Category: Craig’s Lighting Articles

Another Promising Year for Lighting Rebates

Offered by many utilities and energy efficiency organizations, commercial lighting rebates are a longstanding driver in demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls in existing buildings. The rebate outlook for 2021 looks very positive for distributors who rely on them to sweeten upgrade proposals.

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

 

Offered by many utilities and energy efficiency organizations, commercial lighting rebates are a longstanding driver in demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls in existing buildings. The rebate outlook for 2021 looks very positive for distributors who rely on them to sweeten upgrade proposals.

In review, many utilities offer rebates as an incentive to consume less energy, which helps them avoid the higher cost of building new power plants. While custom rebates are available, the majority are prescriptive, with a cash amount awarded per installed qualifying product and with the rebate capped at a maximum percentage of its cost.

According to BriteSwitch, a rebate fulfillment firm that analyzes rebate trends, rebates vary in impact by typically covering anywhere from 10 to 70 percent of the product cost, with an average 20 to 25 percent payback improvement. Increasingly, rebate programs have structured away from offering “free rides” to ensure the owner shoulders part of the cost. With weak demand in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, however, a significant number of utilities offered temporary bonus rebates to boost participation.

In 2021, three-fourths of the United States remains covered by a lighting rebate program, fairly consistent from 2020 with a notable exception: Ohio. With the passage of the state’s controversial Bill 6 in late 2019, Ohio’s major investor-owned utilities discontinued their energy efficiency programs at the end of 2020.

LED products

In LED lighting, the most popular rebates continue to target LED replacement lamps, downlights, high-bays, parking garage luminaires, troffers/linear panels, and outdoor, as shown in Table 1. In short, a wide variety of lamp and luminaires covering a majority of applications.

“In 2021, the rebate amounts for LEDs are relatively flat from 2020,” said Leendert Jan Enthoven, President, BriteSwitch (www.BriteSwitch.com). “This in itself is quite remarkable because for the past 10 years, they have dropped 10 to 20 percent each year. Usually, the decrease we’d see was to match the dropping prices of LED, but a weak market and leveling out of prices meant they didn’t have to adjust much for 2021.”

A majority of rebate programs qualify products by requiring listing on the DesignLights Consortium’s (DLC) Qualified Products List. In 2020, Version 5.0 of the DLC technical requirements was to take effect, which DLC pushed to February 2021 due to the pandemic. Version 5.0 raised the minimum required efficacy for LED products while requiring reporting of dimming capability; DLC Premium products generally must be dimmable.

On December 31, 2021, Version 5.1 listing becomes required to qualify for rebates. Version 5.1 expands reporting of various lighting quality attributes while requiring dimming for a broad range of products, with continuous dimming required for most indoor luminaires and retrofit kits.

“With Version 5.0, solutions installed in the marketplace now are more efficient than they were before,” said Enthoven. “It presents some complexity for distributors as their older products in stock may no longer qualify for rebates once delisted from the current DLC list.”

Version 5.0 may also be impacting the availability of rebate programs promoting DLC Premium products. Some programs rebated only these higher-efficacy products or incentivized it with a bonus rebate. Enthoven said the number of these rebates dropped in 2021, possibly due to the higher efficacy required for standard listed products.

Lighting controls

The 2021 rebate picture for lighting controls looks much the same as it did in 2020, with fairly consistent, substantial rebates available for remote-mounted, wallbox, and luminaire-mounted occupancy sensors; photocells; and daylight dimming systems, as shown in Table 2.

“Lighting control rebates have historically been very stable, changing little over the past 12 years,” Enthoven said. “In 2021, control rebates are similar to previous years. For standalone sensors, the rebates are still relatively high compared to the cost, making it an easy add-on for most projects. With DLC Version 5.1 making dimmability more important in many categories at the end of the year, it will be interesting to see how rebate programs adapt in 2022.”

