Category: Craig’s Lighting Articles

Evaluating Color with LED

LEDs have further differentiated themselves from traditional light sources by offering dramatically expanded color capabilities. These capabilities enable distributors to better serve existing customers and build new markets. Accomplishing this requires understanding LED technology, metrics used to evaluate color, and knowing what the customer wants and needs.

Below is my contribution to the November issue of tED Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

LEDs have further differentiated themselves from traditional light sources by offering dramatically expanded color capabilities. These capabilities enable distributors to better serve existing customers and build new markets. Accomplishing this requires understanding LED technology, metrics used to evaluate color, and knowing what the customer wants and needs.

The LED advantage
Visible light is energy residing along the 400-700 nanometer band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The size of these wavelengths corresponds to specific colors from violet to red. Combining these wavelengths produces white light. Separating them via a prism produces a rainbow.

The eye perceives color in an object because that color is present in both the object and the light striking it. The object absorbs all colors except a given color, which reflects to the eye. While daylight offers a full spectrum source, electric light sources are engineered as mixes of wavelengths at relative intensities, typically focused on red, green, and blue (RGB). The spectral makeup is expressed in the source’s spectral power distribution (SPD).

As with traditional light sources, with LEDs we have a choice of specific colors or white light. In the case of color, this is accomplished with LEDs emitting light in a narrow spectral band. For white light, blue or ultraviolet LEDs coated with a phosphor producing a deep blue peak and high irradiance in the 470-630 nanometer range.

With LEDs, however, colors can be mixed to produce virtually any color needed, allowing dynamic effects. White light color appearance can be adjusted with relative ease using controls. Combining white and color LEDs allows virtually any SPD to be created, opening possibilities in targeting light to human physiology, plant growth, and environmental needs. And with advances in LED technology, building owners no longer have to choose between excellent color quality and high efficiency.

Tunable-white LED lighting, matched with appropriate controls, enable CCT adjustment across a given range to satisfy variable preferences for applications demanding color flexibility. Image courtesy of USAI Lighting.

Color appearance

Manufacturers describe the color quality of light sources using metrics based on standardized measurements. The most popular are correlated color temperature (CCT) and color rendering index (CRI).

Measured in kelvins, CCT is the color appearance of a light source relative to an ideal reference light source. Color appearance is generally classified as visually warm (about <3000K, or yellowish white), neutral (about 3500K, white), or cool (about >4000K, or bluish white). A light source heavily laden in blue and deficient in red wavelengths will saturate blues in the space while muting reds.

A challenge for LEDs is the manufacturing process inherently involves variations in CCT. The result is potential color variation between LED products. To address this issue, manufacturers test and bin their LEDs according to deviation from CCTs based on x, y coordinates on the CIE 1931 Chromaticity Diagram, using a standardized method. The smaller the bin, the tighter the control of color variation, though gaining this consistency may impose a higher cost. Some manufacturers maintain extremely tight deviation as a point of differentiation for their products.

“Color consistency from credible LED manufacturers has improved significantly since white LEDs were first produced,” said Andrew Kites, Global Product Manager, Philips Lighting. “Some manufacturers have gotten much more skilled at producing LEDs that are closer to the center of the ANSI bin for that CCT, reducing waste in manufacturing from out-of-spec product, reducing LED costs, all while improving color consistency.”

Advances in control and driver technology enable manufacturers to provide custom SPD (using RGB+ LEDs), luminaires to produce both high-quality white and color (White+), and designers and users to adjust CCT in the field (White/White+). This extraordinary potential is opening new markets. Additionally, dim-to-warm LED products are growing in popularity for applications where users expect their lighting to dim to a warm glow similar to incandescent.

“It’s always important to listen to the customer,” said Bonnie Littman, President and CEO, USAI Lighting. “The better we can understand their preferences for color, the better we can serve them and provide the right product. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to lighting, and there’s no reason someone should be relegated to static white light if that’s not what they want or need.”

She pointed to several examples where coming up with a customer-specific color solution became a point of differentiation for her company. Outdoor lighting on the Gulf Coast that provided nighttime visibility without disrupting the nocturnal habits of sea turtles. Experimentation with different CCTs in classrooms. Optimal SPDs for high-end retail. As the industry’s understanding of light and health develops, this capability may prove integral to circadian lighting, as spectrum is a major factor in circadian response. And some manufacturers are already looking beyond health to well-being, mood, and satisfaction via personalized lighting solutions.

“Research is ongoing to determine the appropriate light levels, spectral content, and lighting design that provides support for human circadian biorhythms,” Kites said. “The research points to humans generally having a biological response to both blue and red wavelengths.”

“With all of the promising LED products on the market now to support circadian health, I see this time as an exciting moment for the lighting industry to have a meaningful impact on workplace and healthcare environments,” Littman noted. “By mimicking the daily color temperature cycle of natural daylight, these technologies we’re creating can help minimize disruptions to the natural circadian rhythm, thus supporting overall health, well-being, and healing.”

