Category: Interviews + Opinion

Cooper’s Eric Jerger Talks Field-Adjustable Luminaires

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Jerger, VP and GM, Indoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions, for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic? Field-adjustable luminaires.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Jerger, VP and GM, Indoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions, for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you define a field-adjustable luminaire?

Jerger: A field-adjustable luminaire allows users and installers the ability to choose from a range of color temperatures and/or lumens with a simple switch on the product.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for field-adjustable luminaires, and would you consider this category a trend?

Jerger: The demand for field-adjustable luminaires continues to grow as distributors are maximizing limited warehouse space. Field-selectable luminaires offer multiple products in one, saving distributors money by stocking less inventory while still being able to meet the needs of the customers.

DiLouie: How does the field adjustable mechanism work, who does it, and how can it be changed in the future after installation?

Jerger: Field-selectable color temperature and lumens can be controlled with a flip of simple switch that is located on the luminaire. The switch can be adjusted during installation or after installation by any customer at any time to set the color temperature and/or lumens to their desired preference.

DiLouie: What adjustability is most popular? Lumens/Wattage, CCT, light distribution, or some combination of these?

Jerger: In the lighting industry, customers prefer to have the ability to change color temperature and lumens as these luminaire attributes can lead to desirable benefits such as increased productivity, enhanced mood, and alertness, as well as improved health and well-being. Customer preference for selectable lumens or selectable color temperature or both depends on the application.  For example in Industrial applications, customers typically only need selectable lumens from their high bay fixtures.

DiLouie: What lighting products are covered in this category? Troffers, downlights…? Is it only indoor, or are there outdoor products with this capability as well?

Jerger: Field-selectable color temperature and lumens are features that spans across multiple product categories in the lighting industry and will only continue to grow in the future. Recessed downlights, undercabinet fixtures, troffers, linear lighting, and even high bays are some examples of indoor solutions.

Indoor has been the predominant space for field-selectable products, however this emerging trend is also being requested by customers in outdoor products including residential floodlights, wall packs and canopy lighting luminaires.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for electrical contractors?

Jerger: For contractors, the benefits of field-selectable products include being able to create the most optimal space for the customer during installation, as they will be able to choose with the customer their ideal LED color temperature and lumen output. In addition, the contractor knows they have installed a low maintenance product that will likely not require them to return to the job site. Also, for the contractor, field-selectable products make their jobs easier by not having to carry multiple variations of products.

DiLouie: For the contractor and owner, what are typical and ideal applications? Is there a “killer app” for this product?

Jerger: Field-selectable products can be used everywhere. 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 in a multitude of applications.

We’re not aware of a “killer app” for field-selectable products.

For residential applications, Cooper Lighting Solutions does have a HALO Home mobile app that is user-friendly and lets homeowners easily control their home’s lighting from anywhere in the world.

For commercial applications, Cooper Lighting Solutions does have a WaveLinx mobile app that allows the user to control color temperature and lumens.

DiLouie: Looking more closely regarding what’s in it for distributors, what types and level of cost and inventory savings can be realized, and what additional value can they offer to customers?

Jerger: With field selectable products, distributors are able to optimize their inventory, increase their turns, and likely provide better service to their customers. Cost and inventory savings would depend on the exact use case.

DiLouie: As typically these luminaires impose a cost premium, they have to justify additional value. Under what application situations would they not prove desirable?

Jerger: Examples would be projects where the lighting fixtures are highly specified to have a specific lumen and/or color temperature and thus the designer never intended for them to be changed.

DiLouie: What do you see as the future of this category in 3-5 years? Do you believe it will grow to mainstream adoption, or do you see it growing to serve a specific market willing to pay for the additional flexibility?

Jerger: We believe that in the next 3 to 5 years there will be an increase in customer adoption of field-selectable products, which will have growing applicability in a multitude of vertical applications.

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

Jerger: Field-selectable technology empowers users to adapt to the every-changing needs of a space, creating the most optimal lighting experience at any time.

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RAB’s Ross Barna on Field-Adjustable Lighting

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ross Barna, CEO, RAB Lighting, Inc., for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ross Barna, CEO, RAB Lighting, Inc., for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you define a field-adjustable luminaire?

Barna: Field adjustable lighting luminaires enable installers and/or end users to control any number of parameters including but not limited to: the amount, color temperature or even distribution of light. The most common adjustable methods include switches or knobs with preset levels but can even be controlled wirelessly using a smart phone or proprietary control system. Some field-adjustable luminaires are designed to be set once during installation and others are able to be adjusted at any time.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for field-adjustable luminaires, and would you consider this category a trend?

Barna: Field adjustability is an emerging trend across most categories of lighting including indoor, outdoor and lamps. 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.

DiLouie: How does the field adjustable mechanism work, who does it, and how can it be changed in the future after installation?

