Categories LED

LEDs and Movie Stars

One of the many virtues of LEDs is that they have an exceedingly long life span. Perusing a few data sheets will show an oft-cited figure of 50,000 hours. Indeed, if installed in a domestic setting like a kitchen or lounge where the lights are mostly on after dark and used on average, say, 6 hours per night, this means the LEDs should last for 23 years. But what does “last” actually mean? At the end of life, tungsten bulbs simply cease to operate when the filament ruptures, so it is quite obvious when one has blown. Fluorescent bulbs tend to flicker and flash when the tube is no longer able to sustain conduction and replacement is then necessary due to the nuisance factor. LEDs on the other hand simply fade away.  They just get progressively dimmer, as though running on batteries that are very slowly running out.

There are various definitions of how dim an LED can become before it is considered to have reached end of life. For general lighting applications research has shown that most people will be oblivious to a reduction in illumination of up to 30 percent, particularly if it occurs gradually. For this reason the useful life of a high brightness LED is often defined as the point at which light output has declined to 70 percent of initial lumens. For an indicator LED on an instrument panel a 50 percent reduction might be acceptable, while in a scientific instrument it could be 5 percent or less.


By far the largest factor causing LEDs to dim is its time at temperature. High temperatures in LEDs cause a variety of undesirable processes to occur that are irreversible and reduce the ability of the device to produce light. This means that to achieve long life special attention must be paid to the materials used to conduct heat away from LEDs. A good slab of aluminium with a thin coating of Nanoceramic as the thermally conductive dielectric is a good choice, and the difference of just a few degrees can have an enormous, exponential knock-on impact on the lifetime of the LED.

A recent study by the Lighting Industry Association Laboratories showed that high brightness LEDs mounted on Nanotherm Nanoceramic PCBs operated 5 percent cooler than the nearest commercial competitor substrate. But don’t be tempted to think that just because 5 percent of 100°C is only 5°C that such a reduction is not worth bothering about, the underlying physics begs to differ. It turns out that the reduction in lumens of an LED is an above unity exponential function of the LED temperature. So a small difference in temperature makes a huge difference in the time it takes an LED to reach a particular level of dimness.

LEDs are quite like movie stars. They start as bright starlets and the hot ones burn out early, while those that stay cool have long careers and fade slowly from the limelight. As limelights in theaters have been replaced by LEDs, modern movie stars can now stay in the LED spotlights and wait for them to fade over 50 years instead!

Categories Lighting

LEDs: The Lighting Renaissance

If you haven’t noticed by now, we’re seeing a lighting renaissance taking place that is truly astounding and which historically has only occurred a few times in the history of mankind. The migration from one predominate light source (incandescent) to another (LED) is occurring literally right in front of our eyes. Most astoundingly is the rapid emergence of lighting-grade LED technology that really only started in earnest less than 10 years ago.  As one might expect with a new lighting technology and as can be readily observed in past history, the transition isn’t without some growing pains.

Driven by the need to conserve energy in an environment of a growing and developing populace, LED technology and its benefits are quickly becoming apparent to designers, manufacturers and consumers.  Market pull for LED-based products is generated by the simple fact that that we can simply no longer continue to expend 18 percent of our global energy production on lighting alone nor can we continue to burn through the extra 1,800 million barrels of oil needed for the less efficient light sources that are well established in the marketplace.

As with any new technology, there is a period where designers and users need to figure out what to do with it and how to utilize it in saleable products. Lighting-grade LEDs are no different. Typically, the first devices are typically pretty crude yet functional to get people thinking about the possibilities of the new technology. As the technology develops and designers gain experience with it, more elegant solutions begin to emerge that start to truly take advantage of the technology and its capabilities. One doesn’t have to look too far to see that we’re well into the “elegant” phase of LED lighting and that designers are starting to have fun with the technology!

Interestingly, with any new technology, what follows or what progresses in a lagged-parallel fashion is an entire infrastructure of supporting products. To create truly innovative designs, an entire class of various supporting products need to develop around it to make it easier to integrate and use. New heat sink technologies, novel LED packages, innovative optics, unique interconnect solutions start to emerge as the basic LED and its applications evolve. This further feeds LED fixture innovation and serves to create pull to ever-improve these supporting products.

Indeed, designers of the most efficient, manufacturable and easily used designs embrace a holistic approach to design that considers and integrates all key elements of a fixture in parallel. Interconnects in particular are usually the last thing to get considered in these new designs however, they form an integral and key part of the entire system. Without the ability to provide power to the LED system and distribute it effectively and easily, even the most unique, innovative LED lighting fixture is simply another object d’art.

