Artist James Turrell once said, “Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.”
While Turrell might not have had LED lighting in mind as he penned those words, the Roswell Museum and Art Center is now using LED lighting to better reveal its priceless collection of Southwest art and artifacts. It’s saving money, too.
A recently completed retrofit made possible through an Xcel Energy efficiency program has enhanced the quality of light illuminating the museum’s collection. And because LED bulbs use 70% to 90% less energy and last at least 15 times longer than traditional lighting, the Roswell Museum can save up to $14,000 a year on lighting costs.
Mike McLeod, Xcel regional manager for community and economic development in Roswell, said LED lighting technology has advanced to the point where it is the best choice in almost any application, but is especially beneficial in art galleries and museums.
“LEDs don’t produce ultraviolet light, which can be harmful to paintings and fragile historical artifacts,” McLeod said. “And they provide instant light at full brightness while emitting a more directed light using less energy. These benefits are even more apparent in a museum setting because our eyes take in a large amount of visual information at once, and LEDs provide superior clarity.”
Through Xcel Energy’s lighting program, facilities such as the Roswell Museum can qualify for rebates to offset the cost of retrofitting with LED lighting. Xcel Energy uses approved contractors to guide customers through the process and verify the potential savings from investing in energy efficient lighting. CLEAResult, a leading energy efficiency contractor, coordinated the project for the Roswell Museum and Art Center. As part of the project, the museum is providing space for Xcel Energy to display information about LED lighting and the company’s lighting efficiency programs.
“It’s a terrific community partnership that involved a lot of hard work from CLEAResult, the city of Roswell and also J&G Electric, which provided the labor and supplies to retrofit all the museum’s lighting inside and out with LEDs,” McLeod said.
The next generation display technology Micro LED is on its way to commercialization after years of development. The industry has been working on technology breakthroughs and improvements to speed up the progress of Micro LED.
LEDinside has partnered with the Consortium of Intelligence Micro-Assembly System (CIMS), an organization established by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to push the development of Micro LED technologies and provide the latest trends and updates of the industry.
CIMS connects the supply chain of Micro LED, linking LED chip producers, driver IC designers, LED packagers and PCB makers to build up a platform for cross-industry collaborations. In June 2018, the consortium showcased the first Micro LED display module with chips directly transferred onto a PCB substrate which was achieved by the cooperation between ITRI, Macroblock, Unimicron and PlayNitride.
Although Micro LED technologies have continued to develop and improve, the industry players are still facing difficulties with technology bottlenecks including epitaxy production, chip manufacture, mass transferring method, full color realization, wafer bonding, driver IC design and testing and repairing techniques. Therefore, the major goal of CIMS is to combine the expertise of the industry experts from each manufacture process to accelerate Micro LED technology development.
According to LEDinside’s 2019 Micro LED Next Generation Display Key Technology Report, the early patented technology has already appeared in the physical sample display machine. As related technologies improve, the requirements become stricter. LEDinside analyzes the current bottlenecks of Micro LED technologies as well as collects the most updated information of the industry. For more details, please contact us.
While the international lighting community does not yet know enough to prescribe a certain type of electric lighting to meet the specific needs of specific individuals, enough has been learned in the past few years “to make a difference in people’s lives.” So said Mariana G. Figueiro, Ph.D., Director of the Lighting Research Center, a professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a member of the “Prescription Lighting” discussion panel convened at the National Lighting Bureau’s 7th Annual Lighting Forum. Robert Soler, vice president of human biological technologies and research with BIOS Lighting, was the other panelist. Randy Reid of the EdisonReport moderated the discussion.
Although the focus of the panel was prescription lighting, both panelists agreed that no widely accepted definition of the term exists. And, in fact, as Figueiro emphasized, no widely accepted definition of “circadian lighting” exists either; different people mean it to signify different things, especially spectral distribution of light. But spectral distribution is only one aspect of light that needs understanding if light is to be prescribed: Others are intensity of the light, the amount of light, how the light is distributed, and when the exposure occurs. “Optic history” is also a factor, as Soler remarked, noting that someone who routinely works outdoors all day is affected far less by “blue light” – light that, undetectable to the human eye, emphasizes the blue portion of the spectrum – than an individual who spends all or most of the day indoors, such as hospital and nursing-home patients, Alzheimer’s victims, and prisoners, among others.
Although far more must be learned to have what could be termed “full-blown” prescription lighting, Dr. Figueiro and her Lighting Research Center team are already thinking about a wearable instrument dubbed a personal lighting device (PLD). It would know a person’s lighting prescription and, as the person moved about an office or similar area, it would adjust the overhead, ambient lighting to maintain the individual’s prescribed exposure. We are far from that situation right now, because more research is needed. Nonetheless, we do know that lighting affects people’s health. In the case of Alzheimer’s patients, for example, a population that stays indoors all day, circadian-effective lighting has been shown to improve patients’ sleep, lessen their agitation, and reduce their depression.
Do you have problem waking up in the morning? The right lighting can help people overcome morning drowsiness, according to a study by Korean research team.
Researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) suggested that a blue-enriched LEDlight can effectively boost morning alertness. This study further supports the concept of human centric lighting and provides the basis for major changes in future lighting strategies.
The 2017 Nobel Prize winning research unveiled the molecular mechanisms that control circadian rhythms. In the early 2000s, scientists discovered a new, “third” type of photoreceptor in the human retina which led to further investigation about the relationship between light and its physiological effects.
The third type of photosensitive cells regulates a large variety of biological and behavioral processes including melatonin and cortisol secretion, alertness, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Professors Hyeon-Jeong Suk and Professor Kyungah Choi from the Department of Industrial Design at KAIST proposed that the effects of blue-enriched morning light on physiological responses have positive effects on melatonin levels. They conducted experiment and investigated whether an hour of morning light exposure with different chromaticity would affect their physiological and subjective responses differently. The decline of melatonin levels was significantly greater after the exposure to blue-enriched white light in comparison with warm white light.
