over their workstations. In addition, we installed switches in a conference area and filing area. Over a period of two months, we recorded the use of lights with the wireless controls and have measured a 65% reduction in lighting energy use compared with the pattern of use prior to the installation. In addition, occupants were enthusiastic about having personal control over their lighting.

The technologies developed in this research project have been licensed by Adura Technologies in order to commercialize the system. In 2006 Adura Technologies was one of five new companies to receive seed funding under California Clean Tech Open, a competition developed to spur investment in clean technologies. Adura later secured several rounds of financing, expanded its facilities and staff, and installed its technology in millions of square feet in customers' offices and parking facilities. In 2013 Adura was acquired by national lighting and controls leader Acuity Brands, Inc. Read about the acquisition.

Press on this project

Cleantech in the Building Sector, Centerline Magazine, Summer 2011 (PDF, pp. 3-7)

Lights Off, by Catriona Stuart, California Magazine, published by the California Alumni Association, May/June 2006.

Spotlight on Systems Research, by Ted Smalley Bowen, Architectural Record, June 2005.

UCB Center Wins Funding to Develop Wireless Lighting Controls, by Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley News, September 2004.

Click here for related publications>>

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The lighting control system integrates control signals from wireless switches, PCs, and occupancy sensors.

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Lighting controllers and hand-held switches are bench tested prior to installation for the field demonstration.

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Installation of the lighting controllers requires only minutes per fixture.