Barna: The mechanics of field-adjustable lighting can be accomplished in a number of ways but most often it is achieved by accessing switches that have pre-set values, such as color or output. The factory pre-sets these switches and installers can adjust them as needed. In the case of smart lighting adjustments can be made using an app.

DiLouie: What adjustability is most popular? Lumens/Wattage, CCT, light distribution, or some combination of these?

Barna: The earliest trends in adjustability were seen in light output. We are also now seeing strong demand for three-way adjustable products— output, color temperature and photocell.

DiLouie: What lighting products are covered in this category? Troffers, downlights…? Is it only indoor, or are there outdoor products with this apability as well?

Barna: We are seeing strong demand both in indoor and outdoor categories and emerging demand in lamps as well. We currently offer field adjustable downlights, wafers, troffers, panels, undercabinets, floodlights, wallpacks, area lights, A Lamps, PARs, BRs and more.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?

Barna: The biggest benefit of field-adjustability for electrical distributors is that in some cases, one SKU can do the work that many used to do, in some cases as many as 18 SKUs. When distributors can concentrate their inventory on fewer SKUs they are more likely to have what contracts need, in stock, today.

Contractors benefit from being able to satisfy end-users needs with less guessing and can dial in just the right result.

DiLouie: For the contractor and owner, what are typical and ideal applications? Is there a “killer app” for this product?

Barna: I don’t believe there’s a “killer app” here, it’s more of a “better mousetrap.” The end result is the same, it’s just easier to get the result the end-user desires.

DiLouie: Looking more closely regarding what’s in it for distributors, what types and level of cost and inventory savings can be realized, and what additional value can they offer to customers?

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

DiLouie: As typically these luminaires impose a cost premium, they have to justify additional value. Under what application situations would they not prove desirable?

Barna: RAB has taken all efforts to ensure that field-adjustable luminaires are very competitively priced relative to their predecessors. We do this by engineering cost out throughout the design to enable the addition of the components needed to enable field adjustability.

DiLouie: What do you see as the future of this category in 3-5 years? Do you believe it will grow to mainstream adoption, or do you see it growing to serve a specific market willing to pay for the additional flexibility?

Barna: In the next 3-5 years, I expect to see field adjustable products to become the majority of what is sold in the market across nearly all categories.

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

Barna: Now is the time for distributors to invest in field-adjustable inventory across all lighting categories. With continued high costs of freight and shortages of labor and materials, the sooner you stock up, the better! It’s a no-brainer.

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Get a Grip on Lighting: Mary Beth Gotti

In this featured episode of the Get a Grip on Lighting podcast, hosts Greg Ehrich, LC, former President of NAILD and owner of Premier Lighting, and Michael Colligan, an entrepreneur and inventor, interview Mary Beth Gotti, who served as Manager of the GE Lighting Institute in Cleveland for 18 years.

In this featured episode of the Get a Grip on Lighting podcast, hosts Greg Ehrich, LC, former President of NAILD and owner of Premier Lighting, and Michael Colligan, an entrepreneur and inventor, interview Mary Beth Gotti, who served as Manager of the GE Lighting Institute in Cleveland for 18 years.

At the Institute, she was responsible for the overall operation and curriculum development for this training and education center that hosted more than 4,000 visitors each year.

Watch it here:

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Acuity’s Andrew Banovic Talks Field-Adjustable Luminaires

I recently had the opportunity to interview Andrew Banovic, Product Director Commercial Indoor Lighting, Acuity Brands Lighting, for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Andrew Banovic, Product Director Commercial Indoor Lighting, Acuity Brands Lighting, for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you define a field-adjustable luminaire?

Banovic: Field-adjustable luminaires are essentially single SKUs which can be manufactured and shipped to a job site where they can replace multiple “static” configurations. Effectively, these luminaires can be fine tuned to match the exact requirements of the space.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for field-adjustable luminaires, and would you consider this category a trend?

Banovic: The demand for field-adjustable luminaires has absolutely increased in the past 12 months. In some of the product categories driven more from stock, we are seeing more demand for field-adjustable product than for their static predecessors.

DiLouie: How does the field adjustable mechanism work, who does it, and how can it be changed in the future after installation?

Banovic: There are multiple mechanisms used to adjust the lumens, color, or light output in luminaires. The most common is a set of mechanical switches, either designed into the luminaire’s driver or wired to the driver. These switches tell the driver to emit more or less power based on the desired light output and manage that power between multiple sets of LEDs. The division of power between LEDs of different color temperatures drive the overall luminaire CCT.

DiLouie: What adjustability is most popular? Lumens/Wattage, CCT, light distribution, or some combination of these?

Banovic: We have found that a combination of Light Output (Lumens/Wattage) and CCT are the most popular. These options allow a single luminaire to replace up to 9 static configurations. Those 9 configurations typically cover 90-95% of the configurations that could be needed for a given luminaire type.