From an interconnect standpoint, there are a wide and sometimes dizzying array of options available to the designer. Options are always good and there are a number of unique, SSL-targeted connector products that are optimized for different applications within a lighting system. Next month we’ll start to explore these options starting with the LED itself.

Categories Lighting

Lighting the Way to a More Innovative Future

Whether we realize it or not, lighting touches every part of our world, from our homes and computer screens to commercial office buildings and highways. It does more than just brighten our lives – it impacts learning, the environment and even our mood.

Everyone reading this knows that the numerous breakthroughs in LED architectures, advanced materials, and innovative fixtures over the past decade have contributed to making LED the de facto lighting standard around the world. When compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, the state-of-the-art LED bulbs last up to 40x longer, are 10x more efficient, and reduce greenhouse gases by as much as 90 percent. According to Radiant Insights, the LED market is anticipated to grow 45 percent annually through 2020, making it a $63.1 billion industry and one of the fastest growing electronic device markets. This year we have seen the explosive growth of “Smart Lighting,” which combines LED fixtures with sensors to collect data and use that intelligence to control when, where, and how much light you want to deploy.

Smart and efficient lighting does not stop at LEDs. OLED lighting technology is an emerging new product category and is providing manufacturers and application developers a unique option to differentiate and innovate. According to Digital Trends, because of their nature, OLEDs are extremely thin, small and remarkably flexible. They are being used in some of today’s most cutting-edge products, from consumer, to automotive, to architectural applications. Many analysts, including IDTechEx, predict that the OLED market will continue in a development stage until 2020, at which point mass-market adoption is expected. Additionally, based on the current level of activity with Pixelligent’s global customers, we expect the number of potential OLED lighting applications to accelerate over the next three to five years.

What is driving the lighting industry to evolve its technology?
Consumers’ increased desires for innovative and connected products are driving manufacturers to pioneer new lighting solutions. Global manufacturers, such as LG Display, Konica Minolta, Osram Opto OLED and OledWorks are a few of the recognized leaders driving OLED lighting applications for a new generation of highly efficient and higher-quality lighting devices.

Pixelligent has taken a leadership position in this market, supporting innovation in this rapidly emerging marketplace through leading edge, high-index nanomaterials and advanced manufacturing solutions. The PixClearProcess is the key to delivering the efficiency that dramatically improves light extraction and overall performance in terms of light quality. 

Key Markets and The Growth Potential for OLED
It is expected that the automotive, architectural lighting, and new building- construction markets are going to be the early adopters for OLED lighting.  Delivering significant wins in these key markets will drive down the costs of OLED lighting panels, which will drive broader market adoption over a diverse set of applications, ultimately finding its way to the mass consumer markets by around 2022. The first two most critical markets that will enable this are:

  • Automotive – The automotive industry is one of the earliest adopters and biggest drivers of lighting technology.  Audi has been the leader in implementing new lighting technology to differentiate its autos and is the first automaker to begin using OLED lighting in its vehicles. Check out the tail lights on the Audi E-tron SUV, which are flexible OLEDs that create a 3D structure. 
  • Buildings and Construction – Starting in 2017, the building and construction market is expected to begin designing in-OLED lighting to replace the inefficient and low quality fluorescent lighting that is present in most buildings today. OLED lighting is not only significantly more efficient, but also delivers visibly higher-quality lighting.

What is driving this change in these industry and others? Leading advanced materials and device companies, which are at the forefront of delivering this next generation of highly efficient and higher quality OLED lighting to the market. Stay tuned for my next blog for a deeper dive into the manufacturing strategies and the key manufacturers in these markets to learn how they are impacting advanced lighting technologies.

Categories Lighting

Lighting and Human Health

According to the US Census Bureau, as of April 1, 2010, there are 40.3 million people who were 65 and older in the United States, accounting for 13 percent of the total population; this number will more than double to more than 88 million by 2050. Many industries, organizations and communities are planning for the graying of America, one being long-term care living facilities where, according to the National Center for Assisted Living, as of 2008, more than 900,000 people nationwide live in assisted living settings.

Making these facilities welcoming, intuitive to older adults’ needs and even redesigning the lighting greatly affects this populations’ quality of life.

Importance of Correct Lighting
Innovative lighting designs and advanced technologies, including LEDs, photosensors and occupancy sensors, can help seniors in long-term care facilities maintain independence and be more comfortable.

