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Blog: Day one at Lightfair 2013

Lighting Designer’s Perspective
By Mark Godfrey

Day one at Lightfair 2013 made one thing clear to me. The lighting industry has changed. Solid State lighting technologies are no longer a future event waiting for a tipping point. Every major manufacturer from the largest lighting conglomerate to electronics manufacturers to niche manufacturers have embraced LED technology with new products in nearly every market segment and price point. In fact, watch for dramatic changes in the lighting industry as familiar names in luminaire manufacturing quickly change. The name brand on your new LED downlight might also be the name brand on your new LED 50 inch smart TV or even your toothbrush.

Lightfair 2013 opened with the annual “LFI Innovation Awards” with well over 200 product entries and nearly all innovation category winners embraced LED technology in some way. The most interesting products to win within their respective categories include Philips Hue personal wireless lighting, GE Evolve scalable and modular cobra head roadway luminaires and, perhaps for the first time, an industrial chemical and materials company, Dow Corning, won an innovation award for their moldable silicon used in LED optical systems. Philips won “Most Innovative Product of the Year” with BoldPlay, a new take on the established suspended direct indirect luminaire form factor. This product more than outperforms its fluorescent T8 and T5 predecessors and it looks fantastic. Check out all of the Innovation Award results here:

With the overwhelming breadth of LED lighting and digital control products on display, one might think linear fluorescent technology will be extinct in the near future with only a few T8 or T5 fluorescent lamps or luminaires to be seen at Lightfair 2013. This is unfortunate. The foundation of commercial, institutional and retail lighting is the still linear fluorescent T8 and T5/T5HO fluorescent lamp. The vast majority of commercial spaces in the US are lighted with linear fluorescent technology and this will continue to be the case for many years to come. Although LED technology continues to improve and its market share grows by leaps and bounds, the existing linear fluorescent lamp is well established. In fact, GE, Philips and Osram Sylvania continue to engage in an arms race of sorts. Linear fluorescent lamp life, lumens and efficacy values all continue to improve, though very slowly. Of the three benchmarks, long lamp life has seen the most improvement over the last 5 years. Osram Sylvania’s T8 lamp boasts a maximum of 80,000 hour lamp life. This is much improved compared to the same life rating from 5 years ago of 35,000 hours. Good news to facilities managers everywhere.

The compact fluorescent lamp, on the other hand, is facing certain extinction. For nearly every conceivable compact fluorescent application, there is a new or retrofit LED product that provides far better illumination characteristics, longevity, energy use and lamp life.

Check out this EIA web page for more information about the distribution of lamp types in the US:

This all begs the question: If T8 and t5 fluorescent lamps are so good, why use LED technology at all? The simple answer is life cycle cost analysis consistently supports the installation of well-considered, well designed solid state lighting with digital lighting control systems. Until recent developments in lower cost and higher efficacy LED luminaires, the life cycle cost didn’t pencil out against the upfront capitol expense. However, as the country moves toward energy codes with more advanced daylighting and lighting control system requirements, solid state lighting, with its inherent digital control advantages quickly become a better choice when installation is included in the first cost simple payback equation.

Mark Godfrey is a Senior Lighting Designer at INTERFACE ENGINEERING. He can be reached at 503-382-2266.

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