I recently had the opportunity to interview Pamela Price, retail marketing manager, and Aaron Ganick, Head of SMART Home Americas, OSRAM SYLVANIA, for an article I wrote about residential lighting for the March issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. The topic: trends in residential lighting. I’m pleased to share it with you here.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in residential lamp design, and what do they bring to the table in terms of value to the end-user?

Price: Since a general purpose (A19) light bulb is often hidden in a table lamp, one might think that consumers wouldn’t really care what an LED looked like, as long as they were getting the same light they were used to from their previous incandescents. The trend is that consumers still prefer the traditional shape of their assorted bulbs in their homes, especially when they are clearly visible in open lamps, sconces, fixtures and recessed cans. Therefore, we have focused on delivering products to the market that mimic the design of light bulbs of the past, not just in the look of the form factor but also in the light output. For example, previously when LED bulbs dimmed, the light remained at a cool white color temperature. We are incorporating Premium Dimming into many of our LED light bulbs now to have the light mimic a sunset effect, where the light transitions from white to a warm glow as it dims.

Another trend is in the overall price, where the market prices have come down with improvements in technology. More and more consumers and business owners have heard about the benefits of LED lighting, like long life and energy savings, but have been hesitant for electrical contractors to install them in their homes and establishments because of the initial upfront cost, or poor quality from low cost options. To help electrical contractors address this issue, we launched this year the SYLVANIA Contractor Series LED Portfolio, a first to market robust portfolio of high quality lighting solutions that are rated up to 11,000 hours (L70) at cost effective price points for practically any socket. These products reduce energy and maintenance costs, have the traditional shape, and deliver the light quality that end users know and love, making them a great replacement for compact fluorescents.

DiLouie: How can electrical contractors capitalize on these trends?

Price: Electrical contractors can capitalize on current trends in LED design by being able to say to residential customers they can enjoy the benefits of LED, such as energy savings and long life, while keeping their home’s aesthetic the same.

Some consumers don’t want LED lighting that can last for two decades. They are either older and don’t see the need to spend money for lighting that may last longer than they do, or don’t want to be locked into extremely long lasting LEDs when the technology is improving. Electrical contractors can service this section of the residential market by turning to quality LED lights from a proven manufacturer that last longer than traditional solutions, but not an extreme length of time.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for residential LED lamps?

Price: LEDs are definitely becoming more prevalent in today’s homes. The seventh annual OSRAM SYLVANIA Socket Survey last year found 65 percent of Americans have purchased LEDs for use in their homes and the majority (64 percent) of Americans who did, purchased LEDs for sockets in general illumination. Of the respondents who were identified as LED users, the most valued benefits of making the switch were reduced energy consumption (96%), longer bulb lifespan (93%), and cost savings (93%).

DiLouie: The digitization of LED lighting has created a new generation of smart bulbs. How do these lamps work, and what are their capabilities?

Ganick: Simply put from our perspective, a light bulb plus wireless radio communication capability plus embedded firmware that enables out of the ordinary features/functionality equals a smart bulb. These bulbs are now able to be networked with other smart products, like switches, sensors, and plugs, and can be automated or controlled by mobile apps, rule based triggers, scenes or timers. Features range from changing the light output from dim to bright, warm to cool, or to different colors. Dynamic scenes and patterns can then be created by casually moving from whites to blues to teals, creating almost a “sky like” effect. Warm reds and oranges to simulate that cabin vibe fire place effect, or a rainbow of colors to add fun and excitement to any environment. Additionally, the really ‘smart’ smart lights can even begin to learn how they are being used, to then automatically begin to modify their behavior for the end user, making our homes more ‘autonomous,’ and less ‘controlled.’ Given that we spend over 80% of our time indoors underneath artificial light that is now rapidly shifting to LEDs, at the end of the day, we have only begun to scratch the surface of potential for these smart bulbs.