Paul Scheidt, Product Marketing Manager, LED Components, Cree, however, says he has not yet seen a product that demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of physiological response to lighting. “The industry is not here yet,” he said. “We have identified the right variables for circadian lighting—color and light amount. However, we do not know where or how you set these controls to create direct biological impact, such as mood and energy levels. No one has a ‘mood’ knob on their light. Today’s controls are color and light amount. As an industry, we are still at the beginning of understanding the notion of mood and human preference for lighting.”

Color rendering and TM-30
While CCT is useful, it does not indicate whether the light source renders colors how most people would expect them to appear. Two sources with the same CCT may render various colors differently due to differing SPDs. A balanced SPD, particularly RGB, generally means the source offers good color rendering. A simpler and more direct way to evaluate color rendering is the lamps CRI rating. If two sources have the same CCT, one can meaningfully compare CRI to choose the right source.

Manufacturers test their sources and calculate CRI based on how closely they render eight standard color samples compared to an ideal reference source with the same CCT. The CRI rating is the average of these values. The less deviation from the reference source, the higher the CRI. Traditionally, about 80+ CRI is considered “good” for typical commercial applications requiring social interaction, about 90+ for color-critical applications such as higher-end retail. While the standard has endured, it has not been updated in many years, and its limitations are more pronounced with LED technology. In particular, a source may have a high CRI while ineffectively rendering saturated reds commonly found in applications like retail, supermarkets, etc. For this reason, some manufacturers began publishing R9 values to indicate color rendering for saturated reds for sources serving these markets.

The core problem of CRI’s deficiencies remained, however, particularly in light of CRI being used in specifications such ENERGY STAR and the DesignLights Consortium, and in regulations such as California Title 20 and Title 24. In 2015, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) published TM-30, a method for evaluating color rendition that introduces two new metrics. First is the Fidelity Index (Rf). Based on 99 color samples instead of 8-14, it was designed as a more accurate alternative to CRI. Second is Gamut Index (Rg), which expresses average color saturation. To determine which colors are saturated or muted, graphics are provided. While more comprehensive and precise than CRI, adoption has been slow.

“Right now, the whole industry is still in the process of educating lighting designers,” said Scheidt. “For the most part, the lighting designers who have heard of TM-30 and understand it really like it and see the benefits of getting more information about the light ahead of time, without having to do trials.”

He added that TM-30 is useful for applications where color is important, such as museums, hospitals, car dealerships, retail, and some offices.

Selling with color
Traditionally, the key to selling with color is to know the customer and the application, understand best practices, and recommend lighting products that will satisfy the need for an appropriate cost. LED is no different, though it can accommodate a broader range of needs, thereby creating new markets. It provides a more powerful tool to explore and understand lighting’s impact on people than traditional sources ever could.

Scheidt said the first step is to do no harm. “It’s fairly simple,” he said. “If the color is bad, then people are not going to like the product and you will have more returns and unhappy customers.”

After that, he pointed out, listen to the customer to find out what they need. “Distributors do not always need to recommend the best color performance or the best color consistency into everything,” he added. “It’s about understanding which customers are going to care about color and which ones aren’t.”

“The only consideration you should need to make is the customer’s preference,” advised Littman.

To produce the right solutions, distributors further need to understand LED technology and the metrics used to evaluate products. “Customers new to LED lighting will look for recommendations, and distributors have the opportunity to help educate the market,” Kites said. “Spectral knowledge and color-tunable systems are new and exciting to the lighting industry, and will bring more challenges and opportunities to the market. The more we know and understand how these systems can positively impact our customers, the bigger the opportunity to bring value to our customers.”

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Rebates for Networked Lighting Controls

My lighting column in the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the DesignLights Consortium’s market transformation program aimed at networked lighting controls and describes the first utility rebates promoting the technology.

Based on utility interest in increasing energy savings by using networked lighting controls, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) launched an ambitious market transformation program focusing on a specification for networked lighting controls that utility rebates programs can use to qualify products, channel training focusing on contractors and distributors, and providing reliable data to guide energy savings estimates. These efforts are starting to germinate.

My lighting column in the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the DLC’s program and the first utility rebates targeting the technology. Read it here.

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My contribution to the September issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR covered lamp- and retrofit kit-based conversions of HID luminaires from HID to LED. With up to 50 percent energy cost savings…

My contribution to the September issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR covered lamp- and retrofit kit-based conversions of HID luminaires from HID to LED.

With up to 50 percent energy cost savings and potential maintenance savings, LED replacement lamps and retrofit kits offer an increasingly viable retrofit option for HID luminaires. However, products must be carefully matched to applications to ensure desired performance and lighting quality. As with any retrofit, a trial installation is often recommended prior to major commitment.

Check it out here.

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What’s New in Residential Lighting

Below is my contribution to the September issue of tED Magazine, on the topic of residential lighting trends. Reprinted with permission. In 2016, residential put-in-place construction spending increased to about…

Below is my contribution to the September issue of tED Magazine, on the topic of residential lighting trends. Reprinted with permission.

