Emerging LED lighting standards

By Rick Laird*
Wednesday, 26 May, 2010

LEDs experience a technological breakthrough every day, so the standard question related to LEDs we should ask ourselves is: “What’s new?” There are daily improvements such as increased lumens per watt (L/W), improved heat management and higher colour rendering index (CRI), among others. However, the potentially biggest event to hit the LED world within the last few months may not be related to LED chip performance, but to the US Department of Energy’s recently released Energy Star Program Requirements for Integral LED Lamps - Partner Commitments.

This new ‘standard’ may have a big impact on LEDs, not only in the US, but globally, because, even though participation is voluntary, this is the first real attempt to put meaty standards around LED lamps that are similar to standards used for all other general lighting products. For traditional general lighting lamps, characteristics/attributes such as size, shape, base, luminous intensity, correlated colour temperature (CCT), CRI, lumen maintenance, etc are defined or specified in such a way that manufacturers and customers alike see consistent product in the market. This is not the case for LEDs - there are no LED standards.

Since the formation of the ANSI standard, if one lamp claims to be Cool White (~4100K), then competing lamps’ measurements will be close to the same Cool White value, within measurement tolerance. This has not been true with LED lamps. Two issues are at play. One is that in the LED world, depending on manufacturers, Cool White is a colour temperature from 5000 to 7000K instead of the traditional 4100K. The second issue, as you can tell from the range given, is the variation in colour temperature. One manufacturer may show a Cool White CCT of 5000K while another may produce a 6500K Cool White. This provides customers with difficulty when trying to purchase lamps to match their existing lighting.

These two issues, related to colour alone, show how the lack of standards has a direct impact on end users/customers.

Without the standards in place, the market as a whole will have no frame of reference to judge product without a purchase and thus will lose confidence in the technology before it even takes off. Many of you have already dealt with these issues and more, such as lifetime/warranty of 50,000 hours, claimed LPW, colour shift, etc. That is one of the primary reasons for the standards.

The Energy Star Program Requirements for Integral LED Lamps - Partner Commitments standard attempts to:

  • Define the colour performance of all LED lamps;
  • Ensure that retrofit LED lamps meet form, fit and function of the existing lamp technologies being replaced;
  • Ensure that all LED lamps meet certain energy efficiencies: 40, 50 and 55 L/W, depending on lamp wattages, making it easier to compare their efficiency to competing technologies, primarily fluorescent;
  • Require LED lamps to have minimum lumen outputs based upon the lamp being replaced;
  • Force LED lamp manufacturers to provide warranties that reflect the claimed LED lamp lifetimes; and
  • Require qualified third-party verifications that Energy Star rated LED lamps in the market meet the specifications set forth in the standard.

*Rick Laird, Director of Product Procurement & Quality Assurance, Eiko

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