Category: Craig’s Lighting Articles

LED Outdoor Lighting Matures

Application efficiency, visual comfort, color, control, and optical control are all key considerations when selecting a quality outdoor lighting solution today for new construction and upgrade projects. While this has certainly increased complexity, it has also enhanced opportunity for electrical professionals willing to invest in knowledge and stay on top of what’s new.

Below is my contribution to the December 2021 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Outdoor lighting has evolved dramatically in the last 20 years. Today’s commercial outdoor area lighting must do a lot more lifting beyond its traditional role of providing illumination for nighttime safety and security and turning On and Off with the sun’s cycle or a time switch.

Application efficiency, visual comfort, color, control, and optical control are all key considerations when selecting a quality outdoor lighting solution today for new construction and upgrade projects. While this has certainly increased complexity, it has also enhanced opportunity for electrical distributors willing to invest in knowledge and stay on top of what’s new.

“Commercial outdoor lighting is a strong market,” said Erik Milz, VP, Product Management, Cree Lighting (CreeLighting.com). “Businesses continue to convert to LED lighting from old technologies that burned money. The LED lighting industry is also now mature enough that we’re starting to see early adopters to LED lighting begin to enter the replacement cycle. Add to that pent-up demand from the pandemic, and overall demand is strong.”

He added that the market currently faces some serious challenges, however. Supply chain bottlenecks, shortages of raw materials and components, supplier cost increases, and the impact of the pandemic on employees and customers are all combining to make it a tougher market.

Travis Bouck, Business Leader, Outdoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions (CooperLighting.com), said the market itself is undergoing change affecting need for outdoor lighting. “At a high level, we are seeing a move towards deurbanization and an increase in the use of outdoor spaces, which is driving activity outside of city centers and accelerating a long-term trend toward walkable communities and more outdoor lighting and working, in general,” he said. “This trend is visible in the residential market, of course, followed closely by retail, grocery, and other supporting sectors.”

He added he anticipates growth in demand for lighting products that comply with the Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act, given the likelihood of increasing government spending on infrastructure projects.

In this article, we’ll look at the key design and technological trends shaping demand for outdoor lighting.

Image courtesy of Cooper Lighting Solutions.

Lighting trends

A number of trends are affecting this lighting category, culminating in a luminaire that is energy-efficient; non-glaring; emits light only where, when, and in the quantity needed; is aesthetically pleasing with a minimal visual footprint; and minimally impacts the environment. Other potential emerging and future trends include programmable light output and color to reduce inventory, more compact and lightweight luminaires, solar power options, potential to use poles for services such as charging and Wi-Fi in a smart city setup, and greater controllability and integration.

Topping the list is lighting performance, the primary job; energy, the primary restriction; and finding the right balance between the two.

While LED efficiency is steadily approaching its practical limit, Milz said there is still room and demand for even higher efficiency. “The market demand is that same drumbeat—more for less, and improved performance across the board,” he added.

Bouck pointed out a lot more attention is being given to application, not simply light source, efficiency. “Our customers recognize that energy consumption per site is the metric that matters, not lumens per watt,” he said. “Our goal is to deliver superior optical distributions that maximize the usage of every watt and provide specifiers with options to direct illumination where it is needed most for their application.”

Milz agreed, stating, “There’s more attention being paid to optical control, especially from a visual comfort standpoint—and therefore especially at low mounting heights. Customers are savvy enough now to look for LED fixture designs that reduce glare and employ highly efficient optics to distribute light with as little loss as possible, and in ways that enable light to be directed exactly—and only—where it is supposed to go.”

Advances in optical control allow precise distribution, minimal glare, and an overall potentially higher application efficiency. This capability also dovetails into two other outdoor lighting concerns, which is minimizing light trespass—light entering properties where it is considered a nuisance or disruptive—and skyglow—light wasted upward toward the sky.

Numerous local ordinances, a model ordinance authored by the Illuminating Engineering Society and the International Dark-Sky Association, and various metrics address this and similar issues. The latest development is the LUNA Technical Requirements, which the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) intends to take effect in 2022. These requirements will affect products qualifying for utility rebates in a DLC Qualified Products List.

