Earlier this year, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it was ending the LED Lighting Facts Program.
Ending this program had the opportunity to leave the LED lighting world in the dark – that was until D+R International stepped in to save the day. As lightED reported earlier this month, D+R announced it will take over the role the DOE played in the program. The decision by D+R was one of the hot topics at LIGHTFAIR 2018.
The LED Lighting Facts Program was such a big deal at LIGHTFAIR that D+R sent out the following memo to their manufacturers and testing labs after the event:
“It was great to see many of you at LIGHTFAIR in Chicago last week and enjoyed the opportunity to get your feedback and ideas about D+R’s approach to continuing the LED Lighting Facts program.
Reflecting on our conversations with you, we have decided that currently listed products and any new products listed in May will not be subjected to the new subscription plan fees. This is a “fresh start”, so only new products added once the subscription process is introduced (next month) will be subject to any fees. Existing products and new products added in May are “grandfathered” and will remain free to list.”
The following Top Three Questions from LIGHTFAIR also came from D+R:
Q: What is the value of the program?
The simple “truth-in-advertising” labeling program provides consumers with the assurance that the performance of their LED lighting products has been independently verified and that they have an easy online tool to compare LED lighting products and manufacturers. Along with the LED Lighting Facts label that you will receive for your product, your product will be publicly searchable from the online database to consumers, retailers and distributors and lighting specifiers. The widely recognized LED Lighting Facts label, list of products and accredited test lab facilities will continue to be a valuable and trusted resource the marketplace can rely on.
Q: The program used to be free. Why do we have to pay to participate going forward?
As you know, in the past, DOE’s funding support for the program covered all the costs, allowing it to be offered at no cost to all users. Now that DOE is no longer funding the program, D+R wants to continue the program as a resource for consumers and will be looking to manufacturers and testing labs to share in the costs to support the program.
All products listed and labeled, as well as listing as an Approved Lab, will continue to be free during May.
In June, we will introduce a flexible and affordable product listing maintenance subscription service that includes options for monthly or annual payment plans, as well as an annual fee for accredited testing lab facilities to participate on the Approved Lab list.
Q: How will the products that are currently listed in the searchable database going to be managed? Will manufacturers be charged any fees for these listed products?
We refer to these products as “Legacy Products,” including all new products added in May. These products will remain listed on the publicly searchable database through October 2018. Before then, manufacturers will have the option to update their list of Legacy products to indicate whether products are still Active in the market, have changed and need to be updated (e.g., new versions will have to be submitted as “new” products), or need to be archived. There will be no additional fees for continued listing of Legacy products, however, by November, if Legacy Products are not claimed by a manufacturer for continued listing, they will be archived and there will no longer be access to the Label.
Click here to learn more about what’s changed.
Impact on Distributors
That is all great for manufacturers and testing labs, but what does it mean for distributors and retailers?
We sat down with Marci Sanders, Senior Program Manager at D+R International and talked candidly about the history of the LED Lighting Facts program – all the way up to where it is today, and what it may look like in the future.
lightED: Can you tell us a little about the history of the Lighting Facts Program?
Marci Sanders/D+R: The program started in 2009. It was part of a larger group of programs – the Department of Energy Solid State Program was implemented and introduced to help the industry avoid a lot of the problems that had previously happened with the introduction, the more mass introduction of compact fluorescent lamps. And, what the DOE SSL program has always been about, first and foremost, the R&D of the new technology and what it’s potential is and as the potential relates to the ability for the products in the market to be more cost-effective because energy efficiency is about savings and it’s also about savings on a comparable level or with a good payback period.
So really, it was a holistic approach and the LED Lighting Facts Program was really just one piece of a much larger platform, or portfolio, of programs – all of which can be found on the DOE’s SSL website.
The role of the LED Lighting Facts Program initially was really to back stop this kind of Wild, Wild West mentality with all these new LED products coming into the market place and with all these huge claims about how they performed…so, once the IES (Illuminating Engineers Society) finalized the industry test procedure standards for LED’s came out called LM79, the LED Lighting Facts Program was created to basically list products and their performance based on verified independent LM79 testing with our eyes looking at it and comparing it to what the manufacturers were saying their products performed.
