Categories Lighting

LED Lights Will Help Reduce Blackouts this Summer

Blackouts suck! It is one thing if a storm knocks out power when a tree blows over electricity cables. On the east coast, I have experienced power loss one or more times each winter at our home outside of Philadelphia, but the power is typically restored within a few hours or a day, subject to the level of damage.

Waiting to replace traditional commercial lights with energy-efficient LEDs may now become more of a collective call to action than an individual business decision based on Return on Investment. To date businesses have evaluated the savings opportunities with commercial LED lights relative to their own financial situation. Investing $100,000 may save $33,000 or more each year, which yields a favorable 33 percent or greater ROI and paybacks in three years or less. The disruptive LED technology has not been adopted in America at the levels of other countries in Europe and Asia, in part because our US cost of energy is less expensive than in many other countries.

Now, states like California are literally reaching capacity on their power supply relative to demand. Over the summer, when peak loads are at the highest, given the combination of air conditioning and the lights at homes and offices, the power situation is becoming dire. The summer afternoons create the most risk, because the electricity consumption is high at both homes and offices when some employees head to their residences where they proceed to turn on lights, air conditioning, TVs, etc. This added demand will shut down the grid for more than just the time it takes to chain saw a tree off of an east coast fallen power line. Some insiders predict that blackouts could last for multiple days or longer.

We collectively have an opportunity to accelerate energy intelligence to reduce the risk of blackouts by changing our lights. What is good for the grid is also good for each business and the planet.

With 1.341 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced for every kWh saved, changing the lights to LEDs never looked brighter and more responsible, when it comes to environmental stewardship.

For companies that do not have funds budgeted some LED lighting manufacturers, like Independence LED offer $0 upfront cost financing with cash-flow positive results from the start. The financing programs provide business owners with the opportunity to act now vs wait until the less efficient existing lights go out, or the building goes dark in a black out. Saving 50 percent or more on the energy consumption for each commercial building aggregates into a massive positive impact since over 20 percent of US building energy is typically used in the ceiling for illumination. Buildings overall account for about 40 percent of US energy consumption, so changing the lights makes sense on many levels.

Here is some support information from ABC News on March 19th.

“For the first time since January, rolling blackouts were ordered in California today, turning out the lights in approximately 500,000 homes, including some in Beverly Hills.

Officials at California’s Independent System Operator (ISO), which monitors the state’s power grid, called a Stage Three alert at midday because of increased temperatures, a higher power demand and a lack of electricity from the Northwest.

Further complicating the situation was the closure of two power plants.”

As the general election of the presidential race heats up, we’ll see if either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton address electricity demand and call for Americans to look up at their ceilings and seriously consider changing their lights to LEDs.

Categories Lighting

Standardization and Testing of LED Light Sources for the Sake of Interchangeability

The Zhaga consortium is a global cooperation among lighting companies. Their objective is to develop specifications that can enable interchangeability of LED light sources made by different manufacturers.

Zhaga intends to develop specifications for LED light sources that can be used globally in a wide range of general lighting applications. The consortium has adopted a collaborative standardization approach, and for the past three years it has been holding frequent meetings around the globe to facilitate member participation and rapid development of these specifications.

Each Zhaga specification is called a “Book”. The process of developing a book begins with one or more member companies proposing an LED light source, intended for a specific application or with particular features, that they would like to see standardized for interchangeability. Technical Input from member companies is then collected and merged into a common design proposal for interchangeability. From that point, requirements can begin to be written and prototypes are built as part of the specification development. The process ends with the approval of a new specification by the consortium members and each new specification is assigned a unique “Book” number (e.g. Book 2, Book 3, etc.). This whole process is repeated for each new LED light source that is proposed for interchangeability standardization.

For the purpose of Zhaga, an LED light source is always considered to be the combination of an LED module (or modules) and its associated LED driver (aka electronic control gear) and is referred to as an “LED light engine” (LLE). Depending on whether the LED driver shares a common housing with the module or if the driver is provided in a housing independent from the module, the LLE may be categorized as “Integrated ECG type” or “Separate ECG type” respectively. For this reason, Zhaga Books address the interchangeability of the complete LLE in a luminaire from a system approach.

To date Zhaga has developed seven specifications. LLE configurations include both integrated and separate LED driver designs. Additionally, some of the LLE configurations are intended to be interchangeable without the use of a tool “socketable type” and some are intended be factory installed and serviced by qualified personnel. These LLEs are suitable for a variety of applications including recessed downlight, track light, spotlight and high bay. This is already an impressive collection of Books developed over three years, but considering that LEDs are increasingly being used in new applications, there is room for many more specifications to be created. Companies interested in proposing new LLE types for Zhaga specification should consider joining the consortium and participate in the definition of new books.