Light source color is a related issue, as the wavelength emission potentially affects people and wildlife. As the efficacy difference between warm and cool color temperatures narrowed, warm white became increasingly viable as a design choice and gained a boost when the American Medical Association issued guidelines several years ago advising adoption of warm-white roadway lighting.

“We continue to see demand for warmer CCTs, especially in public use spaces, where neighbors are close by and wildlife can be affected,” Milz said. “Despite a trend toward warmer color temperatures, we still see a sizable portion of our customers buying the cooler CCTs that have dominated in the past. The trend is starting, but it’s not yet a surge.”

He added that research into the impact of nighttime lighting on wildlife will tie into the color capabilities inherent in LED to make outdoor lighting designs more environmentally friendly.

Control trends

The latest commercial energy codes and standards require that outdoor area luminaires be capable of automatically turning On and Off either based on a photocontrol or time schedule. Some dusk-to-dawn luminaires may also be required to reduce output during lack of occupancy using a sensor.

Outdoor LED luminaires are well equipped for these and other controls using the NEMA standard seven-pin socket, which accommodates a variety of devices, whatever the customer might need now or in the future. Wireless controls enable data for measuring and monitoring along with integration with other systems, including the indoor lighting system.

“When outdoor lighting interacts with and responds to our needs and activities with the same degree of personalization that our phones do?” Milz asked. “That will be the next big thing. Which means greater focus on more and more integrated controls, along with a continued drop in costs and attendant rise in the potential for LED-enabled IoT applications.”

Opportunities

Electrical distributors have opportunities with this category, from new construction to early LED adopters now entering the replacement cycle to energy-saving retrofits. Some projects may be relatively simple, others more involved in terms of controllability and restrictions on light distribution. Increasingly, projects may become more ambitious, integrating additional services and other systems, particularly as smart cities develop.

Milz encourages distributors to get educated and maintain close and frequent interaction with manufacturers, even to the point of integrating to produce digital visibility of each other’s supply chain. “When the manufacturer can see your inventory, you never need to worry about empty shelves,” he said. “When you can see the manufacturer’s, you know in real time exactly what commitments you can make.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Outcome-Based Energy Codes

My lighting column for the November 2021 issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR tackles outcome-based energy codes.

My lighting column for the November 2021 issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR tackles outcome-based energy codes.

Excerpt:

Codes are complex and sometimes confusing, sometimes requiring interpretation by the authority having jurisdiction. Because there is no national code, the country is a patchwork of codes. Energy codes only regulate design efficiency and are therefore limited to being predictive of energy savings based on estimates and modeling.

Going back more than a decade, some policymakers began working to simplify energy codes while addressing their shortcomings. Instead of a prescriptive-based (design within limitations, with some mandatory items) or performance-based (intensive modeling) compliance path, codes would evolve to be outcome-based, using a building’s actual measured/metered energy performance as the compliance metric.

It’s not an easy nut to crack, but the benefits continue to attract the interest of policy makers, particularly in California.

Click here to check it out.

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Lighting Control Takes on Plug Loads

My contribution to the October 2021 issue of tED Magazine covered growing demand for plug load control in new buildings, a need that can be handled by lighting control systems.

My contribution to the October 2021 issue of tED Magazine covered growing demand for plug load control in new buildings, a need that can be handled by lighting control systems. Reprinted with permission.

In the past 15 years, commercial building energy codes increasingly incorporated automatic control of lighting loads. While the combination of LED lighting and detailed control strategies dramatically curbed lighting’s share of building energy consumption, code makers started to address plug loads, a substantial load and the fastest-growing type. Again, lighting controls can help by integrating plug load control.

The problem

Plug loads include any devices that plug into standard electrical receptacles, such as task lighting, computer printers, photocopiers, cell phone chargers, personal fans/heaters, and appliances like coffeemakers. Many applications feature plug loads, though office buildings are quite intensive.

A great deal of office equipment is used intermittently during operating hours and not at all overnight. Equipment with enabled standby mode will go idle but still draw power. Even equipment that powers to Off may continue to draw a small amount of power as long as it’s connected to a socket, so as to be able to restart quickly; this is called a vampire, phantom, or parasitic load.

Plug and process loads accounted for 40 percent of commercial building energy consumption in 2017, according to the Department of Energy. A study estimated plug loads ranging from 25 percent in an overall less-efficient building to 50 percent in an overall high-efficiency building.