What’s new in lighting control rebates is the recent entry of networked lighting controls into the rebate market. In 2020, the number of programs increased 15 percent to 95; in 2021, however, only three new programs were added, suggesting utilities are still wrestling with how to incentivize the category.

Enthoven said the majority of these rebates offer a per-fixture adder for connecting to a networked lighting control system and require the system be qualified under the DLC’s Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Controls. The most common luminaire types with additional networked control rebates are troffers, high-bays, and low-bays. Outside of these programs, networked controls may be eligible for rebate under custom programs.

Getting the rebate

Including rebates in project quotes can help obtain customer approval by improving return on investment. Securing rebates, however, requires administration. The rebate must be identified and understood, paperwork must be submitted, and pre-approval must be gained. Enthoven said the rebate process takes an average 12 steps over five months to complete, requiring either in-house resources or outsourcing to a firm like BriteSwitch.

Below are some tips on managing the rebate process:

  • In typical prescriptive product rebate programs, the rebate is paid directly to the customer, though some “midstream” or “instant” lighting rebate programs, typically geared around lamps told for retrofits, involve the distributor providing the rebate at the point of sale. Get to know the program so you understand its requirements, and then follow the program to keep abreast of changes and funding level.
  • Taking the rebate amount off the invoice can be risky, as rebates are not guaranteed or may pay out a lower-than-expected amount. Available funds may tap out during the year. And note that a majority of rebate programs cap the rebate at a percentage of the material or project cost—meaning if a customer is paying $150 for an LED high bay and the rebate is $150 capped at 50 percent of the material cost, the resulting rebate would be $75.
  • Pre-approval is required in a majority of programs before installation, so build that time into the project if needed.
  • The time for rebate pre-approval and final checks to be issued increased considerably in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic; file for pre-approval as soon as possible and ensure the customer understands payment may take time.
  • A majority of programs require the product be listed with ENERGY STAR (lamps) or DLC (lamps and luminaires). Make sure the exact model for a selected product is listed.
  • Some programs require inspection to verify installation. In the COVID era, this may be done remotely using a camera rather than onsite.

Rebate estimates should be included on every quote that you send out to a customer,” said Enthoven. “There is no easier way to take the pressure off of your margin than to show the ‘discount’ from the rebate program. Even if you’re not filing the rebates on the customer’s behalf, your knowledge and expertise on the subject is invaluable to them and make you stand apart from the competition.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Changes in Lighting

In the past decade, change has become nearly constant in the traditionally staid lighting industry. In this roundup interview published in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, seven industry experts talk about major trends.

In the past decade, change has become nearly constant in the traditionally staid lighting industry. In this roundup interview published in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, seven industry experts talk about major trends. Topics include controls, GUV, standards, rebates, maintenance, and warranties.

Check it out here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Lighting Integrators

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the smart building and lighting market and the commensurate increasing opportunity for electrical contractors to provide integration services or work with integrators.

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the smart building and lighting market and the commensurate increasing opportunity for electrical contractors to provide integration services or work with integrators.

Electrical contractors may interface with integrators in different ways or may even be integrators themselves. They might partner with them to provide integration services to customers while receiving training to ensure proper system installation and testing. Some ECs may leverage their low-voltage experience to understand which systems work well together and collaborate with engineers to offer various levels of integration themselves, such as starting with lighting controls and evolving toward building automation integration. Among these, some are expected to take the final leap to become master systems integrators, investing in being able to deliver value-added, higher-margin integration services and potentially ongoing services, such as performance monitoring and maintenance.

Check it out here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Lighting and DC Building Microgrids

In my lighting column published in the February issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, I tackle the topic of DC building microgrids.

In my lighting column published in the February issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, I tackle the topic of DC building microgrids.

Throughout the age of alternating current, few imagined that direct current would reemerge as a viable primary power distribution option at the grid, community or building level. DC and hybrid AC/DC microgrids, however, have gained interest in recent years due to the proliferation of renewable energy, demands for backup power during grid failures and potential efficiencies that can be gained by directly connecting DC power to DC end-use devices, such as LED lighting and controls.

