Author: Craig DiLouie

DLC’s LUNA QPL Identifies Environmentally Responsible Lighting

Skyglow, light trespass, glare and color remain issues in outdoor lighting design. For the first time, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) addressed them in technical requirements released December 2021, resulting in recent publication of a new Qualified Products List (QPL) as a subset of its QPL for solid-state lighting. LUNA version 1.0 identifies outdoor LED luminaires that save energy and promote responsible outdoor lighting.

Skyglow, light trespass, glare and color remain issues in outdoor lighting design. For the first time, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) addressed them in technical requirements released December 2021, resulting in recent publication of a new Qualified Products List (QPL) as a subset of its QPL for solid-state lighting.

LUNA version 1.0 identifies outdoor LED luminaires that save energy and promote responsible outdoor lighting.

My contribution to the July issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR breaks down the new technical requirements and what to expect from the LUNA QPL.

Check it out here.

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“Ban the Bulb” is Back

My contribution to the June issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes two major Department of Energy rulings related to incandescent lamps–one that revises definitions to eliminate previous exemptions, and anohter that interprets the 2007 energy law’s backstop provision, which will eliminate a majority of lamps that previously complied.

In April 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued two final rules regulating general-service incandescent lamps, the subject of my most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. The final rules adopted revised definitions of general-service lamps as well as general-service incandescent lamps while interpreting a backstop energy standard as applying to these incandescent lamps. As a result, more incandescent lamps are covered by energy standards, and incandescent and halogen A-lamps that previously complied appear likely to be eliminated.

There’s a tangled web to unweave here, starting with the 2007 energy law and its impact on consumer choice and a big technological shift in the market, conflict in interpretation between the Trump and Biden Administrations, and resulting effect on future availability of incandescent lamps.

Check it out here.

UPDATE: Since publication, I discovered additional information, which I’m happy to share:

While DOE’s enforcement on manufacture and import culminates January 1, 2023, distributors and retailers have more time, affecting market availability of non-compliant general-service lamps in 2023. For distributors and retailers, DOE stated in its enforcement policy that the department would begin with “warning notices in January 2023, progressing to reduced penalties two months later, and culminating in full enforcement in July 2023,” with possibly even more flexibility for “very small retailers” that contact DOE.

Currently, the industry should be evaluating product lines, supply chains, and inventories to ensure compliance.

Learn more about DOE’s enforcement policy at https://bit.ly/3J40Yqb.

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LLLC Shows Promise

My contribution to the May issue of tED Magazine evaluates luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC) as a control solution and potential path for designing and installing networked lighting control systems.

Originally published in tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) combines the energy code-mandated functions of occupancy and light sensing in an LED luminaire capable of operating autonomously using an onboard lighting controller. The latest generation of products adds a layer that enables programming and collection of useful occupancy and other data.

Typically installed in office buildings and schools, LLLC is also suitable for high-bay, parking garage, gas station, and other applications, particularly luminaires that are high wattage and have long operating hours and would therefore benefit most from enhanced energy savings. The Department of Energy estimated the installed base of networked luminaires will grow from less than one percent currently to nearly a third of all lighting by 2035.

“LLLCs combine LEDs, controls, connectivity, and data for a flexible lighting product that can improve occupant comfort and space utilization,” said Martin Mercier, Strategic Marketing Manager, Connected Systems, Cooper Lighting Solutions. “In the market, there is definitely a growing interest as these systems are getting easier to install, commission, and use.”

Defining LLLC

Image courtesy of Lutron Electronics

A basic LLLC solution starts with a luminaire fitted with LEDs connected to driver(s). A lighting controller is added as an integral component of the driver(s) or as a separate device that uses a relay to send dimming signals to them. The controller also features a microprocessor for programmed (or preprogrammed for “out of the box” energy code-compliant) operation, enabling the luminaire to operate autonomously. Finally, we have the input sensor(s), which may include an occupancy or vacancy sensor, light sensor (for daylight response), or a hybrid unit combining these functionalities. All control components are pre-installed in the luminaire.

As a subset of networked lighting control, a number of solutions incorporate radios for wireless communication between the luminaire and gateways or hubs and/or a central server that constitute the lighting network. If connected to a server, along with energy data, highly granular occupancy data can be collected for purposes such as optimizing space utilization. With Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, additional capabilities, such as asset tracking and contract tracing, can be implemented. Theoretically, other sensor types, such as air temperature sensors, can be incorporated, along with additional control strategies such as shade, plug load, and HVAC control.

Categorization

A 2021 Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) study categorized LLLC as one of three types of systems: Clever, Smart, and hybrid of the two.

Clever: These systems enact high-end trim, dimming, occupancy sensing, and light sensing. The luminaires install in a plug-and-play manner and require little or no additional programming.

Smart: These systems include capabilities of Clever systems but feature the ability to communicate and analyze energy and non-energy data for various uses such as space utilization, asset tracking, and more.

Clever-hybrid: These systems include a standalone gateway and provide additional capabilities such as monitoring but do not provide the full data collection and analysis capabilities of a Smart system.

Advantages and disadvantages

LLLC offers several advantages. Overall, by making each luminaire a control point, control is highly flexible, responsive, and therefore generally more energy-saving. According to the NEEA, average lighting energy savings with LLLC exceed 60 percent.