In 2016, residential put-in-place construction spending increased to about $467 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. This marked a fifth year of double-digit growth since the 2008 recession. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) forecasted 2017 housing starts would increase to 1.2 million, a five percent increase over last year. Up until June 2017 (the time this article was written), builder confidence remained consistently sound, as measured by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

Traditionally, lighting consumes more than 10 percent of electric energy used in homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Relatively new technologies such as compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED promised substantial energy savings, putting residential lighting on the radar for policy makers. DOE has regulated incandescent reflector lamps, while the Energy Policy Act of 2005 targeted incandescent general-service lamps. Meanwhile, a majority of states now have a residential energy code in place regulating lighting efficiency in new construction.

As of January 1, 2017, 13 states had a residential energy code in place at least as stringent as the 2009 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), eight states had adopted a code at least stringent as the 2012 or 2015 versions, and 16 states were transitioning between the two, according to Three states, meanwhile, such as California with its Title 24 energy code, had a code in place that was more stringent.

IECC 2009 requires that 50 percent of lamps in permanently installed luminaires must be high efficacy, necessitating CFL or LED. IECC 2012 and 2015 increased this to 75 percent of lamps. California Title 24-2016 requires that all permanently installed must be high-efficacy (at least 45 lumens/W), have a color rendering index (CRI) rating of at least 90 (with an R9 >50), and a correlated color temperature of 4000K or lower.

CFL, once the most viable high-efficacy option, is in decline due to competition by LED and halogen A-line lamps that comply with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Q1 2017 Incandescent Lamp Index published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) showed CFLs had declined from a peak of about 25 percent of lamp sales to 13.3 percent, while LED A-line market share had grown to 32 percent. According to the latest DOE Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), about one-third of American homes by 2015 had already installed at least one LED lamp.

The new ENERGY STAR V2.0 Lamp Specification, which became effective January 2, 2017, will likely hasten CFL’s decline. An analysis of CFLs qualifying for the older V1.1 specification showed none satisfied V2.0, which may cut out CFLs from the majority of rebate programs that rely on ENERGY STAR. While some utilities may continue to promote CFLs, the majority will likely begin to shift their funding from CFL to LED lamps.

“More and more families are interested in energy efficiency and consumers are more aware of the energy-saving benefits of LEDs,” said Alfred LaSpina, LED Product Group Marketing Manager, LEDVANCE. “Having LED lighting in new residential construction and design is a good differentiator and selling point, especially for buyers who want a home with the latest and greatest options.”

Image courtesy of Lutron.

Product trends

“The promise of energy savings with LED lighting over traditional sources is now an expected outcome, so the focus of residential lighting can shift back to design in choosing the right light for the occupants, task and visual environment,” said Bill Johnson, Market Development Manager – Residential Recessed Lighting, Eaton. He pointed out that today’s LED luminaires have matured as a viable and accepted design solution, no longer viewed as merely an energy-saving alternative.

LED source efficacy has increased to a level allowing highly compact and integrated luminaires, the opportunity to rethink traditional form factors, and greater choice of beam spreads and adjustable functions.

“The development of surface-mounting, thin-profile, flat-panel LED luminaires that create wide beam downlight-like illumination and install in a ceiling junction box has created great interest for residential lighting,” Johnson said. These luminaires offer the appearance of a downlight but are surface-mounted, ideal for applications where plenum space for a recessed downlight is limited. It eliminates the need for an air-seal recessed housing or fire-rated box, expanding design flexibility.

Johnson also pointed to smaller apertures as another leading design trend. “Small apertures in 2-, 3- and 4- inch are growing as a preferred choice due to LED technology advancements,” he said. New LED products can deliver higher light output in smaller apertures to match or exceed traditional sources. In addition, the smaller LED housings are IC rated, which wasn’t possible with traditional incandescent sources due to higher thermal test temperature.

LaSpina noted that in lamps and some luminaires, the predominant trend is imitating traditional form factors and performance to satisfy consumer expectations. “Many consumers want lighting that has a form factor that looks like what they are used to, which is why in recent years we have modified our LED products to go from an unflattering design to one that looks like a traditional light bulb,” he said. “Filament LEDs have become a growing trend with a full glass body design, giving that retro look.”

Dimming is no exception. Consumers expect LED lighting to dim similarly to incandescent lamps. For this reason, Johnson pointed out, dim-to-warm LED lamps and luminaires are available that dim from warm (e.g., 3000K) to very warm (e.g., 1850K) over the dimming range.

The result is specifier and consumer interest in something old, something new. The familiar feel and performance of traditional lighting but with value-added features based on the unique characteristics of LED lighting. In addition to smaller and problem-solving form factors and more choices, interest is growing in smart lamps and luminaires offering color tuning.

Image courtesy of Eaton.

Consumers get control

“Lighting control improves comfort and convenience, enhances security and peace of mind, and saves energy,” said Michael Smith, Vice President of Sales, Lutron Electronics. “LEDs can be inherently dimmable and can provide an excellent user experience when bulbs and controls are properly paired.”

