According to the Energy Star program, lighting accounts for nearly 20 percent of the average U.S. home’s electricity use and close to 35 percent of the total commercial building electricity use. In addition, lighting use affects other building systems through its electrical requirements and the waste heat it produces. As electricity becomes more expensive and the grid becomes less reliable, federal, state and local mandates for energy efficiency are becoming more prevalent, pushing the development of new technologies and creating market opportunities for electrical contractors.

Lighting innovations
In July 2012, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulations changed the way users illuminate office buildings, warehouses, retail centers and other businesses by eliminating some linear fluorescent and halogen parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR) technologies in lieu of lamps that produce more lumens per watt and offer greater energy savings while maintaining or improving light output. Alternative energy-efficient technologies, however, are already available, including more efficient T8 lamps using electronic ballasts, halogen-infrared PAR lamps, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

According to Jim Benson, general manager of global marketing for GE Consumer & Industrial, Cleveland, recent trends include the replacement of 100-watt incandescent lamps with true omnidirectional LEDs, improved optics that remove the dots or glare found in early LEDs in general illumination applications, more Energy Star certification for LED lamps, an increasing number of LED modules in the market that comply with Zhaga standards (which enable interchangeability of LED light sources made by different manufacturers), and improved LED drivers with reliability that matches the life span of the LED.

“Energy Star certification around LED lamps will really help boost market acceptance and help spur rebates from utilities that were initially hesitant because of performance concerns,” Benson said.

Initial cost is still a factor, however, for this relatively new technology, said Roland Risser, Building Technologies Program manager at the DOE. However, the cost of LED lighting products has been dropping steadily due to improvements in product design and manufacturing methods.

“Although LED performance has been steadily improving, it still varies widely from product to product across many parameters,” Benson said.

Intelligent ballasts and drivers are an integral extension of energy efficiency. They allow for light control and enable daylight harvesting, scheduled lighting and load shedding.

“Large jobs today that are seeking LEED certification are choosing high- efficiency, controllable ballasts more than ever before,” Benson said.

Electrical contractors who install energy-efficient, dimmable, non-LED lighting need to ensure that specified products comply with National Electrical Manufacturers Association LL-9 standards for reliability, he said.

Wireless controls have become more prevalent, according to Hagen Denton, business manger, energy division, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, Pa.

“Wireless’ popularity is being driven by the lack of new construction and the migration to the retrofit market,” he said.

The market now stresses interoperability between a building management system or energy management system and lighting controls. Interoperability involves centralized control of various building functions, including lighting, and enables facility managers to use the data from the lighting control components, such as occupancy sensors, to help improve heating, ventilating and air conditioning and overall building efficiencies. Increased scalability of lighting control systems is another market force, Denton said.

“Facilities want to make sure that the lighting control system can grow over a period of time within budget constraints while still meeting energy efficiency and control objectives and goals,” he said.

Promoting technologies
“Contractors can help promote energy-efficient lighting technologies by becoming more educated about new lighting solutions and energy efficiency,” Benson said.

The goal is to become a complete solutions provider and trusted adviser.  It’s important to help the customer navigate technology, especially during the current lighting revolution of full system efficiency, rapid LED adoption, hyper competition, performance standards and regulatory pressures. More salesmanship is needed, which can be a hurdle for some.

“Contractors need to consider hiring sales personnel with a background and focus on energy efficiency to promote the technology and the contractor’s expertise in providing appropriate solutions,” Benson said.

Even with that challenge, lighting control is an opportunity for contractors to incorporate advanced technology and use their knowledge to stand out from the competition. As the energy-efficient lighting and controls market develops, contractors will use more LED technology and will be more involved in integrating lighting systems with building management and energy management systems.

“From form factors with more precise optic control to color temperatures that the user can change with the seasons, lighting and control technology will become increasingly flexible and creative,” Benson said.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.