Categories Energy

LED Luminaires Help End-Users Meet Federal and State Energy Mandates

Federal and state energy reduction mandates and building codes are helping drive the adoption of LED luminaires.  But, as is so often the case with the government, there are numerous acts passed by Congress with very detailed language. So, I thought I’d explore the federal mandates, a few of the state mandates, and how they may affect those involved with LED luminaires – manufacturers, lighting designers and specifiers.

Because building lighting is commonly considered one of the easiest energy uses in which to find energy savings, it is often targeted in building energy codes and standards when energy reductions are sought. Therefore, it is important for lighting energy code developers and the lighting design community to coordinate efforts to ensure that lighting energy codes continue to be energy effective without inhibiting quality lighting design and implementation.[1]

Federal Mandates
Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005), which addressed many energy management requirements, including energy use measurement and accountability. It also mandated that new federal buildings must achieve savings of at least 30 percent below ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004, or the 2004 IECC if cost-effective.

Two years later, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007). One key mandate of this act is Section 433, which includes the Building Energy Efficiency Performance Standards requiring steep reductions in fossil fuel energy relative to usage in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. Additionally, EISA 2207 mandates that government buildings slash energy consumption 30 percent by 2015.

Then in 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that requires federal agencies to set 2020 emission reduction targets and numerous other efficiency improvements. A15-page executive order, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,” goes into great detail on how each target and improvement is to be reached.

State Mandates
The requirement for states to adopt and enforce a building energy code is a direct result of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA) as amended by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). All states have energy mandates and building codes, however, I’ve highlighted just a few below.

North Carolina
Switching to LED lighting will help the state meet the requirements of the 2007 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) mandate. This state legislation mandates that 10 percent of the energy that electric cooperatives sell be created through renewable energy resources or energy efficiency measures by 2018.

Environmental policies in Illinois have pushed the state to be one of the best ranked in the nation for green initiatives. However, the state still has some work to do in terms of really being green. The state ranked sixth in the nation for consumption of electricity in 2010, according to the DOE.

One program that is helping Illinois change this in order to meet the state’s energy mandates is the Illinois Energy Now program, run by the State Energy Office of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. It offers incentives for lighting upgrades to local, state and federal government facilities, public schools, community colleges, public colleges and universities that can help the facilities decrease energy costs. These public facilities are eligible for financial incentives that can help them upgrade to more energy-efficient lighting in response to a phase out of certain types of commercial fluorescent lamps that began in 2012.

The California Energy Commission recently updated its Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards, improving by 30 percent what “up to code” means for commercial buildings. The new standards, which take effect January 1, 2014, introduce requirements for photosensors, occupancy sensors and multi-level lighting controls, both indoors and out, making adaptive lighting the new standard in California.

Adaptive lighting, lighting that automatically dims or shuts off when it’s not needed, represents one of the largest near-term opportunities for energy savings, and its inclusion in the state’s building code marks vital progress. The California Energy Commission projects the non-residential standards alone will save the state 372 GWh every year. Hopefully, they will also pave the way for other states pursuing climate goals.

The California Public Utilities Commission has also called for a 60 percent to 80 percent statewide reduction in electrical lighting consumption by 2020, in its Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. This is on top of the goal to make all new residential construction net-zero by 2020, and commercial construction net-zero by 2030. Since lighting currently accounts for nearly 30 percent of California’s electricity use, the extensive use of lighting controls is absolutely essential to meeting these net-zero goals.

Many items in Congressional legislation direct the DOE to develop formal rules to implement mandates in legislation and to accelerate SSL technology. Because of this, the DOE has invested in the research and development of SSL, including LEDs, with industry partners.

Technology Adoption
New energy codes prompt the demand for greater energy efficiency lighting. In an article I read a few years ago, “Code of Conductivity, increasingly stringent energy codes call for higher-efficiency lighting fixtures,” Melanie Taylor, a lighting designer and senior associate with WSP Flack + Kurtz, a New York City–based engineering firm, commented that, “Manufacturers are making these fixtures available primarily because of energy codes. They’ve responded to the demand that energy codes have created.”

Engineering luminaires that meet the updated codes and mandates can only help building owners, lighting designers and specifiers. This, in turn, creates more demand for energy efficient LED luminaires.

