This piece was originally published in the February 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Jennifer R. Dolin, Manager of Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs, LEDVANCE
Ms. Dolin chairs the NEMA Dimming Compatibility Working Group. She is also the IES co-vice chair to the ASHRAE SSPC 189.1 standard for high performance buildings and the manufacturer representative to the Product Care USA Board of Directors.
A consumer walks into a store and asks for help buying dimmable light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. The salesperson asks, “What kind of dimmers do you have?” The consumer responds, “I don’t know; I have one that slides up and down and one with a knob that turns.”
Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, it’s all too common as customers look to upgrade their homes with LED lighting. Consumers find LEDs with many different options when they go to the lighting aisle of a retail store. They can compare lamps side by side for wattage, color temperature, and energy consumption. They can find lamps for the fixtures inside their homes and for outdoor applications. They can look for the ENERGY STAR® logo, which 85 percent of consumers recognize as a symbol for energy efficiency. They might know that lamps with the ENERGY STAR logo are powered by LED technology. They might even look for dimmable lamps for their existing fixtures, and they can find lamps that dim down to different levels.
What they might not realize is that LEDs operate best on a dimmer designed specifically for the technology. This compatibility issue is key to consumer satisfaction with LED lighting. Consumers expect their lighting to have the same or better performance as the lamps they are replacing. Much of the time they’re thinking about the lamp on its own, and when it doesn’t dim exactly like their old incandescent lamp did, they assume the problem is with the LED. There has been little communication to help consumers understand that LEDs don’t always work on dimmers designed for an older technology.
NEMA Has a Solution
A NEMA working group has created a Dimming Compatibility Program to help consumers easily find LED lamps and dimmers that are compatible. Consumers need only look for the compatibility mark on packages of LED lamps and packages of dimmers to know they will work better together. The mark also draws attention to the fact that LED lamps should be installed with newer dimmers for optimal performance.
The mark was focus-tested with online consumers, and 64 percent surveyed responded that the mark communicated the intended message well or extremely well. An optional statement, “Look for this logo to find LED bulbs and dimmers that work together,” supports the mark at the point of purchase. In the focus tests, adding this statement increased the understanding of the intended message to 80 percent.
The ENERGY STAR program, in anticipation of the development of NEMA SSL 7A Phase-Cut Dimming for Solid State Lighting: Basic Compatibility, included a placeholder in the specification for lamps, offering an alternative path to testing for dimming compatibility once marketing guidelines were created. The NEMA dimming compatibility program offers manufacturers an opportunity to use the mark to demonstrate compliance with these requirements.
Join the Effort
The NEMA program is open to all manufacturers and applicable to any qualified LED lamp or dimmer—a manufacturer is not required to be an ENERGY STAR partner, and the product does not need to be ENERGY STAR certified in order to bear the mark.
Qualified LED lamps must meet the requirements in the ENERGY STAR specification for dimming and audible noise, the dimming requirements in NEMA SSL 7A-2015, and the flicker requirements in NEMA 77-2017; they also must be listed to UL 1993 or CSA C22.2 No. 1993-17. Qualified dimmers must meet the dimming requirements in the aforementioned NEMA standards and be listed to UL 1472 or CSA C22.2 No. 184.1-15.
To use the mark on packaging of qualified products, brand owners must sign a joint Memorandum of Understanding with NEMA, pay the required usage fees, provide a list of brands on which the mark will appear (along with a URL providing information to consumers about the program), and agree to the mark usage guidelines.
NEMA Members benefit from reduced fees—a one-time usage fee covers all of the Members’ brands. Nonmembers are charged an additional annual fee per brand. These fees cover administrative costs of the program and periodic verification testing to maintain program integrity. Like the ENERGY STAR program, a brand owner is considered a “licensee” and must sign the MOU. This includes retailers with private label brands, regardless of who manufactures their lamps.
A true NEMA Member effort, the program was created by a working group comprising representatives from Cree, GE, LEDVANCE, Legrand, Leviton, Lutron, Philips, and Westinghouse. While waiting for the completion of NEMA SSL 7A and NEMA 77, the group developed the logo and marketing materials to roll out the program, including a one-pager to help retailers train their sales staff.
A webpage, www.nema.org/led-dimming, walks brand owners through the program and provides information on joining the program. A video demonstrates how lamps dim to the program minimum of 20 percent and shows how many lamps can dim to 10 percent or even lower.
The completed program was rolled out to NEMA Members at the Lighting Division meetings in October 2017. At the ENERGY STAR annual partner meeting in Chicago the following week, the program was officially launched to the full manufacturing community. In upcoming months, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) will promote the program to their ENERGY STAR partners.
Visit www.nema.org/led-dimming to learn more about the program, read the one-pager on answering consumer questions, watch the video created by the skilled media team at Lutron, and find contact information for speaking with Madeleine Bugel about joining the NEMA LED Dimming Compatibility Program and obtaining a copy of the MOU. Sign it, send it, and start using the mark to help consumers find LED lamps and dimmers that work better together.