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P-2 Energy Efficient Lighting Blog
What It Takes to Get an LED Fixture From the Lab to the Ceiling
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:00

It seems like every 6 months we hear about some new advancement in LED technology. Engineers in the lab develop a new LED that delivers more lumens per watt, or longer lifespans or improved color rendering or some other benefit. Industry journals and technology blogs report the findings, and the public gets excited about the future of LEDs.

Then weeks, months and even years go by before a fixture comes to market with that advancement incorporated into it. As a consumer, you might be wondering, "What takes so long?"

The answer is, many things. In this post, we'll walk you through the basics of what it takes to get from the lab to the real world.

Step 1: LED Manufacturing
LED Manufacturing

Once an LED manufacturer has developed a technological advance in the lab, the next step is to figure out how to get their discovery into mass production. Getting a single LED to do something new is neat, but it's not really useful until the engineer (or really more often, a group of engineers) can figure out how to make lots of LEDs do that same new thing reliably, and on a cost-effective basis.

A single [P2] QHC high bay LED fixture can have up to 60 LEDs. One warehouse retrofit with 150 QHCs in it would need 9,000 LEDs. Multiply that by thousands of facilities across the country, and you begin to see the scale of LED manufacturing that's necessary to bring a technological advance to market.

LEDs also have to be tested. The LM-80 test requires 6,000 hours of testing to start. That's over 8 months from the time an LED is manufactured and testing begins, until it's fully eligible to be published as true data.

Step 2: Fixture Development
Exploded view of the QHC LED fixture
There's much more to a fixture than just the LEDs. A retrofit kit or fixture can incorporate a lens and optical components, a heat sink, electronics and the integration of sensors and other components. Heat sinks need to be designed, optics developed and electronics soldered. The simple fact is that it takes time to design, manufacture, test and revise a fixture that we're willing to put our reputation behind.

At [P2] we design and redesign to meet or exceed DLC and other certification qualifications.

Step 3: Testing & Certification

This is the part of the process that most people don't consider. Even after the LED manufacturers have figured out how to mass-produce the LEDs, and our engineers are completely satisfied with their fixture design, the fixture still has to go through a significant amount of testing and certification.

There are a few reasons for a fixture to go through certification and testing. One is to get independent verification of a fixture's performance. The IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America) has developed testing procedures so consumers can accurately compare specifications from different manufacturers. These tests and subsequent certifications are also required by many rebate and incentive programs.

We want our customers to have access to as many rebates and incentives as they can, so we work hard to get our fixtures the certifications which make that possible.

For LED fixtures, the most commonly required certifications for a fixture to be eligible for energy-efficient rebates are Energy Star® Qualification or listing on the DLC (DesignLights Consortium®) qualified products list.

Both certifications have similar testing requirements, including LM-79 photometric testing, ISTMT temperature measurement testing and a lumen-maintenance testing procedure referred to as TM-21.

While photometric and temperature testing can happen relatively quickly, completing an application and Energy Star® Qualification or DLC listing can easily take 3-6 weeks.

We also perform a significant amount of in-house design and testing related to the fixture installation process. We know that efficiency in the field is important to our customers, so we make sure that every [P2] fixture is thoroughly tested to make its installation as efficient as possible.

Fast, Without Cutting Corners
At [P2], we work hard to give our customers access to the latest advances in LED technology while still delivering the quality that we've been building our reputation on for the past 20+ years. It's part of our commitment to delivering the latest LED technology in a package that our customers can trust.

Senate Finance Committee Votes to Extend 179D Through 2015
Monday, 14 April 2014 07:48

On April 3, 2014, the United States Senate Finance Committee took the first step in ensuring the extension of 179D, a tax deduction that helps offset the cost of energy efficiency improvements in new and existing commercial buildings. The extension was tacked on as a last moment amendment to the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, a piece of legislation comprised of “tax extenders” whose purpose it is to renew tax provisions that have expired or will expire at the end of the year. If passed in the House, this act will ensure that 179D continues to be available retroactively through 2015.

Extension With an Expanded Reach
We’re happy to see the 179D extension heading toward a house vote, because the $1.80 per square foot deduction encourages the installation of highly efficient interior lighting in both retrofit projects and new construction. What is particularly encouraging about the amendment is that it now extends this benefit to non-profits and tribal governments.

Here at P2, we’ve had customers and their end users take advantage of this deduction to save on the funding for installation of super efficient fluorescent and LED lighting options. And while the year over year savings that an interior lighting upgrade can generate are significant, deductions like 179D allow for a break on upfront installation costs, which can be the deciding factor in green lighting an efficiency project. It is our hope that this extension to non-profits and tribal governments will help open up the door for projects in these sectors that may not have had the funding previously.

