Smart Lamps and Integrated Design
Which buildings would benefit most from LEDs? And what’s a “smart lamp”? Lighting Consultants Mark Rader and Jamie Fitzke break down the trends at this year’s LIGHTFAIR International.
Anna: This year’s theme was Integrated Design. Did you see examples of how to apply this in a retrofit (as opposed to new construction)?
It’s an interesting question. Whereas lighting focused for years on improving the efficacy and quality of traditional light sources, today’s lighting world provides opportunities to convey clever design while delivering energy savings and quality. Much of the retrofit market has historically been component-driven, that is, using technology that favors energy efficiency over design. However, with the rapid advancement of solid-state lighting, it’s increasingly possible to incorporate design into energy efficiency decisions. In other words, regardless of the market channel, lighting is progressively becoming design-driven while still maintaining important elements like energy efficiency and lighting quality.
Light Fair exhibitors offered a few examples of LED retrofit kits, but majority of the products displayed would be new fixture applications. This doesn’t mean new construction necessarily, but a new fixture is typically more expensive than a retrofit option. I would venture that the theme could have been Integrated Control Design this year. Many LED fixtures, ranging from the "simplest" LED bulb, to LED troffers, to LED parking garage fixtures have multiple control options. Controls can involve dimming for aesthetics, occupancy sensors, daylight harvest dimming, or night dimming. The option for controls, potential energy and financial savings, and improved user comfort are all increasing due to the flexibility of LED lighting.
Anna: I'm interested in how lighting is progressing with the Internet of Things. How were products like Philip's Hue and Lifx presented? Is there an equivalent for the commercial sector?
Jamie & Mark:
Certainly, "smart" consumer lamps are here to stay. Numerous manufacturers displayed versions of intelligent lamps and control systems based on WIFI/smartphone platforms and manufacturers have expanded hardware controllability to include remote controls and home automation systems. While the Philip’s Hue is intriguing and fun, many of the LED lamp manufacturers would prefer to use diodes that don’t involve RGB (red, green, blue) to deliver white light. Because of this, the versatility of an LED bulb is lower, but so is the cost, and dimming capabilities still exist. Many LED lamp manufacturers are integrating chips into all of their LED bulbs with plans for extending controls options in the future. Currently manufacturers have a few select models that are controllable from wifi and smartphone platforms. In general, we haven’t seen large-scale commercial adoption of such systems yet since controls that utilize existing lighting technologies currently dominate the commercial landscape. It’ll be intriguing to note whether an uptick in consumer interest will carry over to the commercial sector.
Anna: Last year, you all mentioned a huge jump in LEDs. Over the past year, have you seen an uptick in interest from small business owners? Which types of businesses are most excited?
Two opposing sides of the spectrum are really benefitting the most from LEDs right now, for different reasons.
On one hand, you have businesses that use their lights much of the day, every day, and are achieving significant energy savings with LED lighting. These customers, such as restaurants and retail stores, are utilizing falling LED lamp pricing and make lighting upgrades a no-brainer.
On the other hand, commercial customers such as small churches may operate their lighting systems no more than 10 to 15 hours per week. Since they aren’t using much energy, they aren’t paying for much energy. However, the difficulty of maintaining their existing incandescent and halogen lamps can be very difficult since ceiling heights are so high and seating may need to be moved every time a light bulb is changed. For these customers, maintenance savings may outweigh energy savings since lamps shouldn’t need to be changed for years and years.
Anna: What was the coolest thing you saw?
I was excited to finally see filament-LED lamps. You may be surprised at how many decorative clear glass tungsten lamps are in the marketplace. They have a specific vintage look, almost like we’re back in the days of Edison. As a lighting consultant, I really haven’t had a good, energy-efficient alternative to recommend until now. It’s nice to see the market begin to include niches that haven’t received a lot of attention.
The potential of high bay and high wattage LEDs. The fixture design, lumens output, and control capabilities of these lights is exciting. Many of these fixtures had an efficacy of over 100 lumens per watt and prospective for higher. Granted, most of these lights are currently not commercially available, which is typical, but the potential for replacing large wattage interior and exterior applications with LED is fast approaching.
Anna: Which policies or codes could affect the adoption of these new technologies?
From a policy standpoint, many manufacturers, lighting specialists, and utility program implementers are interested in renewing the federal Commercial Building Tax Deduction (some in the lighting industry also knew it as EPAct 2005), now also known as Section 179D, which expired at the end of 2013. The Commercial Building Tax Deduction allowed building owners to deduct the entire cost of certain lighting or building upgrades in the calendar year the equipment was installed (accelerated depreciation). Instead the tax codes reverted back to the standard method of depreciation, which typically runs over the lifetime of the equipment (ranging between 10 to15 years or more). Previously to qualify for the tax deduction parameters above the standard lighting system needed to be met, for example step-dimming or better controls were needed. There are significant industry lobbying and publicity efforts to reinstate 179D.
Additionally, it was interesting to attend presentations from other utility lighting rebate programs across the US. One involved Focus on Energy in Wisconsin and a lighting incentive program in Vermont. Listening to the speakers describe how they are facing the challenges of EISA standards and the impact of EISA to their lighting incentive programs was informative, as we are facing similar challenges.
Image credit: TOTORORO.RORO, staxnet, and Graeme Pow via Creative Commons.