Categories Energy

The March 15th Presidential Primaries Can Add Fire Power to the War on Energy Waste

The remaining presidential candidates have an opportunity to distinguish themselves in the upcoming primary by adding a key level of detail to how they would reduce government waste, help our Veterans, create jobs, reduce CO2 emissions, and also fund the fight against ISIS. Changing the lights never looked so bright!

The LED Advantages: 

  • Over 500,000 NEW JOBS
  • A Quarter Trillion in Cost SAVINGS
  • 3 Trillion lbs of CO2 Emissions Reduction

The remaining Republicans (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio) and the remaining Democrats (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) have all talked in different ways about health care, job creation, and combating terrorism. A War on Energy Waste starting in government buildings will help fund each initiative and also build a long term foundation for strength and American Energy Independence.

The delegates that are at stake on March 15th are significant, and the stats collectively have a vast number of military and government buildings that could all benefit from reduced energy costs. The state to delegate counts is as follows:

  • Florida primary – 246 Democratic delegates, 99 Republican
  • Illinois primary – 182 Democratic delegates, 69 Republican
  • Missouri primary – 84 Democratic delegates, 52 Republican
  • North Carolina primary – 121 Democratic delegates, 72 Republican
  • Northern Mariana Islands Republican caucus primary – 9 delegates
  • Ohio primary – 159 Democratic delegates, 66 Republican

March 15th is particularly key for those in the “Republican Establishment” that want to block Donald Trump from winning the nomination. If Senator Rubio wins his home state of Florida or if Governor Kasich wins his home state of Ohio, the path for Donald Trump involves more mathematical hurdles than if he wins one or both of the “winner-take-all” delegate states.

Here is why a fresh message with actionable intelligence can help candidates from either side of the aisle. America has fatigue from the extraordinary costs of the War on Terrorism, War on Poverty, and War on Drugs. In each case, the high cost of time, treasure, and human life has delivered results that are far lower than expectations. A War on Energy Waste is WINNABLE given the high Return on Investment (ROI) from technology such as LED lighting that is available today.

The order of magnitude is tremendous based on data from the General Services Administration (GSA) and LED performance metrics. The military and VA occupy more than 2.2 billion sq. ft. of buildings which is two thirds of the total 3.4 billion sq. ft. of federal government property. At $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit with LEDs, the annual energy savings is typically $.33 per sq. ft. or higher. The government could save more than a billion dollars every year just by changing the lights and save more than 10 billion over the decade long life of the LED technology.

The billions in energy savings from a War on Energy Waste can serve many much needed purposes:

  1. Staffing nurses and support at the Veterans Medical Centers and Clinics
  2. Job training for Veterans in need of employment
  3. Fighting ISIS and other terror organizations

By launching a War on Energy Waste, the government can go beyond job training to also create opportunities for Veterans to work on many aspects of lighting retrofits. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) there are more than 87 billion sq. ft. of commercial real estate in the US. With $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit and one new job created for every $150,000 in lighting retrofits, the employment ripple effect is over 580,000 new jobs. The employment includes counting lights to prepare savings analysis, utility rebate administration, installation, project management, engineering, and product production. Many of the jobs involve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) so the clean-tech work is foundational for 21st century careers. The national energy savings will exceed $287 billion over the next decade and yield over 3.4 trillion lbs of CO2 emissions reduction, the equivalent of taking about 30 million cars off the road.

As the CEO of Independence LED Lighting, I brought our LED manufacturing from China to Pennsylvania in 2010. We are one of multiple companies that have just scratched the massive potential of energy savings and job creation. Beyond our Fortune 100 and small business accounts, we have seeded the public sector with installations at the VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, the US Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and over 30 US Navy ships for Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Categories Energy

New 2016 Energy Code Impact on Commercial LED Retrofits

Before changing any of their lights to energy saving LED technology, commercial building owners and tenants need to fully understand the new 2016 regulatory impact of mandatory lighting efficiency upgrades in 41 states and Washington, D.C.

The regulations were set in motion back in March of 2015, but the cost burdens will start to sting in 2016. The new commercial building energy codes are equal to or better than ASHRAE 90.1 2004 (BCAP 2015a) –  American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. These codes require changing lights, in part because commercial illumination is over 20 percent of any given building’s electricity costs and it is the “low hanging fruit” of energy reduction.  Reducing waste in lighting through Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology is more economically viable than creating renewable power through Solar or Wind production.