Rallying the Troops
A number of organizations including the American Institute of Architects and the National Electrical Manufactures Association (NEMA) advocated for the inclusion of this extension in the EXPIRE Act. “This is a major win for the industry,” said NEMA Vice President of Government Relations, Kyle Pistor. “If 179D had not been included in the Finance Committee final bill, chances of bringing it back later this year in another bill would have been very difficult, if not impossible. So, a major hurdle has been overcome, with more work to be done to secure reinstatement of the 179D tax deduction.”

Headed to the House
The Senate Finance Committee voted to pass the EXPIRE Act with strong bi-partisan support, and now the act is headed for the House of Representatives. When this next step will occur is unknown. Pistor suggests that this may not happen until after the November elections.

We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Tips For Picking the Right Energy-Efficient Lighting Contractor
Thursday, 10 April 2014 13:05
Finding the Right Lighting Contractor

Few things can contribute more to the success of an energy-efficient lighting retrofit than picking the right contractor to audit, design and install your project.

Choosing the right contractor can be a difficult decision, so we've put together a few tips to help you select the right lighting contractor for your project.

1: Look at Value, Not Just Price
Too many business owners choose a contractor simply on the basis of cost. They get several bids, and the lowest one gets the job.

We'd encourage you to look at more than just cost, for a couple of reasons. First, often doing a more comprehensive retrofit will have a higher initial cost. But, that same retrofit can result in greater energy savings that will quickly pay for the cost of the retrofit. We’ve covered this principle in detail in our getting the most from every retrofit series of blog posts.

Second, quality is worth paying for. An individual estimate could be higher for a variety of reasons. Maybe it's for a more comprehensive retrofit, maybe it uses higher quality fixtures and components, maybe it includes a more comprehensive range of services.

Whatever the reasons, it's worth taking the time to understand them, and making an informed decision on more than just price.

2: Ask For References
If you only did one thing to help you pick the right lighting contractor, this would be it. Ask any contractors you're considering for references from clients who have had similar projects done. Most will be willing to give you the names of a few past clients you can contact.

If you have the chance, it's worth doing more than just placing a phone call. Ask for permission to make a site visit, and take a look at the contractor's past work. Between seeing examples of their past work and talking with past clients, you'll have a clearer picture of what you can expect.

3: Check Memberships & Certifications
There are a number of organization memberships, relevant certifications and local trade ally lists that can help to give evidence of a contractor's expertise.

NAESCO, the National Association of Energy Service Companies, is an organization made up of a broad range of companies involved with energy-efficient lighting as well as other energy efficiency measures. These companies are collectively known as ESCOs, or Energy Service Companies. Since 1990 ESCOs have delivered more than $50 billion in energy savings. NAESCO offers three relevant accreditations including EEC, ESCO and ESP certifications. You can view a list of accredited companies on their website.

NALMCO, the International Association of Lighting Management Companies, is an organization for lighting contractors who perform energy-efficient lighting upgrades. In addition to membership, they also offer several relevant certifications, including CALT and CSLT for lighting technicians, and CLMC and CSLC for lighting consultants. You can learn more about the certifications at ChooseNALMCO.org, and search for members in your area using the NALMCO Member Directory.

Other memberships and certifications worth checking for might include PLASMA (Professional Lighting and Sign Management Companies of America) membership, IES (the Illuminating Engineering Society) membership and its associated NCQLP (National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions) Lighting Certified program, NLCAA (National Lighting Contractors Association of American) membership and its Lighting Control Acceptance Test Technician and Contractor certifications, as well as any local or regional lighting associations.

Many utilities also maintain lists of regional contractors referred to as trade ally networks. For example, the Northwest Lighting Network maintains a list of trade ally networks throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. In Wisconsin, the Focus on Energy program maintains a list of trade allies in their region. Wherever your business is, it’s worth checking with your utility to see if they have a list of trade ally partners.

These memberships and certifications help to show the contractor’s involvement in the industry, as well as a commitment to education and training.

4: Get Professional Advice
As a lighting manufacturer, we've worked with thousands of lighting contractors all over the country. If you're looking for advice on finding a lighting contractor, the Precision-Paragon [P2] lighting professional in your area would be a great place to start.

