Forward-Looking Lighting Standards

Forward-Looking Lighting Standards

This piece was originally published in the October 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Alex Boesenberg, Senior Manager, Government Relations, NEMA  

The lighting industry is in the midst of a revolution. The entry of cost-effective light-emitting diode (LED) technology into the marketplace ushered in an era of affordable, versatile, and adaptable lighting. NEMA Standards provide guidance and test methods to improve LED function and performance.

For example, NEMA SSL 7A and NEMA 77 address the interaction between LEDs and lighting controls: the former to reduce the occurrence of visual lighting artifacts (broadly referred to as “flicker”) and the latter to better measure flicker and stroboscopic effects. The ability to measure and evaluate the interaction of LED sources and their controls enables lighting designers and consumers to effectively pair products.

One significant challenge with LEDs is satisfactory performance during dimming. While many LED lamp manufacturers claim backward compatibility with dimmers designed for incandescent lamps, they are challenged to deliver because of the thousands of dimmer designs that exist. Earlier this year, NEMA launched a marking program to identify proper pairs. See www.nema.org/led-dimming.

NEMA and its ANSI lighting committees also manage test procedures for fluorescent ballasts at test points other than full output and are also developing test procedures to measure the energy efficiency of solid state lighting (SSL) drivers, which power the latest LED technology for room and area lighting. While these drivers are energy efficient by nature, it is not always fair to assume that all SSL drivers are equally efficient. Thus it is useful to be able to compare them and hold underperforming products accountable.

At the same time, the emergence of highly adaptive lighting products means that sensors and controls that were not possible with legacy technologies are more feasible than ever. It is worth noting that the “solid state” in SSL refers to electronics, which are highly flexible in terms of control capability and measurement, especially when compared to analog discharge lighting technologies. NEMA Standards for controls interaction and systems interaction, such as those being written by the NEMA ANSI Committee C137, are forward looking in their applications as effective lighting systems.

The effectiveness of NEMA SSL 7A and NEMA 77 is evidenced in their use as references in the ENERGY STAR® lamps program specification and in California lighting regulations (i.e., Title 24 and Title 20).

The use of and reference to NEMA Standards by specifiers and regulators ensures that well-written, well-understood Standards drive innovation and installation of high-quality products and lighting systems.

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