It has long been understood that poor lighting is not only associated with an adverse environment, as we all relate to the mental image of the “dark dungeon” or “dimly lit alley,” but that there is a cause and effect relationship with human health. The most prominent example is season affective disorder syndrome, or SADS, which is a winter-season depression that effects sensitive individuals in the higher latitudes where the day/night cycle is more extreme, right up to the Arctic or Antarctic circles, where there will be winter days when the sun will literally fail to rise fully above the horizon. Experimentation with “light therapy” proved effective in extreme cases, adding momentum to a new realm of studies of the interaction between light and humans.

According to a paper by the Center for Health Design, “The Impact of Light on Outcomes in Healthcare Settings,” light impacts human health and performance by four main mechanisms:

  • Enabling performance of visual tasks
  • Controlling the body’s circadian system
  • Affecting mood and perception
  • Facilitating direct absorption for critical chemical reactions within the body

As people age, their eyes also undergo changes. The lens and cornea begin to yellow and darken, and the pupils shrink in size. The aging eye also changes to have a high degree of light scatter as cataracts form, and the field of vision becomes limited. For this reason the colors that are chosen for the elderly should remove any yellowing and brightness since the eyes of a 60-year-old can only filter a third of someone age 20.

Additionally, elderly persons may have difficulty distinguishing between colors. They need three times the amount of light to see, but are sensitive to glare. Colors such as red, green, yellow or blue will appear muted to the elderly eye.

Light and Sleep Cycles
Because of changes in the transparency of the eye’s lens, the elderly are especially susceptible to sleep disturbances as the amount of circadian light received through the eye is diminished. Disease-specific biological changes, as experienced with Alzheimer’s and dementia, contribute to sleep disruption and are experienced as difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, decrease in slow-wave and REM cycles, shorter duration of sleep and frequent daytime napping.

Light serves to synchronize the human body bio-chemical clock. For instance, it has been found that blue light (465 nm wavelength) can reduce the melatonin in our blood stream, making us more alert – this is what sunlight produces from morning until afternoon. However, as the day progresses, the intensity of the blue-spectrum in sunlight reduces while there is an increase in reds and purples, thus triggering the increase in melatonin that enables sleep and body repair. The effect of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance is blue-shifted – a lamp with a correlated color temperature of 6,500 K (cold light) induces greater melatonin suppression and an enhanced alerting effect than does a lamp with a CCT of 3,000 K (warm light).

Light directly influences the amount of melatonin, and other related hormones, that a person’s brain produces, which indirectly affects alertness. With artificially driven imbalances, it’s not just sleep that is affected; almost our entire metabolism, including immune responses, is regulated in this way, and there is the potential for more serious health effects. Conversely, supplemental melatonin has been indicated with positive health effects including slowing down aging processes, and potentially slowing or reversing brain-involved conditions, including Alzheimer’s.

Hard-to-reach lighting controls and bright, glaring room lights add to the difficulty seniors have getting up in the middle of the night. Additionally, nurses may need to check residents several times at night and often disrupt their sleep and comfort by repeatedly turning on the room lights.

Poor lighting can accentuate existing vision problems and reading difficulties among the elderly, it can cause depression and disrupt sleep cycles. However, improving long-term care facilities’ lighting is documented to improve residents’ health. These studies have shown that the quality and type of lighting can have a significant impact on our health and comfort, particularly for anybody who spends long periods in artificially lit buildings, such as the elderly and the infirm.

Categories LED

LEDs Bring Big Savings to Retail Centers

Almost every industry, business and municipality has a parking lot that needs night-time illuminating. As energy costs continue to soar and strict energy mandates are enforced, municipalities and private property owners are looking for ways to cuts costs.

Fortunately, energy is a very controllable operating expense; by prudent, energy efficiency investments, operating costs can be reduced. One key to making day-to-day operations more energy efficient and more sustainable is through the installation of exterior LED luminaires.

Retail Centers – Retail stores, shopping malls and entertainment complexes are major energy consumers. Malls, “big box” mega-stores and retail outlets are not usually considered energy intensive on a square foot basis, but because of their large size and long hours of operation, they often run up extensive energy bills.

The parking lots for these facilities represent a challenging environment for lighting solutions. The lighting must accommodate vehicular and pedestrian traffic, endure harsh environments and address public safety considerations.