Figure 1. Seven Books developed for product certification

Each Zhaga Book defines interface requirements for a different type of LED Light Engine (LLE). The books only define the minimum requirements that are necessary to achieve interchangeability. The specific LED chip or array used inside the light engine is not controlled by Zhaga specifications and can continue to evolve. This approach makes it easy for “Zhaga” LLEs to adopt increasingly better performing LED components while retaining interchangeability; a concept Zhaga refers to as “future-proof”.


Figure 2. Zhaga interfaces

Interchangeability of two different light engines in a luminaire implies that both light engines are compatible with the luminaire and provide comparable user experience. To that end, Zhaga has identified 5 interfaces that are sufficient to specify interchangeability requirements.

The first three interfaces (mechanical, electrical and thermal) are essential to determining an LLE can fit and operate properly in a given luminaire. The other two interfaces (photometric and control) are needed to help the users determine if two LLEs built by different manufacturers can deliver comparable lighting experience. Each interface is characterized by certain parameters that can be verified through testing.

For the most part Zhaga interfaces relate to intuitive and common parameters that are applicable to conventional lighting products. The mechanical interface may specify dimensions or fit codes that can be verified using measuring instruments or gauges. The electrical and control interfaces are characterized by operating voltage, power ratings and dimming technology that can be verified using standard electrical laboratory instruments.

The photometric and thermal interfaces on the other end involve some unique features and require specialized testing (instrumentation, environment and fixtures). This is partly due to the fact that photometric performance of LEDs requires tight thermal controls.


Figure 3. Luminance picture illustrating how a rectangular light emitting surface can be divided into eight segments for analysis.

The photometric interface is typically specified by light intensity (luminous flux) and color (CCT, CRI) parameters as measured under specific thermal operating conditions. Depending on the book, the photometric interface may also involve parameters to help specify luminaire optics that can be used in combination with a light engine. These may include the position, dimension and location of the light emitting surface, or near field luminance properties as measured by a CCD camera.

The thermal interface is based on model which assumes that the bulk (~ 90 percent) of the heat generated by a Zhaga LLE is dissipated across a surface designed to be in contact with an external heatsink. This portion of the total thermal power (Pth) dissipated by the LLE is referred to as thermal power rear (Pth, rear) and is measured using a heat transducer equipment specially designed for this purpose.

Zhaga administers a testing and logo program that allows members to identify and promote products that comply with the specifications. These products are registered in the Zhaga on-line product directory and are eligible to bear the Zhaga logo.

Zhaga will certify products that have been tested by an Authorized Test Lab and have been determined to be compliant with the requirements of related Zhaga Book. Authorized Test labs are testing companies that are members of the Consortium that have met objective criteria to demonstrate they can perform all the tests in a Zhaga book.

UL is among the first test labs to become authorized to perform certification testing for Zhaga books.  UL currently offers global capability, expertise, evaluations and compliance testing services to assist companies interested in developing Zhaga light engines, luminaires and components. Zhaga testing is available separately or as a bundle along with other UL lighting industry services such as Energy Star, Photometric performance testing and/ or Safety Certification (per US, Canada and IEC standards).

Safety is evolving. So is UL. With innovations that have established a benchmark of trust worldwide for more than 118 years, UL looks forward to advancing its ongoing efforts to more safely and efficiently deliver LED interchangeable products to the marketplace. Visit us on the web, www.ul.comzhaga.

Categories Product

Fundamentals of the IoT: What is Driving Next-Generation Products?

The early adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is proof that a completely connected universe will be a reality in the not so distant future. Soon enough, our garage door opener will communicate with the lights inside our homes and our coffee makers will be linked to our iPhone alarms. Everything will be controlled from the devices in our pockets and the wearables on our wrists. 

In general, as consumers, we focus mainly on the end product – the benefits or entertainment it delivers, what is different, how it has improved, or how it makes our lives easier. We rarely stop to think about what is actually enabling these advancements.

A recent Deloitte Global and US Council on Competitiveness study identifies 10 of the most promising innovations and why they are important. Among them are IoT, predictive analytics, smart factories, and high-performance computing. What may surprise most consumers is that advanced materials also ranked high on the list.  The importance of advanced materials is common knowledge among the leading companies that develop and manufacture next generation products.  In fact, advancements in materials technology have been the genesis for all of the computing devices that have become critical to our daily lives.  Developing the next generation of advanced materials starts at the molecular/atomic scale where properties can be amplified and fine-tuned. The most powerful of these advanced materials are referred to as nanomaterials.  These nanomaterials can be used to deliver applications ranging from revolutionary drug delivery to dramatically more efficient lighting to mobile devices that help to manage our world.  The cumulative effect of advanced materials innovation has been to deliver a vast array of transformational products that continue to improve the human experience. 

