This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here because the All LED Lighting site has gone dark. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


California Mulls Tighter Standards for Light Quality

The California Energy Commission is considering new mandatory regulations for directional and general service LED lamps, which consider light quality and efficacy together but favor the former.

We wrote last fall about the CEC's voluntary standards for LED lamps, which came into effect in 2013. "Voluntary" means that bulb makers don't need to meet them, but if they don't their wares won't be eligible for rebates from energy companies located in that state.

California's mandatory regulations for energy efficiency are encoded in the Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations (see pages 154 through 155 for material relevant to LED lamps). It is those regulations that the CEC was working on in a meeting in Sacramento a couple of months back.

Current voluntary standards
These requires compliant omnidirectional lamps to be 2700K or 3000K CCT (within a 4-step MacAdam ellipse), CRI at or above 90, R9 at or above 50, flicker-free when dimmed 100% to 10%, omnidirectional per the Energy Star spec, and warranted for five years for residential use.

Cree was the first to get products on the market that meet the CEC standards: Their 60-Watt equivalent in the TW ("TrueWhite") Series puts out 800 lumens of light at 2700K CCT, 93-CRI, 13.5 W, 59.2 lm/W (at a list price of $20 when introduced). A number of other manufacturers have announced products meeting the CEC guidelines, including Green Creative and TCP (search in that PDF document for "CEC").

Proposed California Title 20 standards

Effective date Minimum compli-
ance score *
Minimum efficacy Minimum CRI
1/1/2017 335 55 82
1/1/2019 350 65 84

* Calculated as 3 x CRI + efficacy (in lm/W)

New standards under consideration
When California was considering adopting the current voluntary guidelines, there were calls in some circles for the CEC to factor efficacy into the equation. After all, efficacy trades off directly with CRI (and CCT). The revisions now being considered seem to be directly responsive to that desire.

The table shows the proposed guidelines for general service LED lamps at or below 3000K CCT. Note the use of a two-factor "compliance score," made up of light-quality and efficacy components. This mechanism allows lamp manufacturers flexibility to trade off CRI for efficacy while still meeting the targets.

Let's do a trial calculation. Plugging in the current Cree TW bulb's CRI and efficacy, we see that it already meets the proposed 2017 criterion, with a compliance score of 339.2. To meet the 2019 level of 350, Cree would have to increase efficacy by 11 lm/W, or raise the CRI by 4 points, or some combination of the two.

That factor of 3 in the compliance score calculation favors quality over efficacy. While the California Energy Commission is chartered to work towards energy conservation, they figure that we won't get the maximum possible gains out of LEDs' energy efficiency if there is a consumer backlash against SSL like the one that sunk the CFL over the last few decades.

LED replacement bulbs have to be of high enough quality, in terms of both light output and longevity, to win over the general public. California is out ahead of other governments in recognizing and codifying this fact of life.

Here is the CEC's staff report (80-page PDF) proposing these new rules. Its first half focuses on small-diameter directional lamps, and the second covers general service LED lamps with E12, E17, E26, and GU-24 bases, including omnidirectional, directional, and decorative products.

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting

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