While interest in dim-to-warm dimming is growing, immediate expectations are that the lighting will dim reliably without flicker. In 2015, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) updated its SSL 7A standard, which details manufacturer compatibility requirements when a line-voltage dimmer is matched with one or more dimmable LED light engines. While providing confidence, however, the standard is voluntary.

“There is currently no universally manufacturing standard for LED bulbs,” Smith said. “As a result, consumers who are used to the predictable performance and experience of incandescent and halogen bulbs can be very frustrated by inconsistent dimming performance and flicker from their LED bulbs.”

Smith believes lamp manufacturers must continue to work toward standards that improve the performance and simplify the selection of LED lamps and controls. To that end, NEMA recently launched a labeling program to better communicate compatibility between dimmers and LED lamps and luminaires, he said. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is also developing standards for phase-cut dimming of LEDs that will apply to both forward- and reverse-phase dimmers, he added.

Dimmers provide flexible user control of aesthetics and visual comfort, while vacancy sensors save energy by turning lights OFF in spaces such as bathrooms and utility rooms when they’re not being used. More recently, the industry began introducing smart lamps and luminaires that provide unprecedented user control enabled by wireless connectivity. These smart LED products provide dimming, timeclock control and in many cases color tuning while also potentially integrating with other home smart devices.

“New options in wireless control solutions allow homeowners to control lights from any smart device, and even using just their voice with Amazon Alexa, Google Home and a variety of other digital assistants,” Smith said. “Control solutions have to offer seamless integration with a variety of digital platforms and simple control from intuitive apps, while still providing convenience and familiar control options such as dimmers, switches and wireless remotes.”

To take advantage of today’s lighting opportunities, electrical distributors should think beyond product and more on design, LaSpina said. And they need to think bigger.

“Consumers want to love living in their home and are more focused on style and decor than perhaps a commercial customer who is focused on price,” he noted. “Distributors need to ensure availability of a wider portfolio of LED incandescent replacements to meet the needs across the house, and not just A19 and BR30. LEDs are no longer just being installed in major areas of the house but also closets, garages and laundry rooms. Distributors need to think about areas of opportunity that aren’t typically top of mind when thinking about residential lighting.”

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Trends in Outdoor Lighting

Below is my contribution to the April issue of tED Magazine. Reprinted with permission. Outdoor lighting has proven a key market for LED sources due to their durability, directionality, efficiency,…

Below is my contribution to the April issue of tED Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

Outdoor lighting has proven a key market for LED sources due to their durability, directionality, efficiency, longevity, color and optical control. While metal halide and high-pressure sodium remain predominant in the installed outdoor lighting base, LED has captured a majority of luminaire sales. Some LED luminaires emit equivalent light output as a high-pressure sodium luminaire for one-third or less of the energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), LED achieved a 10 percent penetration of the installed base, which increased to 18 percent in 2015. DOE forecasted penetration to increase to 66 percent by 2020. As with other markets, in outdoor stationary, DOE expects an initial uptake in LED replacement lamps followed by their decline relative to LED luminaires. More than 9,200 LED outdoor lighting products are listed in the DOE Lighting Facts database, nearly half of which satisfy the efficacy and output requirements of the DesignLights Consortium’s Qualified Products List.

This article focuses on four major trends in area and roadway luminaires.

Major trends

As the LED outdoor lighting market matures, a number of trends are asserting themselves beyond the core trend of improving source light output and efficacy. These include an emphasis on visual comfort, shift in color temperature, and controllability.

Increasing efficacy.
From the beginning, the lighting industry’s primary focus has been to improve source light output, which increases efficacy while reducing materials and cost. LED outdoor area products listed in Lighting Facts show a wide range in output, from less than 500 to more than 125,000 lumens, to satisfy a broad range of applications. They also show a wide range in efficacy, from 20 to 150 lumens/W, with a mean efficacy of 93-98 lumens/W. DOE forecasts that outdoor LED luminaires may reach a mean efficacy up to 105 lumens/W by 2020, while cost may decline to $25/kilolumen.

Visual comfort.
Manufacturers say their customers are becoming more concerned with visual comfort, expressed as a desire to eliminate LED pixelation—individual bright LEDs being visible to users. This is particularly a concern with luminaires mounted at lower heights.

“The biggest concern with pedestrian-scale LED luminaires is that they present distracting pixelated images and poor visibility,” says Scott Teschendorf, Market Development Manager, Eaton.

Nonetheless, glare is subjective, which means eliminating pixelation does not guarantee visual comfort. The product must still be evaluated for visual comfort, which is based on its optics.

Color temperature. The industry’s focus on maximizing light output and efficacy emphasized higher (“cooler” or bluish-white) correlated color temperatures (CCTs) over warmer CCTs, due to higher CCT’s higher efficacy. In the early years of LED outdoor lighting, the predominant choice was around 5700K. Today the gap in light output related to CCT is diminishing. Looking at the Lighting Facts data for area and roadway luminaires, for every 1000K increase in CCT, efficacy increases 2.7 lumens/W, meaning a 3000K source is about 5.4 lumen/W less efficacious than a 5000K source.