LIGHTIFY from OSRAM SYLVANIA is a comprehensive portfolio of lighting products and accessories offering intelligent automation for consumers and businesses. Beginning with the LIGHTIFY Gateway, the portfolio enables users to have even more convenient control of their lighting and electronics, optimize their environments, improve efficiency, and help save time and energy. The Gateway wirelessly syncs with the consumer’s existing WiFi network and provides access to LIGHTIFY light sources and/or device via local WiFi network or remote cloud server. The Gateway connects to LIGHTIFY devices (up to 50 per each Gateway) via standard ZigBee Home Automation protocols. The free, user-friendly LIGHTIFY App, which runs on Apple iOS7 or above and Android 4.1 or above, offers a variety of practical and playful options to control the lighting system and is simple to use, convenient and secure.

Price: With the continued growth of the home automation and smart home markets, the seventh annual OSRAM SYLVANIA Socket Survey took a deeper look at consumer attitudes and awareness of smart lighting technologies. While 62 percent of respondents indicated they were aware of smart lighting technology, only 10 percent have actually purchased smart bulbs for their homes. However, 83 percent of those surveyed believe smart lighting is a good introduction to home automation technologies and 72 percent felt smart lighting will eventually replace traditional light bulbs.

Most respondents (86%) believe at least one room in their home would benefit from smart lighting technology with living rooms (58%), kitchens (49%) and bedrooms (42%) topping the list. However, the next most common hotspots were not inside the home, but in outdoor applications (40%) and in the garage (36%). While price was not the top consideration for regular light bulb purchases, it was the top purchase influence for smart lighting products (90%), followed by the life span of the bulb (87%) and the ability to turn the bulbs on and off remotely (74%).

There is definitely a market out there for electrical contractors to take advantage of regarding smart lighting.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of smart bulbs?

Price:

• Healthier lighting and living
• Automated experience
• Integration with other smart products
• Creativity and joy

The benefits of smart bulbs are reducing stress and making your life easier, and delivering more style to a home. Smart bulbs can be scheduled to turn on and off automatically so the consumer’s environment is ready for them without them even needing to think about hitting a switch. Just like how some people like to have their coffee maker turn on in the morning so their favorite beverage is ready for them, the same convenience is available for their lighting. In addition, people can have their lights on in their home so they aren’t returning to a dark home at night, which helps increase feelings of safety and security.

Smart bulbs now not only deliver illumination, but also style. Previously, if you wanted to add color to a room, you could repaint walls which can take a lot of time and money. Now, a home can be decorated with accents of color easily via high quality smart bulbs, like our LIGHTIFY portfolio. Unlike painting a room, changes can be made fast and easily via a mobile app to suit whatever mood the consumer is in. For example, a home could have a bright teal during the day to compliment a beach decor, and then be changed to a warm orange for a relaxing evening vibe. The benefits go beyond style and can help improve a person’s life. With smart bulbs, consumers can modify their lighting to be a cool white when they wake up to help encourage alertness, and then a warm white in the evening for a relaxing ambiance to help them get ready for sleep. For lighting over a dining room table, scenes could be created for brighter cool white light to aid in concentrating over homework and dimmed warmer light for meal time.

DiLouie: What are potential pitfalls in selection and installation of smart bulbs that electrical contractors should avoid?

Price: When installing smart bulbs, electrical contractors should look for solutions from proven lighting companies. Some electronics companies are delivering smart bulbs that don’t have a history of quality lighting. A residential customer isn’t going to be happy controlling their smart bulb if the light output is subpar or if the bulb isn’t delivering enough light. Check lumen outputs and test products first. Additionally, make sure that the smart bulbs are designed to work in a network or group of other smart devices that are able to play nicely with a large enough number of devices. No one likes to invest in a lighting product that is supposedly ‘smart,’ then find out that they can only control two or three at the same time. Compatibility with other manufacturer brands is also important. Not all smart bulbs are created equal, but consumers still expect them to be able to work together. For this reason, LIGHTIFY has chosen to use standard ZigBee Home Automation protocols that allow the products to work seamlessly with other products in the market that also use the same standard. Simply put, make sure that the product is a great light bulb first before adding in the smarts, can work in a variety of applications, and also integrates well with a variety of the many smart systems out there on the market. Otherwise, electrical contractors can expect complaints from their customers.

