What is Dali Lighting?

Jan 31, 2021

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DALI lighting was born in the late 1990s. Manufactures such as Trionic, Osram, Huco and Phillips were in search of a more flexible dimming solution than the existing dimmer offering. The 0-10V dimming system simply comprises of a dimming unit wired to a lighting ballast, to create a rigid solution.

One of the main downsides of this approach is that, if you ever wanted to alter or redesign your lighting, it will a full or partial rewire, and would often not include any form of intelligent or smart control, unless wired to a Lutron lighting system. 

The International Electronic Commission (IEC) created standard 60929, otherwise known as the DALI protocol. As DALI is not a patented technology, many manufacturers have developed their own range of DALI products. The biggest advantage of DALI lighting is that all products created with DALI protocols are able to communicate with each other, regardless of manufacturer.

For installers and designers, this provides the flexibility to work with the best products from many different manufacturers, and ultimately deliver a stunning lighting system.

Read on below to find out what DALI actually is and why it could be beneficial in your home.


DALI has recently seen a significant spike in interest within residential and commercial buildings. It provides greater flexibility and functionality when compared to other dimming systems currently available on the market.

DALI stands for Digital Addressable Lighting Interface. 

How it works: A ballast powers a light fixture and reflects the conditions imposed by the control unit.

Each ballast is assigned a specific address with which the control unit communicates.

The control unit is the brains of a DALI lighting system. It can send and receive information from the ballast, commanding it to turn on/off, dim, as well as communicate fault information such as burnouts or malfunctions.

This is essentially the DALI Protocol; one control unit commanding many individual ballasts. Providing simpler, efficient and more cost-effective installation. 


DALI control systems have the capability of performing a wide variety of functions beyond that of typical switches or dimming dial. Most buildings will typically include some form of dimmable lighting. Bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms and cinemas all benefit from the ability to control the brightness or mood of the room.

DALI systems make this possible via programmable ballasts, capable of intelligently and smoothly dimming multiple lights to create preset scenes per room. 

Read the case study Palatial Penthouse | Lennox Luxury

Scene presets are a defined program within the control unit. Each scene can utilise all or specific light fittings around the home to create the desired scene or mood with light. Light fittings are no longer held hostage to their appointed wiring circuit or room, they can be added to another group of lights in the home.

Having the ability to assign communal area lighting into specific scenes or rooms provides great levels of flexibility to the lighting design in the home. 

Our installations (as pictured above) combine DALI lighting protocols with Lutron, alongside Crestron or Control4, smart home automation systems. Lutron keypads provide an elegant control interface with shortcut keys to recall specific scenes.

Alternatively, touch screens can also be utilised alongside dedicated mobile apps, such as Crestron and Control4, which can also communicate with intelligent lighting systems. These control points allow for unlimited scene presets which can be recalled for any occasion, from entertaining to meal preparation to relaxation. 

Learn about the Smart Home in our CPD

When it comes to dimming DALI does it better. Unlike other lighting systems that are dimmable, a DALI is able to provide 256 levels of brightness. The dimming is set on a logarithmic scale so light increases incrementally over a larger range which will be more natural to the human eye.

There are also non-dimming DALI ballasts available, providing a cost-effective solution in areas not requiring dimming functionality. 


Interior designers and architects aim to create spaces that benefit from both natural and artificial light. Highlighting certain areas or features, even subtly emphasising colours of walls or furniture to create the perfect space for their clients. Good amounts of daylight are important for interior design, but also for the mind and body.

We hear lots in the media about the potential benefits of increased Vitamin D, and conversely the negative effects associated with being cooped up indoors.   

We recommend Lutron for lighting and shading and window treatment control. Lutron does utilise the DALI protocols within its lighting modules. The intelligence of Lutron combined with DALI protocol allows for complete and efficient control of lighting and shading in the home.

DALI integrates with external light sensors which can calculate daylight levels. This will communicate with DALI ballasts, adjusting lights to create specific scenes for comfortable internal environments. 

This combination of light sensors and utilising DALI lighting protocols allows for reduced energy costs and consumption in the home, whilst maintaining optimal comfort levels. 


Traditional lighting requires lights to be wired to a switch, and offer zero intelligence in the home. An intelligent lighting system star wires ballasts to the central lighting control panel (LCP). Each module can connect to four ballasts. A DALI module, however, can connect up to 128 ballasts.

Naturally, this significantly reduces the size of the required LCP down to 1/32th of its original size. Naturally lending itself well to central London properties, where space is often limited. 

This is also beneficial in the home as it significantly reduces the amount of lighting cable required to run to the LCP, instead, DALI uses only 2 cables.

Utilising DALI will reduce the size of your system substantially. The left uses no DALI and the right uses a combination of DALI and standard lighting modules. 


DALI lighting is wired in a serial loop, from the LCP around the property. A DALI module has two outputs, and each of these outputs can hold up to 64 ballasts. Meaning each DALI module can control up to 128 lights with only 2 cables.

This is known as a DALI loop. As DALI is a programmable system, there are no specific requirements for the location of the ballasts within the DALI loop. As you can see in the image below, the lights are wired with only one cable back to the LCP.

Lights wired in a DALI loop back to LCP

As already mentioned, DALI ballasts have a unique address. This address is assigned to rooms by the integrator. The control unit sends a message to the ballast and commands it to display lights in a specific way.

If, for instance, a ballast fails, the installing integrator who initially commissioned the system would be able to take out the ballast and readdress it into the system so it continues to work, without the need for recommissioning of an entirely new system or chasing out cables.


Whilst DALI is a great solution there are some drawbacks when being used in high-end luxury homes.

Lavish homes often require lavish light fittings which draw a lot of power. Each DALI bus is capable of holding a maximum amount of current: 250mA. If the light fittings are collectively consuming more than 250mA on the DALI module, the system will begin to fail.

Feature lights such as chandeliers draw a lot of power. Power-hungry light fixtures on DALI can limit the number of fixtures you can control. This is where traditional lighting modules can be useful to take 

DALI lighting controls low level voltage lighting
Kensington Terrace: Read the case study


As with any wiring project, there are voltage drops associated with cable length. Having devices at too greater distances from the control unit can affect the system's reliability. However, this issue is more prominent in larger commercial projects. As a rule; the distance between devices should not exceed 300m. With most residential properties, this is not typically a common issue. 

Learn about cabling in our CPD


A DALI system should not be installed by the homeowner. In theory, this system is relatively straightforward, however, design, installation and programming is far more complex and should be carried out by a custom installer. This ensures complete safety and reliability. 


DALI is most certainly a worthwhile investment for residential properties. When combined with traditional lighting modules, it provides complete flexibility to create a multitude of lighting designs and scenes throughout the home, incorporating multiple different light sources. Intelligent lighting design paired with powerful smart home control inevitably creates a beautiful home, which is flexible, reliable and intuitive