A solution

Image courtesy of Leviton

By automatically removing these devices from power when they’re not being used, significant energy savings can result, ranging from 20 to 50 percent. A 2012 General Services Administration office building study found that even with standby mode enabled, automatic receptacle control captured significant energy savings ranging from 26 percent in workstations to nearly 50 percent in kitchens and printer rooms, with highest savings for 24/7 devices such as printers, copiers, and kitchen appliances.

The energy savings were compelling enough to convince code makers to adopt the strategy. California’s Title 24, Part 6 and codes based on ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1 (2010 and later) and the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) require automatic receptacle control. Specifically, a significant portion of receptacles in certain spaces be automatically controlled by scheduling, occupancy sensing, and/or automatic signal from another building system. The lighting control system offers these inherent control capabilities that can accommodate plug load control. Hotel and motel guest rooms have separate but similar requirements.

“Integrating plug loads with the lighting controls makes sense because it reduces the number of devices that need to be installed and therefore the cost and complexity of the total system,” said Charles Knuffke, Systems Evangelist, Wattstopper/Legrand (www.Wattstopper.com). “Instead of having separate timeclocks or occupancy sensors for the lighting and plug load controls, a single input device can communicate to both lighting and plug load controllers.”

He added that one set of inputs makes it easier for the owner to understand and manage their operations. If a networked control system is installed, the sensors can serve lighting, plug load, and HVAC control.

Options

When enacted by the lighting control system, a plug load control solution uses scheduling, occupancy sensing, or a combination of the two (e.g., scheduling during day, sensing at night), depending on the system.

Scheduling is relatively simple and well suited to larger, open applications with predictable occupancy and loads that must remain On during business hours even when they’re not being used. A manual switch on the receptacle or nearby wall provides user override up to two hours.

Occupancy sensing is based on detected rather than predicted occupancy, which can generate higher energy savings. This approach is ideal for smaller, enclosed spaces where occupancy is intermittent and unpredictable. If the sensor is auto-On, it can function as its own override.

The controlled load is the receptacle, able to respond to a control signal or fed power by a branch circuit that can respond to the signal. Some wirelessly controlled receptacles also feature onboard power metering. In a duplex receptacle, both outlets can be controlled or just one, allowing the uncontrolled outlet to operate loads that must remain On. Energy codes require controlled receptacles be permanently marked to distinguish them as controlled; starting in 2014, the National Electrical Code produced standardized markings for use.

“Contractors and facility managers will want to ensure a balance between efficiency and convenience, installing well-marked, controllable receptacles in locations that are reserved for loads like task lighting, small appliances, and small electronics such as heaters and monitors not designed for 24/7 use,” said Devis Mulunda, Product Manager – Vive Wireless, Lutron Electronics (www.Lutron.com).

Image courtesy of Lutron Electronics

These automatic receptacles can operate independently, as in the case of onboard timer/timeclock functionality for scheduling, or be controlled as just another load by the otherwise installed lighting control system: controllable circuit breaker panelboard, lighting control relay panel, or a relay in a dedicated powerpack. The system may be wired or wireless. If the overall control system is networked, power metering can be achieved and there is potential for more sophisticated dashboard control. Plug-in advanced power strips can be effective for retrofit but are not code-compliant for a new build.

“The implementation strategy varies based on what type of technology you are deploying in the room,” said David Buerer, Director of Product Management, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc. (www.Leviton.com). “If your solution is wallbox sensors, then it can be as simple as adding a second wallbox sensor control receptacle. If ceiling sensors and power packs, then adding a second power pack in auto-On mode. If more of a system, then you’ll be adding a wireless controlled receptacle, smart pack, wireless powerpack, or the like to gain receptacle control.”

Buerer added that after installation, it’s important that users be educated about the purpose and operation of the controls and how to identify which outlets are controlled, which will help ensure acceptance.

Final word

“Since plug load control is required by energy codes, the electrical distributor’s customers will be looking to the distributor to define what the code’s requirements are, offer products to meet the code, and explain the many features and benefits of the methods that can provide plug load control,” Knuffke said. “Look for manufacturers that can provide a range of solutions: relay panels, plug load powerpacks for simple component solutions, plug load controllers for intelligent systems, and controllable outlets. Ask if controls are available that use wired and/or wireless communication.”