Professor Choi added, “When we investigate all of the psychological and physiological effects of light, we see there is much more to light than just efficient quantities. I believe that human-centric lighting strategies could be applied to a variety of environments, including residential areas, learning environments, and working spaces to improve our everyday lives.”
Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist
In the lighting industry’s long, meandering, pothole-filled road toward becoming a smart building industry, big players such as GE and Osram have been known to change tack as they try to figure out exactly what their role is. Now, a much anticipated startup has also switched course.
Privately held, Amsterdam-based Ingy will not position itself after all as a matchmaker putting together smart lighting vendors with building owners and operators. That was its original intention when CEO Bastiaan de Groot co-founded the company less than a year ago.
But a funny thing happened on Ingy’s way to the market. It decided that there would be a greater opportunity in developing a proprietary wireless lighting control system that it claims greatly improves the installation, commissioning, and operation of office luminaires, and which also makes those luminaires ready to become smart building nodes delivering data for facilities management uses, including space optimization, asset tracking, and indoor navigation.
Ingy has developed its own occupancy sensors and has teamed with Holland’s Koopman Interlight as its first luminaire partner. The partnership enables commercial end users to commission and operate thousands of luminaires at a time using a tablet or smartphone. Users can program banks of lights or individual lights into different schemes. The programmed lights automatically adjust based on triggers from the sensors, which can reside either inside or outside the luminaires.
The hardware and software, including wireless wall switches, are available for a straight product fee from Interlight and from future luminaire partners.
Ingy boss Bastiaan de Groot sees too much data-related greed in the lighting industry, and has a new plan for using luminaires to collect and distribute information. (Photo credit: Mark Halper.)
In addition, Ingy is offering a service for end users who want to take the applications beyond lighting, and leverage the sensors for facility management purposes. For those uses, Ingy is partnering with building management portal providers, delivering data about room occupancy to the portal. It has signed at least two portal partners, one of which is Gooee, a smart lighting specialist that itself has gone through a number of mission statement changes, and which now declares data analytics as its raison d’être, focused on buildings. Ingy will announce other portal partners soon.
Leaving the middle
Both the lighting controls product business and the Internet-connected data analytics service mark a decided shift from Ingy’s original plan to play a consulting and middleman role. The idea had been to help establish lighting companies as lead players in smart building jobs by hooking them up with the many other disciplines typically involved, such as real estate and property management, information technology, and building automation.
“There is definitely a demand for a consulting firm that understands smart lighting and controls, and that can help companies there,” co-founder de Groot told LEDs Magazine. “But the more we started doing projects, we really saw the need for this solution. We said it’s far more attractive to actually go into the market with a solution with our own IP and become more of a product company.”
De Groot said Ingy spotted the opportunity because existing products fell short of what Ingy was trying to facilitate. Conventional DALI (digital addressable lighting interface) controls require too much costly wiring. And, anyway, he noted, the majority of the controls market is currently served by standalone sensors.
“We wanted to deliver a solution that could be sold at the same price point as a standalone non-connected sensor today, yet provide customers with a full upgrade path towards a smart-building,” de Groot said. “We make it very simple for our customers: Take your current design based on standalone sensors and replace them with our sensor hardware. Your budget does not need to be adjusted at all, yet you get a whole wealth of additional functionality. You can program your sensors super easy through our app, you get the full connected functionality normally requiring a full central DALI system, and you have all the hardware infrastructure in place to make your building smart.”
And according to de Groot, standardized wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Zigbee cannot scale up lighting systems the way Ingy’s proprietary wireless mesh technology can.
“We can scale to thousands, even tens of thousands of nodes in one network, without a gateway being present,” he said. “And the system is fully self-configuring, so we do not need to tell any of the nodes which nodes need to relay the signal. It all adjusts itself fully automatically based on circumstances, based on network traffic.”
Greedy data plays
Notably, when Ingy collects data for facility management services, it is handing off the analysis of that data to another party, such as Gooee, rather than providing the cloud data analytics itself.
“We believe the lighting industry became greedy, claiming that they will own the data and become the party to visualize the data for the customer,” de Groot noted. “This is thinking from your interests and not that of the customer.”
Ingy has plenty of company among industry players who have significantly modified their smart lighting strategy. Its portal partner, Gooee, for instance, is now focusing data analytics for building management, even if it still offers smart lighting chipsets and sensors — some of which would compete against Ingy in that capacity.
One thing hasn’t changed: The smart, Internet of Things (IoT) lighting market has been slow to develop.
“It always takes longer than you think,” de Groot said. “But it’s really happening now.”
One of the issues holding it back has been that customers are uncertain about exactly what a smart building should do.
With that in mind, de Groot noted that Ingy’s lighting technology can provide the option to easily upgrade to “smart” once the end user decides what smart functions they want.
“We talk to customers who say, ‘We want our building to be smart.’ We ask them what that means, and they say, ‘To be honest, I have no idea.’” An Ingy lighting system will provide flexible, wireless lighting controls up front, while at the same time “providing the opportunity to make your building smart if at some point you decide you want to roll out asset tracking or occupancy analytics or any of the many other propositions we offer.”
Another issue that the lighting industry faces is that smart building customers might not want to make lighting the backbone of their smart building system, but might instead want to mount sensors and wireless chips independent of the lighting system. De Groot noted that a lighting-based smart building system provides a huge advantage in that it inherently provides a much wider coverage of building space.
“Lighting is everywhere,” de Groot said. “Lights can be placed into any part of the building. We increasingly see that people like the coverage of the lighting network.” He added that with the Ingy mesh network, “every light point can transmit data, we have coverage in every little corner of the room.” And in instances where users chose the sensor-embedded luminaires, they gain the advantage of powering the sensors with electricity rather than with problematic batteries.