If this nascent trend grows, it could present opportunities and challenges for ECs…

Click here to check it out.

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A Look Inside NLB’s Trusted Warranty Program

The National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) new Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program will offer electrical distributors assurance that lighting products they select are supported by warranties independently verified as worthy of trust.

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

The National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) new Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program will offer electrical distributors assurance that lighting products they select are supported by warranties independently verified as worthy of trust.

Launched in 2020, the program audits warranties from manufacturer applicants in a points-based system. Qualifying warranties may carry the Trusted Warranty label, signifying the warranty satisfies the program’s criteria covering accessibility, internal support, clarity, relation of terms to reliability testing, warranty insurance based on length of warranty compared to years in business, and responsiveness to warranty claims.

For distributors, this provides confidence that a given warranty satisfies the large majority of a list of published criteria. For manufacturers, it offers a way to demonstrate—via trusted third-party verification from a nonprofit organization—that they stand by their channel partners by taking care of their warranty issues.

This is important for the industry as a whole, as it provides a means to separate manufacturers with strong warranties from bad actors; it also provides a distinguishing mechanism for new players to gain trust and credibility.

“When warranty issues occur, the electrical distributor is usually caught in the middle and many times has to absorb the cost of the warranty, especially for some strategic customers,” said Randy Reid, Executive Director, National Lighting Bureau (www.NLB.org). “The Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program is meant to give the electrical distributor peace of mind that the manufacturer will take care of their warranty issues.”

The NLB intended to launch the program in March 2020 but delayed it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reid said after several beta evaluations in late 2020, dozens were scheduled for December 2020 and early 2021. Lighting product and component manufacturers who sell in the United States and Canada are eligible to participate.

Out of a total possible maximum score of 10 points in the points-based evaluation system, a minimum of eight must be gained. The evaluation covers:

Formal warranty. The manufacturer has a documented warranty that is readily accessible on its website and supports it with internal formal procedures and resources.

Warranty language. The warranty is clear, concise, and includes its start date. If it is prorated, this must be clearly expressed and marked as such.

Warranty insurance. Either the manufacturer must have been in business longer than the length of the warranty or provide a warranty insurance policy to ensure it will cover any warranty obligations.

Technical evaluation. The program auditor will spot check two randomly chosen SKUs for reliability testing, with credit given for each SKU for which reliability testing was completed, whether internal or external.

Claims review. The program auditor will randomly choose three claims from the past 12 months and evaluate the trail from when notification was made to when the claim completed. The auditor will then evaluate whether the manufacturer acted expeditiously based on the information it had.

Manufacturers that earn Trusted Warranty status qualify to display the Trusted Warranty Certificate and logo in its marketing materials. The Certificate and ability to display the logo lasts three years, and then the company must requalify.

Reid encouraged electrical distributors, contractors, lighting specifiers, and utilities to get to know the Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program and ultimately reward these manufacturers by doing business with them.

“Today, we hope that our channel partners will simply begin acknowledging the program,” Reid said. “In 2021, we hope to see soft language such as, ‘XYZ Distributor prefers lighting products recognized by the NLB’s Trusted Warranty Program.’ In 2022, we hope to see the language, ‘XYZ Distributor buys the majority of lighting products from companies recognized by the NLB’s Trusted Warranty Program.’ In 2023, we hope that distributors will actually specify that their lighting products must carry the seal of approval. Basically, a three-year rollout.”

Learn more about the NLB’s Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program at NLB.org/trusted-warranty-program.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Exit Sign Brightness Study

As lumen depreciation is a significant failure mode with LED lighting, it raises the question whether some older exit signs are still producing sufficient brightness to be visible in smoky conditions. This is the subject of a new study being undertaken by NALMCO in partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and the topic of an article I wrote about the study for the January issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

As lumen depreciation is a significant failure mode with LED lighting, it raises the question whether some older exit signs are still producing sufficient brightness to be visible in smoky conditions. This is the subject of a new study being undertaken by NALMCO in partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and the topic of an article I wrote about the study for the January issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

Click here to check it out.