Image depicts TopDek in a typical retail parking application

Parking Lots and LED Luminaires – Going green is an initiative that nearly every industry is being forced to consider. The desire to incorporate new technologies to meet green initiatives and lessen costs is driving unprecedented change. Outdated light fixtures are being replaced with parking lot luminaires designed specifically for energy efficiency and sustainability. And while the upfront cost of LED luminaires is typically more than traditional lighting systems, it will be paid back to owners in lower electric bills, reduced maintenance and disposal fees.

Many parking lots are illuminated with high intensity discharge (HID) lighting sources. Because this type of lighting is not suitable to frequent switching, this lighting is typically operated the entire evening, even when the parking lot is mostly or completely empty. LED luminaires, however, are amenable to control systems such as motion sensors to further reduce electricity consumption.

The opportunity for savings is enormous, in part because LED luminaires have the potential to control the LED source emission more precisely than traditional HID luminaires, reducing waste light and limiting glare.

An innovative program, the Partners in Project Green in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Center for Landscape Research, offers companies (in the Pearson Eco-Business Zone) a Green Parking Lot Program. Specifically, it provides companies assistance in the (re)design of their parking lots and landscaping to include green features that can help them reduce costs, enhance safety and enrich the aesthetics of the facility, while improving local air and water quality. Installing LED luminaires is an excellent complement to this forward-thinking program.

Exterior lighting has three primary functions – safety, security and ambiance. With sustainability and design now complementing each other, LED luminaires for outdoor general lighting provide a win for everyone and retail properties retain their aesthetic integrity while saving on energy and maintenance.

Importance of Color Rendering and Distribution – Mall parking lot lighting represents a critical component for a business to achieve a high retail sales volume. Businesses must provide shoppers with safety and optimal visibility.
Color rendering should be considered as an important lighting performance element to showcase a business’ storefront displays, outdoor exhibits and landscaping features that create an aesthetically pleasing environment throughout the general grounds surrounding the mall itself.

Parking lots around malls experience a high volume of pedestrian traffic, and vehicular traffic tends to increase as closing time approaches. It is necessary for a business to provide appropriate lighting performance to insure a safe and comfortable environment is maintained.

Many cities have lighting mandates for parking lot illumination that identify a specific set of lighting performance metrics. Unfortunately, many businesses might not be aware if their parking lot lighting performance levels have fallen below minimum acceptable levels, which happen when lamps deteriorate over an extended period of time.

Distributing light and containing it within the property’s boundaries are essential components to remaining in compliance with regulatory codes pertaining to dark skies and energy efficiency.

The size and layout of the parking lot determine the specific lighting performance requirements. For example, if the parking lot is asymmetrical and located in a less safe part of town, the need for security may require a bright perimeter of light that is focused on the edges and corners of the lot while simultaneously contained within the property line.

Parking Lot Safety – Security professionals have long known that locations where people and their valuables are together, such as in parking lots, are criminals’ favorite targets. A key element of security in most surface lots is visibility – for employees, customers and passers-by; and a significant part of visibility is lighting.

According to Witherspoon Security Consulting, the exterior lighting should enable parkers and employees to see individuals at night at a distance of 75 feet or more and to identify a human face at about 30 feet. Employees who are working after-hours or visitors entering the building at night need to have efficient parking lot illumination fixtures so they can safely return to their vehicle.

Proper lighting creates better security and the perception of security, which can increase patronage of the parking facility, individual stores and the area in general.

Mindwave Research of Austin, Texas, conducted a survey, which showed that LEDs’ bright white light can help improve public feelings of safety in city spaces. After the addition of LED luminaires in a Raleigh, NC, municipal parking garage:

  • Both men and women felt significantly safer post-installation: 74 percent rated the garage as feeling “very safe,” while only 2 percent did not feel safe.
  • These figures contrast with the pre-installation numbers: Only 42 percent felt “very safe” with the original lighting, and 13 percent did not feel safe.

Opportunity – In the United States alone, it’s been determined there are more than 20 million parking lot lights, providing an excellent opportunity to retrofit with LED luminaires for increased security, reduced energy consumption and lowered maintenance costs.

Categories Lighting

Controlling Standby Power for Smart Lighting in Consumer Applications

Smart lighting is characterized by the sophistication in lighting control that has grown with the emergence of LED-based lighting. In fact, smart lighting is not practically achievable with traditional incandescent light sources and it is not as common with fluorescent light sources either.