Ingy will soon announce its first customer, a university medical center.
And Ingy is also investigating new uses for its smart technology. For example, it might soon offer bed-bug detectors for use in hotels.
It’s all part of the company’s redefined mission, to develop and expand smart lighting controls and services.
“This is real product development, which is what we wanted to shy away from initially,” said de Groot. “But we saw the opportunity and we grabbed it.”
A lighting upgrade has paid off big time for Target Corp., helping it cut costs while also aiding the planet.
Back in 2015, Target kicked off a test at about 100 stores in which it replaced the existing fluorescent light fixtures in its ceilings with LED lights. Flash forward to the present day, more than 2 million LED fixtures are in place across nearly all of Target’s 1,800-plus stores nationwide. The fixtures will also be installed in every new store the chain opens.
The LED lighting has amounted to millions of dollars in cost savings, Target said, and is poised to make a big impact on its energy reduction goals and new climate. The retailer credited the LEDs to reducing the energy required to power it stores by 10% annually. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the energy reduction is the equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road for the year.
Target plans to expand its use of LEDs. In the next few years, the retailer will install the fixtures in hundreds of its parking lots, stockrooms and other store spaces.
“At Target, we’re committed to using our size and scale to create a better tomorrow, and installing energy-efficient LED lights in stores across the country is another example of following through on that goal,” said John Leisen, Target’s VP of property management. “These lights will save enough energy each year to power a small city, helping leave our planet in better shape for future families.”
The company noted that the lights provide double duty. The LEDs built-in digital technology interacts with the Target app, helping customers who opt-in map their way through the store on a mobile phone.
Target’s LED lighting partner is Acuity Brands.
“We’re proud to have partnered with Target, a true leader in sustainable operations,” said Audey Cash, Acuity Brands Lighting’s senior VP of enterprise technology solutions. “With more than 2 million smart LED fixtures, Target will save an average of 470 million kilowatts of energy each year, helping their stores become even more energy efficient.”
UC San Diego Health’s uniquely designed geriatric emergency department is installing specialized LED lighting in its pioneering new ED, a move it says will be helpful for clinicians working lengthy overnight shifts – and also help with the detection and diagnosis of dangerous conditions such as sepsis.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Gary and Mary West Emergency Department at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California, opened this past January. It’s billed as the first in California to treat patients over the age of 65 in a space that’s customized for geriatric emergency care. It’s one of just a handful of such facilities in the United States.
In contrast with the harsh lighting, overcrowding and noise of many traditional emergency rooms, the specially-designed ED at UC San Diego “allows older adults to be cared for in an environment that better meets their needs than a traditional emergency room setting,” Dr. Vaishal Tolia, medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UCSD, explained when the space first opened.
The space has architectural features and designs with seniors in mind, such as high-backed chairs in the waiting room, a nursing station visible from every room, gentle acoustics and sound-absorbing walls.
The departments is also outfitted with new calibrated LED lighting system, installed by BIOS Lighting. The company draws on various biological and horticultural expertise – its agriculture products are used by cannabis growers – with innovations developed at NASA for the International Space Station to develop lighting technology “designed to improve the health and well-being of people, plants, and animals, while reducing energy use and creating a more sustainable planet.”
The company says the lighting will help both patients and staff at UCSD in two ways. It can boost circadian signal to help keep patients alert during daytimes and help maintain that alertness for physicians and nurses during long shifts. In addition, the LED wavelength can help with the visual assessment of certain patients, officials said.
THE LARGER TREND
UCSD’s geriatric emergency department, with all the technology and design innovations it entails, is an example of the kind of forward-thinking approach health systems should be embracing as they prepare for the “Silver Tsunami” of aging Baby Boomers.
ON THE RECORD
“Senior patients face common complications, such as being at a high risk for falls and cognitive and memory problems. All patients in the (senior emergency care unit) are treated by a team with special training in geriatric medicine, including pharmacists to manage medications and social workers to ensure a smooth transition home upon discharge,” said Dr. Ted Chan, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UC San Diego Health, in a statement.
“Our goal with the SECU is to lower hospital admissions and readmissions in this patient population,” he added.
“Circadian entrainment is important to the GED staff for health and productivity, especially for those working longer or overnight shifts,” said Robert Soler, vice president of research at BIOS, in a separate statement. “For short-stay, elderly patients, an important aspect of our lighting system is its unique wavelengths that enhance visibility of medical ailments, such as sepsis.”
In addition, said Soler, “for seniors, it’s important to implement circadian lighting that doesn’t compromise comfort and familiarity and is designed to align with biological functions that are core to keeping humans healthy.”
Savvy property owners tend to operate the most efficient portfolios, whether in a booming market, or one that faces challenges. Now that the lengthy recovery has extended beyond what market cycles typically run, smart commercial real estate owners naturally have, for some time, been weighing every budget dollar. That encompasses everything from lease roll-over expenses to restroom hand towel costs.
Los Angeles-based EcoSmart Solutions, Inc. has shifted the operating expense discussion to power usage. The company has found substantial efficiencies can be achieved through LED lighting retrofits. Electricity charges rely upon usage of kWh (kilowatt hours) consumed, thus, LED systems that consume up to 80% less than traditional systems deliver a host of benefits. These range from cost savings, to improved performance, to workplace safety.
Most initial decisions to execute an LED retrofit start with money. In 2015, lighting accounted for 20% of the electricity used in the commercial sector in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that if every commercial building in the country converted to LED, the savings would be roughly $30 billion annually. Clearly, the savings for building owners and tenants can add up. EcoSmart Solutions’ Nathaniel Baer says the energy cost associated with lighting can be reduced by 80%.
Challenge: Why LED?
“Usually, the reason a client takes a meeting with us is because they are interested to learn how much money they can save,” said Baer. “The reality, however, is that we wholeheartedly believe that the other benefits – improved property aesthetics, productivity, and safety – are much more valuable to any project than the operating savings are.”