Who Dodges the Lighting Change Bullet?
The codes impact the majority of the US. Over the past decade, only 11 states have lagged behind the rest regarding statewide energy codes. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Maine were still using 2006 IECC codes when the other states adopted 2009 and 2012 standards – International Energy Conservation Code.

What do I have to do if I am a commercial tenant, or if I own a building?
If you improve a space that requires changing 10 percent or more of the light fixtures then you may need to change ALL of the fixtures within the space to meet the new standards. Most importantly, the ubiquitous 3-lamp fluorescent tube fixtures with T8 tubes are no longer acceptable. You have to use more energy efficient fixtures to meet the new watts-per-square-foot requirements. Your options include LED tubes and fixtures, T5 fluorescent and potentially T8F25 with Energy Star ballasts fixtures. Since LED tubes have increased dramatically in efficiency over the past five years and come down in cost, the change is less painful than it would have been previously. Except for spaces with only one fixture, multi-level switching and occupancy sensors are now required in all areas.  You also need to have the occupancy sensors that can be set in vacancy mode. All spaces within 15 feet of windows must be equipped with daylight sensors with dimming or multi-level controls.

The $0 Cost Solution:
You don’t have to buy new lights. Many financing options are available, and some LED manufacturers and solutions providers will “lend” you the lights and structure a Lighting Service Contract. This Lighting as a Service (LaaS) kills two birds with one stone. You can meet the new code requirements and you reduce your monthly operating expenses, all without spending a dime.

Top Tip on Energy Code Impact:
Work with a commercial LED lighting solutions company that knows the new codes in your market or knows enough to ask the questions that will prevent any buyer’s remorse.  This will help you avoid spending money twice or opening a can of worms that you regret.

Categories Energy

Update on the New Energy Star Lamp Standard Process

Just prior to the start of Lightfair, the EPA released Draft 4 of the Energy Star Product Specification for Lamps. The intent of this effort is to harmonize and update the CFL and LED lamp standards into a unified specification for omnidirectional, decorative, and directional replacement bulbs such as A, G, PAR and MR styles for example.  This effort has been going through the stakeholder review process since October 2011 and seems to be approaching completion.  Once approved, there will be a one year transition process to phase in and replace the existing Integral LED Lamp (V1.4) requirements.

Since requirements seem to be finalizing, now seemed like an appropriate time to highlight some of the requirements specifically related to LED bulbs that are changing, discuss new requirements that are being added as well as indicate some of the items that are being carried forward from the existing Integral LED Lamp eligibility requirements.  Moreover some requirements are being relaxed or expanded in scope.  Since the standard is still in a draft state, these items are still subject to changes based on stakeholder feedback.  A webinar going over the changes will occur on May 13th with final stakeholder comments due by May 17th.


The table above while far from exhaustive, does highlight some of the critical parameters. Not surprising based on the rapid improvement of LED lamps is that the minimum efficicacy requirements have inched up. One of the items that has harmonized with the CFL requirements is the addition of a wider gamut of CCT (Correlated Color Temperature) options so now “cooler” 5,000 K and 6,500 K have been added, but all LED lamps must still have a minimum CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 80 with a R9>0.  Interestingly only a 7 step MacAdam ellipse is required, which is still considered a wide window compared to existing incandescent and halogen bulbs.

One surprise for some LED bulb manufacturers is that the option to submit non-standard bulb shapes has been eliminated.  This reflects in some way the fact that LEDs, optics, thermal management and drivers are capable of achieving the minimum lifetime requirements without the need for extra space for larger heatsinks or room within the bulb for drive electronics that was an early limitation of some lamps.  Unfortunately this decision also eliminates line powered MR16 type lamps with a GU10 base since that is currently not in the existing ANSI standard.