To clarify: it is possible to control incandescent and, to a lesser extent, fluorescent light sources using phase-cut TRIAC dimmers and occupancy sensors. The driver circuits required for LED light sources, however, are more suitable to the low-voltage analog and PWM signals that are most readily associated with microprocessor control. But bringing the bulb within the control of a computer system opens up many other possibilities: power waste can be reduced; the user experience can be enhanced and the light source can even be used for data transfer. The challenge for smart lighting is to make use of all the functions afforded by computer control without losing efficiency – since efficiency was the reason the world looked to LED in the first place.

While commercial applications have already begun to adopt smart lighting, consumer applications are often tied to bulb-sized lighting nodes with low-power consumption, which makes the quiescent power consumption of the controller more of an issue. Consumers are unlikely to re-wire their houses simply to accept a hard-wired lighting system such as Power over Ethernet, Emerge etc., so most of the consumer-facing products in the marketplace today rely on wireless communication protocols (ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth or BLE, for example ) to control the lamp.

A 60 W A19 lamp today uses perhaps 7.2 W and is around 90 percent efficient – drawing approximately 8 W from the AC supply. ENERGY STAR suggests that the average bulb is on for less than three hours per day. The control electronics have to be on all the time, scanning for a start-up signal that will turn the bulb on. One popular smart-dimmable consumer bulb cites 0.45 W consumption in standby. If we ignore the power used by the base station (a base station can control 50 lamps), it means that the power consumption of the most common LED bulb is increased by around 50 percent by adding smart controls.

The ENERGY STAR Lamp Specification – Version 2.0 (Draft) has a section on standby power for connected lamps, with recommendations from various groups. 0.5 W has been proposed as a starting point. Several groups are pushing for a higher power level (>1 W was suggested during a recent presentation at Strategies in Light 2015).

This problem will get worse over time as LED conversion efficiency continues to increase (and therefore the power drawn by the lamp for lighting decreases).


Figure 1. DER-227(2) A 3 W power supply showing 70% conversion efficiency at 150 mW (0.3 A) output

How much power is required for a Wi-Fi transceiver?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently produced a report(1) which showed Wi-Fi transceiver standby/idle power use as being between 0.004 and 0.13 W. At this power level, power-supply conversion efficiency can be expected to achieve perhaps 70 percent (see Figure 1) suggesting a power budget of <200 mW would be achievable (and reduce control power to approximately 15 percent of the total power in the above example).

Smart technology for consumer LED bulbs and luminaires offers opportunities to fundamentally change how we use and experience light within the home. The benefits are significant but the fundamental benefit of energy saving must not be forgotten in the search for the limits of that new functionality.

Categories LED

High-Quality LED Luminaires Make Dramatic Improvement at Car Dealership

Car dealerships use a lot of illumination. While these lights serve a dual purpose of attracting potential customers and as a 24/7 security system, they devour energy, which is the third-highest overhead expenditure for dealerships, so reducing electricity consumption is a major consideration. By living and working sustainably, dealerships can reduce costs, increase their brand recognition, and attract more customers.

Including this extensive use of lighting, auto dealerships consume on average more energy per square foot than a typical office building: using about 110 kBTU/sq-ft compared to prime office space at 93 kBTU (source: National Automobile Dealers Association). This can mean thousands of dollars in energy costs for the typical dealership each year.

Chevrolet and Sustainability
Chevrolet’s dedication reaches further than compliance with the law to encompass the integration of sound environmental practices into business decisions. Guided by environmental principles, the company considers the environment throughout all aspects of their business, from supply chain, to manufacturing, to the vehicles on the road. These are the principles that help frame Chevrolet’s planning and decision-making for the company’s future.

Love Chevrolet | Columbia, South Carolina
Love Chevrolet is a family owned business that was established in 1961. Love Chevrolet is a member of the Love Automotive/RV Group that also represents Buick, GMC Truck, Mitsubishi, Hino Trucks and multiple RV brands.

As a customer-focused and forward-thinking business, Michael Love, president of Love Automotive/RV, is always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase operational efficiencies while promoting sound sustainability practices. To that end, Love Chevrolet recently completed a LED lighting upgrade.

In a one-for-one replacement, (148) 1,000W metal halide (MH) fixtures on the dealership’s primary and secondary sales lots, back lot and driveway were upgraded to 120W, 240W and 300W LED area light luminaires. Additionally, (100) 400W MH fixtures were upgraded to 120W high bay LED luminaires in the service check-in area and service bays, and (25) 400W MH fixtures were upgraded to 70W low bay LED luminaires in the detailing shop. Also retrofit were nine 250W MH fixtures to 60W LED wall packs and (18) 400W MH fixtures to 90W LED canopy lights in the primary sales lot.