It is surprising to consider how much of a nuisance non-LED lighting systems are. Traditional bulbs and fixtures have lifespans between 5,000 and 7,500 hours, and rely on ballasts, which are a very outdated piece of technology. As a result, maintenance and engineering staffs are constantly tasked with purchasing and replacing bulbs and ballasts, and keeping inventory of replacements that will inevitably be needed. When buildings fail to accomplish this in a timely manner, they are left with an unsightly, uneven distribution of color, because non-LED’s rapidly diminish in their light output. Even worse is that they change color as they do so.
Conversely, premium LED bulbs and fixtures have lifespans between 75,000 to 150,000 hours. Further, they do not require ballasts in order to operate. This improvement eliminates the need to constantly purchase and install new bulbs and ballasts several times a year as they go out. Additionally, they do not diminish in brightness or color over time. As a result, buildings are left with an even distribution of light and color throughout.
As far as safety is concerned, LED’s provide a dramatic improvement, predominantly due to their increased brightness. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly three million preventable U.S. workplace accidents occur each year, and poor lighting is to blame for most of these accidents. In commercial buildings, office workers often complain that they feel unsafe due to dim lighting in parking structures, and also complain of headaches in the office due to fluorescent lighting.
In today’s highly-competitive world, EcoSmart has gone to great lengths in order to separate themselves from the pack. The majority of companies in the industry subcontract their labor to other electrical contractors, so that they can focus their efforts on marketing, sales and analysis. EcoSmart, on the other hand, has full-time electricians on staff, who perform 100% of the labor on jobs. This way, they cut out a substantial amount of unnecessary cost – the profit margin of another contractor. Further, because EcoSmart’s crews are doing nothing but lighting retrofitting, they are incredibly efficient and rapid, which further drives down the cost.
Similarly, most other contractors in the space purchase from lighting and electrical distributors, which also adds an unnecessary level of cost to the end user. Nevertheless, it is standard industry practice because distributors are convenient to work with, carry stock, and are often protected by their manufacturers who choose to only sell to distributors, and not to contractors. Conversely, EcoSmart has secured key factory direct relationships with several manufacturers, which significantly drives down the cost of their projects.
Also, highly important are the special trade designations that EcoSmart has secured with the major utility providers in Southern California. These allow EcoSmart to receive rebate and incentive payments directly from the utility providers. As a result, EcoSmart is able to count on future rebate payments, and reduces the amount owed by the property – at the beginning of each project. This represents a tremendous benefit over a contractor who secures a rebate to be received by the property – who would have to pay the full contract amount up front, and then wait for the rebate themselves.
“It’s hard enough to enter into someone else’s place of business and get them to retrofit their property. If you want to earn their business, you need to make the proposition so effortless that they have little to object to,” says Baer. EcoSmart further accomplishes this goal by offering financing, allowing a project to be paid for over 24-60 months. Usually, the monthly operating savings are greater than the monthly payment for the project.
EcoSmart’s process begins with a complementary lighting analysis. This analysis consists of a detailed walk through, and allows EcoSmart to generate a comprehensive proposal for the project. The proposals outline the annual operating savings a project will achieve, the proposed scope of work in each area of a building, the increased lumen output (brightness) in each area, the appropriate rebate/incentives that can be secured, and the out-of-pocket cost. In some cases, the available rebates are so large that the client does not have to pay at all.
Once a project is approved, the utility provider is contacted and brought in for a pre-inspection. This is done to ensure that the kWh savings are accurate, and therefore that the rebates and incentives that have been applied for are appropriate, given the savings. Following the inspection, the project is approved by the utility, and then installation can begin. Once it is complete, all of the old lights and lighting material are hauled away and recycled.
Considering the vast array of benefits, and the extraordinarily low cost, it is a wonder how the vast majority – roughly 80% of businesses – have not yet converted to LED. Typically, businesses do not place an LED lighting retrofit high on their priority list; usually, it doesn’t appear on that list at all. All things considered, when it comes to improving a building or business, it can never hurt to shed some light on the topic.
Look at the construction cranes that puncture the skies over every major city. Most of them may as well be smokestacks.
Despite the spread of solar energy, energy efficient equipment and advanced designs, only a tiny fraction of the 60,000 or so new commercial buildings that will be completed this year will approach net zero carbon emissions.
That’s not even counting existing buildings. If our built environment is to meet its carbon emissions goals — whether that means cutting net emissions by half or eliminating them entirely — existing structures will have to be retrofit in meaningful numbers.
But there are signs that the net “zero energy” movement is getting to up scale. (For the purposes of this article, “zero energy” and “net zero” are interchangeable; both describe buildings that generate all their power from clean — or non-carbon-emitting — sources, in most cases onsite.)
“The global Net Zero Energy movement for commercial buildings quietly appears to have achieved critical mass,” one mainstream industry publication declared this month, adding that it “may soon be mainstream across multiple building classifications.”
One of those signs is Unisphere, the headquarters of United Therapeutics. At 135,000 square feet, it’s believed to be the largest net zero building in the United States. That superlative isn’t the only thing that makes Unisphere a poster child for net zero. Because the office building is in the dense downtown of Silver Spring, Maryland, its design team couldn’t get simply sow the surrounding countryside with an unlimited number of ground-based solar panels. Instead, they relied on rooftop solar and a slew of advanced efficiency features. Among them: Daylight harvesting, geothermal wells, natural ventilation, a high-performance envelope, electrochromatic glass and a building automation system.
Barely a decade after modern net zero buildings became remotely viable, such features are increasingly viewed as best building practices. Just as importantly, a growing number architects and engineers have grown proficient enough with such design solutions to have the confidence to pitch property owners to consider committing to net zero.
“In our debut list in 2012, I could name most of the firms of the 60 buildings,” Higgins wrote in a 2018 blog post. “Today’s list has approximately 70 mechanical-electrical-plumbing firms (MEP) and 100 architect firms involved in projects.”