For the electrical contractor, LLLC can simplify wiring and reduce time installing discrete lighting control devices. For the electrical distributor, it offers an energy-saving, value-added solution that can streamline product schedules for lighting projects. The designer gains flexibility; the owner gains high energy savings, potentially data, and the ability to fine-tune and reconfigure the system with relative ease in the future; and users interact with a lighting system that respects comfort and offers personalization potential.

“Wireless systems and LLLC will continue to simplify lighting control design and specification because you don’t need to have all the project details upfront,” said Craig Casey, Building Science Leader, Lutron Electronics (Lutron.com). “Contractors don’t have to be worried about wired zones or zone configuration, just power to the fixture. Because of the tremendous opportunity for enhanced lighting performance, the lighting designer has a broader palette than ever and can enjoy greater freedom to design lighting that meets the individual needs of every job.”

“For electrical distributors, LLLCs provide an integrated option between the luminaire and controls, thus reducing the overall SKUs a distributor may need to onboard and simplifying the management of the flow of goods,” said Rahul Shira, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Signify (Signify.com). “In simple terms, by integrating the occupancy and daylight sensor into the luminaire, the SKU counts drop from three to one, significant savings.”

“Because these devices are typically installed by the fixture manufacturer, driver compatibility is resolved before the fixture is shipped,” Casey added. “Distributors don’t have to worry about compatibility and can be confident they are selling the contractor a system that will result in an easy installation and setup with limited callbacks.”

The primary inhibitors are the luminaire’s higher base cost, potential higher complexity of the project if a Smart system is deployed, insufficient value or savings for a given project, and uncertain owner interest in non-energy benefits generated by collecting data. According to the 2021 NEEA study, compared to a luminaire with no controls, the cost of LLLC in 2020 was estimated at an average $0.58/sq.ft. for Clever, $1.16/sq.ft. for Smart, and $0.78/sq.ft. for hybrid systems based on a prototypical 40,000-sq.ft. office building. NEEA noted, however, a significant decrease in costs from 2019 to 2020, suggesting these systems were becoming more competitive with a falling initial cost that can be further softened by rebates when applied in a retrofit.

“In retrofit projects, LLLCs unlock the path to claim higher rebates,” said Shira. “In most geographies, these rebates range from $15 to $65 per sensor integrated into an LED luminaire and are in addition to the rebates offered for installing LED lights. When coupled with the installation savings and deep energy savings offered by LLLCs, a return on investment of less than two years or even one year becomes very achievable.”

Image courtesy of Cooper Lighting Solutions

Taking advantage

“LLLC will grow in market penetration and evolve into more advanced solutions with more benefits beyond lighting, making it easier to break building system silos with open protocol,” Mercier said, advising distributors to get ahead of the curve by becoming familiar with the technology and products through education. “This already exists, but market penetration and functionalities will grow by large factors. It also leads to standardization, so more devices can interact as part of an IoT ecosystem—think temperature sensors for room HVAC control, Microsoft Office suite tools for hot desk booking, Parking Guidance System integration, wayfinding for warehouse lifts, and so on.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers Field-Adjustable Luminaires

Another of my contributions to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the field-adjustable luminaire trend.

Another of my contributions to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the field-adjustable luminaire trend.

Sometimes, the customer isn’t exactly sure what they want. Field-adjustable (also called field-selectable) lamps and luminaires reduce guesswork for electrical contractors by allowing lighting performance to be dialed in during installation, which improves service efficiency.

The article describes the technology, its benefits, how it’s used, and what to watch for.

Check it out here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Publishes Controls Design Guidance

My contribution to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR tackles the subject of designing lighting control systems.

My contribution to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR tackles the subject of designing lighting control systems.

The article describes how the world of lighting control has changed over the years and then summarizes two documents by the Illuminating Engineering Society that provide solid design guidance for maximizing success.

For electrical contractors who want to stay ahead of the curve, this means education and training. Those that design systems would likely benefit from learning about best practices as much as manufacturer training on setup and installation. Because lighting control systems are becoming more complex, good design practices and disciplined approaches are worth understanding.

This article summarizes some of the design processes and key related considerations involved when designing with and specifying lighting controls, and then focuses on what’s needed for the most advanced systems.

Click here to check it out.

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Lighting the Sentient Building

My contribution to the March issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes cutting-edge research RPI is conducting to explore lighting systems that use artificial intelligence to act autonomously in providing optimal light distribution, light level, and color.

My contribution to the March issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes cutting-edge research RPI is conducting to explore lighting systems that use artificial intelligence to act autonomously in providing optimal light distribution, light level, and color.

From the article:

Imagine entering our hypothetical conference room, only this time it lacks discernible controls and is illuminated by a small number of visible luminaires. The lighting system detects where you are and what tasks you and others are performing and then smoothly adjusts output, spectrum and emission pattern to optimize comfort, productivity and circadian function. For example, a troffer mounted over the table provides a focused, high light level for task work, and then automatically transitions to more diffuse lighting for a meeting.

“Just as the vision of a self-driving car will include an embedded expert driver, we are developing the concept of an embedded lighting designer for autonomous lighting systems,” said Robert Karlicek, professor and director of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications (LESA) at RPI. “Our research testbed will explore delivering the ‘right light when and where needed,’ where optimized lighting will require no occupant intervention.”

Karlicek added that the data produced by the sensors would then be leveraged into a wide array of “sentient building” operations.

Check out this interesting research effort here.