DiLouie: What lighting products are covered in this category? Troffers, downlights, etc? Is it only indoor, or are there outdoor products with this capability as well?

Banovic: Lower wattage products like downlights and lay-ins (troffers and panel) were some of the first to adopt this technology because of the economics and cost/benefits of products that often ship from stock. Outdoor luminaries like wall packs and even industrial high bays have also started moving toward adjustable lumen products. Use in Outdoor and Industrial environments is typically about lumen reduction and SKU consolidation.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?

Banovic:
There are some great benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for everyone in the value chain. Two of the largest investments in the distribution business are inventory and space to store that inventory. 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.

Contractors save time by using field-adjustable products. Some contractors have told us they have eliminated site audits for small/medium opportunities and simply ask the client how many downlights or lay-ins are needed. They know that with switchable products they can tune them to any lumen or color needs on site. They also spend less time going back to jobsites because of unhappy property owners. Electrical contractors can schedule their time more accurately because they know they will be able to complete a job in one trip – every time.

Owners get the ability to see what different light outputs and color temperatures look like in their space. Most people outside of lighting don’t know what 3500K or 5000K represent or what the difference even is. However, when they are shown in a space and asked if a setting is bright enough or too bright – and then adjustments are made on the spot – there is a higher likelihood they are happy with the end product. They are also more likely to get their project done on time because the products have a greater chance of being in stock and the contractor can complete the job on the first trip.

DiLouie: For the contractor and owner, what are typical and ideal applications? Is there a “killer app” for this product?

Banovic:
We think almost any application can benefit from field-adjustable products. If designing a lighting system down to every lumen and foot candle, and ordering exactly what every square foot needs, then maybe the benefits are lower. But from what we have seen, most opportunities are not planned out to that level of detail. Think about applications with multiple ceiling heights on a single job. That is the perfect place for adjustable product. A perfect audit is not required by ordering X amount of 3000Lm, Y amount of 4000Lm, and Z amount of 5000Lm. Instead, order an adjustable lay-in and in one large lot. Also, it is more likely that the local distributor has that adjustable product in stock vs 3 different static lumen packages.

DiLouie: Looking more closely: what’s in it for distributors, what types and level of cost and inventory savings can be realized, and what additional value can they offer to customers?

Banovic: There is a great deal of supply chain math and statistics behind this, but most commonly if 3 sets of demand can be serviced with a single part it’s possible for a distributor to cut inventory in half without reducing service levels. If replacing 9 configurations, it can go even lower.

Here’s an example: A local distributor keeps 200 static fixtures on the shelf with a mix of multiple lumen packages and color temperatures. A customer comes in and needs 60 that day. Doesn’t care what lumen package or color temperature – but needs all 60 to match. Unfortunately, the distributor keeps 100 of those units in 3500k and the other half in 4000k. Also, the distributor keeps half of each color in high lumen and half in low lumen. So, despite having 200 fixtures in stock, the distributor has to say “no” to the order of 60 because the inventory does not match up. Now, instead, if that inventory was switchable, the distributor could immediately fulfill that 60-piece order.

DiLouie: As these luminaires typically impose a cost premium, they must justify additional value. Under what application situations would they not prove desirable?

Banovic: The main benefits of field-adjustable products are flexibility and availability. If working on a project where every luminaire is planned and specified down to the lumen, the flexibility benefit may not be needed, and the field adjustable features do not add value. Also, if planning a project well in advance, and there is enough time built in to wait for product to be manufactured and delivered, the added benefit of availability may not be valuable.

DiLouie: What do you see as the future of this category in 3-5 years? Do you believe it will grow to mainstream adoption, or do you see it growing to serve a specific market willing to pay for the additional flexibility?

Banovic: We see field-adjustable lighting playing an even larger role than it does today. The mechanisms that we use to adjust the light may be very different, but the advantages are not going away. Think about Multiple Volt or Universal Voltage drivers and ballasts. Once those caught on there was no going back. Now, almost all commercial applications use universal voltage equipment with the rare outliers only working for 120V or 277V.

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

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

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Get a Grip on Lighting: Cooper’s Nam Cho on Augmented Reality

In this featured episode of the Get a Grip on Lighting podcast, hosts Greg Ehrich, LC, former President of NAILD and owner of Premier Lighting, and Michael Colligan, an entrepreneur and inventor, interview Cooper Lighting’s Nam Cho about the potential of augmented reality in the lighting industry.

In this featured episode of the Get a Grip on Lighting podcast, hosts Greg Ehrich, LC, former President of NAILD and owner of Premier Lighting, and Michael Colligan, an entrepreneur and inventor, interview Cooper Lighting Solutions’ Nam Cho about the potential of augmented reality in the lighting industry. Cooper’s Light ARchitect app enables lighting professionals to virtually place luminaires directly in a space for visualization.