So, really, it was just the truth-in-labeling program that was all about, tell us the truth, tell us what it is and while we might trust you, we need you to send in your LM79 test report so we can look at it ourselves, make sure it is a valid test report and that you have put the values in, the tested values in that we require to be able to list the products and use the label.
It was a way for users, consumers, the industry to be able to compare apples to apples, on the same playing field for all manufacturers. If they are going to make a claim about their product, they need to back it up with the testing. That really was the number one goal, to have manufacturers who bring products into the market know that the first thing they need to do is get their products tested according to the LM79 test procedures and by an accredited testing lab. That is what it began as, and as the industry grew, as more products came – where introduced and listed through the program, the DOE Lighting Facts Program – the database of all that performance data became more and more valuable and was being used by DOE to forecast where the industry was going with the different applications of lighting. How fast the industry was moving, especially as it related to not just to efficacy, lumen output and that kind of thing, but also with color and other metrics that are quality metrics – metrics about lighting quality.
lightED: What happened next?
Marci Sanders/D+R: The program basically grew up with the industry and as more products came into the database, we added more categories and more metrics that mattered to more users. It became more industry focused than consumer-focused because it is very technical… much different than the incumbent technologies in terms of what people are used to understanding about lighting. LED lighting really is not just about lighting, it does so much more than that.
It really became an industry tool for comparing and evaluating products, so we created some tools that different user types could use, such as a specifications tool for lighting specifiers and designers that basically allowed them to matchmake products that they filter through the database with their actual projects. That was a very big undertaking on our part to address a lot of the lighting quality side of the performance represented in the database by the products. So, it’s been 10 years. You would be hard-pressed to find a program that is on this level of kind of public facing, interface, funded by the government that would last as long as this did. In the past couple of years, DOE’s focus has shifted back to R&D because there is a lot going on with whole new areas of the applications for LED.
lightED: So that brings us to the present. The DOE officially ended the program on April 30. Can you explain what that means and what D+R did?
Marci Sanders/D+R: D+R has been implementing the program for the DOE since Day 1. It’s been an honor to create and develop the program for the industry, and we have a sense there is still a value for what the program can offer at even its most basic level. This label provides unique data and information backed by independent testing and verification. It’s an educational tool, with the database still has a lot of value too, but the label for the consumer is still valuable. The LED market is still bringing in new things, so there are still new products, still new manufacturers, it’s not what it was in the Wild, Wild West back 10 years ago, but there is still residual value to the program and it’s a flexible, completely web-based program which means it really has resiliency to expand and add more value.
lightED: Most of our readers know, but can you explain the labeling process. I assume this is different from the DLC and Energy Star?
Marci Sanders/D+R: It is completely different than the DLC and Energy Star programs since they are both qualified products lists. They are based on the ability for those products to meet a certain threshold of performance. In the end, if they meet the grade they get a listing which then makes them eligible for utility rebates and then they also get a mark that they can put on their marketing materials indicating the product is certified based on the qualification criteria.
LED Lighting Facts is not based on any kind of performance criteria. It is a labeling program at its core. It is just the facts. Tested performance results and verified. Then, what the companies get is a listing in the database that is searchable and filterable. In other words, instead of having us decide what would be a minimum level of performance for any given category, as long as the information is accurate and truthful, the product gets listed and the user has the filtering tools built into the searchability of the database to allow them to decide what kind of products they are looking for in terms of the performance they are looking for. Instead of just a mark, or a symbol, that they can use on their marketing material, they actually get a label that has a lot of the information about that product right there on the label for a user/consumer to see.
lightED: A quick glance at your website shows there are more than 73,000 products listed…
Marci Sanders: And there are all kinds of products – as the industry and the technology has matured, it’s matured in a way that you sort of see these indoor applications, outdoor applications, that improve and come into the market in a bigger and better way, depending on the breakthroughs of the technology as the technologies improve because it is a semiconductor technology and not a filament technology. There’s just so much more from the early days to now that has improved. It is very similar to what we deal with cell phones and devices in terms of how they can improve. That’s the basic difference and the reason that D+R wanted to continue the program because it is such a widely used and recognized program and the label is understood and trusted by the industry because it is a label that the industry knows has verifiable backing behind it. It’s not a label that is self-declared. We don’t just put a fillable PDF form out there for manufacturers to fill in that label.
lightED: Is this a U.S.-only program, or is it recognized internationally?