The shrinking gap in output has led to demand for warmer CCTs. The Lighting Facts data shows about half of listed area luminaires have a CCT of 5000K or higher, 37 percent with 4000K, and 12 percent with 3000K or lower. In 2016, average CCT declined 150K, suggesting a shift to warmer sources.

“With respect to color temperature, 3000K and 4000K CCT demand was generally limited to more architectural applications,” says Andy Miles, Director of Product Marketing, Outdoor Lighting, Hubbell Lighting, Inc. “However, with the efficacy penalty of warmer-CCT LEDs becoming less impactful, many customers in our commercial markets previously selecting 5000K LEDs are now opting for 4000K.”

In 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued community guidance cautioning against poor outdoor lighting, which AMA said can produce detrimental health and environmental effects. Specifically, AMA cautioned against glare, which can affect safety, and very cool CCT LEDs, which can suppress melatonin production. To address these issues, AMA recommends 3000K sources, luminaire design that minimizes glare and light trespass, and dimming during off-peak operating periods. As a lighting technology, LED has advantages toward accomplishing these goals, though the guidance toward 3000K sources proved controversial in the industry.

“We believe our customers need to evaluate a wide range of factors including light distribution, energy efficiency, recommended light levels and more in selecting the appropriate product,” Teschendorf says. “For customers who choose to prioritize the AMA’s guidance, Eaton has products available to meet that. Because of this, it has actually had little impact on product development aside from creating the possibility of a shift to more 3000K LEDs in our supply chain.”

Image courtesy of Eaton.

Many states have adopted commercial building energy codes requiring both automatic shutoff (photocell or time switch) and light reduction (time switch or occupancy sensor) afterhours for dusk-to-dawn lighting such as area lighting. As a result, controls are increasingly being applied to outdoor lighting systems.

In 2014, the ANSI C136 Roadway Lighting Committee, in cooperation with NEMA, developed ANSI C136.41. This document describes a standardized seven-pin receptacle and photocontrol, which supersedes the traditional NEMA twist-lock photocontrol featuring three pins used to turn the luminaire ON or OFF. The new standard builds upon the core three pins by adding four low-voltage pins, two of which are used for dimming and two that can be used for occupancy sensing, power monitoring, two-way communication with other devices, etc.

“Incorporating the ANSI C136.41 receptacle into outdoor lighting gives just about everyone significantly more flexibility with regards to integrating controls, whether it is today or in the future,” Miles says. “Fully integrated control systems offer an aesthetic advance and can lower the initial acquisition cost but also lock the contractor or end-user into one standard. The ANSI C136.41 design positions the control equipment outside the luminaire, simplifying maintenance and allowing luminaire selection and maintenance to occur independent of the control selection.”

Microprocessing technology has miniaturized to an extent that lighting controllers can be embedded in controls connected to outdoor luminaires. This enables programming of luminaire behavior and more sophisticated control, such as dimming and color tuning by time of night. Meanwhile, wireless communication facilitates remote command, diagnostics and data collection, which can be useful for management, maintenance and analysis. Protocols include ZigBee, Synapse Network Appliance Protocol (SNAP), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, LPWAN/LoRa, proprietary and others, with ZigBee being most popular.

Miles recommends that distributors ensure that an outdoor LED product’s sales claims be substantiated with industry-standard performance data and test reports (LM79, LM80, etc.). Pay attention not just to light output but pattern—where the light is going—as well-designed luminaires can produce less light but still achieve the same light levels. He adds that distributors should invest in developing in-house lighting specialization and education. “Be sure the generalists in your business can identify opportunities then bring them to your specialists,” he says. “The lighting specialists will get into the details, help specify the correct product for the application and ensure your customers’ needs are met.”

Final word

“LEDs have been lighting the outdoors for 10 years now and have been a proven light source in thousands of projects around the globe,” Teschendorf says. “Because LEDs have the ability to dim, be controlled and perform at high levels, they are a natural fit in order to adapt to the new codes that are here. We are really only scratching the surface of what controlled lighting can bring to the outdoor space. Controls will allow many more value propositions to be addressed than just the physical light itself.”

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Lighting Controls Association Publishes Whitepaper on Visible Light Communication

My contribution to the Lighting Controls Association website in May is an article about visible light communication. Visible light communication (VLC) is a particularly exciting technology in an industry that…

vlc-2My contribution to the Lighting Controls Association website in May is an article about visible light communication.

Visible light communication (VLC) is a particularly exciting technology in an industry that is already going through exciting technological change. This technology, popularly used in applications such as fiber-optics, now shows promise for general lighting due to the advent of LED lighting.

The potential is to create spaces that actively communicate with users.

VLC is one of those emerging developments in lighting that makes you think, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Fascinating technology with interesting potential.

Click here to learn more.

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Halogen Lamps: Still the Standard to Beat

Below is an article I wrote for TED Magazine, which was published in its September 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission. Although LED directional lamps are steadily improving, halogen reflector lamps…

Below is an article I wrote for TED Magazine, which was published in its September 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Although LED directional lamps are steadily improving, halogen reflector lamps remain most popular for directional lighting applications and the gold standard to beat in terms of overall performance.