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NEMA Luminaire Section UGR Task Force Chair Jeremy Yon Talks Glare Metrics

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Yon, Industry Relations Leader, GE Current, a Daintree company, and Chair of the NEMA Luminaire Section UGR Task Force, on the topic of application of the Unified Glare Rating (UGR) metric. Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Yon, Industry Relations Leader, GE Current, a Daintree company, and Chair of the NEMA Luminaire Section UGR Task Force, on the topic of application of the Unified Glare Rating (UGR) metric. This interview was conducted to inform an article that will be published in the September 2022 issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, the official publication of NECA. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: NEMA recently published LS 20001-2021, a whitepaper concerning current use of UGR as a glare metric. What was the rationale behind producing this whitepaper?

Yon: Glare is a timeless and universal concern to everyone who cares about lighting. It is one of the most critical aspects of an occupant’s experience with lighting and one of the most devilishly difficult topics. Historically, glare comes in and out of fashion. Because LED efficacy is now slowly increasing, glare is returning to the forefront of the industry’s attention. This topic has been grappled with by true lighting visionaries in the past, and now my NEMA colleagues and I are attempting to re-structure how glare is thought of and talked about so that there can be a common understanding and vocabulary when working together with all stakeholders.

DiLouie: What does UGR, overall and in general, reliably deliver, and what are its limitations?

Yon: The broad aim of UGR is to provide a better way to evaluate glare in indoor settings. However, it is not a simple matter because UGR depends strongly on the specific application; not only in regards to the luminaires, but also in their layout, the shape of the room and the reflectances of the surfaces in the room all affect the value of UGR. Additionally, the location of people in the room and the tasks conducted within the room can affect the experience of glare as well, so different values of UGR may be desired in different applications.

Therefore, we believe much of the confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to UGR is due in part to the three different ways that the term is used – they each have their own purposes and limitations. Since they were unnamed previously, we’ve taken the liberty to recommend that they be called Application UGR (UGRAppl), Luminiare UGR (UGRLum), and Point UGR (UGRPoint).

We’ve come to understand through our research that Application UGR and Point UGR can be tools for lighting designers to get predict what will likely be the visual comfort level for specific locations within an application. These are not absolute determinations and must be balanced with other predictive factors. Application UGR was designed while, and works best when, considering a windowless rectangular room with regularly spaced luminaires (think troffers). Point UGR is possible with computer simulations, but it should not be evaluated by looking at each point as it requires averaging over an area by the user to achieve the intended indication of comfort.

Luminaire UGR is the most common use of the term today and is the most problematic use of the equations. The UGR methodology was not intended to be an absolute measurement. The Luminaire UGR approach does this by forcing an evaluation of a single luminaire type in a specific evaluation space without taking into consideration the space itself (geometry, room finishes, luminaire placement, windows, partitions, multiple luminaire types, etc.). It cannot appropriately predict the likelihood of glare in any space other than that single specifically required condition. NEMA advises strongly against using Luminaire UGR.

DiLouie: What are the most common misconceptions practitioners have about glare and UGR, and what is the reality they should understand?

Yon: I think the most common misconception is to assume that a luminaire can have a UGR rating, ignoring the role of the application. If you look at a table of values produced by the tabular method for a single luminaire, you will see that, depending on the light distribution of the luminaire, the UGR can vary greatly. It clearly does not depend only on the luminaire. Below is an example in which UGR varies from 2.6 to 21.8.

While some may claim that UGR is the best of the various limited glare evaluation tools, that doesn’t mean UGR can deliver more than it is capable. Unless properly evaluated for the specific application in which a luminaire will be used, it can’t give absolute assurance that the luminaire selected is going to meet the required lighting design criteria. To this point, some manufacturers refuse to put Luminaire UGR numbers on their cutsheets. They don’t want to contribute to a misuse of the UGR metric, nor have their customer be the victim of poor lighting design quality because of a misapplied UGR number.

DiLouie: DLC, LEED, and WELL specify a maximum UGR based on glare emitted by the luminaire (UGR-Lum). This offers an advantage of reducing glare to a simple number published on a catalog sheet. NEMA says there are significant disadvantages. What are they?

Yon: All of those rating programs use the Luminaire UGR simplification to get the single value you mention. This creates a situation where a designer thinks they are selecting a product that has the “right number,” but in actuality, they may be selecting one that has more glare than is desired in application. From the example given earlier, the tabular reporting of that luminaire had a range of values from 2.6 to 21.8 – just based on room size and no other factors. With a variation this wide, it simply makes no sense to try and represent a luminaire with a single number.

Because of the selection of only a single reported value, there are many factors that impact the visual experience found in the final application that are not incorporated into Luminaire UGR. Some examples include the room finish (a dark ceiling will be much different than a light ceiling), the luminaire mounting height (high-bay vs office), and non-uniform placement (troffer grids vs artistic slots).

At the same time, luminaires that are designed to achieve only a Luminaire UGR value, and not to minimize glare from an application approach, can have various consequences. The luminous surfaces of the luminaires may be less uniform with easier-to-see LEDs, there may be additional accessories that need to be installed and there may be a feeling that the final spaces are darker, even though there may be adequate horizontal light (some may remember the deep-parabolic troffer days of the 1980s).

DiLouie: NEMA believes UGR-Appl, adopted by ISO and EN 12464-1, is a more appropriate metric to use to predict glare in a space…

Yon: NEMA is saying that UGR should be used in the way intended by the original CIE documents. Simplifying it to a luminaire based value is not correct.

DiLouie: Some organizations utilize UGR-Point, which predicts glare at a point in the space. This similarly places the metric in the space, not at the luminaire, but NEMA cautions about its use. Why?