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Roundtable: Lighting in the COVID Era

To get a picture of how the lighting industry is now being affected by the pandemic, I talked to five industry leaders.

Below is my contribution to the January 2021 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for electrical distributors and their customers. For the end-user, a primary goal is the safe reopening and operation of buildings. The lighting industry has responded by developing germicidal ultraviolet options, promoting visible-light disinfection and lighting options designed to cultivate wellbeing among occupants, and controls that are touchless, wireless, and facilitate management of social distancing protocols. While the pandemic will someday end, its impact on buildings may endure far into the future.
To get a picture of how lighting is being affected by the pandemic, tED’s Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP talked to five industry leaders.

DiLouie: The COVID-19 pandemic is directly contributing to a projected contraction in new construction that may last well into 2021. In economic shocks, however, there are typically opportunities as well as threats. Where do you see the biggest opportunities in lighting in 2021? What can electrical distributors do to take advantage of these opportunities?

Mike Watson, Cree Lighting: This year’s combination of remote working and extended business shutdowns opens two areas of opportunity for electrical distributors in 2021: addressing changes in commercial real-estate use and adapting to the rise of digital business models.

With “work from home” proven to be effective, retail and office spaces are migrating to lower density and smaller footprints, driving commercial real-estate projects towards new business models such as telehealth centers and retail-to-warehouse conversion. Retrofit projects could grow in share of lighting projects as new construction shrinks, and demand will increase for warehouse and industrial lighting as e-commerce continues to grow rapidly.

Additionally, the growth of e-commerce means that buyers will increasingly look for 24/7 information, more transparent pricing, and improved digital communication. To adapt, distributors will need to develop omnichannel strategies that embrace e-commerce, meet the customer where they are, and provide price transparency with service differentiation. Brick-and-mortar distributors can leverage their physical presence as a differentiator while also becoming more digital. To help distributors navigate this shift, we’re providing extensive product information and tools digitally on CreeLighting.com—presenting customers with instant, relevant information—while helping them enjoy a local distributor relationship for delivery and other services.

Mike Watson is Vice President, Marketing and General Manager of e-conolight at Cree Lighting, a company of IDEAL INDUSTRIES.

DiLouie: Acuity Brands recently announced a strategic partnership with Ushio to incorporate filtered far-UVC disinfection modules into general lighting luminaires. Do you believe COVID will result in a permanent shift among building owners toward ongoing disinfection, including germicidal ultraviolet?

Gary Trott, Acuity Brands Lighting: While we can’t predict the future, we think due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, lighting manufacturers are going to see long-term interest from building owners in developing comprehensive and ongoing disinfection protocols, including using germicidal UV where appropriate.

COVID-19 has brought UV lighting to the forefront from what has been previously a very niche technology. In fact, this immediate need for disinfection solutions has given rise to new and innovative product developments, such as the recent emergence of filtered 222nm far-UVC technology for use in occupied and unoccupied spaces. We anticipate that integrating technologies like filtered 222nm far-UVC into general illumination luminaires will make it even easier for building owners to adopt this technology. When applied, the 222nm far-UVC technology will allow people to be present while continually reducing harmful pathogens in a way that is unobtrusive … but is just visible enough to provide the message that the building owner is working to help make people feel safer.

We think that a variety of “disinfection” solutions will be now discussed on many new design and renovation projects as building owners seek ways to keep spaces safer for occupants. And this is even more likely to be the case for owners of buildings with high-traffic and/or public gathering areas such as restrooms, dining areas, meeting spaces, waiting rooms and so forth.

Gary Trott is Vice President, Technology Commercialization for Acuity Brands Lighting.

DiLouie: In what ways can lighting controls support efforts to keep buildings open and otherwise support occupant health during the pandemic?

