Lighting Control User Interface Standards

Lighting Control User Interface Standards


Conventionally, lighting was only on or off, so a single switch with two states was all that was needed for control. As each room had just a few distinct lights, the whole system of controls was fairly simple. Over time, the number of potential variables in how lighting may be controlled has grown, and now includes dimming, light color, occupancy sensing, daylight sensing, and scheduling. The number of controls that have multiple features, and their sophistication in being able to use them, is growing rapidly. In the absence of any common language for lighting controls to communicate their capabilities and status to the user, most remain opaque. Those controls that do include user interface elements do so in an ad hoc and inconsistent manner. Often the result is that the user gets less light or the wrong type of light for their needs. Even more often is that more light is delivered than is needed, wasting energy.

There are exceptions. There is the convention in the U.S. and many other countries that "up" is associated with on or more (though many countries use the inverse association). There is a standard for vehicle dashboard controls (SAE J2402), that has symbols for many types of lights, and colors for status of selected ones. Many non-lighting contexts have well-established user-interface standards either formal or de facto. LBNL previously did work on user interface standards for power control of electronics, that resulted in IEEE 1621.

In 2010, LBNL conducted background research (slides) that found no standards directly on this topic, but many that inform it. The following is an initial classification of concepts around lighting that can be used to organize standard content.

  • Lighting in General - the overall concept of lighting, for when other controls also present
  • Basic Control - on/off control
  • Dimming - static control of light levels
  • Characteristics of Light - e.g. color
  • Physical Mappings - e..g. that more light is up or to the right
  • Scheduling / timers - time-based control of light levels
  • Dynamic control - e.g. from occupancy or daylight sensors
  • Scenes - complex settings for collections of light sources

An initial lighting user interface standard is likely to cover aspects of the topics bolded above.

This Project

The goal of this project is to create an industry standard on lighting control user interface elements that is broadly used by manufacturers in their products. To accomplish this, we will need to:

  • Survey new lighting control products for their user interfaces to identify elements currently in use.
  • Identify those elements most suited to early standardization.
  • Propose initial standard content for consideration by stakeholders.
  • Gather reviews of the proposed standard content from manufacturers and others.
  • Identify a standard organization most suited to hosting the standard.
  • Revising the proposed standard content and presenting it to a standards organization to initiate a formal development process.

NEW: February 2017: Survey Report and Survey Appendix .

This process necessarily needs to be driven by manufacturers to be sure that it meets their needs and ensure buy-in to the results.


Bruce Nordman, 510-486-7089,

Last Modified: February 13, 2017

ETA | LBNL | Bruce Nordman