Lighting Trends: Parking Garages Cutting kWh
Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:16
Parking Garage LED Retrofit

Last month we told the story of Current Electric’s retrofit of the Shops of Grand Avenue’s parking garage. By replacing the parking garage’s existing HID lighting with [P2]’s VPL LEDs, Current Electric generated 1.3 million kWh in energy savings, and over $130,000 in cost savings.

The Shops of Grand Avenue is part of a bigger trend of parking facilities all over the country upgrading their inefficient lighting with the latest generation of LED and fluorescent parking garage lighting. So we thought we’d look at a few of the reasons that parking facility owners and managers across the country are saying goodbye to their old inefficient lighting.

Excellent Sensor Compatibility
Many parking facilities operate 24/7/365. But that doesn’t mean that the facility is occupied by moving vehicles or pedestrians 24/7/365, or that every fixture in the facility needs to be on, or on at full brightness, 24/7/365.

Automation is the answer. For example, the Shops of Grand Avenue retrofit used a mixture of daylight and occupancy sensors to increase energy savings while maintaining appropriate light levels.

Both fluorescent and LED fixtures can be fitted with sensors, and offer excellent performance in many conditions. LED lighting has an edge when it comes to cold-weather performance. In sub-zero temperatures, fluorescent lighting can take a few minutes to reach full brightness, while LED lighting will come on instantly. This might not be a significant factor if you’re performing a parking garage retrofit in San Diego or Tampa. But in places like Milwaukee or Chicago, where temperatures dip below freezing for several months every year, it might tip the balance toward an LED-based retrofit.

Long Maintenance-Free Lifespans
It’s no secret that lighting maintenance in parking garages can be a hassle. Like we mentioned, often they’re open 24/7/365, so your options for maintenance are to send out a crew in the middle of the night when there aren’t too many vehicles and pedestrians around, or risk causing a more significant disruption at busier times of the day.

As a result, low-maintenance lighting solutions are in hot demand for parking facilities. Both fluorescent and LED lighting have made significant strides in lifespans over the past few years. Our VPL LED parking garage fixture has a reported L70 of over 51,000 hours, calculated at 81,000 hours via TM-21. The VPL’s fluorescent cousin, the VTG, can be fitted with long-life lamps rated for up to 60,000 hours. Both offer great low-maintenance performance.

Rebate Availability
Energy-efficiency rebates can be a “here today gone tomorrow” thing. Right now in many parts of the country, rebates are here.

Rebates fall into two broad categories. Prescriptive or custom. We went through them in detail back in January, but essentially, prescriptive rebates are based on specific actions, while custom rebates are based on the actual amount of energy you save.

Both types of rebates can be attractive to parking garage owners. A prescriptive rebate might require a specific lighting technology, while a custom rebate will generally give you the flexibility to choose a lighting technology based on other factors.

Combining rebates with the energy savings of a parking garage retrofit can help to lower the initial cost of the project, and accelerate the payback period.

Find a Qualified Professional
As always, the best thing you can do to ensure the success of your lighting retrofit project is to work with a qualified lighting professional. If you need to find one, we’d be happy to help.

Meet the Record-Setting LED LVT High Bay Wide Body Vaportight Fixture
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 10:00
LVT Vaportight 2x4 High Bay

Today, we’re happy to introduce you to our latest fixture. The LED LVT high bay wide body vaportight fixture is our first wet-location fixture to offer efficacies of up to 110 lumens per watt. The LVT is available in a wide range of lumen outputs, and is a very versatile fixture. As a result, it has applications in many food service, cold storage, warehousing and other high-bay locations.

In many applications where the LVT will be used, glare is a concern. The LVT is designed with a diffused lens, which helps to reduce glare, provide even distribution and increase the visual comfort without pixilation for workers in areas illuminated by the fixture.

We know that many of our customers are integrating lighting controls in their retrofits, so we made sure that the LVT would be compatible with a wide range of controls. The LVT is easy to integrate with dimming or bi-level controls, and you can order the fixture with an IP65 rated wet-location occupancy sensor. This makes it a great option for cold-storage applications, where startup times might prohibit lighting controls from being used with fluorescent or HID fixtures.

The LVT gives you flexible mounting options as well. It’s designed to allow either surface-mounted or suspended installation. If you’re thinking of using it in a food-service application, you’ll be happy to know that the LVT is both glass- and mercury-free, eliminating the risk of contamination associated with lamp breakage and the risk of potential mercury contamination.

The LVT is available to order now, in a wide range of configurations for light output, dimming, controls and mounting. If you’d like to learn more, you can download the LVT’s specification sheet, get in touch with a [P2] lighting professional near you or call our service hub at (714) 386-5550.

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