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NLB Program Identifies Trustworthy Warranties

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program, a program recently introduced by the National Lighting Bureau to provide greater confidence and transparency with LED product warranties.

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program, a program recently introduced by the National Lighting Bureau to provide greater confidence and transparency with LED product warranties.

The Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program is designed to audit manufacturer warranties and verify they satisfy certain public criteria. Warranties are evaluated using a system with a maximum score of 11, of which at least eight are required to achieve a trusted warranty certificate.

Click here to check it out.

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DOE Releases Initial 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey Results

Newly released data tables from the Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) provide building characteristics information for the estimated 5.9 million U.S. commercial buildings in 2018.

Newly released data tables from the Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) provide building characteristics information for the estimated 5.9 million U.S. commercial buildings in 2018.

Building characteristics data tables include number of workers, ownership and occupancy, structural characteristics, energy sources and uses, energy related building features, and more.

In the lighting side, it shows us that adoption of LED lighting and occupancy sensors have increased considerably in terms of lighted commercial floorspace, with all traditional sources declining, notably linear fluorescent.

I wrote up a detailed look at the salient building and lighting data available in this most recent version of the CBECS for the Lighting Controls Association. Check it out here.

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Trusted Warranties

My contribution to the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about LED product warranties and the National Lighting Bureau’s recently launched Trusted Warranty Program.

My contribution to the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about LED product warranties and the National Lighting Bureau’s recently launched Trusted Warranty Program.

The program audits manufacturer warranties and rates them against public criteria, with high ratings earning a Trusted Warranty designation.

Criteria cover accessibility, internal support, clarity, relation of terms to reliability testing, warranty insurance based on length of warranty compared to years in business, and general responsiveness to claims.

This program has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the industry. Check out the article here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Get to Know NLCs

In my most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, industry consultant Steve Mesh makes the case for ECs to get to know networked lighting control systems.

In my most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, industry consultant Steve Mesh makes the case for ECs to get to know networked lighting control systems.

“Are networked controls more complex than line-voltage devices cut into switch legs?” Mesh said. “Of course. But it doesn’t take much to develop proficiency in these systems. Of course, it takes some extra effort and training. Is it worth it? That depends on how badly you want new sources of revenue. If I were an EC, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

Check it out here.

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Introduction to Acoustic Luminaires

Building owners and managers have a number of options to address acoustic comfort, from vinyl or cork flooring to noise-reducing shades or soundproof blinds to sound-absorbing panels. Lighting manufacturers developed their own solution: acoustic luminaires.

Below is my contribution to the August 2021 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Nearby, co-workers are talking. A phone rings. A printer busily churns out paper. Somebody walks past. Another co-worker laughs at a joke.

In the COVID era, many people missed the social aspects of working in an office but probably not the noise and distraction. When trying to concentrate, noise not only produces stress and irritation but can impair productivity.

According to a Center for the Built Environment post-occupancy evaluation of 142 buildings involving more than 23,000 respondents, office workers are most dissatisfied with noise from nearby conversations and lack of sound privacy; more than half believe acoustics interfere with their ability to get their job done.

As such, acoustic comfort is an important consideration in interior design. Building design rating systems such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), WELL, and Collaborative for High-Performance Schools (CHPS) now address it. Acoustic comfort’s importance is only growing as the last decade produced an open office trend, with a majority of office space having low or no partitions. Further, an aesthetic trend toward open ceilings has become more popular, resulting in traditional acoustic ceilings disappearing.

Building owners and managers have a number of options to address acoustic comfort, from vinyl or cork flooring to noise-reducing shades or soundproof blinds to sound-absorbing panels. Lighting manufacturers developed their own solution: acoustic luminaires.

These luminaires produce general illumination while incorporating some type of sound-absorbing material into their design to reduce environmental noise. While they are not a panacea, typically impose a cost premium, and require know-how for evaluation and application, they can serve as an effective contributor to a building’s acoustic comfort strategy.

“Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in market demand for sound-absorbing luminaires,” said Michael McCoy, Director, Architectural Systems, Focal Point. “Acoustical lighting was considered a niche market where only small players were active but is now in the early stages of growth, with many major lighting manufacturers trying to find their place.”