Yon: Simulations will produce an array of point UGR values in a space. The original UGR uses a “trick” to calculate the average UGR over a 1H x 1H square centered along the walls. If only point calculations are done, as simulation software typically does, then the averaging step is omitted. Judicious positioning of the luminaires and/or the point for calculation can result in large variations in the UGR. “Cherry picking” from a set of UGR point values can yield a misleading value for UGR.

In examples given in the NEMA paper, UGR tables include a variation expectation that is often overlooked. These show expected point-to-point variation values, depending on the spacing of the luminaires. In the example we provided, the variation ranges from a minimum of +3/-3 units to +7.5/3.8 units, making a comparisson against a threshold impossible.

The user of a piece of software should perform proper averaging, either as detailed in the UGR standard (in a 1H x 1H region at the center of two adjacent walls) or in certain situations where occupants are only in specific areas, such as custom areas that best represent their design objectives. Secondly, there are some ambiguities in the UGR standard around handling different sizes of luminaires that can lead to differences between software simulations.

Finally, and most importantly, the designer needs to balance the results with all the other aspects of a lighting design – vertical illumination, presence/design of windows, space use flexibility, circadian exposure objectives, etc.

DiLouie: If UGR-Appl is most advantageous in predicting glare, a challenge is that the procedure appears to be complex and not well understood. What is the solution for this?

Yon: It is complex and not well understood! The fundamental CIE UGR standard (117) has been around since 1995. But oversimplifying it will lead to artificial selection of some luminaires as “good” and others as “bad,” when in fact the goodness/badness is impossible to evaluate outside of the context of the application. With the absence of a simple answer, it is good for all of us to remember that lighting, by definition, is a blending of art and science. This balance is what makes it so interesting and engaging for most of us.

The first recommendation is that luminaires should be used in the manner in which they were intended; if a high bay luminaire is used in an office, there is probably going to be a difference in visual comfort than if a luminaire designed specifically for an office is used. Building on this notion, manufacturers play an important role in determining what appropriate use is. The literature should be clear, and specifiers should ask for details they feel will help complete the project. A qualified lighting professional should be used to bring together all the complexities of lighting into an optimized solution.

Finally, and most importantly, all stakeholders need to come together with researchers to provide consistent and actionable recommendations. The IES is tackling this for some product categories and there is hope for continued engagement. Internationally, there is still work to be done by the CIE.

DiLouie: How should electrical contractors evaluating lighting systems approach it in regards to ensuring a product will not produce objectionable glare? Are there rules of thumb for evaluating application glare?

Yon: The most important rule of thumb is that glare, at its essence, is related to the difference between a bright object and a dark background. This is easy to see in daily life – high-beam headlights that can be disabling at night are barely visible during the day. The first step is to factor in the surfaces around the luminaire – are they light or dark finished? Is there light from other sources hitting the surface to keep it from being dark? The luminaire should fit into those needs by providing diffuse light in circumstances where an overall lighter environment is warranted, controlled and shielded when a dark atmosphere is expected.

It always helpful to think of the extremes – a soft white uniformly backlit luminous ceiling and white walls (if not overly bright) can have almost no glare (to the point that it can be disorienting); whereas a black-box theater goes to extremes to hide the source of the light so as to not draw attention away from the performance. Similarly, luminaires for offices would most likely be expected to have a uniform appearance and contribute to lighting the walls and surfaces, while task-specific lights (such as a wall-wash or a high-bay warehouse aisle light) rely on precision optics that need to be coordinated with the overall viewing expectations of occupants.

DiLouie: What other solutions does NEMA recommend as a way to ensure lighting systems are designed and delivered that minimize glare while serving the best needs of the application?

Yon: The first is to recognize how UGR can be both properly and improperly utilized as a guidance method for good lighting design. We’re hopeful that through the NEMA whitepaper, it is understood that only Application UGR provides suitable guidance in terms of what an occupant will experience in a specific space. In addition, if simulations are done, the individual point UGR values should not be utilized (averaging should be done) and there are assumptions about large and small luminaires that may lead to variations of answers in different software platforms.

Certainly, there is more study and work to be done to improve how we predict glare. It is hopeful that further focus and effort can be made that will simplify how this is done. Yet for now, Application-UGR remains our best option. What we don’t want is a misunderstood lighting metric, such as Luminaire-UGR, being used in good faith efforts to simplify the situation, as this will result in poor outcomes in lighting performance.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry only one thing about UGR, what would it be?

Yon: Our message to the industry is that UGR is an imperfect predicter of glare, but Application UGR is the best method we have today. With the right understanding, it can be an asset to lighting design application. If UGR’s limitations are not understood, such as using Luminaire UGR as a singular number inaccurately across a variety of applications, it undermines the purpose of the metric and can result in poor lighting.

DiLouie: Is there anything else that you’d like to add about this topic?

Yon: NEMA members place a high value on the visual environments our luminaires create. We work together with designers, installers and users to balance the needs of an application to create the most appropriate experience. Balanced factors like efficacy, color rendering, color temperature, uniformity, light distribution, color consistency, etc. all can have different impacts on the perceived glare for each specific application that cannot be factored into a single-value luminaire value.

NEMA welcomes the opportunity to work with all the stakeholders in evolving means to both predict and communicate expectations for visual comfort. Today, Application UGR and averaged Point UGR calculations can be an effective part of an overall lighting design, but they are very limited and should not be applied as a luminaire selection tool.

