LED downlights will be among the first products to receive the Energy Star label. Wisconsin-based Sentry Equipment is outfitted with LED recessed lighting; its break room uses LED Lighting Fixture's LR6 downlight module with Cree LEDs. The product's development was part of a DOE research partnership.
LED downlights will be among the first products to receive the Energy Star label. Wisconsin-based Sentry Equipment is outfitted with LED recessed lighting; its break room uses LED Lighting Fixture's LR6 downlight module with Cree LEDs. The product's development was part of a DOE research partnership.

Rapid advances in solid-state lighting (SSL) technology have led to a steady stream of products heading to market. Some show great promise, some already deliver high quality for specific applications, and some fall short of expectations. Past experience tells us we have reached a critical point, where market acceptance easily can be bolstered or dampened by first experiences.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has made a long-term commitment to advance the research, development, and market introduction of SSL. This technology has the potential to reduce lighting energy use by 50 percent and to revolutionize the energy efficiency, appearance, visual comfort, and quality of lighting.

But we cannot save energy unless SSL is actually used. Incandescent lighting long has been a mainstay for the lighting industry, but it is not an energy-efficient light source by today's standards; recent legislation—the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007—sets rigorous future lighting efficiency standards that current incandescents cannot meet. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are energy efficient but have only recently managed to reach a 20 percent market share, despite using 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasting six to ten times longer.

Introducing new technologies into the marketplace is a complex process, and even more so for SSL. The unique attributes of SSL require fundamental changes in form, function, design, and installation, and impact every step in the value chain. This complexity requires industry-wide solutions and has prompted an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration among government, researchers, manufacturers, standards organizations, testing laboratories, utilities, efficiency programs, designers, specifiers, and others.

The goal is to coordinate efforts throughout the industry—and avoid the confusion caused by the every-man-for-himself approach that characterized the introduction of CFLs to the marketplace.

LESSONS LEARNED DRIVE NEW APPROACH To accelerate development and market introduction of SSL technology, the DOE has developed a strategy to avoid problems seen earlier with other energy-efficient technologies in general and CFL technology in particular. A 2006 DOE report, “Compact Fluorescent Lighting in America: Lessons Learned on the Way to Market,” lists key findings that serve as lessons for the DOE and the SSL industry.

Some of the issues addressed are: timing, education, and performance. In developing its market introduction strategies for SSL, the DOE has incorporated lessons learned from CFLs, exercising caution not to promote light-emitting diode (LED) products too early and giving special attention to the need for credible information, appropriate education, and industry-wide collaboration on terms, standards, and product performance criteria.

LAYING A FOUNDATION Solid-state lighting products on the market today exhibit a wide range of performance. The DOE Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program supports product testing conducted by independent laboratories. CALiPER test results provide unbiased product performance information, guiding DOE planning and helping to discourage low-quality products that do not perform as claimed. More than 70 products have been tested to date.

A NEW PARADIGM FOR PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT Fundamentally different from traditional lighting technologies, SSL requires a completely different approach to performance testing. The DOE supports the development of standards and test procedures needed to accommodate the technical differences between SSL and traditional sources. Working closely with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and other standards-setting organizations, the DOE helps coordinate and accelerate the standards development process. Annual workshops hosted by the DOE provide a forum for sharing progress and updates and to identify additional needs.

The recent release of ANSI C78.377, “Specifications for Chromaticity of Solid-State Lighting Products,” is the first result of this accelerated, collaborative process. It will be followed by IESNA LM-79, “Approved Method for the Electrical and Photometric Testing of Solid-State Lighting Devices,” and IESNA LM-80, “Approved Method for Measuring Lumen Depreciation of LED Light Sources.”