New Rules for Metal Halide; Cities Get Smart
By: Craig DiLouie

On Feb. 10, DOE rules take effect that regulate the efficiency of metal halide (MH) lamp ballasts sold as part of new luminaires. These rules update existing energy-efficiency standards created by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The previous rules virtually eliminated probe start lamps and ballasts from new medium-wattage (150W to 500W) luminaires, a segment of the market representing the majority of MH shipments.

The new rules establish minimum ballast efficiency standards for luminaires based on ballast type, location (indoor or outdoor), and rated lamp wattage (50W to 100W, 101W to 149W, 150W to 250W, 251W to 500W, and 501W to 1,000W). The DOE essentially modified standards for the medium-wattage segment while establishing new standards for the low-wattage (50W to 149W) and high-wattage (501W to 1,000W) segments of the market.

Two of the existing exemptions remain in effect. These include 480V electronic ballasts and regulated lag ballasts limited to applications such as heavy industrial, security, and street and tunnel lighting. However, MH luminaires rated only for 150W lamps, rated for use in wet locations, and containing a ballast rated at ambient air temperatures higher than 50°C are no longer exempted.

Otherwise, the rules do not cover 1,001W to 2,000W lamp ballasts. They also do not cover replacement ballasts sold to maintain luminaires already installed.

For the past three years, manufacturers have evaluated their products on a case-by-case basis and continued, redesigned, or discontinued them. Given that MH is a declining technology under strong direct competition from solid-state lighting, a significant number of products may have been discontinued. In other cases, luminaires may have been redesigned for a different ballast and then retested. The result may be gaps in availability and an aftermarket mixing designs and redesigns. Check with the luminaire manufacturer about availability.

Compliant ballast options include pulse-start magnetic and electronic. Pulse-start magnetic ballasts provide the benefits of higher efficiency, superior lumen maintenance, and greater color stability than probe-start ballasts. Electronic ballasts operate at an even higher efficiency, resulting in about 10% energy savings compared with magnetic ballasts. They may also improve lumen maintenance, extend lamp life, and offer other features such as dimming. However, their higher cost and lower degree of ruggedness compared with magnetic ballasts have limited market penetration. The ballast may be high-frequency or low-frequency square wave. As high frequency electronic MH ballasts are not compatible with all MH lamps, the lamp and ballast must be properly matched to avoid issues.

When it released the rule in 2014, the DOE estimated energy savings would recoup the cost premium in four-and-a-half to nearly 20 years, depending on the luminaire and other factors. With an estimated payback of less than a year, an exception was 1,000W lamp ballasts.

Cities Are Getting Smart
In late 2014, the Obama administration announced a smart cities initiative that will invest more than $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 technology collaborations to promote smart cities.

A smart city—which represent an Ethernet/IP network of systems that is programmable, automated/ responsive, and reporting—is the marriage of two very popular concepts: connected lighting and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The connected lighting trend promises to make building lighting networkable, programmable, and highly flexible and responsive. In fact, the DOE has forecasted that by 2035, one-third of LED energy savings will be from connected lighting and lighting controls.

Meanwhile, the industry is excited about the potential of IIoT—and that potential is aided by ubiquitous LED luminaires, which provide the physical infrastructure for deploying sensors, cameras, controllers, and, potentially, wireless signal boosters and network hubs. The lighting may be networked across city buildings, public area and streetlighting, or both. Communication may be wired, wireless, or both, with wireless typical for outdoor lighting. The lighting network may integrate with other systems such as automation, life/safety, telecommunications, and facilities management.

Developing a system starts with determining owner project requirements, which will dictate the scope of the system, the sensors required, and the manufacturer’s software feature set. Once the basic infrastructure is in place, anything can be measured.

The luminaires are networked and programmed using software (customized software may be required if the standard software doesn’t cover all of the requirements).

Hardware installation is relatively simple. In the case of area and streetlighting, the control node plugs directly into the luminaire receptacle based on an ANSI standardized connection.

Profiles include on/off and dimming, individually and in groups, based on inputs such as daylight, time of day, and occupancy sensing. The controllers send back data such as lamp/luminaire status, power, and energy consumption. Other sensors can measure temperature, humidity, occupancy, air quality, gases, noises, etc. The system may be self-commissioning for efficient start-up.

The controllers and sensors feed all data to the cloud or server for retrieval, which may take the form of analytics and/or alerts. City officials can collect and analyze data and store it for historical analysis. They can also enable alerts to improve efficiency of response, with GPS based alerts reporting the exact location of events. For example, the system could detect a lighting outage requiring maintenance or a car accident requiring emergency response. Additionally, WiFi access points can be integrated into luminaires to provide a valuable service.

While the smart city is still a nascent trend, distributors already selling LED building and streetlighting should consider incorporating lighting controls. When selecting a solution that will support a smart city, they should ask: Is the solution scalable? How will devices be connected? Does the city have IT staff who can manage the network? Is the solution secure? Can all systems be integrated? Who will access the system, and how will they do it?

The lighting industry recently formed the TALQ Consortium to promote adoption of smart cities by developing standard interoperable interfaces between networks featuring various hardware and software; learn more at 

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