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Signify’s Rahul Shira Talks Luminaire-Level Lighting Controls

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rahul Shira, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Signify, on the topic of luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC). Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rahul Shira, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Signify, on the topic of luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC). This interview was conducted to inform an article that will be published in the May 2022 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you define luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC)?

Shira: Signify’s definition of luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC) is derived from the intent of the original definition drafted by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and endorsed by the DLC. At Signify, we define LLLC as a connected system, where the majority of the luminaires in a deployment are regulated by built-in intelligence. This could be a luminaire-integrated sensor with spatial or environmental sensing capabilities, or it could be a luminaire or lamp with built-in connectivity mechanisms, such as a wireless transmitter and receiver, but no sensing capabilities. The connectivity mechanisms enable users to realize a bidirectional communication link with the lights to support their business needs, such as energy consumption analysis, device diagnostics, or central or manual light level overrides.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for LLLC compared to discrete (general lighting + added-on control system), and would you consider this category a trend?

Shira: Overall, demand for lighting controls has increased. In some geographies, LLLC-based systems is even of greater interest than discreet control systems. This trend can be attributed to three factors: 1) wireless connectivity and technology advancements, making it the first-choice option for most retrofit projects. 2) Higher rebates offered by utilities for LLLCs due to the energy savings they offer. 3) Ongoing updates to regulations through various building codes and targeted to minimize energy waste.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of LLLC for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?

Shira:

1. Electrical Distributors: LLLCs provide an integrated option between the luminaire and controls, thus reducing the overall Stock Keeping Units (SKU) a distributor may need to onboard and simplifying the management of the flow of goods. In simple terms, by integrating an occupancy and daylight sensor into the luminaire, the SKU counts drop from 3 to 1, a 66.66% drop, and when considered at scale with different luminaire configurations, it translates into significant savings for the distributors. The second soft benefit for distributors is the learning curve their internal staff may need for discrete controls in contrast to an LLLC offering, which can easily fit into their existing processes.

2. Contractors and ESCOs (Installers): The time and money required to cut holes in the ceiling for mounting discrete sensors; the planning required to install discrete controls panels in the electrical room or a distributed controller in the plenum; and the additional materials costs associated with copper, piping and accessories to connect the dimming wires to luminaires can quickly add up and can offshoot the allocated budgets. LLLCs eliminate this nondifferentiated work for the installers and keeps the primary effort limited to luminaire installation. Signify’s Interact Pro scalable system is a wireless LLLC system that can save up to 80% on installation costs when compared with conventional discrete controls. Moreover, because Interact Pro is a cloud-based connected system, installers can proactively offer maintenance services to their clients, giving them an additional revenue stream to grow their business. Finally, LLLCs tend to be more intuitive to configure and commission, making it easier for installers to execute tasks and customize settings as a response to a last-minute change request from the end user, thus helping them build their brand value and trust.

3. Owners – According to research published by the DLC, where they analyzed 194 installs, the energy savings from LLLCs were, on average, 28% higher than that from non-LLLCs. Solutions like the Interact Pro scalable system can push the energy savings bar further with its unique adaptive dimming and dwell time features, which provide the right light levels at the right moment and the right location.

LLLCs with wireless communication technology also offer the flexibility for owners to re-configure lighting control areas, without any disruptions to existing electrical wiring schemes, to easily align with their desk layouts, which, as we know, is changing frequently these days to adhere to physical distancing measures, for example.

With connected LLLCs, owners can gain granular insights on energy use, occupancy patterns, environmental monitoring and space usage, to optimize their operational expenses further.

DiLouie: What are the advantages of LLLC that are driving adoption? What are ideal applications for LLLC?

Shira: Adoption has been growing due to the:

• Documented energy savings benefits by industry partners such as DLC
• Popularity of wireless controls for retrofit markets because of an aggressive ROI model, lower installation costs and flexibility of re-configuration throughout the life cycle of the installation.
• Need to comply with latest regulations and building codes
• Planning for the future – LLLCs like Interact Pro can be deployed in a standalone manner, i.e. without installing any gateways or backend infrastructure, but then can be scaled up to a connected offering by adding back-end building blocks like a gateway or cloud access, whenever deemed fit. This is like a Lego model, where customers can keep accessing new features and benefits by building on top of the foundation that was laid on day 1.

These unique characteristics of LLLCs makes them ideal for schools, universities, libraries, offices, warehouses, parking garages and healthcare facilities.

DiLouie: Looking specifically at retrofit projects, how do the simplicity and economics of installation for an onboard control solution impact the project economics and likelihood of controls being added to the project?

Shira: In retrofit projects, LLLCs unlock the path to claim higher rebates. In most geographies, these rebates range from $15 to $65 per sensor integrated into an LED luminaire and are in addition to the rebates offered for installing LED lights. When coupled with the installation savings and deep energy savings (+28% over DLC average for non-LLLCs) offered by LLLCs, an ROI of less than 2 years or even 1 year becomes very achievable.

LEDs have a longer life span, but controls capabilities are expected to evolve at a faster rate with new innovations. Installing LLLCs means that end users’ retrofit strategy is future-oriented and can easily adapt to evolving business needs.

DiLouie: What are the disadvantages of LLLC? In what applications or application conditions would such a solution be less desirable?

Shira: LLLCs add cost over a base luminaire due to the additional value offered by integrated controls with respect to energy savings. But in some applications like heavy duty manufacturing facilities, where life safety and security supersedes energy savings or where lights need to operate on a schedule such as in a retail store, LLLCs may not be a good fit, unless there is a need for collecting spatial data from the lighting infrastructure.

