Republication of Postings from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Program by Jim Brodrick, U.S. Department of Energy As you know, the 2013 edition of LIGHTFAIR International took…
Republication of Postings from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Program
by Jim Brodrick, U.S. Department of Energy
As you know, the 2013 edition of LIGHTFAIR International took place last week in Philadelphia, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SSL team was there in full force – staffing our booth, giving educational workshops and training sessions, and walking the floor when we got the chance. So we thought we’d share some of our LIGHTFAIR observations with you.
With LEDs once again dominating the show, one thing that stood out was the increased range of applications they were intended for. Whereas a few years ago SSL was confined to just a handful of applications, you would have been hard-pressed to find an application last week that wasn’t represented by LED lighting products. It seems that applications once thought to be “further out” are already here now. This was even true in a literal sense – as witness the high-mast outdoor luminaires we saw, which were designed to replace conventional high-output products. With market adoption accelerating (and why not?), it seemed as though manufacturers are focused more on expanding their SSL product lines to be more comprehensive and not as limited.
Another thing we noticed at this year’s LIGHTFAIR was that there was definitely more light for less money, with improvements in output (e.g., accent track lighting that emitted 5000+ lumens) and efficacy anchoring a strong emphasis on first cost. And we saw quite a bit of evidence of fine-tuning and refinement, with characteristics such as glare and pixilation being addressed. Products that were cutting-edge two years ago are becoming increasingly practical – getting lighter in weight and more sophisticated in design, with less materials and smaller heat sinks. Whereas just a few years ago there were LED lighting products on the market that seemed to be all heat sink, today you actually have to look to find the heat sink in some of them.
That’s an indication of just how impressive some of these SSL refinements are, and how they build on each other and lead to some real synergy. For example, as the LEDs themselves become more efficient, you need fewer and fewer of them, which in turn means you can explore new materials and designs for the heat sink. Overall, it’s clear that material choices are becoming more sophisticated, and designs are becoming better.
This fine-tuning of product design appears to be in response to user feedback – which means that manufacturers are listening and responding. It’s gratifying to see that many of the issues identified in various DOE reports are being addressed by the newer products. We even saw a “quick-connect” LED product that attaches by means of magnets – a clever assist to the installation.
Another trend we saw in Philadelphia was the increased attention manufacturers are paying to controls – which, when done right, can significantly increase the energy savings by reducing wasted light. Some of the issues encountered when using controls with conventional lighting technologies may be avoided with SSL, which is especially suited for use with controls. We saw some very innovative control solutions last week, including wireless controls and adaptive controls – as well as a number of products that offered much-improved dimming, including dim- to-warm color shift. We also saw adaptive control and monitoring packages on some of the LED streetlights on display – which is why DOE’s Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium recently came out with a Model Specification for Adaptive Control and Remote Monitoring of LED Roadway Luminaires, created with the help of a number of manufacturers.
In addition, we noted increased attention to color tunability – not just the ability to customize lighting to suit one’s mood, but the ability to fine-tune things to get the exact shade of white light you want, from warm to cool, and from red rich to blue rich. There were also some innovative edge-lit products on display, as well as an emphasis on aesthetics and sophisticated design, plus some completely novel form factors – especially in pendants and troffer replacements, with some “indirect” troffer fixtures that do a better job of breaking the mold and getting away from the fluorescent paradigm. New form factors were also enabled by OLED products – including curved light fixtures, a sleek chandelier, domestically manufactured panels, and a hybrid LED/OLED wall sconce.
Of course, all of this isn’t to say that SSL has finally “arrived” free and clear. There are still a fair number of issues to be addressed – for example, we saw products in Philadelphia that had visible flicker (for more information on flicker, see the new DOE fact sheet on that topic). So there’s still a lot of work to be done – not only to iron out all of the bugs, but to get the innovative luminaires we’ve all been anticipating. Still, it was encouraging to see the latest in SSL products at LIGHTFAIR 2013, and to know that the best is yet to come.