Available in a wide range of configurations, halogen offers a number of advantages. Besides a low initial cost, the lamp starts instantly, provides excellent beam control and is easily dimmable across the full range of output. Lumen maintenance ranges from 88 to 92 percent. A strong advantage is color, as the lamp emits light across the full color spectrum, with a high CRI of 100, high R9 value of 100 (resulting in excellent rendering of saturated reds), and warm-white color appearance. Frequent switching does not affect life. The lamp can be used outdoors, is resistant to thermal shock, and can operate in areas with high humidity. There are no disposal issues related to mercury and lead, no RF emissions, and no power factor issues.

However, halogen lamps are vulnerable to competition by upstart LED based on three relative disadvantages. First is relatively low efficacy, as halogen lamps operate at 18-24 lumens/W. In contrast, good LED lamps are available that operate for up to 85 percent less energy. Next is relatively short service life. Finally, halogen lamps emit more heat into the environment, which can be particularly disadvantageous in art and museum applications.

“Current and future prospects for halogen reflectors remain strong,” says Shilpi Biswas, Global Product Manager – Lamp Products for GE Lighting. “Halogen remains an initial acquisition cost advantage over current LED. Light quality is preferred over LED and CFL alternatives, especially with a CRI of 100. Currently, no LED challenges halogen on this. As acquisition costs of LED continue to fall, however, this will put pressure on halogen reflectors.”

Although upstart LED is mounting a strong challenge to halogen lighting on the basis of energy savings and long life, halogen is still the gold standard for directional lighting applications. Image courtesy of Philips Lighting.

Although upstart LED is mounting a strong challenge to halogen lighting on the basis of energy savings and long life, halogen is still the gold standard for directional lighting applications. Image courtesy of Philips Lighting.

Today’s offering of halogen reflector lamps is more efficient due to multiple rounds of energy efficiency standards implemented since 1992, with the most recent regulations effective in July 2012. The most-efficient lamps utilize an infrared-reflecting (IR) coating on the inside of the halogen capsule, which reflects waste heat back into the filament. This can be leveraged to increase efficiency, service life or both. The most-efficient halogen IR lamps are 30 percent more efficient than standard halogen lamps, while the longest-life lamps are rated up to 4,500 hours. The result is several tiers of lamps available from manufacturers, from basic to premium lines, that meet various end-user needs.

“If a lamp was on the market prior to the big regulation changes in July 2012, there is currently a replacement available today,” says Soares. “Contractors and end-users can still use halogen reflectors to refill sockets, as all of the phased-out versions have good replacements to choose from. Both PARs (PAR20/30/38) and soft-glass reflectors (R20/30/40) offer the same or nearly identical performance in life and lumens as their predecessors, but are made at a reduced wattage, typically 20-30 percent less than their predecessors.”

Currently, regulatory exemptions for <50W ER30/ER40, BR30/BR40; 65W BR30 and BR40/ER40; and <45W R20 lamps are expected to continue until at least December 31, 2014. DOE is currently reviewing new energy standards for halogen lamps and will be reviewing whether to continue these exemptions, some of which are popularly used in the residential market. “The rulemaking was announced in the second half of 2011, and the DOE’s intent is to complete it by the end of 2014, although dates can be slip backward,” says Biswas. “Rules are typically effective three years after being finalized, which means the next round of regulations affecting halogen PAR lamps will most likely occur at the end of 2017 or 2018.” In directional lighting, halogen remains the most popular light source, though LED is on the rise. In May 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimated that of the 248 million lamps installed in this market, 59 percent were halogen, primarily PAR and MR16 with some R and BR lamps, while 25 percent were incandescent (R/BR), 11 percent were compact fluorescent (R/BR) and 4.6 percent were LED. (Ceramic metal halide was not included.) About 80 percent of reflector lamps are used in residential applications. “Halogen still has a strong customer base and will be viable for several years, until the price/benefit relationship for LEDs eventually exceeds halogen,” says Peter Soares, director of product marketing for Philips Lighting. “We’ve seen many end-users in the retail and hospitality applications switch to LED. However, many in those same applications continue to use halogen because they prefer the color or beam intensity of halogen, or because the cost/investment to switch is still prohibitive in their situation.” [caption id="attachment_9892" align="alignnone" width="529"]Available in a wide range of configurations, halogen offers a number of advantages such as low initial cost, instant starting and excellent beam control, dimming and color quality. Image courtesy of Philips Lighting. Available in a wide range of configurations, halogen offers a number of advantages such as low initial cost, instant starting and excellent beam control, dimming and color quality. Image courtesy of Philips Lighting.[/caption]

Cheryl Ford, marketing manager for OSRAM SYLVANIA, says there are now very good LED lamps with a CRI rating higher than 90 that closely match the color quality of halogen lamps, though they’re a little less efficient than 80+ CRI LED lamps. “For color-critical applications like high-end retail and museum lighting, 90+ CRI LED lamps should be specified to not only get the color quality desired but maximize on energy and maintenance savings over halogen options,” she says. “For conference rooms, corridors and general lighting with downlights, LED PAR lamps should be acceptable.”