DiLouie: For what luminaire types are LLLC options available? For what luminaire type or types is LLLC most popular or otherwise advantageous?

Shira: LLLCs are popular in common spaces like a classroom, open office or meeting rooms, for example, where energy savings can be maximized with features like adaptive dimming and dwell time, and where there is the need to alter lighting controls zones/areas frequently. These spaces are typically designed with troffers, linear recessed or suspended luminaires and downlights. In retrofit applications, an LLLC with a retrofit kit is popular.

In highbay applications like warehouse settings, LLLCs are often deployed, as occupancy patterns in these applications are uneven and can be brief. End users can use LLLCs to flexibly re-zone the lights as per their warehouse’s modified aisle structure and only ramp up those lights that are directly detecting motion within the aisle while keeping the rest of the lights in the same aisle at a low background level. This type of adaptive behavior delivers significant energy savings without compromising user safety and comfort.

DiLouie: Understanding that there may be many product options, what are basic, common configurations? How do they typically install, configure for sequences of operation, intelligence inside or outside the luminaire, operate independently or group, and how is control operation managed after installation?

Shira: LLLCs, like the Interact Pro scalable system, are specified by selecting the appropriate sensor option code on the luminaire spec sheets and configured on-site by a non-technical or trained installer using an intuitive configuration App. The App guides the installer on critical steps such as creating lighting groups, altering sensor parameters, trimming the maximum light output etc. Installers can also use the App to execute a code-compliant sequence of operations in a secured manner, thus making the overall process straightforward with minimum dependencies.

If the project evolves over time, the installer can update that same install to the next level by adding a gateway and unlocking additional capabilities like energy reporting, asset performance diagnostics, scheduling, remote monitoring, firmware updates, etc. One of the main tenets of Interact Pro is to prioritize localized outcomes; therefore, intelligence is always retained in the local devices; for example, the link between a wall switch and the LLLCs is independent of whether the project involves a wireless gateway for coordinating system data or not. If the gateway goes offline, the intelligent functions like occupancy sensing or dimming are retained.

External devices like gateways act as coordinating hardware to cloud-based applications, so customers always stay up-to-date with the latest innovations.

DiLouie: Do any special design factors need to be learned or addressed? Is there anything different about LLLC that requires special training or changes in traditional design and installation practices?

Shira: LLLCs with wireless technology are designed to be intuitive and self-serviced; therefore, the learning curve for installers is rapid. One consideration installers will need to take on-board is the planning for wireless mesh continuity. Depending upon the space dynamics, they must consider tactics related to wireless node locations and range. One of the benefits of LLLCs is that a sensor is made available on every luminaire, which reduces or even eliminates the planning and cross checks required to identify sensing blind spots on a project.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about LLLC, what would it be?

Shira: LLLCs are the future of lighting control systems. They can help end users maximize their sustainability goals, enhance operational efficiencies, lower maintenance costs and drive employee engagement. Systems like Interact Pro can help them stay relevant in line with their evolving business needs.

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BriteSwitch’s Leendert Jan Enthoven Talks 2022 Lighting Rebate Outlook

I recently had the opportunity to interview Leendert Jan Enthoven, President, BriteSwitch, LLC, a rebate fulfillment firm, on the topic of 2022 commercial lighting rebates and rebate trends.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Leendert Jan Enthoven, President, BriteSwitch, LLC, a rebate fulfillment firm, on the topic of 2022 commercial lighting rebates and rebate trends. This interview was conducted to inform articles for the May issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR and the March feature for the Lighting Controls Association, where average rebate dollars for popular lighting and control rebates will be published. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you characterize the current commercial prescriptive lighting rebate opportunity in the United States? What is the current overall level and trend in funding?

Enthoven: 2022 has proven to be another strong year for commercial lighting rebates. Currently, 77% of the US has a rebate for commercial lighting or controls. That’s up from 74% we saw last year and close to the highest we have on record, 79% in 2017. While most of the country has incentives available, there still are some notable hold-outs like Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio, and West Virginia.

DiLouie: How did the pandemic affect rebate availability in 2021, and what impact will this have on 2022? Are things back to “normal”?

Enthoven: The pandemic didn’t affect the availability of rebates in 2021. Most programs continued as expected throughout the year.

As an effect of the pandemic, we noticed that rebate amounts increased throughout 2021. Towards the end of the year, programs either increased their incentives or offered limited-time bonus programs that provided temporary increases of anywhere from 10% to 100%. In Q4 of last year, we saw that roughly 20% of the rebate programs in the US were offering some kind of bonus to try to spur participation.

DiLouie: What are the top 3-5 trends in lighting rebates and what impact are they having on demand for energy-efficient lighting?

Enthoven: Overall, the rebate amounts for LED solutions stayed relatively flat for 2022. That’s a big change from the past. Historically, LED rebate amounts have dropped 10 – 20% each year. Last year was the first year they stayed flat, and this year continues that trend. The price increases seen across the industry, as well as lack of active projects, are probably the reasons behind this change.

2022 has also proven a strong year for rebates for horticulture lighting. The number of rebates for horticulture lighting has tripled over the last year. The rebate amounts for horticulture lighting have always been relatively high, but the new programs have brought the average amount down by roughly 25%. Still, even with that decrease, it’s the product category with one of the highest rebate amounts at an average of $102 per fixture. We also noticed that in 2022, a lot of the horticulture rebates have switched from custom to prescriptive, making them easier to estimate and file for.

