Efficiency at the Speed of Light

By Debbie McClung | Jul 15, 2006
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Manufacturers and the federal government have created and refined an energy conservation mindset that is changing the landscape of lighting efficiency and accelerating the concept-to-market cycle. Experts with several of the industry’s leading lighting manufacturers say the potential exists to substantially reduce energy consumption further in residential and commercial lighting applications through their development of higher-efficiency light sources.

“Energy efficiency has been a key lighting technology for decades. Today’s materials, coatings and electronic components are fueling more innovations that can provide high-quality lighting at even lower watts-per-square-foot,” said Mary Beth Gotti, director, GE Lighting Institute. “More efficient and longer-life fluorescent and metal halide systems that are integrated with advanced controls strategies and white LEDs will most likely lead lighting efficiency gains.”

While natural gas and petroleum supplies—especially in regard to prices at the pump—continue to make headlines, less focus has been placed on the innovative products designed to significantly decrease consumption of electricity for lighting.

Part of the lack of mainstream attention is the result of geopolitical forces. The supply of electrical energy for lighting may not be the same high-profile quagmire as our oil supply, but its importance is still undeniable. The Lighting Research Center estimates that total electrical energy used for lighting in the United States is now equal to the output of about 100 large power plants, and the cost is approximately $55 billion a year.

The commercial sector uses almost 3.5 times as much electric power for lighting as the residential sector. Electric-powered lighting in commercial buildings accounts for 15 percent of the total energy used in this country and more than 25 percent of the electricity consumed in buildings. While the residential sector pulls less energy from the grid, the dominant source of electric-powered lighting used in the home is the highly inefficient incandescent lamp.

This consumption scenario has led the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish the goal of cutting the amount of energy used for electric-powered lighting in half by 2010. One major step in that direction is the upcoming expansion of Daylight Saving Time for the first time since 1986.

The result of a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), starting in 2007, clocks will move forward the second Sunday in March and turn backward the first Sunday in November. Since nearly 25 percent of the home electricity usage comes from lighting and electronics, the extra hour of daylight will be significant to energy conservation. It is estimated that the country’s electricity usage will be cut by roughly 1 percent each day of those four additional weeks—equivalent to $180 million.

Technologies and mandates drive market

Product developments that form the foundation of lighting energy conservation are paving the way for future efficiencies. Manufacturers unanimously agree the biggest technological breakthrough for lighting energy efficiency in the past five years has been the evolution of lamp-ballast combinations that now meet a broad range of commercial and residential needs.

“The development and acceptance of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) with electronic ballasts as a replacement for incandescent lighting has had the greatest impact on lighting energy efficiency,” said George Mabin, marketing director of lamps, Westinghouse Lighting Corp.

A primary driver of these product developments is consumer knowledge of incentive programs that reward them for incorporating cost-cutting technologies into their businesses and homes.

“A combination of factors drives consumer awareness including utility rebates, growing availability and awareness of Energy Star products, energy savings based on new and improved lighting technology, and, in general, the greater consumer awareness of perceived savings over time,” said Tony Petuzzi, light fixtures product manager at Westinghouse.

“Improvements to compact fluorescents color temperature and color rendering has made the light source more attractive for residential use and can save up to four times more energy than incandescent light sources,” said Melissa Hertel, specification marketing manger at Lightolier. “As Energy Star lighting products become more prevalent and the general public begins to accept CFLs more readily, we will see a significant reduction in residential energy consumption.

According to Ken Walma, product manager of Lutron’s EcoSystem Solutions, rising commodity and energy costs are opening up the eyes of an institutional constituency.

“K–12 administrators have recently become aware that, on average, they spend more on electrical energy than books, computers and supplies combined. Lighting has been the least advanced of the building systems,” Walma said.

Another awareness factor contributing to enhanced product development is the increasing number of state and federal mandates stemming from legislation such as the EPAct 2005 and the Title 24 energy code. Customers are looking for products to help them achieve more stringent energy codes adopted in most municipalities.

Barbara Wright, Westinghouse ceiling fan product manager, agrees, adding, “New federal laws mandate that screw-based sockets must use light bulbs that meet Energy Star requirements for CFLs version 3.0 in lumens per watt, and pin-based sockets must use light bulbs that meet Energy Star 4.0 guidelines.”

The greatest change the teams at Leviton Lighting Management Systems have seen, however, is the broader adoption of controls.

“ASHRAE 90.1 and stricter state energy codes reinforce the necessity of coupling efficient lighting with efficient control. Where lighting control systems were once an owner preference, now they are a requirement in these same commercial projects,” said Leviton’s Thomas Leonard, director of marketing and product management, LMS division.

Gotti suggested a different perspective of energy efficiency as an important differentiator between lighting products.

“This is one performance metric that allows manufacturers to dollarize the features and benefits of products. So, in this context, energy-efficiency requirements are self-imposed,” she said.

Demand compresses timetables

Manufacturers pinpoint a number of product developments as generating significant energy savings on a national basis in residential and commercial applications.

According to Hertel, high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting technology—especially ceramic metal halide—has contributed substantial improvements in the reduction of color shift and improved color rendering.

“Also, the development of T4 and T6 lamps has allowed the fixture manufacturers to create smaller fixture envelopes that address current architectural trends and lend themselves to be used in more applications,” said Hertel.

Commercial applications are benefiting from significantly improved energy efficiency as well as lighting quality.

“These include not only replacing incandescent light sources with CFLs, but also replacing HID fixtures with T5 fluorescent high bays,” said Mabin.

Further gains in fluorescent light sources, in both efficiency and flexibility, and the white LEDs reaching required lumens/watt, will have significant impacts on the displacement of traditional incandescent sources.

“While occupancy sensors and control systems are providing reduced energy consumption in the space where they are mandated, these same controls will yield 25 to 40 percent lighting energy savings in the millions of existing commercial spaces with no controls of any kind. This is a huge source of conservation energy,” said Leonard.

Daylighting systems that contain dimming controls to vary light output and switching controls that provide light as needed are becoming a design requirement for federal and commercial office space. A recent DOE-sponsored study of approximately 20 climate-responsive new buildings showed that daylighting reduced lighting energy usage by 55 percent.

“General design trends to utilize more daylight versus electric light in commercial building design, as well as providing the option of choosing something other than zero or 100 percent light will have the greatest impact—the world between off and on,” said Walma.

Product development timetables to bring these energy-efficient technologies to market are rapidly condensing the consumer return-on-investment (ROI).

“The timetable for technology is definitely shrinking, making speed to market a priority. An energy ROI should be one year or less,” said Mabin.

“Mature technologies have leveled out and produce fewer new product breakthroughs. The newer technologies have very compact development timetables,” said Hertel.

The Leviton objective is to make lighting solutions the most intuitive, practical method on the market, at a cost that supports a rapid return on equipment investment, said Leonard.

“Our goal is to deliver high-performance, individual-controlled, lighting-management systems that will achieve aggressive energy savings with paybacks in the 24 to 36 months range to yield favorable return-on-investment models,” he said. “In general, we see energy-efficient lighting becoming the way of life. Market forces will continue to make energy costs greater for everyone, from homeowners to commercial facility managers. Lighting, and the systems to control it, will increase in demand with the steady rise in energy costs.” EC

MCCLUNG, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].



About The Author

Debbie McClung, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa.





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