Tom Perich, Lutron Electronics: As businesses begin to reopen and navigate our new reality, they will consider social distancing mandates, enhanced cleaning requirements, and physical changes to the space that help employees and visitors feel confident and reassured.

These changes are complicated by that fact that contractors are facing widespread skilled labor shortages, challenges resulting from COVID-based work rules, supply chain disruptions, and unusual schedule constraints.

Wireless, touchless lighting control can help mitigate the challenges of these situations in several ways. From the design and implementation perspective wireless solutions save time—install up to 70 percent faster than wired, reduce material and labor costs, and minimize risk by maximizing flexibility for the user and the building owner.

For building managers, there are additional benefits. Wireless solutions like Lutron Vive can include touchless options for hands-free adjustment of the lighting, personal control that limits the number of people interacting with a keypad, and simple reconfiguration right from a convenient iOS app. Lighting can be programmed and zoned to facilitate social distancing protocols, and then easily reconfigured with no rewiring or tearing open walls.

Wireless lighting is flexible, agile, and able to adapt quickly to support both owners and employees during these evolving and uncertain times.

Thomas Perich is Director, Channel Marketing – Electrical Wholesale for Lutron Electronics.

DiLouie: Hubbell is now offering visible light disinfection luminaires that produce conventional general illumination while focusing a portion of its emission in the 405 nm range. While this emission is not effective against viruses such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it has been demonstrated as effective against bacteria. Do you believe the pandemic has created a heightened awareness for lighting that promotes health beyond COVID mitigation?

Jeff McClow, Hubbell Lighting: Yes. Facilities of all shapes, sizes and functionality are challenged with creating and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. It’s one of the reasons why we developed SpectraClean, which combines white and narrowband 405nm visible light to meet ambient and task lighting requirements while providing a continuous, unobtrusive disinfection option for forward-thinking facility owners and operators. For example, the U.S. food industry where there’s an estimated $77 billion economic loss incurred from recalls related to foodborne illnesses every year. While rigorous food safety practices reduce the risk associated with these illnesses, they aren’t 100 percent foolproof and foodborne illness outbreaks continue.

Jeff McClow is Product Manager for Hubbell Lighting.

DiLouie: The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the need and opportunity for building owners to provide occupants with healthier spaces. Besides potential opportunities with germicidal lighting, what other opportunities should electrical distributors be promoting to end-user customers about lighting and human health?

Kevin Poyck, Signify: Keeping employees healthy and protecting their well-being are major workplace concerns. Lighting can help us be smarter about the way we use shared office spaces, enable teams to be productive and ensure we are prepared for challenges that may arise in the future.

Electrical distributors can help guide end-user customers on the value of connected lighting systems. Building managers can use their lighting infrastructure in combination with software tools to plan and make critical spacing and operational decisions. For example, they can steer employees to uncrowded areas of their facility to comply with physical distancing requirements, while leveraging the seating data to ensure those areas are cleaned more frequently.

Beyond the current pandemic, tunable lighting is another area that can make a big difference in the health and well-being of employees. Automatically mimicking daylight patterns and adjusting our lighting’s temperature and brightness can provide visual comfort, offer productivity boosts, enhance collaboration and lead to increased employee satisfaction. Distributors can be a strategic advisor for customers, educating them on occupant wellness-based benefits beyond simply energy-savings ROI.

Kevin Poyck is CEO of the Americas for Signify.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Publishes 2020 CII Lighting Trends Survey

The electrical contracting community experienced significant economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but is somewhat optimistic about 2021. That is one key finding from the 2020 Commercial/Industrial/Institutional (CII) Lighting Trends Survey, conducted by ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in October among the magazine’s Subscriber Research Panel. The survey and article were my contribution to the magazine’s December 2020 issue.