We saw that incentive amounts varied a lot throughout the year last year. For most programs, a rebate amount will be set at the beginning of the year and remain consistent. Last year, adjustments were going on through the year. Most of this was to adjust the levels to take advantage of the available program budgets. This means distributors and contractors have to stay on top of the programs and changes that might be occurring.

DiLouie: What are the top 3-5 trends in lighting control rebates and what impact are they having on demand for lighting controls?

Enthoven: Lighting controls rebate amounts continue to remain consistent. Over the past 14 years, we’ve noticed incredible stability in the rebates for this category.

The number of utilities offering rebates for Networked Lighting Controls (NLC) increased by 16% in 2022. In most cases, if there is a lighting rebate available, NLC will also receive an incentive. These rebates are usually on top of, and not replacing, the rebates for standard lighting controls.

DiLouie: What role do electric vehicles and electric-vehicle charging stations play in rebates now? How do they work, and what are opportunities for electrical contractors and distributors in this category?

Enthoven: EV charging equipment, also called EVSE, is a growing opportunity for electrical contractors and distributors. It’s a relatively new segment with tremendous growth potential in the next few years. We’ve seen rebates, incentives, and grants for EV chargers skyrocket over the past year. These rebates significantly reduce the cost of installing EV chargers, but they may present a challenge. Rebates for EV chargers are much different from rebates for energy-efficient products like lighting or HVAC. While they both provide incentives, they’re more like a distant cousin than a sibling. They come from different organizations, run on different timelines, and are often structured differently. It takes a significant amount of time to fully understand them for even a seasoned rebate veteran.

One of the biggest differences between traditional lighting rebates and EVSE rebates is the sources of funding. For lighting, the rebates are typically through the utility. For EV charging stations, it can come from a variety of sources like the utility, state, county, municipality, or others. Sometimes several programs can even overlap, and you have to select which is the best for each individual project. We’ve been tracking energy efficiency rebates for 14 years, and there were so many differences with EV charging rebates that we had to develop a whole new database to capture and identify all the rebates correctly.

That being said, there’s a tremendous opportunity out there as the electrical charging infrastructure grows in North America. The number of rebates for Level 3, or DC fast-changing, EV charging stations increased by over 20% just in the past three months.

DiLouie: How would you characterize growth in lighting control rebates? Where do you see this trend headed in the future?

Enthoven: Over the past 14 years, lighting control rebates have always been remarkably stable, with dollar amounts and rebate availability being relatively consistent between the years. Most rebate programs in North America offer an incentive for control solutions, but they’re often tucked away in the back pages of a rebate catalog and not highly emphasized. It’s a shame, because the average rebate amounts for controls are relatively high compared to the cost, making them a relatively inexpensive upsell to most lighting retrofit projects.

DiLouie: How would you characterize growth in networked lighting control rebates?

Enthoven: The number of utilities incentivizing networked lighting controls increased by 16% in the past year. The rebate amount itself didn’t change much. Most rebate programs seem excited by the opportunity that NLC presents, but the consensus is that the growth of these systems is slower than expected. One of the biggest challenges seems to be educating the marketplace on how to market and sell these solutions effectively.

DiLouie: What are the most popular models for networked lighting control rebates?

Enthoven: Most of the rebates for NLC are on a “per fixture installed” basis. Filing for incentives for NLC can be tricky. Just one project can have a combination of standard control rebates, standard lighting rebates, and NLC rebates.

DiLouie: What do electrical contractors need to know about helping their customers gain rebates?

Enthoven: The two biggest issues that contractors working on rebates run into are pre-approval and product selection.

A majority of rebate programs require pre-approval before installation. The amount of time pre-approval takes varies depending on the rebate program, but the average is 3 – 4 weeks across North America. Contractors must make sure to allow themselves time to get pre-approval before a project is slated to begin. It’s better to start on the paperwork as early as possible to make sure rebates don’t delay the project.

Product selection is also critical when it comes to rebates. Many programs have strict requirements for what type of lighting is installed. The most common requirements are that the LED is EnergyStar or Design Lights Consortium listed, with over 3/4 of programs requiring certification to receive incentives. Contractors must make sure the product they’re using is currently on the DLC or EnergyStar website; a logo on a spec sheet is not sufficient proof. It’s even more important this year, as DLC will transition from version 5.0 to 5.1 later this year.

DiLouie: Where do you see rebates going in the future?

Enthoven: If price increases, material scarcity, and inflation keep on track, I think commercial lighting rebates will remain stable, if not increase, in the future. For lighting upgrades, the early adopters and the low-hanging-fruit opportunities have already made the switch, and now it’s a matter of convincing the hold-outs, which may need more financial incentives to make the switch.

DiLouie: If you could tell all lighting professionals only one thing about lighting and control rebates, what would it be?

Enthoven: If you do not include rebates on all of your quotes, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The rebates allow you to lower the perceived price to your customers without impacting your margin. They also show your customers the value and expertise you add. Rebate paperwork can be a cumbersome burden, but don’t let that stop you. Having a dedicated person at your company to handle rebates, or outsourcing to a third-party rebate processor, can reduce the hassle.

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Field-Adjustable Lighting

Field-adjustable (aka field-selectable) lighting is staple LED light fixtures and lamps that allow field selection of preset operating parameters such as light output and correlated color temperature (CCT). For the electrical distributor, they offer a means to consolidate inventory and more flexibly satisfy local demand for lighting products.

