Lamp manufacturers are credited with the ability to dramatically influence the lighting industry with a single innovation. From T8 and T5 lamps to LEDs, new light sources often result in new ballasts, fixtures, design approaches, creative opportunities and solutions for lighting problems.

The past five years have brought significant changes, says Pamela Horner, environmental marketing manager for Osram Sylvania's General Lighting Division. She has seen, for example, broad market acceptance for the T8 lamp, complete offerings of T5 and T5HO lamps from the major manufacturers, an increased number of self-ballasted compact fluorescents and a larger offering of halogen lamps with IR-reflective coatings. She has also seen significant growth in ceramic metal halide and pulse-start metal halide types and wattages, and believes ceramic metal halide will displace a number of quartz arc tube metal halide lamps over the next five years.

As is the nature of industrial progress, manufacturers continue to improve the system performance of familiar lamp types—particularly in the areas of service life, lumen maintenance, light output and efficacy. Other major trends include the continued drive towards energy efficiency and green design and the development of smaller light sources.

energy efficiency On July 15, 2004, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ruling takes effect as part of the National Energy Policy Act of 1992. Under the ruling, all states must certify that they have energy codes in place that are at least as stringent as model energy code ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-1999, or justify why they cannot comply. As of October 2003, 20 states are in the process of adopting energy codes that meet or exceed the requirements of Standard 90.1-1999; Kansas has adopted the 2001 standard. The standard's lighting requirements are stringent enough to essentially require the adoption of electronic-ballasted T8 systems for new construction and renovations. The foundation is already laid: Horner says that T8 lamp-ballast systems have become increasingly commonplace over the past five years.

'Energy-efficient T8s have become the norm in new construction, with an increasing number of Super T8s being used,' says Horner. In the next five years, she believes, 'T12 fluorescent lamps will be phased out for most general applications' in favor of T8s and other sources owing to energy concerns and new regulations.

The result is a growing family of T8 lamps. In addition to the Super T8 (instant start or programmed start), recent product introductions include 28W lamps (instant start or programmed start) and 30W lamps (instant start). New Super T8 lamp-ballast systems combine high-light-output T8 lamps with low-light-output ballasts to produce light output comparable to a standard T8 system for about 15 percent less wattage. The Super T8 is distinguishable for its high light output (3,100 to 3,200 lumens) and also high lumen maintenance (88 to 92 percent end-of-life lumens) and long service life. Super T8 lamps include the Philips 'Advantage,' Osram Sylvania 'Xtreme' and GE 'HL.' (See figure 1 for a comparison of sample systems.)

green design Paul Walitsky, manager of environmental affairs for Philips Lighting, sees sustainability as a major trend—'long life, low mercury, energy efficiency and sustainable manufacturing processes'—along with recycling practices. A recent survey by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) found that lamp manufacturers reduced the total amount of mercury used in fluorescent lamps from 27 tons in 1990 to about 9 tons today, a 67 percent decrease; and also reduced their average use of mercury in each 4-foot lamp to 8.3 milligrams, an 80 percent decrease from the average level of 41.6 milligrams per lamp in 1990. Nevertheless, says Walitsky, 'the industry still uses nine tons of mercury per year. This amount must be reduced.'

One year ago, NEMA announced that the members of its lamp section—which includes Philips Lighting, Osram Sylvania, GE Lighting, EYE Lighting, SLI Lighting, Ushio America and Venture Lighting—have adopted a nationwide program to label fluorescent and HID lamps that contain mercury, as well as their packaging. Each label now includes the international symbol for mercury, Hg; the notice, 'Lamp contains mercury. Manage in accordance with disposal laws'; and a toll-free number and a website,, for more information on state-specific disposal regulations.

smaller is better Besides T5 and T5HO lamps and the continued evolution toward a common footprint for associated ballasts, LEDs in particular show significant promise as they evolve from indicators to illuminators. Horner believes that in the next five years, the efficacy of white LEDs 'will increase significantly beyond today's 25 lumens per watt.' She also points to the proliferation of low-wattage, small-diameter ceramic metal halide lamps.


