Lighting: Hot Topics for the New Year
By: Craig DiLouie

With LED technology steadily growing in capabilities and importance, manufacturers offer advice on how distributors can best approach the lighting market in the coming year.

To get a snapshot of what’s new and what manufacturers have to say about how distributors can get the most out of this market, here’s a look at several major product categories: lamps and ballasts, lighting controls, interior light fixtures, and exterior light fixtures.

Lamps and ballasts
Conventional lamp and ballast technologies are under assault from energy regulations and competition with rapidly developing LED technology.

In the past few years, federal product energy regulations have eliminated a majority of common fluorescent linear T12 lamps and magnetic ballasts, mercury vapor ballasts, standard halogen reflector lamps, metal halide probestart ballasts, and lamps in 150W to 500W new light fixtures. Product regulations are currently phasing out 40W to 100W general-service incandescent lamps—with more regulations coming.

Building energy regulations, meanwhile, continue to grow stricter, demanding not only energy efficiency, but also high levels of controllability. In October, all states must certify they have a commercial building energy code in place at least as stringent as ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2010 or justify why they cannot comply.

Who are the strongest contenders in this category? High-efficiency T8 electronic ballasts, dimmable fluorescent ballasts, long-life and energy-saving T8 lamps, pulse-start and ceramic pulse start metal halide systems, electronic HID ballasts, screw-in general-service omnidirectional halogen lamps, infrared reflecting halogen lamps, and, of course, LED replacement lamps and competitive fixtures.

“There are many opportunities for T12 and T8 lamp and ballast retrofits and controls in existing fluorescent luminaires,” said Cheryl Ford, marketing manager, general illumination for OSRAM Sylvania ( “There are also downlight retrofit opportunities with LED by replacing halogen PAR or BR30 incandescent lamps with an LED lamp or, for a better aesthetic, an LED retrofit downlight kit with glare-free optics. There is now an LED PAR38 lamp that provides the same performance as a ceramic metal halide 24W integrated lamp.”

Lighting controls
Demand for automatic energy-saving lighting controls has increased dramatically over the past decade, driven largely by energy codes and the sustainable design movement with its green rating systems such as LEED.

“Evolving energy code requirements continue to drive demand,” said Denis Chardac, national channel manager for WattStopper ( Energy codes have steadily evolved to include more mandatory energy-saving controls. ASHRAE/ IES 90.1-2010, the national energy reference standard, is very comprehensive regarding controls, placing unprecedented coverage and demand for flexibility on interior and exterior lighting systems.

In the existing buildings market, high energy costs, increasing availability of utility rebates covering energy-saving lighting controls, and technological advances in wireless and digital communication are making more sophisticated control strategies viable.

The biggest technological trends include LED control, wireless controls, daylight harvesting, bilevel control, distributed intelligent control, simplified programming for easier start-up, ability to integrate with measurement and verification strategies, and a wider choice of power switching options to suit a broader range of applications.

“The most significant technology trends in the industry revolve around saving energy,” said Rhett Thomas, sales director, electrical distribution, for Lutron Electronics ( “LED fixtures are replacing existing fixtures, and understanding how to control them continues to be crucial. Wireless control technology has existed for years but is coming into its own in this era where everyone is looking to easily upgrade their space in the name of reducing energy costs.”

Integration, he added, is another major emerging trend. Lighting control is becoming less of a stand-alone and more of an interconnecting proposition, and owners can benefit in terms of maximizing savings and generating more useful information by integrating their lighting control with their HVAC, security, and other building systems.

“Focusing on performance, ease of installation and setup, and total cost of ownership is the best-selling technique for controls,” said Chardac. “Controls can be a major differentiator for a distributor in selling retrofits, so understanding the new technology, codes, sequence of operations, and products available means more sales, margin, and differentiation from the competition.”

Indoor lighting
Demand for indoor lighting is largely driven by new construction and building energy codes. Additionally, an expanding premium segment is being driven by the sustainable design movement. Retrofit and renovation also continues to be a strong market, with fixture re placement opportunities including T12 to T5 or T8, HID to fluorescent, and virtually any conventional technology to LED.

“Troffers and downlights are leading the way in LED indoor lighting,” said Tom Salter, director of channel marketing, lighting, for Cree ( “The demand for LED linear and recessed products is high because they offer an easily justified payback when compared to incumbent technologies in new construction. Integrated solutions have taken over the market, and performance has never been better.”

Performance standards and recognition of high-quality products through programs such as the Next Generation Luminaires Design Competition, Energy Star quality labeling, and Design Light Consortium specifications are all enabling distributors to identify, compare, and purchase LED products with significantly less risk. Utility rebate programs are now increasingly recognizing LED options. The top technology trends are improving color, falling costs, easier installation, and controls integration. As LED technology improves, controls have become an increasingly important factor, overcoming basic compatibility issues and offering strong integration potential for higher energy savings.

“The most recent and significant technology trends are centered around solid-state lighting and controls integration,” said Steve Johnson, director of marketing and product development for Metalux Ambient, Eaton’s Cooper Lighting ( “LED products are control friendly and offer  compatibility with occupancy and daylight sensors, dimmers, and full-scale lighting control systems. Combining LED and controls provides optimal energy savings and can extend the service life of the system.”

Outdoor lighting
Energy efficiency remains the leading driver for demand of outdoor lighting products, though bilevel control is becoming more important due to energy codes requiring such flexibility, and many applications are driven by long service life. Careful control of backlight, uplight, and glare remains important as green building rating systems such as LEED and local anti-light-trespass ordinances continue to guide specification.

In terms of technology, the top trends are without a doubt the proliferation of LED options for virtually every exterior application, plus greater control options providing additional flexibility, energy savings, and compliance with energy codes. These LED options are creating a strong fixture replacement market in existing installations.

“The use of LEDs in outdoor light fixtures continues to gain acceptance, and many property owners are now requesting LED to reduce maintenance and operating costs,” said Dan Armstrong, value stream leader for Lithonia Lighting Outdoor, Lithonia Lighting ( “With some basic training, distributors can drive up sales by converting their customers to LED.”

“Parking and roadway are both hot right now,” added Salter. “The replacement of high-wattage HID fixtures with LED solutions is really taking off in the retrofit market.”

Salter noted that some interesting technological advances in LED outdoor lighting include products with a traditional look, shoebox fixtures providing the same light output as the highestwattage HID products for half the energy, integrated camera/control technology, and the ability to produce the same or higher output while directing the light where it is needed through integrated optics.

“Wallpacks and floodlights are a nice entry point into LED for many customers,” said Armstrong. “They can experience the new technology for a relatively low investment. A positive experience leads to further sales in other applications, including indoor applications.”

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