Below is my contribution to the March 2022 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Field-adjustable (aka field-selectable) lighting is LED light fixtures and lamps that allow field selection of preset operating parameters such as light output and correlated color temperature (CCT). For the electrical distributor, they offer a means to consolidate inventory and more flexibly satisfy local demand for lighting products.

On the luminaire side, adjustability started with lower-wattage products such as downlights, troffers, and panels and has since moved into other categories including high-bays and undercabinet luminaires. While predominant for indoor lighting, the adjustability trend has begun to enter outdoor categories such as floodlights, wall packs, and area lighting.

“Field adjustability is an emerging trend across most categories,” said Ross Barna, Chief Executive Officer of RAB Lighting, Inc. “While still not in the majority of lighting products sold today, I would not be surprised to see field-adjustable features in the majority of products within the next couple years.”

“The demand for field-adjustable luminaires continues to grow as distributors are maximizing limited warehouse space,” said Eric Jerger, VP, and GM, Indoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions. “Field-selectable luminaires offer multiple products in one, saving distributors money by stocking less inventory while still being able to meet the needs of their customers.”

How it works

The lighting product is functionally the same as a static-output luminaire or lamp but with a mechanism allowing adjustability of the light emission. For indoor lighting, this predominantly entailed ability to select light output, which has since evolved to include CCT. For outdoor and high-bay indoor lighting, it predominantly involves adjustability of light output. Other adjustability may be available, such as light distribution (e.g., a troffer with a choice of three reflectors) and ability to turn an outdoor photocell On/Off.

The most common adjustment mechanism is a set of mechanical switches or knobs integral to the driver or wired to it, which offer various output levels based on several labeled factory-preset steps. These manual controls cause the driver to draw more or less current based on the desired light output and manage the power between warm/cool LED arrays to tune color output. In the case of luminaires, they are typically set once and then installed. Some smart products can be controlled wirelessly using an app on a smartphone or using a lighting control system, allowing relatively easy, low-labor adjustment at any time to accommodate changing user needs.

Image courtesy of Cooper Lighting Solutions.

“Field-selectable products can be used anywhere,” Jerger said. “Whether it’s a residential homeowner or a schoolteacher in an education environment or a facility manager in a warehouse, field-selectable products are simple for contractors to install while providing long-lasting benefits.”

Distributor benefits

“For the electrical distributor, the main benefits are flexibility and availability,” said Andrew Banovic, Product Director Commercial Indoor Lighting, Acuity Brands Lighting. “Two of the largest investments in the distribution business are inventory and space to store it. Field-adjustable luminaires allow for drastic working-capital reductions, as well as increasing the turns on the SKUs that are being stocked. This also can eliminate a great deal of returns as a good percentage of returns to a distributor are because of lumen output or color changes that are needed.”

While the supply chain math is complex, Banovic offered a simplified evaluation. Acuity has found a combination of light output and CCT adjustment to be most popular, which allows a single adjustable-output luminaire to replace up to nine static-output models that cover most of the configurations needed for a given luminaire type. If three models can be serviced by a single model, a distributor can cut inventory in half without reducing service levels. If replacing nine models, it goes even lower. Banovic compared it to multi- and universal-voltage drivers and ballasts, which caught on quickly and became the new standard.

He offered an example demonstrating the utility of field adjustability. A local distributor stocks 200 static-output luminaires offering a mix of lumen and CCT packages. A customer orders 60 of the luminaire type, not caring about light output or CCT, as long as they match. Unfortunately, the distributor keeps half the units at 3500K and the other half at 4000K, and half at a high and half at a low light output. As a result, the distributor can’t fulfill the order on the spot. If the luminaires were field-adjustable, it could.

Another example is applicable to retrofits. If field-adjustable luminaires are available, a building with multiple space types and ceiling heights would not need a highly precise audit and specification of lumen packages. The contractor would order a large lot of adjustable lay-in luminaires instead of specific lumen packages in precise quantities that may not be in stock.

“Distributors these days are facing a very challenging environment, where supply chains are unreliable and inflationary pressure is pushing costs up across the economy,” Barna pointed out. “Being able to invest in inventory that can hit many birds with one stone is simply the best option to win in today’s market.”

With the added engineering and value, these luminaires may present a cost premium. While their core utility is fairly broad, they may not make as much sense for highly specified projects with comfortable lead times.

One question that will need to be answered in retrofit situations is whether and in what way the product qualifies for utility rebates. The DesignLights Consortium (DLC) allows field-adjustable luminaires in its Qualified Products List, which many rebate programs use to qualify LED products. BriteSwitch, a rebate fulfillment company, said it has not seen any rebate program expressly exclude field-adjustable luminaires. They added, however, that rebate programs vary in how they treat the luminaires, with recognizing only the DLC-listed wattage (maximum wattage), and others recognizing a lower wattage with some means of verification. As a result, it may be beneficial for distributors to confirm how their local programs handle it, select DLC-listed luminaires if required, and, if they’re managing the rebate, to prefile for approval. In 2021, BriteSwitch reported the average rebate for a field-adjustable troffer/panel, downlight, or retrofit kit was $33-34; $120 for a high-bay luminaire; and $91-97 for outdoor wall and pole/arm mount luminaires.

Final word

“Try them,” Banovic advised. “If you haven’t stocked any yet, add a pallet to your warehouse. See how fast it flies off the shelf and how fast you can get on and off job sites. You will never go back.”

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