The 2012 list included only 60 net zero buildings. That list counts both buildings that had been verified as operating at net zero for a full year, and those that were that were designed as net zero but were either under construction or not yet fully verified. On last year’s list, that number had already risen to 482. A year later, Higgins says, it’s approaching 600.
Advocates are hoping that such growth will generate a virtuous cycle by providing the critical mass needed for states to devise net zero “stretch” energy codes, for cities to factor net zero buildings into their clean energy plans, and for architects and engineers to make the case to their clients for net zero projects.
The building industry remains well behind in the race to eliminate carbon emissions, Higgins admits. But she’s confident that net zero will continue to accelerate through 2019.
“The exciting thing is that we now have functioning net zero buildings of every size and every type in every North American climate zone. Also a quarter of the buildings are owned by private for-profit companies,” she says. “This is the kind of diversity we need to start really scaling up.”
PHOTO AT TOP: Unisphere, the Silver Spring, Maryland, headquarters of United Therapeutics is the largest net zero building in the United States. Image courtesy United Therapeutics.
Solar panels and wind turbines get a lot of attention, but a more inconspicuous instrument is helping to reshape America’s energy economy right now: The humble light bulb.
Over the past decade, traditional incandescent bulbs, those distinctive glass orbs with glowing wire centers, have been rapidly replaced by more energy-efficient lighting. The shift has driven down electricity demand in American homes, saving consumers money and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy savings are expected to grow as highly efficient and increasingly inexpensive LED bulbs continue to replace older lights. But energy efficiency advocates worry that the Trump administration could slow the pace of this lighting revolution.
Last month, the Department of Energy said it would withdraw an Obama-era regulation that nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency requirements. (The chart above shows changes for basic, pear-shaped bulbs that are regulated by current rules. Other bulb styles, including globe, candelabra and reflector bulbs, as well as outdoor lighting, are not included.)
Industry groups are also pushing back on new lighting efficiency requirements slated to go into effect next year.
After climbing for decades, electricity use by American households has declined over the past eight years.
“That’s a staggering change,” said Lucas Davis, an energy economist at the Haas School of Business, part of the University of California, Berkeley.
The economic recession in the late 2000s contributed to an initial dip in electricity demand, but as the economy improved, lighting and other energy-efficiency improvements continued to drive down household electricity use.
Congress established the first national light bulb efficiency standards in 2007, which were signed into law by President George W. Bush. Starting in 2012, the law required new light bulbs to use 28 percent less power than existing incandescent lights — essentially ending the sale of the older, inefficient bulbs.
A new generation of halogen bulbs initially replaced traditional incandescents, but, more recently, sales of highly efficient LEDs have grown as their prices have fallen.
The switch to more efficient lighting has been relatively rapid, Dr. Davis said, because of the short lifespan of traditional light bulbs. While consumers may replace an old refrigerator or dishwasher with an energy-saving model once a decade, incandescent bulbs last only about a year before they need replacing.
And that replacement yields huge relative savings.
“When you take out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with LEDs, the amount of electricity you consume goes down more than 80 percent,” Dr. Davis said. “There’s nothing else like that.”
The Future of Lighting Efficiency
A second phase of the 2007 lighting efficiency rules is scheduled to go into effect next year, prohibiting the sale of lightbulbs that put out less than 45 lumens per watt. Currently, only compact fluorescent and LED bulbs can meet that requirement. That means all basic incandescent bulbs, including the recent generation of halogens, would be eliminated from store shelves on Jan. 1.
Industry groups have contested that standard, along with an Obama-era ruling that expanded which light bulbs it would apply to. The Department of Energy said last month that it had erred when it determined in 2017 that certain decorative and non-basic bulb styles would be subject to the 2020 standards.
Clark Silcox, a lawyer for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents major lighting manufacturers like General Electric and Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), said that consumers were already switching to highly efficient LED bulbs on their own, pointing to industry data that shows LEDs outsold all other types of bulbs for the first time in 2017.
“The question now is: Does the Department of Energy accelerate that by putting on a ban,” Mr. Silcox said, even if it would “disrupt retail terribly.”
But Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said “there’s no reason to move backward,” adding that the lighting industry has had years to prepare for the next phase of efficiency rules.
“The LEDs are already on the shelf,” he said. “They work great, they last longer and they use one-sixth of the power.”
A revolution in energy-efficient, environmentally-sound, and powerfully-flexible lighting is coming to businesses and homes, according to a paper in latest special energy issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal.
The paper envisions the future of lighting—a future with widespread use of light emitting diodes (LEDs), which offer a number of obvious and subtle advantages over traditional light bulbs.
“We are at the verge of a revolution,” says the paper’s senior author E. Fred Schubert, a professor of electrical engineering and physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. “There are tremendous opportunities that open up with LED lighting.”
LEDs are more rugged, resembling something closer to hard plastic than thin glass. They are also more environmentally sound, since their manufacture does not require toxic substances such as mercury.
As an alternative to the traditional incandescent light bulb, LED lights provide significant energy savings. They can be 2,000 percent more efficient than conventional light bulbs and 500 percent more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs. Schubert predicts that widespread use of LEDs over the course of 10 years would save more than $1 trillion in energy costs, eliminate the need for nearly a billion barrels of oil over 10 years, and lead to a substantial reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.
All of these advantages make LEDs a good replacement light source, says Schubert, adding that this is why there has been a tremendous recent expansion of the LED industry, which is growing by double-digit rates. However, he adds, the true potential of LED lighting lies in their ability to transform—rather than simply replace—lighting technology.