This replacement is reducing the dealership’s electricity energy consumption by almost 50 percent. Prior to the LED installation, the monthly electric bill was $14,270, since the upgrade the monthly bill is averaging $7,000, while also increasing the foot candles – light on the ground, and the light uniformity increased.

The previously installed MH fixtures would regularly burn out. However, at the cost of $50 to $70 each light plus labor hours the dealership delayed repairing them until sections were poorly illuminated because they needed to rent a bucket truck to change lights. Unfortunately, as soon as a group of lights were repaired, other fixtures would burn out – the dealership never experienced all fixtures working at the same time. Also, as the lights aged, the quality of light decreased causing different color lighting in various areas. Now, the new LED luminaires are virtually maintenance free and come with a five year warranty.

“These lights make our inventory show better and stand out more from the street,” said Ben Hoover, general manager Love Chevrolet. “Additionally, we anticipate these new lights will last three times longer than the old fixtures and, the best part, eliminate maintenance and the need to move cars to accommodate the rented bucket trucks to change out the burned out lamps.”

The automobile dealership industry, like many businesses, typically only has one chance to make a positive impression with the customer, so it’s important to show products as best as possible. The luminaires’ uniform lighting eliminates dim areas between lamp poles, improving the automobiles’ vibrancy.

The new LED lights have also made a tremendous difference in the service drive and repair shop.  On the first day of installation, only one out of five rows of lights was able to be mounted. Yet those fixtures alone made a dramatic improvement and clearly showed the distinction between the two technologies. The LED luminaires provided brighter illumination without any shadows, which the technicians noticed it immediately.

“The upgraded luminaires deliver crisp, uniform illumination across the shop floor, detail bay and parts department,” said Mark Williamson, service and body shop director. “Additionally, the service technicians previously used fluorescent drop-light bulbs to see underneath the vehicle, these are now almost eliminated with the addition of the LED lights, which have improved technicians’ productivity, safety and morale.”

Customers also have noticed the difference in the service drive area, and have positively commented on this and inquired about the changes.

After seeing the product, learning about the energy savings and SCE&G EnergyWise incentives, and determining that the dealership would have only a two year ROI on the $250,000 total investment, it was an easy decision to retrofit. The LED luminaires provide consistent light levels, reduce hazardous waste disposal and provide dramatically more efficient light distribution than the MH fixtures.

“When we looked at the energy savings we’re getting, and that it’s really the right thing to do for the environment, it’s just a win-win for everybody,” Hoover explained.

”These lights absolutely provide the level of illumination we were looking for to make our location bright and secure,” Michael Love, president of Love Automotive/RV said. “And, as the guy paying the bills, I’m impressed with the tremendous energy savings and payback.  My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.”

Categories Blog

Understanding Consumers and Their Sockets

 The lighting industry has never been more alive.  The business is evolving faster with new opportunities and technologies every day and in my new role as the global CEO of the lamps business at OSRAM, I have the privilege of leading our journey into this exciting future.  The sweeping, dynamic innovation of the lighting industry is challenging how we do business from product development to consumer and customer engagement. That is why it has never been more important to understand what consumers know – and don’t know – about LED lighting technology.

Recently, we released the results of this year’s edition of the OSRAM SYLVANIA Socket Survey, a report that examines consumer awareness, adoption and understanding of lighting technology. Now in its seventh year, the survey has evolved from initially helping us understand how aware and prepared consumers were for the phase out of incandescent bulbs to current research more heavily focused on LED lighting and smart, connected lighting technology.

I am pleased to report that consumer adoption of LEDs is on the rise as 65 percent of Americans surveyed have purchased LEDs for use in their homes and the majority (64 percent) of those who did, purchased LED bulbs for use in sockets. Of the respondents who were identified as LED bulb users, the most valued benefits of making the switch were reduced energy consumption (96%), longer bulb lifespan (93%) and cost savings (93%).  As the price of LED lighting continues to come down, what was perhaps a prohibitive barrier is beginning to be perceived as a value, with 86 percent of Americans who have purchased LEDs believing the initial cost was worth it.  Consumers like what they’re seeing, which underscores how important it is for us to continue delivering quality LED products to the market.