Check it out here:

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RPI’s Bob Karlicek on Spatially Tunable Lighting

For an upcoming article in Electrical Contractor Magazine, I recently had the opportunity to interview Bob Karlicek, Ph.D., Professor of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Director of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications, co-Director of the Energy, Built Environment and Smart Systems Institute at Rensselaer. The topic: spatially tunable lighting, which LightNOW first reported on in August. Transcript follows.

For an upcoming article in Electrical Contractor Magazine, I recently had the opportunity to interview Bob Karlicek, Ph.D., Professor of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Director of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications, co-Director of the Energy, Built Environment and Smart Systems Institute at Rensselaer. The topic: spatially tunable lighting, which LightNOW first reported on here. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: What is spatially tunable lighting?

Karlicek: Spatially tunable lighting creates the ability to digitally alter the light emitting properties of a luminaire directionally and spectrally, to customize lighting profiles for given tasks. For example, imagine a troffer that could provide task lighting at a table, and then digitally adapt for more diffuse lighting for a meeting. Furthermore, the lighting system would know which tasks needed which lighting profiles, and digitally adjust the profile as needed.

DiLouie: What is the rationale behind its development? What is the market need, and what are the benefits?

Karlicek: The rationale is twofold: energy savings by providing only the right amount of illumination for a given occupancy scene, and lighting installation cost savings by installing a beam steerable light fixture that can deliver the beam profiles of two or more individual fixed profile light fixtures.

DiLouie: LESA is currently developing a solution with Lumileds, CASE, and HKS. What is the research goal?

Karlicek: The research goal of this DOE BTO funded project is to build a testbed to validate the energy savings and human factors considerations (circadian lighting, comfort with adaptive lighting) with a lighting system that can operate autonomously, sensing the occupant positions and estimating the type of activity, and then delivering only the required amount of illumination with the desired beam profile and spectral characteristics for the task at hand.

DiLouie: What’s different between this type of lighting solution and the most advanced solutions currently offered?

Karlicek: First and foremost, there aren’t many digitally steerable lighting solutions on the market and those that are use motors or have limited beam steering capability. Second, lighting control systems still suffer from “human in the loop” challenges. As tunable lighting for wellness gets more complicated, occupant control will require too much knowledge for mere mortals to be able to operate them properly. Our research testbed will explore delivering the “right light when and where needed,” where optimized lighting will require no occupant intervention.

DiLouie: If realized, SCULPT will present a “sentient” lighting system that is intuitively responsive to occupants without direct intervention. Is similar research being undertaken for other systems such as HVAC, which would allow a “sentient” building?

Karlicek: That would be the goal of this program, adding lighting to the list of building systems that operate autonomously. Even more importantly, the sensing systems needed for the SCULPT lighting will provide precise occupancy and activity information to other building services like HVAC, security, smart power distribution, space utilization, and so on, making broader building sentience more attainable.

DiLouie: What applications do you see as early adopters for this type of solution?

Karlicek: We see the early adopters being in commercial and healthcare facilities, where activity driven illumination profiles can save energy, adjust spectral power distributions with defined vertical illuminance profiles, and make the occupant data needed to achieve that level of lighting control available to a wider set of “sentient building” operations.

DiLouie: Do you see adoption ultimately being driven primarily by lighting applications (which can become part of smart buildings) or by overall smart buildings (which will pull lighting into it)?

Karlicek: This is a great question, and in reality, we believe that the smart building operations would benefit the most and provide the best return on investment, and steerable, tunable lighting would be an important fringe benefit. It will really be the high fidelity, privacy preserving occupant activity estimation capabilities for the sentient building that will drive adoption.

DiLouie: Imagining a future product, what would be different for electrical contractors? Would this be more or less difficult to specify, install, and commission? Would there be any new opportunities?

Karlicek: We expect that specifications would be set out by architects and lighting designers, and there would be no room for substitution of either the specified fixtures and their location, or the distributed sensor networks that enable autonomous operation. The commissioning operation would likely be different, with simulations and testing having been performed ahead of installation using virtual reality (VR) software, with field changes also being evaluated using VR. Commissioning post installation would be performed as it is now, but would be aided with augmented reality (AR) systems.

DiLouie: What would a typical user experience look like under this type of solution?

Karlicek: Initially, the users might need to get used to lighting that changes as they move and change their activities. We are curious about what user acceptance of spatially and spectrally adaptive lighting will look like. While we are not currently looking to build machine learning and artificial intelligence into the control system, future versions of SCULPT would likely incorporate those capabilities, so the illumination adaptability would get more comfortable for the user over time.

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

Karlicek: LEDs are continuing to unleash a broad range of new lighting technologies that will require continuous training of the experts that specify, install and maintain lighting systems. We are just at the tip of the iceberg.