“Replacement is fine,” says Schubert. “But we must look beyond the replacement paradigm to see the true benefits of LED lights.” Schubert envisions a day when light switches give way to light switchboards that control not only the brightness of a light, but its color temperature and hue. Light spectra could be custom-tailored for all wavelengths, accurately matching the sun’s light qualities and vary these characteristics according to the time of day, for instance. This could revolutionize indoor agriculture and help night-shift workers and people who are jet-lagged. The use of polarized light from LEDs could also improve computer displays and lower the glare from car headlights.
In his article, Schubert lays out how such future, “smart” light sources, can harness the huge potential of LEDs.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has reopened its Chinese galleries to literally glowing reviews after 10 months of renovations, during which a new LED lighting system was installed, among other improvements.
Visitors can now better appreciate the colorful painted details on lacquered cabinets and vivid expressions on porcelain figures. Artifacts that were covered in grime at one point now gleam under the new lights, thanks to the work of a large team of conservators who worked around the clock to make sure the 7,000 objects in the museum’s collection were ready for their closeups.
The ceramic vases and carved wooden armchairs in the Chinese galleries aren’t the only items visitors will be seeing in a new light.
The LED lighting system in the Chinese galleries is part of a much larger project: The Art Museum plans to replace the 11,000 lightbulbs and fixtures in its main building, Perelman annex, and Rodin Museum with LED bulbs and fixtures.
That includes the American Art galleries, the Modern and Contemporary galleries, and new spaces that are part of the museum’s ongoing renovations, among them the new restaurant.
The museum is joining many other art museums of its caliber around the world, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, looking to increase LED use and move away from incandescent lighting to conserve energy.
The Penn Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University are also starting the transition. A new trend is to blend LED lighting with natural light to give viewers the best experience possible.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s efforts will be the biggest overhaul in favor of LED lighting in a Philadelphia museum to date.
“Elegant and effective lighting is a key part of the visitor experience in an art museum,” museum director Timothy Rub said. “It’s our single most significant aesthetic deficit right now. We have a lot of antiquated lighting that is no longer adequate for its purpose. Once we’re done, the lighting we’ll have will be far superior to the lighting we have in most of our galleries and public spaces today.”
The new lighting is part of an $11.3 million energy-conservation upgrade at the museum funded by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, the Philadelphia Energy Authority, and Johnson Controls as part of the city’s energy master plan developed in 2017. The city owns the museum building and pays an average of $3 million a year to heat, light, and cool the space. The energy conservation effort is expected to cut costs by 24 percent annually.
Until now, the museum’s lighting has been largely incandescent and fluorescent.
Incandescent bulbs are lighted by running an electric current through a metallic filament, which wastes a lot of energy as heat. Fluorescent bulbs, which emit less heat and are therefore more efficient, are lighted by exciting a gas, usually a mixture of argon and mercury vapor, with a current, causing it to glow.
LED lights are the most efficient of all. They produce a flow of electrons through a semiconductor, generating light directly without heating metal or gas.
They are particularly well-suited to museums because, unlike traditional light sources, heat is not projected forward with the beam of light, so fragile items are affected less. LEDs also last 25 times longer than traditional lightbulbs, so museums can go a decade or more without having to replace them, according to Jason Rainone, lighting designer at the Penn Museum, where the newly reopened Middle East Galleries feature LED lighting.
Though lighting is not something most visitors think about at the Art Museum, the way an artwork is lighted shapes their experience with it. Tasteful spotlighting and washes of color can draw the eye to certain works in a room crowded with them and highlight details; dim lighting in the wrong color can give a painting a green tint.
Jennifer Sontchi, director of exhibits and public spaces at the Academy of Natural Sciences, said that museum is looking to slowly transition to an all-LED lighting system in the near future.
The Barnes Foundation is also looking to make the transition, said Deidre Maher, director of communications there. The Barnes already uses an intelligent lighting system that allows the museum to control the balance in its galleries between artificial and natural light.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s South Asia galleries reopened in 2016 with a combination of LED, halogen, and fluorescent lighting after 19 months of renovations, significantly improving the presentation of one of the museum’s signature works of art — the 16th-century Indian Temple Hall, the only such structure standing outside India.
One space in the Art Museum that will drastically change after the lighting upgrades have been made is the west entrance, which is currently illuminated by three downlights in the ceiling. Rub said he expects the addition of LED lights in 2020 to provide the room with a much richer and clearer illumination, making it more welcoming to visitors.
“Museum lighting options have changed more in the last five years than in the last 30,” Rub said. “Because of this, we’re able to light both individual works of art and our galleries in ways that are precise, visually compelling, and conservationally sound.”
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Henrich Hertz Institute (HHI) in Germany have successfully transmitted data at 3Gbps using conventional LED bulbs in a laboratory setting. In a real-world setting (at a trade fair), the same system was capable of 500Mbps.
The concept of visible light communications (VLC), or LiFi as it is sometimes known, has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the growing prevalence of LED lighting. Unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are solid-state electronics, meaning they can be controlled in much the same way as any other electronic component, and switched at a high speed. VLC is essentially WiFi — but using terahertz radiation (light) instead of microwaves (WiFi). Instead of oscillating a WiFi transmitter, VLC oscillates an LED bulb — and of course, on the receiving end there’s a photodetector instead of an antenna.
Now, unfortunately the Fraunhofer press release is almost completely devoid of detail, except for the 3Gbps bit — but we do have the technical specifications of Fraunhofer’s previous VLC system, which the 3Gbps system is based on. The previous VLC system was capable of transmitting up to 500Mbps over four meters (13 feet), or 120Mbps over 20 meters (67 feet). Rather than actually using a standard LED bulb, Fraunhofer’s VLC system is a black box, with an LED and photodetector on the front, and an Ethernet jack on the back to connect it to the rest of the network. In this system, the hardware only allowed for 30MHz of bandwidth to be used, limiting the total throughput.
To reach 3Gbps, the HHI researchers have found a way of squeezing 180MHz of bandwidth out of the LEDs — and instead of using just one LED, they now use three different colors. It is not clear whether this new technique has a higher or lower range than the previous, but it is likely the same. In real-world testing at a trade fair, with less-than-optimal atmospheric conditions, 3Gbps becomes 500Mbps — still pretty darn fast.