One area where the requirements have been enhanced is the area of dimming performance.  While there is no requirement that LED bulbs be dimmable within the specification, for those bulbs that want to claim to be “dimmable”, there are some tangible requirements that must be meet.  First they must be tested with at least 10 dimmers from at least two different suppliers.  At the minimum dimmer position, at least 80 percent of the lamps tested must have a light output of < 20 percent.  Moreover at the maximum position the stated light output must be at least 80 percent of the stated lumen requirement for the bulb when directly powered from the line.  Make no mistake, these dimming requirements in no way imply comparable performance to incandescent or halogen light sources, nevertheless for the first time, there are established some rudimentary boundaries conditions.  While this is a far cry from requiring manufacturers to design their LED lamps to comply with recommended NEMA SSL-6 dimming curve it is a step in the right direction and reflects in may ways the challenges associated with making LED bulbs backwardly compatible to all the phase cut dimmers that have been installed across the North America over the last few decades.

One area that has been added to the specification is a new flicker requirement based on a concept called the flicker index.  As anyone involved in the lighting industry knows, all lamps powered directly from the AC line including incandescent, fluorescent as well as LEDs have frequency dependent luminous flux variation and depending on the magnitude and frequency may have physiological impact to individuals who may be particularity sensitive so this is not a new phenomena. While there are complex analytical tools to quantify optical flicker, it is also possible to see it with graphical tools such as this tool below provided by Lumenique.


Flicker Indicator Machine (Image Courtesy of Kevin L. Willmorth, Lumenique)

In the case of integral LED lamps, the main contributor to optical flicker is the design of the LED driver and since there are numerous driver configurations with various design, performance and cost tradeoffs,  this topic  can be quite complex and will be covered in a future article.  In the mean while to get additional information on the topic of Flicker, the Department of Energy recently published a technology fact sheet on the subject that is very informative.

Categories Energy

How Recycled Energy Waste from LEDS can Make Horticulture More Efficient

One of the often-cited advantages of LEDs over tungsten filament and fluorescent lights is their high efficiency. A good quality white LED can convert around 40 percent of the electrical energy to light. While this sounds impressive when compared to other light sources it still means 60 percent of the electricity is wasted as heat. Of LEDs that work in the visible spectrum green devices are the least efficient, maxing out at around 20 percent, while UVC LEDs struggle to achieve double figures.

The heat produced by LEDs has to be removed by conduction. Failure to do so gives rise to problems with the quality of light produced and operational lifespan. The conventional solution is to mount the LEDs on a metal PCB and use a suitably large heat sink to dump the heat to the atmosphere.

Greener LEDs, Greener Flora
A new and rapidly increasing opportunity for LED lighting is in horticulture. While we all know that plants need light to grow (with the possible exception of mushrooms), scientists are just beginning to understand how to tune the light spectrum through a plant’s lifecycle to alter factors such as growth rate, crop yield, color and even taste. Some scientists have even predicted LED lights used in this manner will trigger a revolution in horticulture. Perversely, one of the few wavelengths plants do not respond strongly to is green, so the poorer efficiency of 560 nm LEDs is not an issue in this application.

Installing banks of LEDs in greenhouses and sheds might seem like a good idea until the electricity bill for the first month arrives. High brightness, tunable spectrum LED lights are expensive to run, particularly when lit 24×7. But light is not the only energy requirement. Many plants grow better when cosseted and in particular when the roots are kept warm. So not only does the plant growing space need to be expensively lit, it needs to be expensively heated as well.

Electricity-to-Lumens Conversion Does Not Mean Efficiency
When talking about LED efficiency lighting engineers always talk about conversion of electricity to lumens — with good reason because lights need to produce light! However, when you look at system efficiency, LED lights are 95+ percent efficient if you define the outputs as light and heat. Therein lies a stroke of genius. LED lights need to be cooled and the plants under the lights need their roots to be warmed, so why not use water to cool the LEDs and pump the warm water through pipes in the soil?

This approach has multiple advantages. Water is a much better cooling agent than air so manufacturers can make LED lights smaller, lighter, cheaper and more intense. The bits of the plant that need to be snuggly and warm are provided for and the requirements for insulating and air conditioning the growing space are greatly diminished. In one stroke, the system efficiency has leapt from unacceptable to brilliant. All the waste heat from the LEDs is recycled in the factory, rendering it eminently green.

With any new technology, the early adopters tend to be high-value products where the risk can be offset by the potential financial reward. Therefore, it’s likely to be a few years before you can buy a supermarket lettuce grown under LED lights. However, should you be partial to the occasional leaf of hippie lettuce, purely for medicinal purposes and only legal in certain jurisdictions, then the product will quite possibly have been grown under LED lights. Cool huh?