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

Karlicek: If we can have autonomous, self-driving cars and trucks, we can certainly achieve autonomous, high quality spatially and spectrally adjustable lighting that knows what lighting is needed where and when. That is what we aim to show.

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Cooper’s Travis Bouck Talks Outdoor Lighting Trends

I recently had the opportunity to interview Travis Bouck, Business Leader, Outdoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions for an article I wrote about outdoor lighting trends for tED magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Travis Bouck, Business Leader, Outdoor Lighting, Cooper Lighting Solutions for an article I wrote about outdoor lighting trends for tED magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for commercial sector outdoor lighting?

Bouck: The overall market is strong relative to 2020, but still off compared to pre-pandemic levels. This year, we are seeing strong growth in a few sectors, including warehousing, data storage and processing, outdoor sports facilities, and municipalities.

DiLouie: What are the top trends shaping how outdoor lighting is used, and what effect is this having on demand for specific types of lighting equipment? What are the most popular markets and applications today?

Bouck: At a high-level, we are seeing a move towards de-urbanization and an increase in the use of outdoor spaces which is driving activity outside of city centers and accelerating a long-term trend towards walkable communities and more outdoor living and working, in general. This trend is visible in the residential market of course, followed closely by retail, grocery, and other supporting sectors of the economy.

The pandemic has been an opportunity for our end customers and specifiers to re-think their workflow and space utilization. Changes such as these take time to impact specifications, however, we anticipate an increase in exterior wall, pathway, and area lighting as people move outdoors for leisure as well as work.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in outdoor area luminaire optics, drivers, and LED sources, and what effect is this having on product capabilities and designs?

Bouck: Our customers are increasingly demanding superior visual comfort including optical designs to provide users with a pleasant outdoor luminous experience by minimizing glare and eye strain. Some luminaires will trade off optical performance for visual comfort, but a well-engineered optic should do both.

Our customers also recognize that energy consumption per site is the metric that matters – not lumens per watt. 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.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in outdoor area luminaire aesthetics? Is the size of the LED source influencing available options, including even classic designs?

Bouck: In outdoor aesthetics, round fixtures are re-emerging in trend to eliminate harsh lines, ease in installation, and to draw consistency with interior spaces.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in how outdoor area luminaires are controlled, and what new capabilities is this offering?

Bouck: Sensors and receptacles are of growing importance as specifiers need the ability to help clients upgrade into the future to remain code compliant and stay current on new capabilities. Increases in code enforcement have heightened the need for occupancy detection and building management systems.

DiLouie: What do you see as emerging trends, such as IoT, WiFi, LiFi, and other capabilities going beyond illumination?

Bouck: As outdoor social and workspaces are growing, such as outdoor offices, restaurants, and parks, the need for wireless communications systems such as WiFi and LiFi may grow to meet the demands of users in those spaces.

DiLouie: What’s next for outdoor lighting? What’s the next big thing? Where do you see outdoor lighting’s state of the art in five years?

Bouck: Solar outdoor lighting will expand from residential into commercial as the technology matures and the industry gets acquainted with these systems. The value proposition for Solar LED is strongest where solar irradiance is high, the cost of power is high, and specific incentives exist to offset costs. We anticipate there will be a market for remote lighting applications where the conditions above are true and the cost of power transmission is high. We also anticipate a Solar LED market for clients pursuing socially responsible technology and work environments.

Another area we expect to see grow is demand for lighting products that comply with the Buy American Act (BAA) and Trade American Act (TAA), given the likelihood of increasing government spending on infrastructure projects.

DiLouie: What are the main attributes of an outdoor area lighting solution that electrical distributors would be looking for? How do they confidently select a quality product?

Bouck: Electrical distributors continue to pursue products that are easy to stock from suppliers they trust and those with a history of reliable performance and comprehensive industry support. Selectable lumen output and color temperatures remain important as a way of reducing SKUs and distributor inventory. We see increasing emphasis put on optical performance, including lighting uniformity to increase the perception of safety spill light control. Distributors increasingly recognize that optical superiority delivers more uniformity and ultimately optimizes energy consumption per site – not just lumens per watt.

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Lutron’s Devis Mulunda Talks Plug Load Control

I recently had the opportunity to interview Devis Mulunda, Product Manager – Vive Wireless, Lutron Electronics about plug load control for an article I’m writing for the October issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Devis Mulunda, Product Manager – Vive Wireless, Lutron Electronics about plug load control for an article I’m writing for the October issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: What is plug load control, and what benefits are derived from it? Why should electrical distributors care about or invest in promoting this category?

Mulunda: A plug load control is a device that allows a receptacle to be turned on or off either automatically or manually. Plug load controls are often part of a connected building system that employs inputs from devices such as sensors, keypads, or other controllers.

