North American Lighting Sector Calls for Energy Star to Address LED Lamp Light Quality

Recently, the lighting sector has urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program to address light quality, specifically color rendering, in its new lamp specification, in a bid to ensure the long-term success and widespread market adoption of LED lamps.

In addition to Soraa, the California Lighting Technology Center; Drs. Shuji Nakamura and Steven DenBaars; the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD); Northeast Utilities Companies (NSTAR); and lighting designer Chip Israel as well as a number of other prominent North American lighting designers all filed formal comments to the EPA on their ENERGY STAR program product specification for LED lamps in support of higher color rendering criteria.

“Many consumers will make their first LED lamp purchases in the next few years, and the market is entering a critical window for making a positive impact on consumers’ first impressions of LED technology,” said Eric Kim, CEO of Soraa. “However, for LED lamps to achieve significant market share, consumers must be confident that these lamps can give them the light quality they need and want. With the emergence of next generation LED technology, these performance benchmarks have now been reached.”

Light quality and price drive consumer decision
McKinsey’s 2011 Lighting the Way report suggests that consumer and commercial lighting purchase decisions are driven as much by light quality, as they are by the cost of the light bulb. Twenty percent of the residential respondents in the McKinsey report rated light quality as the most important decision criterion for lamp installation – which is on par with the 22 percent who rated purchase price as the most important factor. In all other market segments, light quality was by far the most important criterion.

“The slow market adoption of CFLs over the last 20 years demonstrates that simply because a product produces enough light, saves energy and is cost-effective, broad market adoption of that technology is not ensured. To persuade consumers to purchase LEDs instead of incandescent lamps, LED lamps must be seen as high-quality products worth the initial higher price differential. Therefore, LED lamps must closely replicate the color rendering and color appearance of the incandescent and halogen lamps that they replace,” said Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer, Energy Efficiency Program Manager of NSTAR a Northeast Utilities Company.

EPA pointed out in their latest draft lamp specification that lack of LED lamp color quality is a potential barrier to broader consumer adoption of energy efficient lighting. However, EPA went on to say that it will continue to monitor the market and explore opportunities for improving color quality and consistency of lamps in the future. Given the critical importance of this issue to increased adoption of LED lighting, groups told EPA that the time to address higher color rendering is now.

“Designers should have the flexibility to select the appropriate source for their applications and end users should have their right to purchase high color rendering or full spectrum lamps for their spaces,” said Chip Israel, President of the Lighting Design Alliance.

Since lamps that meet consumer color quality expectations will provide significantly more energy savings than the limited adoption of the highest efficacy lamps; manufacturers, designers, academics, and utilities strongly recommended that EPA provide some easement for the luminous efficacy targets of high CRI LED Lamps, which are fundamentally more challenging than low CRI products. Specific proposals were submitted to the EPA last week.

“Fundamental physics research shows that there is a ~2% penalty in luminous efficacy per point of CRI. So, going from a CRI of 80, where most LEDs operate, to a CRI of 90, there is a ~20% penalty in lm/W,” said Dr. Shuji Nakamura, Professor of Materials Department and Co-Director for the Solid State Lighting & Energy Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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