Ed Ritchie 2015-04-20 15:50:53
The LED lighting revolution isn’t snowballing anymore. At this point, it’s more appropriate to say it’s become a full-fledged avalanche. Yet still, many businesses are unsure if they’re ready for the new technology, or more appropriately, is the new technology ready for them? Let’s answer that question by taking a look at some of the key decision factors, and some impressive solutions from top manufacturers. To guide us through the big issues that should be considered before making the move to LED lighting, we talked with Kyle Hemmi, senior energy engineer, at CLEAResult, an Austin, TX-based company that designs, markets, and implements energy programs for utilities and businesses. Hemmi notes that LED technology has evolved rapidly since its debut on the market. “Years ago when LEDs were just starting to find their way onto the commercial market, it was a challenge,” he says. “The Energy Star program was just getting started, and there weren’t a lot of standards and qualified product listings to control the quality and compare technologies. And, obviously, the prices were exorbitant. Now I would argue that we’re at a turning point in the evolution and maturation of the LED market. Though there are still challenges, like the complexity of LEDs, they are different animals. It’s taken a while for the supply chain and people involved to get up to speed and get the message out to make contractors, end users, customers, and consumers aware and comfortable with the technology.” The need to get the installation industry comfortable with the technology motivated Intermatic Inc., Spring Grove, IL, to develop a comprehensive new testing approach to help inform electrical contractors of the performance of its lighting control portfolio when LED lighting is used. According to Liz Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Intermatic, contractors often see controls on the market labeled “LED Compatible,” “Listed for LED,” or “Meets LED standards,” but those terms do not describe the actual performance of the controls over the lifetime of the LED lighting. Eric Eronen, a product marketing manager at Intermatic, notes that the confusion is understandable. “Logically, say I’m substituting a 100-watt bulb with a 15-watt bulb, and common sense says that you could put maybe ten times as many bulbs on the same circuit, and the wattage is correct,” he says. “But all of these lamps may have an inrush current that can affect the control. Over time, it can cause pitting on the contacts and cause switch failures.” Contractors shouldn’t underestimate the severity of the damage, adds Jimmy Adjunta, product marketing manager at Intermatic. “You can have an inrush current that is fifty times the actual draw, and that can put the contractor in a little bit of a crunch, because they may have been contracted to replace and update systems,” says Adjunta. “But they don’t look at the specs for the controls. So a contractor will put in LEDs, and when the switch fails, they think it’s a bad switch. But they end up replacing it with the same product, and six months down the road it needs to be replaced again. They assume the switch manufacturer is making something faulty, but the problem could be avoided if they have the knowledge of the proper control specifications for those loads.” The situations addressed by Intermatic are often found in interior building lighting, but more specialized systems have had an easier time making the transition. Says Hemmi, “With applications, such as refrigeration units in frozen food cases, they were earlier adopters, and beyond the energy savings, there are significant benefits in terms of decreased spoilage and improved appearance of the product. From a supermarket’s perspective, the entire package offers compelling benefits.” One of the most compelling may be the fast return on investment (ROI). For example, Stater Bros., a southern California supermarket chain, recently finished a retrofit of the frozen-food cases in nearly all of its 166 stores. The switch from 60-W fluorescent lights to GE’s 17-WImmersion RV40 LED system translates to total annual energy and maintenance savings of approximately $570,000. According to Scott Limbacher, vice president, Construction/Maintenance at Stater Bros., the chain has received positive feedback from customers, and store managers reported that the new lighting really makes their products pop. Moreover, LED lighting generates less heat, which translates to fewer compressor cycles in the food cases for additional indirect energy savings. Those are significant savings, but, of course, most businesses don’t have refrigerator cases, so how about an example for lighting in restaurants and retail? Let’s look at a product from, Cree, in Durham, NC. Recently, the LED lighting manufacturer announced an “Industry Breakthrough Replacement for Halogen MR16 Lamps,” the MR16 Series TrueWhite LED Lamps. This bulb delivers the soft, diffused light of a traditional 50-W halogen MR16 lamp and is designed for global