From FitBit to Nest, the Internet of Things continues to take the world by storm, and the lighting industry is no different. Smart lighting is the next big frontier and awareness of this technology is high at 62 percent of those surveyed.  However, we’re still very early in the adoption cycle, with only one in 10 reporting they have purchased smart lighting products. Fortunately, consumers who are interested in the smart, connected home understand the role and value that lighting can provide, as 83 percent of those surveyed believe that smart lighting is a good introduction to home automation technologies.

There are certainly areas of opportunity for improvement, and consumer education is always a priority. Though we’ve seen great progress with virtually all survey participants (99%) aware of LED lighting versus only 69 percent in 2012, consumers’ top sources of information about lighting products continue to be in-store displays, retail employees and product packaging. Our industry’s evolution certainly isn’t slowing down, which makes educating consumers all the more important to continue today.  By partnering closely with the retail industry, we can work to ensure that purchasing decisions around lighting are as informed as possible.

The future will continue to bring new and exciting innovation, not only in technology but also in our understanding of how lighting impacts our productivity, health and well-being. Today, consumers recognize poor lighting when they see it, but they can’t necessarily articulate what makes for ‘good’ or ‘appropriate’ illumination. Imagine a world where we won’t need to think about our lighting at all because it will adapt to our behavior, the task at hand, the time of day and the setting. As we continue to inject software-fueled intelligence into our lighting systems, it’s clear that future has arrived.

Halfway into what the United Nations has named the International Year of Light, the Socket Survey shows that we’re making positive progress and guides us to where work still needs to be done.   Looking ahead, I can’t help but feel confident about where we are and where we are going.

Categories Blog

Seeing is Believing

Congregations are realizing they have a responsibility to set an example and be stewards of the earth. While environmental stewardship may be implemented in a variety of programs such as purchasing eco-friendly cleaning supplies, planting an organic flower and vegetable garden on the grounds, and recycling, the opportunity with the largest potential impact on the bottom line is energy conservation.

There are approximately 350,000 houses of worship in the United States. Energy use represents the greatest negative environmental impact of the average house of worship.[1] Greenfaith, an interfaith coalition for the environment, believes it’s time for communities of faith to become leaders in the fight against climate change through energy conservation – saving valuable funds to invest in religious activity and outreach.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, congregations collectively spend close to $2 billion on energy annually and energy costs are the second highest fixed cost after personnel. But energy use, specifically lighting, is a way to reduce costs. Tremendous advances in technology and engineering make it possible to achieve a significant reduction in energy use and expenditures. Most congregations can cut utility costs by up to 30 percent through strategic investment in energy efficiency.[2]

If America’s houses of worship reduced their energy usage by just 10 percent:

  • Nearly $200 million could be saved
  • More than 5.4 billion in kWh would be available without additional cost or pollution
  • More than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented [3]

Religious Organizations Take the Lead
Numerous religious organizations are in the forefront of energy conservation. For example, Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), is an organization that began in California in 1998 whose mission is “to help churches become good stewards of the earth.” To become a member, churches must sign a covenant and pledge to “green” their congregations through various means. Churches who sign IPL’s covenant gain access to resources like a professional energy audit, and support to make changes that can add up to lower bills, less energy waste and a more informed congregation.

The Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition “assists faith groups to preach, teach, model and advocate for sustainable living and ecological justice for all creation. The group works to extend a helping hand to congregations of all denominations that are interested in going green but don’t know where to start.”

Another example is Philadelphia’s Interfaith Coalition on Energy, comprised of the city’s Archdiocese, Board of Rabbis and the Metropolitan Christian Council. The organization’s mission is to inspire congregations to reduce the costs of operating their facilities by guiding them to use measurably less energy and to purchase energy at lower cost.

In a 2008 survey by the National Association of Temple Administrators, nearly 95 percent of Reform (Judaism) congregations in North America have investigated or initiated some form of greening their facilities; and of those that have engaged in major construction recently, 64 percent attempted to use sustainable materials.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1997 calling on members to practice energy efficiency in response to climate change concerns. Leaders in the Church established Episcopal Power and Light to combine the purchasing power of churches and their congregations to buy green power. The aim was to unite communities, empower congregations, and build bridges among different religions with the goal of reducing the threat of climate change. The US National Council of Churches, with about 340,000 congregations, and the World Council of Churches are developing similar programs.

These are just a few of the many faith-based organizations leading the drive to reduce congregations’ energy consumption and expenses.

