CA To Base LED Lamp Rebate Programs on Quality Specification
By: Craig DiLouie

In 2012, the California Energy Commission (CEC) published the Quality LED Lamp Specification—a voluntary quality specification for LED replacement lamps intended to replace screw base  incandescent lamps in light fixtures. This includes certain omnidirectional and directional (spot and flood) lamps but excludes colored lamps, light strips and rope lights, linear pin-based lamps, and integrated light fixtures.

The rationale for the specification is very similar to that of Energy Star, which is based on lessons learned in the slow and inhibited market adoption of CFLs in the residential market. CFLs taught policy makers that just because a lamp produces sufficient light output, is cost effective, and is heavily promoted does not guarantee success with consumers. The CEC determined that consumers remain unhappy with CFLs largely due to poor color quality, limited dimming offerings, and unpredictable lamp life.

Research conducted by the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) also informed the CEC that current Energy Star criteria may not be ideally oriented to maximizing consumer acceptance. Although the specification is designed to work alongside similar Energy Star criteria and manufacturers can use the same test procedures to satisfy both, the California specification poses more stringent requirements in six areas: color temperature, color consistency, color rendering, dimmability, rated life/warranty, and light distribution.

For example, the Quality LED Lamp Specification requires color temperature in either a warm 2700K or 3000K, while Energy Star allows color temperature up to a very cool 5000K. All replacement lamps must have a 90-plus CRI (Color Rendering Index) rating with an R9 (saturated reds) rating of more than 50. There is no efficacy requirement, enabling 90-plus CRI lamps to be offered at a lower cost. All lamps must be capable of continuous dimming, without flicker or noise, from 10% to 100% of full light output. Satisfying these and the other requirements, the CEC believes, will increase adoption among consumers, based on the CLTC’s research.

The requirements have also been mandated as a threshold for residential product rebate programs. On Nov. 8, 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission issued decision 12-11-015, which requires utilities in the state to rebate only LED lamps that are compliant with the Quality LED Lamp Specification. A transition period of up to one year, during which noncompliant lamps could still be rebated, was allowed to give manufacturers time to make any necessary improvements to their products. This transition period was allowed based on the belief that while most products on the market today are very close to satisfying the specification, few actually do. At the latest, the new specification will begin impacting rebate programs in early 2014.

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