Get Smart Fast on LEDs

LEDs are gaining credibility in the lighting market, and engineers need to learn to use LED technology quickly


LEDs are a booming frontier of energy savings for residential and commercial buildings. Offering higher efficiency, longer life, controllability, cutting-edge fixture design, and no mercury, there is a terrific race underway among traditional and upstart companies to establish territory with patents and products.

At the same time, product development, testing, and certification standards are either very new or are not yet complete, and enough junk product has been dumped into the market to give designers, consumers, and utility rebate program managers the LED heebie-jeebies.

Standards development organizations such as National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Illumination Engineering Society (IES), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) have been working collaboratively with manufacturers, federal agencies, private-sector firms, and other stakeholders to create the new standards leading to reliable and predictable LED performance.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also are working with stakeholders to facilitate a credible market for LEDs. The DOE has a product testing and reporting program called CALiPER, and a labeling program called Lighting Facts. And together, DOE and EPA have been refining the Energy Star labeling program for all luminaires (solid-state LEDs, fluorescents, etc.).

The new Energy Star luminaire certification specification will combine existing specifications for LEDs and other types of lighting. The first draft was published in May 2010 and a second draft is due any time. The source/bulb specification should be available later this year. The certification process also is being redeveloped, with new laboratory accreditation and quality control requirements.

What’s really important right now about LEDs is that engineering firms absolutely need to develop expertise on incorporating LED technology into commercial and industrial building design. Energy codes are tightening up lighting specifications, making LEDs essential. Firms must work consider how to integrate LED lighting controls with building automation systems, daylighting designs, and demand management/response strategies.  

With all of this activity, it would be helpful to provide a hyperlinked resource list for engineers and lighting designers. Take advantage of these resources to start getting smart on LEDs. 


LED Resources

Read the Consortium for Energy and the Environment (CEE) position paper on solid state lighting (SSL) technologies, which describes the product situation quite well and provides instruction on what to look for when specifying or buying LEDs.

Get to know the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s voluntary package-labeling standard, Lighting Facts (, which clearly identifies the lumens, Watts, and lumens per Watt product data, and provides a color rendering index on a color scale and in numeric degrees Calvin (K). More than 950 registered products from 130 manufacturers use the label.

Become familiar with the U.S. Dept. of Energy Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program, which conducts three rounds of product tests each year. More than 250 products have been tested to date, and testing reports are available at the CALiPER website.

The most current listing of Energy Star labeled commercial LED products is available here. General information and a master list of products are at

Access the first draft of the Energy Star certification specifications for LEDs and participate in or follow developments at On page 9 of the PDF, you’ll find a hyperlinked list of current product development and testing standards, which can save you a lot of research time.


Word on the Street


After installing LEDs, including after a retrofit, you will likely measure the lighting output on work surfaces to ensure you are getting the design illuminance where it’s needed. However, an informational discussion on light meter response to LED output on LinkedIn group “LED’s for Lighting” warns that light meters may under-report LED output by about 10%. Check the discussion thread started by Jacklyn Stanton for more information.


About Those Rebates

Energy Star ratings are available for some products, and where utility rebates are offered for LEDs, they generally are tied to the Energy Star list. For example, California’s investor-owned utilities, such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, offer LED rebates of $30 per fixture for the Energy Star labeled products.

Some commercial fixture types, however, are not yet covered by Energy Star. To help bridge the gap, regional organizations, such as Design Lights Consortium, a collaboration of utility companies and regional energy-efficiency organizations, are filling some gaps with certification tests similar to Energy Star. DLC, for example, covers refrigerated case and display case lighting, ceiling-mounted luminaires for parking garages, and high- and low-bay fixtures for commercial and industrial buildings. If Energy Star eventually covers these categories, the intermediary certifications will be phased out. Some utilities are tapping into these regional certifications.


More LED Resources:

  • When direct rebates (for example, of $30 per fixture) are not available, utility programs offering calculated incentives, such as California’s Super Good Sense program, might be applicable to LEDs. There also might be state and federal tax incentives. Check out the NEMA website,
  • PGE has an excellent web page on LEDs that provides a good introduction to the technology and hyperlinks on its rebate programs at Note that they provide rebates for refrigerated case LED lighting, which is not Energy Star labeled.
  • LinkedIn has very active groups for LEDs. Here are the ones that I follow; feel free to e-mail recommendations for more to
    • LED Lighting
    • LEDs for Lighting
    • Solid State Lighting
  • There are a few magazines that cover LEDs specifically, and they have electronic newsletters you might want to subscribe to. Advantages for subscribing include advisories of Webcasts and conferences, and news releases about developments in codes and standards.

Ivanovich is the president of The Ivanovich Group, which provides research, analysis, and consulting services to the buildings industry. Ivanovich is a former chief editor of Consulting-Specifying Engineer and HPAC Engineering.

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