Craig’s Lighting Articles, Interviews + Opinion

Acuity’s Eric Gibson Talks Outdoor Lighting

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Gibson, Director, Product Market – Commercial Outdoor, Acuity Brands, for an article I developed for the November 2023 issue of tED Magazine, the official NAED publication. The topic: what’s new in outdoor lighting.

DiLouie: According to the Department of Energy in its last SSL forecast in 2019, LED will achieve 93 percent penetration in the installed outdoor lighting stock by 2025. Do you agree with that forecast? Where are the biggest remaining opportunities?

Gibson: For the past 10 years, lighting equipment manufacturers have focused all their R&D on LED products and all new products developed have been based on LED sources. The reasons to continue using traditional technologies are dwindling so it does not surprise me that forecasts show that high of an LED market penetration for outdoor products.

DiLouie: As outdoor lighting was an early adopter of LED technology, what opportunities exist to upgrade early-generation installations to the latest LED solutions? What are signs the existing lighting is ripe for an update?

Gibson: LED technology for outdoor lighting first became viable as a source when the efficacy (lumens per watt) achieved about 60 – 70 LPW around 2010. Now many LED luminaires can achieve up to 130 LPW, which has dramatically increased energy savings and allows for plenty of opportunities for renovating first-generation LED products with more modern solutions.

DiLouie: In outdoor lighting upgrades, how would you characterize adoption of LED-HID replacement lamps over new luminaires? What opportunities exist to upgrade these to new luminaires based on quality or other benefits?

Gibson: Traditional HID sources had many inherent weaknesses including low luminaire efficiency (i.e., getting the light from the lamp out of the luminaire) due to the reflector/ lamp interaction. When LED replacement lamps are used in existing HID housings, they automatically inherit these weaknesses and incur a loss of around 30% of the light output. In addition, LED replacement lamps are thermally sensitive and will age quickly in these enclosed housings. New luminaires designed around LED sources are vastly more efficient and can have tremendous improvements on the distribution of the light giving more light and better uniformity than replacement lamps.

DiLouie: What are the top 3-5 major technological trends in LED outdoor lighting?

Gibson: More and more legislation require embedded controls such as daylight sensors, motion detection, and switchable color or adjustable light output. These should be utilized on all outdoor lighting to minimize energy use and adhere to government standards.

DiLouie: What are the top 3-5 market trends affecting demand for LED outdoor lighting and specifically what types of products are selected?

Gibson: The key to outdoor lighting is to put enough light where and when it is needed, but to minimize any light where and when it isn’t needed. This typically manifests itself in products with superior light distribution to cover larger areas while cutting off the high-angle or nuisance light that can produce glare. It is also important to utilize controls to reduce the light and energy needed at times when no one is present. Lastly, it is important to have products that are adjustable in the field. Products that can change the color, change the light output, and even turn on or off the photocell are important features to look for in outdoor lighting products.

DiLouie: What control options exist for outdoor lighting, and how do these line up with customer benefit and external requirements such as energy codes?

Gibson: Controls are an essential part of the solution for outdoor lighting. Even a simple photocell that prevents the luminaires from turning on during the day can save enormous amounts of energy and have very quick paybacks. Other important control options include motion sensors that provide dimmed lighting when no one is present and then reverts to full output as soon as motion is detected. The ability to adjust the light output in the field is another important element as is the ability to slightly change the color of the light to match the surrounding environment. These control options also help to reduce the number of go-backs that customers need as they can adjust the product to match their needs in the field.

DiLouie: How serviceable are today’s LED outdoor luminaires? Do you see a distributor aftermarket developing for HID replacement lamps and luminaire drivers? How simple is it to replace a driver?

Gibson: Replacing a driver is very similar to replacing an HID ballast, however it is critical that the driver matches up to the specific LEDs in the luminaire. It is not advisable to replace a failed driver with an off-the-shelf driver and expect positive results. Replacement drivers should come from the factory directly. For this reason, many low-cost outdoor lighting products are not serviceable and must be replaced when failures occur.

DiLouie: What can electrical distributors do to sell more outdoor lighting and better service projects featuring outdoor lighting?

Gibson: Every building that has interior lighting, likely, also has outdoor lighting needs. It only takes a moment to ask whether outdoor lighting is being considered for each project when indoor lighting is being purchased and it can produce incremental business for the distributor.

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Craig DiLouie

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