Ford adds that another factor is dimming. Dimmability of LED lamps is improving, but none provide dimming to 0 percent like halogen. “Most LED lamps will drop out at 10 percent of power,” she explains. “One hundred to 5 percent dimming is probably the best out there at this time. End-users also need to make sure they check dimming compatibility lists that can be found on most manufacturers’ websites. For hospitality and theater lighting, dimming to at least 1 percent of power is typically desired, so halogen would be the best choice. By using halogen lamps, color and brightness will be more consistent lamp to lamp at low dimming levels and as lights are being brought up.”

Soares adds: “There is a combination of elements to consider, including the application, the fixture, how people use the space, economics, etc. If the end-user can see a reasonable return on investment, then switching to LED today makes sense. However, if a renovation is planned two years from now, they might consider sticking with the current technology for another one to three relamping cycles.”

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Lighting for Senior Citizens

My lighting column published in the July 2013 issue of TED Magazine. Reprinted with permission. As the first of the baby boomer generation started retirement in 2012, the 65+ age…

My lighting column published in the July 2013 issue of TED Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

As the first of the baby boomer generation started retirement in 2012, the 65+ age group is the United States’ fastest-growing demographic. This segment, counted as 13 percent of the population (39.6 million) in 2009, is projected to increase to 19 percent (72 million) by 2030. By 2025, 40 percent of the population will be over age 55.

“The simple truth is that never before in human history has there been so many older people on the planet,” says Jay Massa, regional sales manager for Kenall Lighting. “As the baby boomer population ages, the demand for senior living facilities will soon far outweigh the current capacity to serve this demographic.”

Given current economic conditions, more boomers are expected to “age in place”—that is, retire locally instead of in another state. The current base of facilities for senior living is therefore expected to grow across the country, along with products and services catering to this market.

A critical element of ensuring quality of life for the elderly is proper lighting designed to accommodating the aged eye. Even without age-related ocular conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, as the eye ages, it becomes a less effective instrument of vision.

“Starting at about the age of 40, our vision begins to decline,” says Deb Zawodny, central regional sales manager, architectural ambient/healthcare for Eaton’s Cooper Lighting business. “The lenses of our eyes thicken and become more yellow to brown. This creates distortion in color perception—blues and greens are hard to distinguish, blues may start to be seen more as grays. The pupils of our eyes also become smaller and less responsive to light—an 80-year-old needs six times the amount of light a 20-year-old does to see at the same level.”

She points out that higher light levels should be properly distributed, as over time, the eye’s lens develops opacities prone to scattering light, resulting in greater sensitivity to glare, a greater likelihood to find glare disabling. People with visual impairments may see a patch of glare on a tile floor as a wet spot. Conversely, if there is a very low light level on that same floor, the patch of relative low brightness may be seen as a physically low spot.

As a result, it is important that light levels be high but uniform within each space. Going even further, light levels should be reasonably consistent from space to space, as the mature eye takes longer to adapt to significant changes in light level.

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) offers guidelines for lighting for the aging eye, recommending high levels of uniform ambient lighting that is consistent between rooms and provided without direct or reflected glare. Light fixtures should be properly shielded or feature concealed sources. Indirect ambient lighting is preferred, which can be implemented using valances, wall washers, torchieres and similar equipment. Lighter finishes on walls and ceilings will brighten the space by reflecting more light. Wherever possible, daylight should be used as long as it is balanced with the electric lighting, which may be realized by introducing it from more than one direction (e.g., skylights, opposing walls) or by increasing electric light levels. Skylights with direct sun exposure should feature diffused glass or plastic. Well-placed task lighting (e.g., table, floor, kitchen undercabinet lights) with adjustable levels of illumination can provide supplemental lighting in specific reading or work areas. Additional supplementary illumination, such as lighting mounted under exterior stair rails, can provide additional light for safety. All lamps should provide good color rendering, with a CRI of 80+.

“Senior living now covers a wide range of facilities and residents, and a one-size-fits-all approach definitely doesn’t apply,” says Zawodny. “This can make designing these facilities difficult—you have to provide lighting suitable for everyone from healthy, active residents to those in declining health and failing sight. In transitional living, these groups may be separated; in others, they may all inhabit the same facility or at least share some common areas. When residents transition to hospital care areas, we need to provide clinical lighting but also make this as residential in look as possible to provide somewhat of a comfort level to the resident who has now become a patient.”

“The most important consideration in lighting a senior living facility is ensuring the safety of the residents,” says Massa.

New senior facilities should be designed to current standards and will benefit from knowledge of IES guidelines and expertise in their application; research suggests many older facilities are underlighted and may benefit from a redesign to current standards. Common areas, corridors and task lighting in residential and clinical areas are good places to start upgrading. In both new and existing construction, other selling opportunities exist in utilizing the most efficient lighting systems, particularly in older buildings still using incandescent sources in downlights, nightlights and other fixtures. LEDs offer a good choice not only for their high efficiency but also for their longevity and cool and quiet operation; be sure the selected product does not produce flicker, however; is compatible with any control solutions; and that there is a plan in place to check light levels in the future to ensure proper light levels are continually being provided.