compatibility with virtually all existing sockets. The suggested retail price is $25, and with efficiency usage up to 83% less energy, it can deliver a rapid payback of less than one year. LED lamps are dimmable and available in 15-degree spot, 25-degree flood, and 40-degree wide flood beam angles in a 1.97-inch ANSI-compliant form factor, allowing them to easily fit into existing tracks for a one-for-one replacement. Hubbell Lighting, in Greenville, SC, recently launched its Lighting Upgrade Program for the Hospitality Industry. The program allows hotels to project energy savings through retrofits, and then validates those estimates with sample products in a 90-day trial that can cut hospitality electricity costs by 60%, translating to a 5.58% increase in profitability. After the trial period, customers can decide to keep the products or return them for a full refund. Hubbell’s “createchange program” includes a comprehensive evaluation of hospitality lighting solutions for lobbies, conference rooms, meeting rooms, common areas, building exteriors, landscapes, signage, parking lots, and garages. Customers can also take advantage of the CashFlow Positive program, which structures financing to ensure that energy cost savings are greater than monthly financing costs. So hotels experience an immediate positive cash flow. Does your location have high ceilings, such as an auditorium? If so, there’s equally good news. Hubbell recently announced that their Prescolite high output LED downlight is now offered in lumen packages ranging up to more than 16,500 lumens. That’s a lot of lighting power for school auditoriums, concert halls, theaters, and churches, with high ceilings from 20 to 60 feet. The MegaLum accepts wireless dimming directly to its driver, making it simple to control. In many progressive states, it’s likely that such large facilities can benefit from government incentives, says Hemmi. “We’ve seen the utilities in more mature markets such as California, the Northwest and Northeast, and certain Midwest areas aggressively move money to LED incentives. And the Department of Energy’s lighting program has helped in getting the message out there.” Then, too, many government agencies are taking advantage of LED benefits. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) recently completed its LED lighting overhaul of the East Span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. After three years of testing and designing custom fixtures, the bridge has an energy-efficient lighting solution deploying 51,500 high -performance LEDs, lighting the entire East Span at an estimated energy savings of 50% and lifetime of 15 years. That’s more than seven times longer than the previous lighting technology. High unit counts such as the bridge’s are beneficial. “Let’s say a furniture store has 1,500, 120-watt incandescent or halogen light fixtures,” says Hemmi. “That’s a lot of wattage, and if you dim those by 30%, you get a lot of savings. But if you replace all of those with a 20-watt LED, now all the sudden you’re controlling one fifth of the overall load.” The retail marketplace is benefiting greatly, according to John Koster, product manager, indoor LED fixtures, GE, Cleveland, OH. “They have the highest concentration of accent lighting of all the vertical market segments,” he says. GE recently introduced its Lumination TS Series LED Accent Lights, a new line of track lighting products for retail and hospitality usage. “We designed the TS series with the retail market in mind, and the line ranges anywhere from 11 to 20 watts,” says Koster. When you’re talking about comparing these to traditional halogen lamps, you’re talking about saving up to 85% on energy. Also, retailers have found it to be a good opportunity to reduce the number of lamps in the store. So, they’re maximizing their energy savings even more and reducing their acquisition costs. It’s due primarily to our multiple lumen options. In some cases, a 19.5-watt 1700 lm version of the TS series can replace two or three halogen floodlights, or an MR 16.” Another benefit is less heat, which provides incremental energy savings on the HVAC system that doesn’t have to work as hard to cool a building. Additional savings in maintenance are possible, because traditional halogen bulbs are typically rated for about 3,000 hours, compared to the TS series rating of 50,000 hours. The TS line features GE’s Visual Comfort Lens, to give the look of traditional halogen lamps. “Many LED products on the market have individual LED pixels or dots on their face, but ours are further recessed in the fixture and the traditional looking lens greatly reduces glare and gives a look that customers are familiar with,” says Koster. “And, from a design standpoint, we optimized the LED selection in the fixture. For flood lighting applications, we select LEDs that optimize the efficiency and lumens per watt. But for spotlighting applications, we selected different LEDs that deliver a high-beam intensity for higher footcandles from a long distance. These