In commercial buildings such as offices, classrooms, retail stores, and hospitality spaces, plug load control is typically used as part of an effective, code-compliant strategy for achieving energy-use goals by ensuring devices such as small appliances, desk lamps, and monitors are turned off when the space is vacant.

State and local energy codes are more frequently requiring plug load control as part of energy saving strategies. Contractors will count on their distributors and lighting manufacturers to guide them to the solutions that most easily support code requirements.

Residentially, plug load controls are most commonly used on exterior fixtures as a convenient means of turning seasonal and other landscaping lighting on and off at appropriate times, and as an energy-saving strategy.

DiLouie: What are the options for controlling plug loads?

Mulunda: Residential and commercial strategies for plug load control are different. The commercial solutions are driven primarily by state and local energy code requirements.

Commercially, a variety of spaces are already required to meet the automatic lighting shutoff provisions in many energy codes. A Lutron Vive Wireless Receptacle, for example, works with the same occupancy sensors and switches that control the lighting. These receptacles can work as a stand-alone solution, or they can be used in conjunction with a smart hub for app and dashboard capabilities.

Residentially, smart plug load controllers, such as the Lutron Caséta Outdoor Smart Plug, simply plug into a standard outlet, and then allow the user to plug a light source or small motor into that smart plug. That appliance can now be controlled by a Pico control, the Lutron App, or a smart home assistant. Smart plug control is especially useful for exterior, seasonal lighting, landscape lighting, or appliances like outdoor heaters or irrigation systems.

DiLouie: What are the advantages of controlling plug loads with a lighting control system?

Mulunda: In many commercial applications plug control allows the facilities team to take advantage of existing devices such as occupancy sensors that are used to meet code and save energy. As part of a smart lighting control system, plug loads can be added to building management dashboards that display status and report energy use, and plug load data can be shared with other building systems – same sensors, same control, same programming.

In the home, plug load control offers set-it-and-forget-it convenience: Seasonal lights, sprinkler systems, and other plug-in landscape lighting can be programmed to a schedule that beautifies the home while reducing energy waste. Installation is as simple as plugging the smart device into the appropriate wall outlet (the Lutron Caséta Outdoor Smart Plug must be plugged into a GFCI protected outlet).

DiLouie: What are strategies for implementing plug load control via a lighting control system?

Mulunda: Plug load strategy is primarily driven by state and local energy codes, many of which increasingly require up to 50% of outlets in certain areas to be controlled. 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 that are not designed for 24/7 use.

In the home, plug load controls are most often used for convenience and energy saving to automatically switch exterior string lights, seasonal lights, and small motors.

DiLouie: What are the advantages of either wiring or going wireless with communication?

Mulunda: Wireless solutions are easier to install, require less material, and typically don’t require opening up walls or disrupting space occupants. This makes wireless solutions suitable for both existing building retrofits and new construction, but especially advantageous in existing buildings that may not have the infrastructure in place to accommodate a wired approach.

Considering the relative age of commercial buildings – The US Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey reports that 54% of U.S. commercial buildings were built between 1960 and 1999 – there is tremendous opportunity for energy-saving upgrades.

Demand for renovations, coupled with the fact that many wireless solutions can be completed with off-the-shelf, in-stock materials, represents a significant opportunity for electrical distributors and their contractors who can win more jobs and then get them done faster with wireless.

DiLouie: Are there any special “bells and whistles” distributors should be aware of and propose for certain applications?

Mulunda: Plug loads that are integrated into a comprehensive, smart lighting control solution can be part of the building’s overall energy-saving strategy. Like all other loads associated with the system, certain smart receptacles can be monitored and adjusted via a convenient app, and energy use can be reported on the same building dashboard.

In the home, smart plugs not only offer energy savings and convenience, but they can work with a variety of smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and more.

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Cree’s Erik Milz Talks Outdoor Lighting

I recently had the opportunity to interview Erik Milz, VP, Product Management, Cree Lighting on the topic of outdoor lighting for an article I’m writing for the December issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Erik Milz, VP, Product Management, Cree Lighting on the topic of outdoor lighting for an article I’m writing for the December issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for commercial sector outdoor lighting?

Milz: Strong, but not without issue. The recovery from 2020 is still underway. Demand is there as businesses continue to convert to LED lighting from old technologies that burned money. But supply chain bottlenecks, shortages of raw materials and components, supplier cost increases, the impact of the pandemic on employees and customers – there’s a lot going on that’s making it a tougher market.

Taking a step back from all that, the LED lighting industry is now mature enough that we’re starting to see early adopters to LED lighting begin to enter the replacement cycle, which also helps drive demand. Add to that pent-up demand from the pandemic, and overall demand is strong.

DiLouie: What are the top trends shaping how outdoor lighting is used, and what effect is this having on demand for specific types of lighting equipment? What are the most popular markets and applications today?