Often, when choosing lighting equipment in common areas, Massa says the greatest lighting concern is aesthetics. “However, in the apartments—in an independent living senior facility—it’s important to understand residents’ sight issues and to design and provide proper light levels to help elderly residents see better with less glare,” he says.

Another important factor, he points out, is that lighting equipment may need to meet or exceed industry standards relevant to healthcare/senior living settings, such as maintaining environmental barriers to guard against surface viruses (IP65 and K230).

“Sconces are an ideal fixture to enhance hallways both aesthetically and for illumination,” says Massa. “Again, it’s important to not only consider styles that complement the architectural and interior designs, but are ADA compliant and NSF2 listed to meet the most stringent requirements for infection control and electromagnetic compatibility with sensitive medical equipment.”

Another good lighting choice for senior living facilities, he adds, is the sealed LED steplight, which can be used in patient rooms, corridors, pathways and workstations. Products are available offering a choice of amber, blue or white light and adjustability to 100, 50 and 25 percent light output.

“A senior living facility also falls into the category of commercial because of the kitchen,” Massa concludes. “Whether established by the USDA, FDA or the end user, today’s senior living facility must meet stringent cleanliness standards. Driven by the need to keep foods free of contaminants, the kitchen luminaires must support critical sanitation protocols while maintaining their sealed envelope. They must be designed to withstand rigorous cleaning protocols and meet performance listings relevant to their intended use—including wet location ratings, IP65 ratings and NSF2 certification—all of which support frequent hosedown and overall cleanability.”

Zawodny adds that nightlights are important sources in senior living facilities. “Well-regulated Circadian rhythms are critical to everyone’s health but are even more important as we age,” she points out. “Amber/Red nightlights can be used to keep ‘artificial daylight’ out of sleeping areas, and lowering light levels in the evenings can help ease residents into their sleeping cycle. Keeping light levels ramped up during the day can help keep residents alert during waking hours. Well-regulated day/night cycles have been shown to reduce night wandering in Alzheimer’s patients by as much as 50 percent.”

An important opportunity to enhance convenience and lifestyle is to provide seniors the ability to control their lighting conditions, says Michael Smith, vice president of residential solutions for Lutron Electronics.

“Advances in lighting control technology, specifically wireless lighting and shade controls, promote independence, save energy, install quickly and easily as replacements for standard switches, and can help seniors adapt to health challenges that may limit mobility as they age,” he says. “Even a very simple strategy, like installing a wireless occupancy sensor, can ensure that a senior never has to walk into a dark room, and that lighting automatically turns OFF when the room is empty to save electricity and reduce costs. Wireless remote controls for lighting and motorized shades ensure that even as a senior may experience reduced mobility, he or she can have control of the lighting environment from the bedside, end table or even a wheelchair.”

Options range from standalone devices to whole home systems that can automate control throughout a facility or apartment. Systems can be preprogrammed for preset scenes and controlled by remote control from wireless devices, even mobile phones and tablets, with systems once considered luxury items for high-end homes now readily affordable for senior living facilities.

“It is not an overstatement to say that simple lighting control products can help change lives,” says Smith. “As seniors age and experience physical limitations, lighting control provides a level of independence that many younger people take for granted.”

Massa encourages electrical distributors to compete in this market by positioning themselves as problem solvers. “Education is one of the most important ways distributors can arm themselves when engaging customers,” he says. “Know the lighting problems these facility owners and managers face. Have lighting options available that can solve even the most challenging environments. Work closely with reps and customers to offer the correct lighting solutions to solve any problems. Offer exceptional customer service. The sale doesn’t end when the product is delivered.”

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Research: Many Retailers Are Unhappy with Their Lighting

According to a survey of retailers conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC), many are unhappy with their lighting, suggesting a selling opportunity for…

According to a survey of retailers conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC), many are unhappy with their lighting, suggesting a selling opportunity for specialists capable of demonstrably improving lighting.

A majority of respondents (56 percent) are either “somewhat unsatisfied” (40 percent) or “not at all satisfied” (16 percent) with their current lighting system. Only 10 percent are “very satisfied.” A majority of retailers believe that a lighting upgrade should increase sales (47 percent), decrease costs (14 percent) or both (37 percent).

There’s a lot more revealing information in this column I wrote for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

Check it out here.

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ENERGY STAR LED Products Arrive

To strengthen user confidence in LED products, the Department of Energy established ENERGY STAR criteria for LED fixtures that went into effect last September. Recently, the first products were introduced….

To strengthen user confidence in LED products, the Department of Energy established ENERGY STAR criteria for LED fixtures that went into effect last September. Recently, the first products were introduced. In this article I wrote for the July issue of TED magazine, the ENERGY STAR criteria are discussed along with several perspectives on its significance and what’s available to lighting practitioners.

Check it out on Page 76 of TED’s digital edition for the July issue here.

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