are designed for easy installation into existing track systems, and there are a variety of track adapter options to work with different brands of track systems, so it’s very easy to upgrade from traditional technologies to LEDs. It’s a seamless transition that allows retailers to immediately reap the energy savings.” The benefit of a seamless transition is fueling growth in another interesting segment of the LED market: the “plug-and-play” direct replacement category. These are LED lights designed to screw into existing metal halide and fluorescent light fixtures, and they don’t require rewiring or fixture changes. “The plug-and-play capability is very attractive for consumers and contractors and building owners, because you don’t have to hire an electrician to just pull out a lamp and put in another,” says Hemmi. Plug-and-play products offer numerous benefits, according to Steven Purdy, marketing director at ELB Electronics, Arcadia, CA. “The technology has really progressed,” he says. “And there are some significant benefits. For example, the direct replacement gives you deferred savings, because if you have a product that needs rewiring of the fixture or a different power supply or driver instead of what’s already there, then you have to add labor, and that means an electrician. But you have to have a compatible product. There are different electronics in fluorescent fixtures. First, you have the ballast that controls the fluorescent lamp. With a modern electronic ballast, you have the benefits of instant on or rapid start, and dimming. With an older T12 magnetic ballast, it’s different, and another compatibility issue is that commercial buildings can have battery backup products for emergency exit signs. So, not all plug-and-play products out there are equal, because some of the earlier designs and some of the current designs aren’t compatible with all those types of products.” Purdy’s often asked about the wisdom of powering an LED light with the ballast from an existing fluorescent fixture. “A ballast is a power supply for fluorescent lamps, a driver is a power supply for an LED lamp, and a generator is a power supply for an induction system,” he explains. “But the bottom line is they’re all power supplies. One of the common questions we get is ‘Why would I want to operate an LED lamp off of the ballast?’ But, why wouldn’t you? It’s a power supply, and if you think of the evolution of the product, electronic ballasts are a proven technology. I can get an $8 or $10 electronic ballast and operate these lamps with much more confidence and reliability at over a third to half the cost of an LED driver that doesn’t have the same reliability history.” ELB Electronics is also offering wireless control technology for some of its products, and according to CleaResult’s Hemmi, the lighting industry is at a crossroads when it comes to controls. “There’s a lot of talk in the utility program world about advanced lighting controls, and where they’re going as LEDs mature,” he says. “We’re seeing full integration of trough lighting fixtures with daylight sensors and the occupancy sensors that are built right into the fixtures. They can be controlled wirelessly so these two technologies have emerged and you’ll see more and more intelligent light fixtures with the convenient control of LED lighting.” Educating a new generation of engineers is an important factor in advancing intelligent lighting control, according to Mandeep Khera, vice president of Marketing and Channels, Daintree Networks, Los Altos, CA. Daintree Networks is an open wireless smart building solutions provider of enterprise control and energy management products. The company recently announced its affiliate partnership with UC Davis’ California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) with the goal of advancing lighting controls. The partnership focuses on collaboration efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of networked lighting controls. “The idea is to educate the market because a lot of companies don’t know about these solutions,” says Khera. “In fact, I have spoken at some large conferences, and I always asked the question: Did you know that you can save up to 70% on your energy costs and also gain operational efficiencies, thanks to software wireless networking solutions? But very few people say yes. So, you have to ask, why don’t they know about these? Also, for students, it’s important for them to see this technology, because we need more engineers and installers, and those that understand this type of technology.” Daintree is providing its ControlScope wireless networked, open standards based energy management and monitoring solution for lighting control. The ultimate focus is building controls and efficiency, says Khera. “We offer an advanced wireless and network building control solution,” he says. “It’s based on open standards, and besides controls, we also have an energy management layer on top and data analytics. What’s unique about this solution is first we do multi-apps, and we