I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Garrett, Director of Marketing, Architectural Products Group, Eaton. The topic: LED suspended luminaires. I’m happy to share his responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the February 2016 issue of tED.
DiLouie: How would you characterize the market for suspended general lighting luminaires? What would you estimate the percentage of commercial building general lighting is suspended versus other types?
Garrett: The market for suspended lighting has been consistently strong for many years and it’s a commonly desired general illumination solution, especially in spaces having higher ceilings combined with upscale interior finish. However, suspended lighting still remains a staple in educational facilities.
Suspended lighting represents a significantly smaller portion of the market compared to recessed general illumination but it’s still a high volume category given many recently built fortune 500 headquarters that have selected suspended linear as the “type A” solution.
DiLouie: Suspended luminaires may be direct, indirect, direct/indirect or indirect/direct? What is the most popular way to categorize direct/indirect and indirect/direct in terms of % uplight vs. downlight?
Garrett: With the advent of solid state technology in this category, the split of “indirect” vs. “direct” has been mostly downlight and the balance uplight. This has been due to cost and mechanical design constraints given the nature of linear LED PCBA’s having a 120-degree zone of luminous flux. However, LED components have become more affordable and product designers are now able to switch the industry back to accommodating a greater array of uplight and downlight variations, which is preferred. Percentage of uplight vs. downlight varies per the client and the lighting requirements of the application. Ideally you would be able to address any percentage up or down.
DiLouie: How would you characterize penetration and growth of LED lighting in this category? What would you estimate the percentage of current unit sales of LED suspended general lighting luminaires versus other light source types in 2015? How does that compare to five years ago?
Garrett: Significant growth has occurred in this category over the past five years.
DiLouie: Besides energy efficiency and longer life, are there any particular advantages of LED technology in this category?
Garrett: The primary benefits are optical, thermal and design in general. From an optical perspective you are not constrained like in a recessed troffer or a downlight, as you have more space to be creative and control the light. Thermally, these products are surrounded by air so the benefits are obvious. Finally, the solid state offers unique design freedom by allowing the manufacturer to design a light engine or lamp in any configuration necessary vs. the traditional approach of handing everyone the same lamp technology in terms of form factor, features, etc.
DiLouie: What typical energy savings are possible compared to linear fluorescent in a new construction scenario involving linear suspended luminaires?
Garrett: We can point towards recent cases where clients have saved 50 percent in annual lighting energy costs when retrofitting from fluorescent with LED luminaires.
DiLouie: LED lighting has been stratifying similarly to conventional lighting, with white goods and specification segments. How would you characterize LED suspended luminaires in each of these segments?
Garrett: The typical stratification has remained in LED suspended luminaires, however we have seen many instances where the client has a larger appetite to spend on LED suspended products purely based on the product’s design merit and its ability to make a statement about that clients position on embracing the latest, most sustainable technologies in their fixture selection.
DiLouie: What are the top three trends in LED suspended lighting?
Garrett: Tunable White, wireless control and small profiles.
DiLouie: With dimmable drivers standard or a standard option for a majority of LED luminaires, LED lighting in general offers good opportunities with lighting controls. One strategy that can increase occupant satisfaction is personal dimming control with dedicated workstation lighting. On LED projects, how would you characterize demand for designs with dedicated workstation luminaires and, separately, personal dimming control?
Garrett: We see this as a growing trend yet the majority of dimming on larger scale projects is still biased towards panel based 0-10v and DALI dimming systems that are monitored and controlled by the facilities engineers. Additionally we are seeing wired 0-10v applications being replaced with wireless 0-10v control systems at an increasing rate.
DiLouie: Advances in LED source technology have impacted luminaire design from optics to integrated control to smaller luminaires. Please describe the ways in which the LED source has impacted luminaire design and what benefits these developments present.
Garrett: I alluded to this [earlier]. The ability to create a light engine in any size or shape is the biggest upside to solid state technology in the lighting space. This design freedom multiplies when you couple this with state-of-the-art optical technology, giving the ability to make incredibly thin luminaires with glare control and significant lumen packages.
DiLouie: How would you characterize the retrofit opportunity for linear suspended luminaires replacing either fluorescent linear suspended luminaires or troffers?
Garrett: A one-for-one retrofit with a new LED fixture is a large opportunity. We’re not seeing much in the way of physical luminaire retrofits.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about suspended LED luminaires, what would it be?
Garrett: Outside of all of the typical LED “value-prop” benefits, suspended luminaires provide a great way for clients to add value to their workspace and their brand above and beyond a space illuminated with recessed troffers or downlights. Continuous linear applications take luminaire brightness and evenly distribute along a continuous row, eliminating any concentrated glare that you may get with recessed downlights, high-bays and troffers. The value is in the look and feel of the space – walls and ceiling are luminous and spaces visually feel larger.
In addition, managing electrical components is a big upside for suspended luminaires. Wireless controls, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors requirements (wired or wireless) are simplified by moving much of the wire and sensors into the long continuous fixture runs. The fixture essentially becomes a conduit for all of this technology. We deal with this complexity at our factory and therefore, less of the wiring complexity happens in the ceiling, reducing labor cost on site. Often, this is an overlooked benefit.
Finally, they just look really cool.