Visible light communication has a slew of advantages. In essence, LiFi can turn any LED lamp into a network connection. LiFi, by virtue of operating at such high frequencies (hundreds of terahertz), is well beyond the sticky tentacles of the wireless spectrum crunch and regulatory licensing. For the same reason, LiFi can be used in areas where there’s extensive RF noise (conventions, trade fairs), or where RF noise is generally prohibited (hospitals, airplanes). The Fraunhofer researchers even claim that VLC improves privacy, because your signal can be easily obscured from prying eyes with opaque materials — but as you can imagine, that’s also a tick in the “con” column as well.
Moving forward, we’re still waiting for the first commercial LiFi LED bulbs and LiFi-equipped laptops/smartphones to come to market. There are a few startups that are making headway, and numerous research groups, but no one seems to have a definitive roadmap for commercial products. With so many possible uses, from street lamp-to-car communications through to ultra-fast short-range communications, and the growing maturity of LED lighting, it’s really just a matter of time until LiFi becomes a reality.
Lighting vendor Acuity Brands said it has built GPS-like indoor mapping and positioning services into LED luminaires for the retail industry, a move that allows stores to guide and track onsite customers around the aisles and ping them with promotions, discounts, loyalty incentives and product information.
The Atlanta-based company is using visible light communication (VLC) and Bluetooth technology it acquired when it purchased patents and other intellectual property in April from ByteLight, a lighting-based indoor location specialist.
Atlanta-based Acuity said the capability supports a lighting-as-as-a-service business model, in which retailers would store LED-linked customer data in the computing cloud.
“Our LED luminaires enabled with ByteLight technology deliver a superior indoor positioning solution that allows retailers to engage digitally with their customers anywhere in the store,” said Steve Lydecker, Acuity’s senior vice president of applied integrated solutions. “This new capability gives the retailers the potential for increased revenue and shopper loyalty.”
Lighting-based indoor positioning systems could become the greatest thing in retail technology since the barcode. Such indoor location services allow retailers to keep close tabs on a customer’s shopping patterns and interests, to extend the digital shopping experience to the brick-and-mortar world, and to engage the shopper through various means.
For instance, a shopper who has written a shopping list at home on an app would upon walking into a store receive a map on his or her smartphone showing where all the products are located. Smart ceiling lights would recognize the shopper when she’s next to a specific product under a particular light and offer a discount. The same system could reward her with a free cup of coffee during their visit.
It also supports product tracking, enabling retailers to keep better track of inventory and to know when to replenish shelves.
US retailer Target is experimenting with lighting-based indoor location systems at around 100 stores, as reported by our sister publication Lux Review. It has not identified its technology supplier. It is believed to be sampling both VLC and Bluetooth. France’s Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retailers, is trialing a VLC system from Philips at a store in Lille, France.
GE has said that it is trialing lighting-based indoor location technology with two retailers in Europe and two in the US, although it has declined to identify them. One is thought to be ASDA, the UK arm of American retail giant Wal-Mart Stores.
GE has worked with ByteLight on some of its VLC trials. It is not clear how the acquisition of ByteLight intellectual property by GE smart lighting rival Acuity might affect the GE trials, or vice versa. Acuity has also been tapping VLC technology from Qualcomm.
VLC makes use of an LED’s natural flicker (imperceptible to the human eye) by embedding product information in the wavelength modulation at the root of the flicker. A smartphone’s camera picks up the modulation and sends the information to the shopper’s app.
Another smart lighting vendor, Gooee, has so far avoided VLC for its indoor positioning offering. Gooee provides a “Gooee Inside” engine for luminaire makers to embed. While VLC can provide more pinpoint accuracy than can Bluetooth beacons in identifying a product’s location, Gooee notes that a user must keep his or her phone constantly pointing up toward the ceiling lights so that the camera lens has line of sight. By comparison, smartphones have dedicated, embedded Bluetooth chips that can receive signals as long as they’re near the Bluetooth beacon but not necessarily in its sight.
Acuity said it is offering indoor positioning in luminaires and drivers including its:
Traditional recessed grid volumetric architectural luminaire
High-efficiency recessed grid open louvered solution
Open ceiling suspended retail aisle performance luminaire
ECOdrive LED drivers from eldoLED
For the indoor location services industry to take off in a big way, the smart lighting industry will have to prove that they are safe from hackers and that they protect end user privacy.
The dance of partners getting together from the digital lighting industry and the information technology world is getting livelier all the time. The latest example: British LED specialist PhotonStar has spun its relationship with IBM into a full-fledged Internet of Things (IoT) collaboration.
PhotonStar said it demonstrated its Halcyon intelligent lighting technology working with IBM’s Watson IoT Cloud system, at IBM’s new global Watson IoT headquarters in Munich (pictured).
The Highlight Towers at Mies-van-der-Rohe-Straße 6 in Munich, Germany will serve as the global headquarters for IBM’s new Watson IoT unit, as well as the company’s first European Watson innovation super center. The center represents IBM’s largest investment in Europe in more than two decades. (Photo copyright: Rainer Viertlböck for IBM, sourced from Flickr.)
Watson is IBM’s business unit that sells cloud computing and Big Data services using the company’s Watson supercomputer. The computer is renowned for having beaten former Jeopardy! champions on the US television game show. IBM is harnessing it to the IoT — including to data-gathering networked LED lights — to help businesses decipher mountains of information from disparate sources and make quick and intelligent decisions, a process sometimes referred to as cognitive computing.
In March IBM said it would invest $3 billion in a new IoT division over the next four years.
PhotonStar’s Halcyon includes software and hardware geared around data collection, circadian rhythm support, and energy-saving applications. The Romsey, UK-based company had teamed with IBM nearly a year ago around IBM’s Bluemix cloud computing service, and has now stepped up the partnership to specifically support the IoT.