Milz: Aside from conversion to more efficient fixtures, the top trend we see is customers who want their lighting to be easier on the eye. Some of this is from people fed up with harsh, glary light from cheap LED fixtures. Some of this reflects demand from first-time buyers who have learned from others’ mistakes.

There’s also increased concern about skyglow, spill light, and glare. We continue to see demand for lower glare and warmer CCTs, especially in public use spaces, where neighbors are close by and wildlife can be affected. We have a growing ensemble of outdoor products that meet the Florida Fish & Game Commission’s highest standards for “turtle-friendly” illumination, and these have been installed near many turtle nesting sites. While we have seen the trend towards warmer color temperatures gain an increased amount of media coverage, we still see a sizeable 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.

The other often-discussed trend is in control solutions that are integrated with buildings and campuses and with smart cities. The Smart Cities initiatives are still in their infancy so there’s not a lot of demand yet, especially due to lack of standards. We expect that to change in the coming years.

As far as popular markets and applications, it’s strong across the board. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of activity in petroleum marketers and convenience retail, outdoor retail—which is largely automotive dealerships—and light industrial and warehousing.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in outdoor area luminaire optics, drivers, and LED sources, and what effect is this having on product capabilities and designs?

Milz: The strongest trend remains the demand for more efficiency—fewer watts for the same lumen output. Driver and LED technology improvements are key here, but they’re not nearly enough to win the day. Customers are savvy enough now to look for LED fixture designs that reduce glare, and that 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.

As mentioned already, customers are more sensitized now to the issues of cheap knockoffs or poorly designed fixtures and have probably experienced “spray and pray” LED lighting schemes. So, they are increasing their demand for LED lighting with reduced glare, a uniform appearance when lit, and smaller LEDs used in higher quantities. As a leading manufacturer, we’re also driving the market toward programmable drivers to optimize lumen packages and add flexibility in production.

The practical limit of increased efficiency will eventually approach the theoretical limit of LED efficiency, but we’re not there yet, and despite impressive gains, the market demand is that same drumbeat—more for less, and improved performance across the board. There’s also more attention being paid to optical control, especially from a visual comfort standpoint – and therefore especially at low mounting heights.

As far as the impact on designs, what you’ll see in our next generation of outdoor products are familiar form factors, for the most part, and similarly improved performance, but we’re tightening up the optical delivery and efficiency and reducing size and weight. It’s proven technology optimized with state-of-the-art engineering and design.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in outdoor area luminaire aesthetics? Is the size of the LED source influencing available options, including even classic designs?

Milz: It sounds funny to say it, but what’s in demand in the Site and Area market are aesthetically pleasing outdoor fixtures that you don’t see. Customers want them to look good, but also to blend into the environment and be almost invisible. That’s part of a general lighting trend toward smaller, low-profile fixtures that deliver light without calling attention to that fact. And yet it’s inevitable that fixtures will sometimes be seen, and sometimes it’s even desirable, so aesthetics are going to play an even larger role—especially as it becomes harder to differentiate on performance and cost.

Using more LEDs for reduced glare is driving the look of outdoor luminaires and opens up the possibility for different form factors. Having said that, most businesses and municipalities tend to stay relatively close to a more traditional look because they’re more accustomed to it.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in how outdoor area luminaires are controlled, and what new capabilities is this offering?

Milz: A 7-pin NEMA socket outfitted with a smart photocontrol is still king. There’s rising interest in other form factors, like Zhaga, but the true demand for such alternatives is yet to be decided. Meanwhile, there are numerous wireless controls options leveraging the NEMA 7-pin socket. But there are no standards as such. And it’s not a VHS versus Betamax situation – there’s no clear performance or market leader. The various players have just decided to move ahead. So, we can look for consolidations and shakeouts in the months to come.

How a customer uses that socket depends on who they are. Utilities are interested in asset management and tracking. Commercial customers are more interested in control and maintenance scheduling and modeling.

Also, there’s increasing integration of wireless controls that enable full control, scheduling and tracking of the luminaire, especially in non-pole mounted fixtures such as parking garages. Customers also want wireless control that allows for integrated management of an entire campus—lighting, HVAC, asset management and so on.

We see more communications/connectivity technologies providing LED lighting-enabled capabilities beyond illumination. Meanwhile, smart cities and smart grids loom as unanswered questions in the background of all this, but without offering clear resolution about dominant standards or proprietary versus open source systems.

DiLouie: What do you see as emerging trends, such as IoT, WiFi, LiFi, and other capabilities going beyond illumination?

Milz: IoT is a key trend in the home, as seen with our Connected Max® lamps line. That uses WiFi and we see that only growing.

Commercial lighting projects still see challenges in the sales process for IoT and intelligent controls. Initial excitement at the proposed capabilities can quickly wane and stakeholders often resist alignment on common goals. As a result, IoT systems and sometimes even control systems get rationalized or reduced in scope. Energy codes, building codes, and rebates are helping to shape demand in these areas.