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Acoustic luminaires

Similar to light rays, sound can be reflected, transmitted, and absorbed. Acoustic management therefore uses an “ABC” approach to reduce noise: absorb, block, or cover up. For absorption, the foremost goal is to reduce reverberation time, or the continuation of sound after the source of the sound has stopped.

Acoustic luminaires incorporate various soft and/or porous materials that absorb sound. While foam or natural materials such as wool may be used, typically felt is either attached as panels, serves as the luminaire housing or shade, or wraps around the luminaire frame. Available in multiple colors, felt readily coordinates with specialty felt acoustic ceilings, which may be available from the same manufacturer, and can otherwise offer a highly distinctive aesthetic and support the desired space appearance.

Sound absorption depends not only on the material but its thickness and surface area. Additionally, the luminaire may feature attributes such a lack of interior aluminum, which allows any sound that is not absorbed to pass through an open-air gap to the other side, where it is likely absorbed.

“The beauty of putting sound-absorbing features into lighting fixtures is they are at once out of the line of sight and still can provide effective acoustic control,” said Dirk Zylstra, VP Design, Acuity Brands – Architectural Specialty. “Fixtures close to ceiling surfaces can multiply the effect of capturing sound by absorbing not only direct but also reflected and refracted sound waves.”

Open offices are naturally a major application for this product, though it is applicable anywhere acoustic comfort is important: schools, meeting spaces, gymnasiums, studios, cafeterias, libraries, courtrooms, performance spaces, and others.

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Evaluation and application

Acoustic luminaires could be regarded as lighting fixtures with an added feature. As such, they should first and foremost be evaluated based on their ability to perform their primary function of providing general illumination.

For the luminaire’s sound absorption effectiveness, a number of metrics are used. A common metric for two-dimensional surfaces like partitions and carpeting is Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). Because lighting can be three-dimensional, however, a different metric may be required: Sabins, which is a measure of sound absorption per square foot of material.

It starts with reverberation time (RT60), which is the amount of time it takes for a sound to decay by 60 decibels. (Both LEED and WELL focus on reducing RT60 to a desired level based on application.) RT60 is independently tested and used to calculate Sabins, with the resulting information published in an ASTM C423 report.

The report is then used to optimize acoustic comfort in a given space. (As such, distributors should expect the manufacturer to produce it.) Application can be challenging, as luminaire quantity, mounting height, and spacing can have a big impact on sound-absorbing properties. Again, the distributor should expect the manufacturer to provide layout and calculation support, and they should ensure any substitutions provide the same performance.

“As we can see, this is not a simple endeavor, so the distributor should rely on the manufacturer or an acoustician to provide support to validate the effectiveness of the product in the space,” McCoy said.

After lighting and acoustic performance, aesthetics will be a significant factor in evaluating solutions, so application may require some coordination with the designer to approve the acoustic material and ensure proper color matching. Because of color matching and other aesthetic considerations, it may be advisable to avoid mixing manufacturers, at least in the same space.

“Given their acoustic impact and differentiated aesthetic, distributors may need to reach further upstream in the interior architectural design process,” McCoy added. “Developing relationships with key decision makers including architects, interior designers, acousticians, and ceiling contractors—and acquiring a basis of knowledge around acoustic materials and sound management—will help distributors gain a stronger market presence and help hold projects downstream.”

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Final word

“Acoustic fixtures are a great opportunity to differentiate from the crowd, and early adoption and understanding can put the distributor in a position of leadership and expertise,” Zylstra said. “A little like LED in the early days, this is a trend that is here to stay, and wellness and human health are even more in focus following the pandemic.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers IECC 2021

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR breaks down the major lighting changes in the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR breaks down the major lighting changes in the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Regarding lighting, the 2021 version of the IECC reduces lighting power allowances, expands mandatory controls requirements and issues clarifications. The most significant changes from the 2018 IECC are tighter interior lighting power allowances and the addition of daylight-responsive control for secondary daylight zones, plug load controls and parking garage control requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the other big changes.

Click here to check it out.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers Luminaire-Level Lighting Controls

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

The researchers discovered that all these systems produced substantial energy savings compared to the baseline. The LLLC systems generated 50%–74% energy savings for the control element alone, while the NLC redesign demonstrated 67% energy savings. Admittedly, the space was very well suited to LLLC compared to the NLC solution.

Click here to check out my contribution to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, which covers the technology and the study.

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