“The power of the IBM Watson IoT team and cognitive computing will better equip our business to uncover opportunity and find new avenues of growth,” said PhotonStar CEO James McKenzie. “We will also be better positioned to fulfill client requirements for innovative, end- to-end solutions for the commercial built environment as part of the IBM Partner ecosystem.”
In addition to demonstrating Halcyon at Watson IoT headquarters in Munich, PhotonStar has integrated it into IBM’s mobile and IoT lab at IBM’s Hursley laboratory in Hampshire, UK, where IBM hosts clients interested in deploying IoT and cloud computing services.
PhotonStar also joined IBM’s PartnerWorld program under which PhotonStar and IBM will jointly develop IoT products and services.
IBM Internet of Things vice president Bret Greenstein said the combination of the IoT and smart lighting “ has tremendous opportunity for innovation, especially in the area of buildings retrofit,” adding that it “offers up a whole new world of IoT use cases and possibilities.”
The PhotonStar IBM hookup comes soon after lighting giant Philips linked arms with IT stalwart Cisco to offer IoT and Power over Ethernet (PoE) services. Likewise, small LED specialists such as Carlsbad, CA-based NuLEDs have worked with Cisco to install PoE and data-centric lighting at schools and offices. Gooee, a lighting-focused IT startup, has begun licensing technology to different LED lamp and luminaire manufacturers. Many LED lamp makers have also tied their wares into Google’s Nest home automation product.
The gyration of lighting and IT companies has also featured changing partners. For instance, lighting powerhouse GE recently hired away IBM Watson vice president of solutions Jeff Gordon and named him chief digital officer of Current, GE’s data-oriented energy division that includes LED lighting.
GaN-on-Si specialist retrofits its Plymouth manufacturing facility with light engines based on its LEDs while also announcing new LED die products and filaments for retro-styled SSL lamps
Plessey has announced that it has retrofitted its LED manufacturing facility in Plymouth, England using modular light engines that integrate the company’s gallium-nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) LEDs. The company also recently announced a new group of blue-pump LEDs that deliver wall plug efficiency of 60%. And Plessey is using its GaN-on-Si LEDs to deliver filament components that solid-state lighting (SSL) manufacturers can use to develop lamps with a classic look with multiple filaments.
Plessey has long been an advocate of GaN-on-Si technology as a way to lower LED component cost through the cheaper silicon substrate, relative to sapphire or silicon carbide, and the use of depreciated silicon IC fabs for the back end of the manufacturing process. The company first shipped its GaN-on-Si Magic (Manufactured on GaN-on-Si I/C) LEDs in early 2013, when output levels weren’t really capable of supporting general lighting applications, but the company more than doubled performance in 2013 and has continued to make improvements. Still, neither Plessey, nor any other GaN-on-Si manufacturer, has matched legacy LED performance and few such LEDs have found use in actual applications.
Clearly, Plessey is intent on showing the SSL community that its LEDs are ready for general lighting applications. The company developed its own modular light engines that it is using to retrofit a variety of linear- and compact-fluorescent lighting fixtures in its manufacturing facility. “With recent process enhancements, our LED modules create efficiencies well above existing lighting technologies,” said Mike Snaith, operation director at Plessey. “We have not only developed an efficient fixture, but have developed cost-effective ways to implement the retrofits, which is key in the return-on-investment calculation. Generally, all lamps on site are replaced annually. Fluorescent lamps, due to their mercury content, cannot just be thrown in the bin and have to be processed by a special waste facility. Therefore, they also present a toxic hazard when carrying out maintenance should a lamp break.”
The company is in the process of replacing 4200 fluorescent lamps that consume 1,000,000 kWh of electricity annually. The company said it took 200 man hours per year to maintain the legacy lighting. The retrofit is projected to save 25% to 40% on energy consumption in addition to maintenance savings.
It’s not clear whether Plessey will sell the modules commercially, although many LED makers are in the module business these days. A comment from a company executive would indicate that possibility. “The LED retrofit kits offer the facilities engineers and installation contractors a cost-effective, quick, and easy method to take advantage of the new technology,” said Thomas Abbott, Plessey’s senior facilities engineer. “Another benefit is the dramatically reduced power consumption. It only takes between 5-10 minutes to retrofit a fixture, and as a result, the emergency light fixtures now require less or smaller battery backup, meaning increased cost savings as well as reduced frequency for maintenance.”
At the component level, Plessey announced its second generation of blue LEDs intended for white-light applications with the addition of phosphor. The company first launched blue-pump LEDs in mid-2013 with components that could be driven at 1A. The new family includes products rated for as much as 3A of drive current.
“We have developed a wide range of LED die for a number of applications and our GaN-on-silicon technology works particularly well in higher-power applications such as high bay, street lights, projector lamps, spot lamps, and floodlighting,” said Keith Strickland, Plessey CTO. “This current process technology will become the base for our application-specific LEDs, the ASLED, which bridges the gap between LED component suppliers, solid state lighting fixture designers, and the OEMs.”
The other recent Plessey announcement centered on 1×48-mm filaments that consist of a string of LEDs connected in series. The filaments are intended for use in the increasingly popular lamps that include a number of filaments that mimic incandescent lamps styled like antique lamps or what Plessey calls Décor lamps. The filaments deliver 50 lm from 18 mA and have a forward voltage of 76V.
“We have taken our existing chip-scale-packaging technology, also used for our dotLEDs, into a revised format for the filament,” said Strickland. “Not only do we have an improvement in terms of manufacturability with GaN-on-silicon and enhanced the power control for filament resistors, but Plessey will also be incorporating other active and passive electronic components for chip-on-board and chip-scale-packaging solutions in the next generation of filaments.”
The company said it will ship samples of the filaments in September. Production volumes are due in October.