The electrical contracting community experienced significant economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but is somewhat optimistic about 2021. That is one key finding from the 2020 Commercial/Industrial/Institutional (CII) Lighting Trends Survey, conducted by ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in October among the magazine’s Subscriber Research Panel. The survey and article were my contribution to the magazine’s December 2020 issue.

Among the key findings:

* A majority of respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their 2020 business revenues, with the majority of these respondents saying their overall revenues decreased, not just for lighting.

* Overall, respondents are optimistic about 2021, with more saying they expect their revenues related to lighting in all three markets will increase in 2021 than those saying it will decrease. About 30%–40%, however, believe their revenues will remain unchanged.

* A majority of respondents are familiar with major lighting trends, with the greatest familiarity or actual work experience being with wireless lighting controls (73%), color-tunable lighting (63%) and networked lighting controls (61%). Three-fourths of respondents are least familiar with germicidal lighting and the IoT, which is not surprising, because these are relatively new trends. However, upward of three-quarters of respondents who are aware of the technologies are comfortable specifying and installing each of them, with the least comfort for germicidal lighting, IoT and networked lighting controls.

* More than 60% of respondents have discussed lighting quality and color-tunable LED lighting as lighting product features/trends with customers. Nearly half have discussed networked lighting controls. Customers were most interested in lighting quality, followed by color tuning and networked control. However, more than three-quarters were somewhat or very interested in all five technologies.

* The average respondent considers ECs as having a somewhat high degree of influence in selecting lighting equipment for new construction and major renovation CII projects and the highest degree of influence in lighting retrofits.

Check out the article here.

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Tunable White Positions Itself as a Lighting Tool

White-light color tuning is one of the most exciting advantages of LED lighting, providing the ability to adjust luminaire color output across the white light spectrum. As the timed spectral emission of light plays a part in circadian lighting—the application of light to promote circadian health—this developing trend offers the potential to take tunable white more mainstream.

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

White-light color tuning is one of the most exciting advantages of LED lighting, providing the ability to adjust luminaire color output across the white light spectrum. As the timed spectral emission of light plays a part in circadian lighting—the application of light to promote circadian health—this developing trend offers the potential to take tunable white more mainstream.

“Interest in tunable-white lighting is fueled by increased adoption of the WELL Building Standard and with more research demonstrating the positive impact tunable-white lighting can have on our moods and productivity,” said Rahul Shira, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Signify US (www.signify.com).

Tunable-white lighting products produce white light that can be adjusted over a range of correlated color temperatures, typically from a visually warm (orangish-white) 2700K up to a visually cool (bluish-white) 5000K or 6500K. This is accomplished via the relative dimming of separately controllable arrays of warm- and cool-white LEDs, or primaries. Other colors may be added to enhance the spectrum of available color output while maximizing color rendering across the dimming range. While some screwbase LED replacement lamps offer white-light tuning as a feature, it is primarily featured in luminaires.

As a new capability, tunable white has created new lighting applications. It can be used to change the apparent warming or cooling of a space, set a mood, visually emphasize room finishes or artwork, simulate daylight or candlelight, and signal activity changes in spaces such as classrooms.

As the industry develops best practices for circadian lighting, the primary utility of tunable-white lighting remains its ability to signal and support activity and mood changes for occupant productivity and wellbeing. Image courtesy of Hubbell Lighting.

“If implemented correctly, tunable-white solutions can enhance people’s moods by giving them a touchstone to the outside world, especially in spaces where they have no access to windows or daylight,” said Jeff Hungarter, Commercial Indoor Director, Cree Lighting (www.creelighting.com). “In combination with other design elements like ergonomic furniture and enhanced air quality, it can really influence the wellbeing of the people in the space.”

A promising demand driver is the potential role tunable-white lighting can play in circadian lighting and health, a relatively new aspect of lighting that deals with its non-visual effects. Circadian lighting encompasses light distribution (emphasizing vertical light to reach photoreceptors in the eye), quantity of light reaching these photoreceptors, how long and at what time of day the light is received, and the spectrum of light.