DiLouie: What’s next for outdoor lighting? What’s the next big thing? Where do you see outdoor lighting’s state of the art in five years?

Milz: Significant research is being conducted to determine the effect of outdoor lighting on people and wildlife. As data is analyzed and interpreted for applications, leading companies in the outdoor lighting industry are poised to incorporate controls and multi-spectral optical systems that either mitigate negative impacts or deliver positive environmental impacts.

When outdoor lighting interacts with, and responds to, our needs and activities with the same degree of personalization that our phones do? 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 an attendant rise in the potential for LED-enabled IoT applications.

Lower costs will mostly be achieved through the reduction in fixture sizes. While a positive cost-benefit ratio for CCT-changing LEDs is not yet proven, interest is there.

Finally, the low cost of LEDs means more manufacturers will be able to afford building and shipping products configured for special circumstances and niche markets—a form of bespoke mass production.

DiLouie: How significant is the retrofit opportunity for existing outdoor area lighting systems, including replacement and redesign involving new luminaires?

Milz: Very significant, for several reasons. First, the lighting needs of commercial real estate continue to shift and evolve—often in disruptive, unexpected ways. Just look at the last two years. We’re only now getting a grip on how new public health mandates and trends in personal preferences will affect everything from lighting at restaurants, movies and offices to the increased need for multi-purpose spaces with scene-capable lighting for work, study, relaxation, creativity, and so on. As the market’s needs evolve, we’ll be right there doing our best to guide customers toward smart, sustainable solutions.

The number of businesses that still use older, incumbent lighting technology outdoors is surprising, especially since the payback for outdoor LED solutions is under 2 years and can even be as low as 12 months in certain circumstances. Yet there are still millions of incumbent outdoor fixtures to be replaced. It’s possible that some of the delay has been because early LED lighting was very glary and unpleasant, which left a bad taste for some. We do see customers who are moving from bad lights to our lights out of frustration with their initial LED lighting experience.

The retrofit opportunity is also significant on the other end of that bell curve; that is, in the most highly penetrated segments of the economy, because an ever-increasing number of initial LED installations are nearing the end of their lives. Early adopters who installed these fixtures ten years ago or more are starting to look around. So, the “second round” is coming—the industry’s most experienced buyers will soon be coming back. We don’t know if they’ll be hard to impress, but we’d guess they’ll be looking for both style and substance tied to the best in lean performance.
Finally, the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill may further expand the retrofit opportunity, since some of those funds will go to upgrade roads, bridges, streets, and tunnels with a lot of legacy lighting overdue for retirement.

DiLouie: What are the main attributes of an outdoor area lighting solution that electrical distributors would be looking for? How do they confidently select a quality product?

Milz: Electrical distributors need to offer solutions that are reliable, affordable, and in stock. The best way to keep their shelves stocked with items that meet those demands is to work with a company with deep experience in LED lighting, with a proven track record and a broad product offering.

Drilling a little deeper, the products need to be easy to install and maintain, and from a reputable manufacturer so replacement parts will be available now and for the life cycle of the product. Oh, and fast lead-times. Standards such as DLC are highly leverageable, too, because such certifications are seen as top-shelf “ingredient brands” that spare the buyer the need to do their own legwork.

DiLouie: What can distributors do to ensure they are most competitive in the outdoor area lighting market?

Milz: We encourage distributors to maintain close and frequent interaction with manufacturers. Manufacturers are eager to help you get the right message across to your customers on why better lighting can make a big difference, and better yet, they’ve got the show-and-tell tech to demonstrate it to your customers.

We’d also encourage distributors to move toward supply chain integration with manufacturers to create digital visibility into each other’s data feeds and supply chain. When the manufacturer can see your inventory, you never need to worry about empty shelves. When you can see the manufacturers’, you know in real time exactly what commitments you can make.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about LED lighting for outdoor area applications, what would it be?

Milz: Human-centric lighting matters. It’s not about bolting together a bunch of components, it’s about engineering solutions that work best together for superior outcomes for people and animals alike.

LED lighting has the capability to significantly improve our interaction with the outside world; as consumers, we shouldn’t accept anything less.

Cheap does not equate with the best product. Look at the supplier’s history and willingness to stand behind their product—as well as the price—before making your decision.

Incumbent tech is still everywhere and the opportunities for improvements are immediate and “staring you in the face.”

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Designers Share Insights

Manufacturer Signify engaged a range of construction and electrical industry professionals, ranging from lighting designers to architects, to share their insights about light and lighting design in its “Pioneers of Light” series.

Manufacturer Signify engaged a range of construction and electrical industry professionals, ranging from lighting designers to architects, to share their insights about light and lighting design in its “Pioneers of Light” series.

Click here to check out the interviews.

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