The Calling
Demand for sustainable houses of worship is being driven on multiple fronts. The need for healthier environments, the role that religious institutions should play to lead this charge, and the ever increasing energy prices, coupled with a challenging economy, has grabbed the attention of congregations’ clergy and lay leaders. But certainly not all 350,000 congregations are looking to build new, sustainable facilities; many are in need of smaller-scale ways to reduce energy costs.

Typically, lighting can account for a large portion of a congregation’s electricity cost. This means that significant cost savings can be achieved with energy-efficient improvements, and due to continually improving technology, lighting usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades.[4]

Parking Lot Illumination
One key to making day-to-day operations more energy efficient and more sustainable is through the installation of exterior LED luminaires. Most congregations have parking lots that require illumination and use traditional parking lot lights that consume a staggering 22.2 billion kilowatt-hours per year.[5] Parking lot energy needs could be reduced by more than 40 percent, and maintenance costs could potentially be cut by more than 80 percent with the installation of LED lighting, according to the US Department of Energy.

[1] “Energy Conservation.”
[2] National Council of Churches’ “Bottom Line Ministries that Matter.”
[3] “Congregations: An Overview of Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Opportunities,” Environmental Protection Agency, NationalServiceCenter for Environmental Publications.
[4] Energy Star®: “Putting Energy ito Stewardship, Congregation Guide.” December 2007
[5] Facilities Engineering Journal, March/April 2009 issue, page 34, “Parking Lot Lighting System Saves Energy.”

Categories LED

LED Warranty Protection – Buyers Beware of the Fine Print

What is in a warranty? Most buyers of commercial products expect that the manufacturers will stand by their technology and replace it if there is failure.  For LED lighting, the LED warranties are not a promise to save money through energy reduction. LED warranties are a promise that the lights will perform at levels that buyers expect. The key warranty questions in the growing LED marketplace are what defines LED fixture failure, what triggers a replacement, and how long is the coverage.  Buyers should proactively ask these questions to the manufacturers or the suppliers and ask to review the actual warranty language as part of the assessment process in choosing LED fixtures.

The majority of commercial LED light manufacturers around the world offer 5 Year LED Warranties to meet the minimum requirements of the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) for its Qualified Products List (QPL). The minimum protection along with other criteria serves as the guide for most utility companies to approve rebate eligibility. One of the problems with the DLC warranty criteria is that it only requires the 5 years and does not get into the details of what is covered. This creates a potential false sense of security for buyers. With tens of thousands of applications and listed LED products, DLC does not have the resources to review the qualitative details of the LED warranties. So, buyers need to take the initiative to assess the value of the protection themselves.

The few manufacturers that offer a 10 year LED warranty often have “fine print” with limitations on daily hours of operations, carve-outs outs for lesser protection on the LED drivers, or restrictions on warranty transfer if the original owner sells the building or business. Buyers beware, because many LED warranties also define “failure” with surprisingly high percentages of diodes, and they do not include protections against color shift or total output degradation relative to L70 standards.

Beneficiaries of a Strong LED Warranty:

PROPERTY OWNERS: A 10 Year LED Warranty benefits owners and managers of facilities that have areas with 24 x 7 illumination such as office building emergency stairs, hospitals, hotels, parking garages, fire and rescue centers, dormitories, and any emergency egress lighting for facilities such as schools.

SERVICE and FINANCING PROVIDERS: A 10 Year LED Warranty benefits Energy Service Provider Companies (ESCOs), commercial lighting solutions providers, and companies providing Saving Share or Lighting as a Service (LaaS) programs.

For performance contracts, the service providers are often obligated to keep the lights on. So, a longer warranty and more reliable products help reduce their maintenance and replacement costs. Plus, as financing plans for energy saving lighting become increasingly popular, many lenders are requiring warranties that do not have the “fine print,” giving the manufacturers a way out of replacing failed technology. Naturally, lenders also desire LED warranty coverage to match their financing terms. So, if the terms are extended to roll-in solar or HVAC on a facility, a strong and long LED warranty for the lights is favorable. 

Watch out for the Drivers:

Over the past two years, some LED companies were confident enough in the longevity of their diodes that they started offering 10 year LED warranty coverage on their LED fixtures, given in-field and laboratory testing. However, the warranties sometimes included limits of up to 60,000 hours on the external driver (6.84 years at 24 x 7 operations of 8,760 hours per year).  The drivers were the “Achilles heel” of the systems. Recently, some LED manufacturers have started offering 10 Year LED warranty protection on complete diode and driver systems, in part because external drivers with “potting” help insulate against damaging heat gain.