Marci Sanders/D+R: It is globally offered, in that it is a website – but, it is specific…it’s in English…I don’t want to say it is a U.S.-only program, because as you can see when you look at the names of the 1,700 manufacturers that list their products, there are many manufacturers that are not U.S. manufacturers. It has never been limited just to U.S. manufacturers and U.S.-based distributors and retailers – we have around 476 retailer and distributor partners, but they are from all over as well. Since it is web-based, we have never limited it to the U.S.
lightED: Does the DOE come to you still?
Marci Sanders/D+R: Not for this program.
lightED: What do you hope to accomplish for the distributors through this program?
Marci Sanders/D+R: The value of the program is really still about the fact that it is a labeling program. The label has an intrinsic marketing and educational value to it. That is really the core of the value to distributors and retailers – it gives them the assurance that whatever the manufacturer is showing you about their product, you can either ask them for their label, or you can look up their product on the database and see if they are registered, if the product is registered, then know that that product has been verified, that the product has been tested and the results match the claims of the product listing values and information. It is a vetting tool for suppliers.
It is a way for distributors in particular, and for retailers, to compare and vet products they are looking at pairing.
lightED: As a distributor – how do I become a member?
Marci Sanders/D+R: For distributors, retailers, we have partnership roles that you can see on the home page – a little bar in the middle that says Take the Pledge. It has always been a partnership program for, not just manufacturers and testing labs, but also for what we call the main target users – industry users – of the program. That being retailers, distributors, and lighting pros. If you click on the take the pledge, it will walk you through a few steps and you fill out your information – whether you are a lighting designer, a lighting specifier, or a retailer or distributor, and then you are in – it’s simple. It’s free. In the very least, you get regular updates on things that change with the program. For both of those partner categories, we have developed a back-end account system – once you become a partner, you have a login feature in the corner of the website where you set up your own login credentials where you have access to your own separate portal that is account based just for those two types of users.
We are planning to really expand that portal for retailers and distributors more than it is now. That’s down the road a little bit once we get things up and going. We will want to hear back from users (e.g., your readers), about what kind of tools, or resources, they want to be able to have that are different from everybody else.
lightED: Any other changes?
Marci Sanders/D+R: It is always a creature of change. Like any online web-based resource, to be relevant we must always be looking at how to make this useful, more useful, add value and make it easy. Our number one goal is ease of use. We can put a bunch of things together and throw it all out there, but if it takes too many clicks, or has too many instructions, no one is going to use it.
The best thing about this is it’s just another tool that the distributors have available that gives them more information about products that are in the market. It’s free. It will always be free for them to use. It is a great way for them to hold the manufacturers’ feet to the fire to make sure they are providing you with the best, and most accurate information about how their products really perform. It gives you a lot of flexibility on how you can evaluate these products with the search features and set your own levels of performance to see where products are going. To see how products perform at a certain level. It’s also a great tool for distributors to better understand some of the newer players and products that they have, because the newer players don’t have history in the industry, so you really do need that assurance more than ever that they have done their homework and tested their products.
lightED: What does the future look like for you if it is free?
Marci Sanders/D+R: For the end users – the buyers, distributors, etc. – it is free. Consumers, it’s free.
In order for this program to be sustainable, without the DOE funding, we are going to be asking manufacturers to pay a listing maintenance service fee in the form of a subscription (mentioned above and found here).
It is sort of like a data plan. They won’t get charged per product, but they will get charged for how many products they have on the list at the end of each month – during whatever their subscription period is. It’s just based on however they want to – whatever level they want to stay at, they can do their own budgeting based on that kind of a plan. The other group that we are also going to be asking to pay a participation fee are the testing labs because we must verify that they are an accredited lab and maintain them on our approved testing lab list. We won’t be accepting products that haven’t been tested from our approved labs testing list. That policy we’ve always had, but now moving forward, the labs will need to pay an annual participation fee to stay on that approved testing labs list.
It is really a simple program. That’s the whole idea here. It is simple and straightforward.
To find out more about the Lighting Facts Program, or about D+R International in general, please visit their website: https://www.drintl.com/.
Tagged with D+R International, Lighting Facts