How are the leading manufacturers across numerous industries leveraging these advanced materials to deliver breakthroughs in medicine, lighting, cars and iPads? How are they constantly improving on these innovations? And how do they fit into the IoT landscape?

Simply answered, they partner with the leading companies that are delivering the biggest advancements in nanomaterial technology, making the largest investments in materials R&D, and finding ways to deliver solutions at commercial scale.  The leading electronics manufacturers (Apple, LG, Samsung, etc.) are fiercely competing to deliver faster processors, brighter lights, thinner devices and more flexible screens that their customers are continually demanding.  Advanced materials manufacturers enable these companies to create revolutionary products at an ever-accelerating pace, while at the same time reducing costs, time to market, and their environmental footprint.

What makes one type of material better than the other? It’s all about the process.  Advanced materials manufacturers need to perfect their processes in order to provide the control and flexibility demanded by their customers. In applications such as lighting, for instance, they need products that deliver more light output, with near perfect transparency, that have a long life time. Our company, Pixelligent, has found a way to create such an environment through delivering next generation, nanotechnology-based solutions at commercial pricing and scale. Our “secret sauce” – the PixClearProcess – ensures that consumer products that incorporate our technology are higher quality and more efficient. What was once a distant nanotechnology future is now a reality: a set of highly valuable advanced materials that can be delivered in meaningful volumes with the right value proposition to the commercial marketplace.

Almost every chemical and manufacturing company you can name is using advanced materials to drive their products forward and offer more innovative options to their customers. Today, three of the five largest global chemical companies are working with Pixelligent, and several of the top 50 advanced materials companies are our customers.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, which takes a deeper look at how advanced materials and nanotechnology is driving innovation and efficiency in the lighting industry.

Categories Lighting

High Marks for High School Lighting

With over 350 schools, covering more than 24 million square feet, the Clark County School District (CCSD) is the fifth largest and fastest growing school district in the US. CCSD’s Facilities Division is one of the most comprehensive, sophisticated, and sustainable design-oriented districts in the country. They are in the process of designing and building over 100 new schools to meet the tremendous growth of the greater Las Vegas metro area. All of the new schools will be LEED Gold Certified.

Ed W. Clark High School – Las Vegas, NV
In addition to this new construction, the district is implementing extensive renovation and modernization at existing facilities such as Ed W. Clark High School. Built in 1964, the high school serves grades 9-12 and approximately 2,070 students. Steve Johnston, CCSD design manager for the Clark High School modernization project, is overseeing the ongoing $30 million renovation that includes HVAC and plumbing upgrades, improvements to the locker rooms, food service kitchen, science labs, the fire/sprinkler system, and technology advances such as LAN and classroom projector installations, as well as daylighting in the student activity center. Additionally, because of a federal grant, Johnston looked to upgrade the inadequate and outdated exterior lighting system.

Working with Johnston on this renovation was Jeff Iverson from TJK Consulting Engineers. Wanting to reduce energy consumption and costs Johnston and Iverson looked into LED luminaires and did a comparison with other lighting technology – there’s no comparison regarding the efficiency or quality of illumination. Previously, the school had 91, 70-watt high intensity discharge fixtures installed around the school in overhangs and doorways. In a one-for-one replacement, the school now has 91, 23.1-watt LED canopy and wall-mounted exterior luminaires, almost a full replacement of exterior luminaires on the school grounds. This LED installation is reducing the school district’s energy consumption by 75-percent over the incumbent fixtures.

“We sought to install a one-for-one replacement that would increase visibility and outlast the old HID lighting that was costly to maintain. We’re expecting to save a lot of time and expense in maintenance,” said Johnston.

Providing a safely illuminated campus during evening hours was also an important reason for selecting new lighting. Johnston and his colleagues are very pleased with the vastly improved lighting quality and uniform lighting performance from the LED luminaires.

Reduced luminaire maintenance is a benefit welcomed by Jack Viscosi, Clark County School District electrical/mechanical repair coordinator, who’s responsible for the electrical maintenance at Clark High School. LED luminaires are designed to provide a virtually maintenance-free operation for more than 15 years in the harshest outdoor environments while HID last only two to three years.

This is the school district’s first LED luminaire installation but it won’t be the last. A commitment to reducing energy consumption and environmental stewardship will help facilitate additional sustainable projects as funds become available.

The $30 million renovation is funded largely through a 1998 voter approved bond fund, and federal grants specifically for the lighting upgrade as well as a solar thermal grant for the installation of an adsorption chiller in the central plant that controls the school’s cooling.

According to the US Department of Energy, energy-efficient renovations—replacement of inefficient boilers, lighting, and other systems—could reduce school energy costs by 30 percent. This is money that could be spent on hiring new teachers and purchasing textbooks, computers, and other instructional materials.