The electronic ballast overtook the magnetic ballast in unit sales volume for the first time in 2001, a remarkable achievement given that electronic ballasts comprised only 14 percent of volume in 1992. And electronics were barely on the radar, representing just 0.6 percent of volume, in 1986.

Over the next five to ten years, magnetic ballasts will virtually disappear from new construction and, in time, from existing buildings as well, thanks to a new DOE ruling initiated under the 1988 Federal Ballast Energy Law that goes into effect in 2005. It mandates new efficacy standards for ballasts used to operate F40T12 and F96T12 lamps (see figure 2). In most cases, only electronic ballasts will comply, although magnetic ballasts will still be manufactured for F96T12HO lamps rated for -20 degrees fahrenheit for all applications except outdoor signage. Exceptions to the rule also include residential ballasts that have a power factor less than 0.90 and ballasts dimmable to 50 percent or less. In addition, the 0 degrees fahrenheit starting exemption is removed. T8 lamps are not covered by the rule, as there are several applications for these sources, such as electronic-sensitive areas, where electronic ballasts would not be used.

The growing commoditization of the electronic ballast has encouraged manufacturers to continue to innovate and differentiate their products to add value. In general, electronic ballasts are getting smaller while offering greater versatility, controllability and capabilities. Several new trends in ballast development include:

adoption of programmed start These rapid-start ballasts provide precise heating of the lamp filaments and control the pre-heat time before applying the start-up voltage, thereby reducing filament stress. The result is longer lamp life and a solution for applications where frequent switching affects lamp life, such as spaces with occupancy sensors. They have been available for over a decade, but are now becoming popular as automatic switching strategies are increasingly specified for new construction. Expect even greater use of programmed-start ballasts with adoption of Standard 1999, since it mandates automatic switching controls in a broad range of applications.

digital ballasts The benefits of facility-wide dimming (flexibility, energy savings) combined with a personal dimming interface (greater employee satisfaction and performance, energy savings) have led to increased demand for digital lighting networks. The heart of these networks is the digital ballast. Market interest in facility-wide dimming has led to growing adoption of the Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) protocol by digital ballast manufacturers, as well as by a number of controls manufacturers. DALI provides a standard set of rules that govern the exchange of information across a computer network. If all ballasts and controls connected to the network are DALI-compatible, they are interoperable, providing the benefits of competitive bidding between manufacturers and helping to insure that the networked lighting system operates properly.

'Electronic ballast technology over the next five years will lead us down a digital path that will open new horizons for the industry,' says Stuart Berjansky, product manager for Advance Transformer. 'The future lends itself toward miniaturization with increased capabilities, and the digital path will enable this to happen. Additionally, our suppliers continuously develop components that are smaller, which obviously helps us meet our size reduction requirements.'

leds The growing popularity of the LED light source has prompted major manufacturers such as Advance and Osram Sylvania to offer LED drivers, including dimming and color-mixing drivers. New products, such as the Xitanium series from Advance, are designed to operate LEDs from almost any manufacturer, an important step in standardization for this young illumination technology.

adaptable ballasts These ballasts can operate multiple quantities and wattages of lamps on multiple voltages. Benefits include the ability to simplify and consolidate inventory, to change existing fixtures to adapt to new space needs without changing the ballast, to add or remove lamps to adjust light levels, and to eliminate problems due to installation errors when fixtures and ballasts are wired to the incorrect line voltage.

'Today, we have ballast models that are multiple voltage, models that operate multiple lamps, models that operate multiple wattage lamps; in the future, these will be combined into a single set of models,' says Howard Wolfman, senior manager of regulatory affairs for Osram Sylvania.

Other notable new ballasts include residential-qualified linear and compact fluorescent ballasts and four-lamp T8 high-ballast-factor (1.15) high-efficiency ballasts.

Craig DiLouie is principal of ZING Communications, a marketing communications and consulting firm specializing in the lighting and electrical industries. A former publisher of Architectural Lighting, he is the author of many books and articles on lighting and electrical engineering.