go beyond lighting with our wireless controls, so we include HVAC and plug loads, general purpose controls, and other things as well. Because of that we have tremendous energy efficiency savings—up to 70%, and sometimes up to 90%.” Those savings can come from a variety of power consuming machines, from exhaust fans to copiers. These can be grouped into the category of plug loads that consume power even when they are shut off. Daintree offers a wireless controller that plugs into a wall and shuts off power to an appliance. “The advantage of the solution is it is more like a platform,” says Khera. “So you buy one solution, and you can use it for everything—from lighting, thermostat, plug loads, fans, and other types of things. Now you don’t have to buy multiple solutions and deal with consolidating the data and integration from a proprietary system. Our solution is open, and there’s one platform for everything.” The open source philosophy is a growing trend, according to Hemmi. He notes that the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership is doing an advanced lighting control demonstration study, and is looking at trends such as open source and their impact on the industry. Overall, Hemmi sees open source standards as a positive move for the marketplace and consistent with the industry’s investment in research and development (R&D). Those big R&D budgets have already achieved some impressive results. Consider this: The DesignLights Consortium, an international commercial LED lighting qualification program, recently saw its Solid State Lighting Qualified Products List (QPL) surpass 50,000 products. The list is a leading resource that distinguishes quality high-efficiency LED products in the commercial sector. It sets the bar for efficiency program incentives across the US and Canada, while influencing performance and quality in manufacturer product development. One consequence of this avalanche of products is a benefit that’s sure to please those business managers who have yet to take advantage of LED technology. And that’s lower unit costs. “We’ve seen cost decreases of 20 to 30% every six to eight months for quite some time now,” says Hemmi. “Competition and pressures to reduce costs have been substantial. We’re continuing to see those forces and downward pressures on prices. At the same time, the efficiency of the product has climbed, and that’s enabled a lot of new form factors in designs and better performance. So we have better efficiencies than the incumbent technologies and that means greater savings.” Ultimately, the picture for the LED lighting looks very good. Lower prices, higher efficiency, and open source solutions that encourage innovation and compatibility. With such positive attributes, it’s fair to say that this technology is a safe bet for most any business looking to save money and boost energy efficiency. BE Ed Ritchie writes frequently on energy and technology issues. SIDEBAR Is There an OLED in Your Future? Although LED lighting has achieved mainstream status, the technology continues to evolve. What’s next? Organic LED lighting is characterized by an even, glare-free design that creates light from a sheet of material, rather than a pinpoint as seen with traditional LEDs. According to market research firm, Nanomarkets, Glen Allen, VA, OLEDs are already hot in the displays of mobile phones and wearables, so future prospects for the OLED lighting market will catapult the OLED materials market from around $900 million in 2014, to $3.7 billion in 2019. Why are the prospects so good? With OLEDs, the difference in the quality of light is comparable to holding a tungsten light bulb next to a fluorescent, but energy usage is also a factor, according to Alex Khayat, CEO of Alkilu Enterprises, Los Angeles, CA. “In terms of lumen output, an OLED is far more effective,” he says. “A 100-square millimeter OLED panel emits more than 300 lumens of diffused light, and it doesn’t produce UV emissions. In order for LED to emit this amount of lumens, forty 100-square-millimeter panels would be needed. In addition, LEDs produce more heat and consume more power. For example, a 100-square-millimeter OLED holds charge for more than thirty hours, while an LED panel of the same power would need a recharge in less than two hours. In addition, LED light is pointing inwards, which decreases its area of illumination.” Alkilu recently introduced an interesting demonstration of OLED technology, the Triplit. At 5 inches by 5 inches, the Triplit is small and portable, but at 300 lumens (dimmable), it packs an amazing amount of light. It squeezes 30 hours of operation from its Li-Po rechargeable battery, yet requires only 2.5 hours to recharge. For OLED lighting in interiors, Acuity Brands Inc., Atlanta, GA, just announced the release of its first in a series of Commercial Office Solutions Sets. They combine the FS series of recessed LED Luminaires featuring eldoLED technology, with the company’s nLight control technology.
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