Regarding spectrum, scientific research suggests shorter-wavelength light (around 450-530 nm, bluish white) in the morning can promote circadian entrainment and thereby reduce the quantity of light required for it. As such, while the presence of tunable-white luminaires that deliver recommended spectra may not be enough on their own for circadian entrainment, they can play an important role.

These LED luminaires produce a skylight appearance and simulated daylight effect, using advanced lighting control and color tuning to simulate dawn-to-dusk, east-to-west travel of the sun. Image courtesy of Cree Lighting.

“Don’t be fooled—tunable-white lighting is not automatically circadian lighting,” Hungarter cautioned. “Tunable white can and will play an integral role when the lighting design is done to ensure quantity, timing, and other parameters for circadian lighting are met. Ongoing research and education are going to be key as we drive health and well-being into current and future lighting designs.”

This potential opportunity has created demand for design guidance. Currently, there are two guidelines for circadian lighting. One is UL’s Design Guide 24480, Design Guideline for Promoting Circadian Entrainment with Light for Day-Active People, which is largely based on Lighting Research Center recommendations and research, and the other is the WELL Building Standard, a points-based healthy building rating system that is potentially a significant demand driver for circadian lighting. Both account for spectral emission, which can be used to reduce quantity of light, though they use different metrics and WELL is more concerned with achieving a certain spectral profile (D65), while UL is more flexible.

The COVID pandemic has increased interest in designing around health and wellness. This is nominally good for lighting features such as disinfecting light, circadian lighting, and intelligent lighting control that enables space management, support of social distancing, and contact tracing. So far, however, tunable white has minimally benefited; the predominant beneficiary, at least in terms of interest, has been germicidal light.

“Designers are applying tunable white in education, healthcare, and higher-end commercial suites, where the circadian or aesthetic effects have value,” said David Venhaus, Manager of Training and Curriculum Development in the Lighting Solutions Center at Hubbell Lighting (www.hubbell-ltg.com). “COVID is driving more interest in disinfection options like UV-C or 405-nm visible blue disinfection lights.”

As a result, despite its utility, tunable white continues to face hurdles to adoption including a cost premium, more complex wiring, potentially more sophisticated controls, and a lower efficacy than fixed-color sources. While it is increasing in adoption, the market is still developing as end-users become more aware of its benefits and how to quantify these benefits.

This requires a conversation with customers that includes return on investment based on energy efficiency but also includes non-energy benefits of being able to adjust color appearance and resulting mood and atmosphere. The key to this transition and support of new lighting technologies like tunable white and intelligent lighting control is an educated customer and consultants like electrical distributors.

“Distributors can help guide end-user customers on their lighting decisions and advise them on how to shift their focus from energy savings-based ROI and take advantage of a combination of energy and occupant wellness-based justifications,” Shira said. “Moreover, distributors can add value by promoting qualified tunable-white lighting packages between fixture providers and control providers, with the understanding that manufacturers that offer both elements have robust and consistent performance and are capable of dealing with the complexity of correlated color temperature, intensity, and spectral tuning.”

“Invest the time, energy, and resources to establish a solid baseline understanding of the latest developments in tunable-white technology,” Venhaus advised. “Get familiar with the technology in the luminaires and the control systems used. And make sure you understand how the final end-user interface works because this is the key to a successful user experience.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: TM-30 Turns Five

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR provides an update on the TM-30 color evaluation method, which turned five this year.

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR provides an update on the TM-30 color evaluation method, which turned five this year.

With the proliferation of LED lighting, previously accepted flaws in the CRI metric became accentuated. With LED, you can have two products with the same CRI but very different color-rendering abilities. In other words, different effects on finishes, furnishings and flesh tones. To address this, in 2015, the Illuminating Engineering Society in New York produced TM-30, “IES Method for Evaluating Light Source Color Rendition,” a proposed method for color evaluation. The idea behind this method was more information and greater accuracy.

Click here to check it out.

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