Spiraling energy costs served as a catalyst for manufacturers to develop new commercial lighting products. Digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are two innovations in the indoor commercial market.

The new control language, DALI, was developed by a group of global manufacturers as a uniform interface offering complete lighting control. The digital protocol allows simplified control wiring that provides greater flexibility than zero to 10V analog systems. It also offers two-way communication for monitoring lighting systems with direct input from ballasts and lamps.

Although universally recognized and prevalent in Europe, DALI has yet to capture the U.S. market. Osram Sylvania plans to change that. It introduced Quicktronic DALI dimming ballasts that provide from 100 down to 1 percent dimming range control at “Lightfair 2001” in Las Vegas.

Quicktronic DALI ballasts are designed for daylight harvesting, energy management and classical architectural dimming. “As energy costs continue to rise, intelligent use of available sunlight and increased monitoring of lighting system usage will be critical,” said Dave Reid, product group marketing manager, Osram Sylvania.

LEDs are used in a wide range of applications as innovative alternatives to conventional lamps. LEDs are essentially semiconductor materials that convert electrical energy directly into light.

Besides using a fraction of the power required for filament bulbs, LEDs have a longer life. With no filament to burn out, LEDs can last up to 100,000 hours—as long as 10 years. This substantially reduces downtime and relamping labor costs, especially in high or hard-to-reach locations.

LEDs’ tiny size makes them more versatile, which translates to new creative flair and dimension for lighting professionals, architects and interior designers.

Commercial interior applications include retail, restaurants, bars, discos, marker lights in airplanes and theaters, plus decorative lighting in office buildings and safe lights in darkrooms. Outdoor applications include traffic lights, walkways, signs, landscaping, architectural effect lighting, plus emergency call boxes in parks, university or hospital campuses or other remote and unprotected areas. LEDs are also making a major impact in automobiles.

LEDs are shock resistant. They withstand vibrations, frequent switching and temperature extremes that can wreak havoc on incandescent lamps.

Manufacturers are on the leading edge of LED product development. Advance Lighting launched Xitamium electronic drivers that automatically sense the output current to LEDs and keep it at a constant level over an input voltage from 108V to 132V. The current-control feature allows manufacturers to produce efficient LED systems by eliminating the need for power-consuming current limiters such as resistors or transistors inside the LED lamp. This reduces total power by 40 percent.

Xitamium drivers’ light weight and small dimensions make them a match for integrated lighting solutions. Designers like the low-profile modular units’ flexibility.

“The Xitamium electronic drivers ensure the LED is operating at the right level to avoid overheating, or overdriving which would shorten the life,” said Bill Ryan, LED group product manager, Philips Lighting.

Because LEDs operate with safe, low current and voltages, they work well in commercial buildings. “Many of the UL requirements now in place for 120 volts will not be needed for LEDs,” Ryan said. “The safety factor for LEDs is significant.”

LEDs come in a palette of colors: red, blue, green, orange and amber. Today’s white LEDs are suitable for applications such as stair lights or pathway marker lights. However, white LEDs are not used where good color rendition is vital because they make human flesh look dead—what Ryan calls “mortuary white.”

“As time passes, white LED color rendition will become much more acceptable, similar to what we have in commercial office buildings today,” Ryan said. “That will be a breaking point, an evolution in lighting that will change how we light things in a big way. In the next three to five years, white LEDs will become available in an acceptable light color and output level. This will herald a new age in lighting.”

Makarand “Chips” Chipalkatti, Ph.D., technical product marketing manager for LED products at Osram Sylvania, agreed. “The popularity of LEDs will grow rapidly as scientists make them brighter, while emitting a consistent white light. While they still have limitations, LEDs are the latest trend because of their tremendous flexibility and innovative solutions potential.”

Every day, LEDs replace more incandescent lamps. Lumileds Lighting recently introduced the Luxeon Power Light Source family. Luxeon provides a cool light beam that is safe to the touch and contains no mercury, thereby eliminating waste and disposal problems.

“Luxeon’s proprietary technology delivers 10 to 20 times more light than conventional LEDs,” said Doug Silkwood, vice president of marketing, Lumileds Lighting. “Luxeon devices emit up to 324 lumens of white light, as much as 792 lumens of red lights, and comparable brightness in other colors, depending on configuration.”

Ledtronics Inc., and Color Kinetics also market LED products. The attitude of manufacturers seems to be, “If you don’t see what you need, ask for it and we’ll make it for you.” EC

WOODS is a freelance writer based in the Phoenix area. She can be reached at mktcom@juno.com.