The State of Technology: Solid State Lighting

L.J. Eldredge, ERS, for Zondits
March 23, 2016. Image credit: Anton Fomkin

Solid state lighting uses light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, as sources of illumination rather than electrical filaments, plasma (e.g., fluorescent lamps), or gas. LEDs can be found in any style of lighting fixture, be it a decorative pendant or a linear strip, and while fluorescent lighting emits light in all directions, LEDs can be directed just where they are needed based on the fixture type required.

LED lighting has come a long way in terms of price and controls. In commercial and industrial applications the biggest push is toward addressable, networked LED lighting. LEDs can now be ordered out of the box with controls that allow for task tuning, occupancy, and daylight harvesting and typically come with either a remote control for programming or the ability to integrate with a building’s energy management system. As LEDs become ever more popular and cost-effective, fewer and fewer fluorescent lights will be seen in new construction or retrofit projects.

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The DesignLightsLED Consortium (DLC), in collaboration with program administrators and manufacturers, has been paving the way for LEDs for years by evolving with the technology and pushing manufacturers to innovate. Working with the program administrators, industry experts, and manufacturers, the DLC has created technical requirements for a number of LED fixture types, regularly adding categories based on the demands of its members and setting the bar for the corresponding fixtures.  In response to program administrator and manufacturer requests, the DLC added the category of mogul screw-base LED replacement lamps for HIDs. This option is becoming more popular and is cheaper than a new replacement head on street and general-area lights.

This effort by the DLC and program administrators has ensured the quality of LEDs and standardized their incentivization across programs. It has also helped to accelerate the adoption of LEDs and generate competition and innovation by setting the bar on the requirements for light distribution, efficacy, and the color rendering index. In a recent meeting, the DLC discussed their Commercial Advanced Lighting Control (CALC) project, the goal of which is to push the adoption of advanced network lighting controls. The plan is to develop specifications for networked lighting controls as well as an energy estimation tool that will aid in calculating the savings associated with various control strategies. The specifications are still under review, so manufacturers had a chance to voice any concerns they had. The DLC will also develop reporting requirements, which will help consumers and vendors choose the best system for their space, but will not be necessary for eligibility. The manufacturers seemed hesitant, but the DLC has proven their ability to push manufacturers to innovate, creating higher quality at lower cost over time.

The DLC’s vision is for every luminaire evaluated by an energy efficiency program to be controlled by the year 2020. While the energy code is effective, advanced lighting controls allow lighting systems to be reconfigured as spaces or building usage change, thus helping to ensure long-lasting savings.