DiLouie: LED lighting also offers potential for connectivity. How do these solutions, what are the components, and what are their capabilities?

Ganick:

• Wireless smart bulbs connect using a variety of wireless communication standards, mainly: ZigBee, Bluetooth or WiFi.
o WiFi is typically used for higher bandwidth communications like streaming audio or video. It can also only support a limited number of devices.
o ZigBee was designed after WiFi and was introduced to enable control of hundreds to thousands of low power wireless devices light bulbs, sensors, and switches. ZigBee is the predominant standard for smart bulbs currently.
o Bluetooth however is becoming more popular, since most all mobile devices and computers already have it. Bluetooth for lighting control is not as mature, but there are several proprietary efforts currently creating solutions to enable functionality similar to ZigBee

With LIGHTIFY, connectivity starts with the Gateway to enable users to have even more convenient control of their lighting and electronics, optimize their environments, improve efficiency, and help save time and energy. Unlike other offerings, LIGHTIFY light sources use the ZigBee Home Automation standard, which means that out of the box they will work with your favorite brand of home automation ecosystems. The Gateway can also operate other smart lighting devices from a variety of manufacturers that are ZigBee Home Automation certified. Another benefit is the Gateway can be plugged anywhere in a standard outlet, unlike other solutions that require a hub to be plugged into the consumer’s router.

Just because lighting is becoming smarter, does not mean that consumers will need to be glued to their smart devices 24/7 though. The introduction of battery powered switches that do not require the use of a smart phone for daily operation, and the smart plug that can automate consumer electronic devices based on schedules and scenes, allows consumers to take a step back from their smart home, and begin to enjoy life’s moments that used to be consumed by apps and mobile devices.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of connected lighting?

Price:

• Healthier lighting and living
• Automated experience
• Integration with other smart products
• Creativity and joy

A benefit of connected lighting within a home automation system for a residential customer is simplifying their lives and providing more peace of mind. The right connected light can be an integral part of a complete smart home. For example, with a home automation system a consumer can have the ability to press one button on their mobile device and have their home be ready for the night, with front doors being locked, garage doors being closed, thermostat turning down, and lights being shut off. Electrical contractors can benefit from connected lighting because it gives them yet another reason why residential customers should turn to them. By being educated about smart connected lighting, electrical contractors can grow their businesses even more into the future.

DiLouie: What are potential pitfalls in selection and installation of residential connected lighting that electrical contractors should avoid?

Ganick: Be careful installing a smart bulb on a circuit that has a dimmer attached. Most smart bulbs are not fully compatible with dimmers, or have unexpected results when dimmed.

Be careful not to space the products too far apart. Typical ranges for smart bulbs are hundreds of feet. If you need more range, many smart bulbs or smart products act as signal repeaters when placed in between two devices.

It is important to install lighting that works with leading home automation systems that can integrate the lighting into one app. Consumers would prefer to use as few apps as possible so they aren’t having to go to one app for their thermostat and another for their lighting. There are countless smart lighting solutions out there, but if they don’t follow open standards like ZigBee Home Automation, then a customer is going to be frustrated that they aren’t getting the full benefits out of their smart home.

DiLouie: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 phased out incandescent lamps. Four years after the phase-out, how would you characterize the result?

Price: The OSRAM SYLVANIA Socket Survey showed last year that 78 percent of Americans switched to a more energy-efficient lighting technology since the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs went into effect in January 2014, with 30 percent of respondents indicating they made the switch to LED bulbs. The two biggest drivers for LED light bulb purchases were the lifespan of the bulb and the amount of light produced, with 95 percent of respondents indicating these qualities had some influence on their decision.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about the current state of the art in residential lamps, what would it be?

Price: Smart lighting is getting a lot of buzz in the market but it is still confusing for consumers. The benefits aren’t as evident for buyers for whatever reason. LEDs are becoming an easier sell for electrical contractors because benefits are clear – long lasting and saves energy. Electrical contractors should utilize tools provided by smart lighting manufacturers like videos on YouTube or their web site that show the products in use. When customers see smart lighting in action, they get it and start to think how they can apply it in their homes. With smart lighting, seeing truly is believing.