Each year, members of the Access Fixtures team attend LIGHTFAIR to investigate new technologies, LED news, and jump on the latest trends in the lighting industry. This year, we traveled to Philadelphia for LIGHTFAIR 2017 and left with new leads, ideas, and exciting updates about the ever-evolving lighting industry.
Standardization of Components and Form Factors
Today’s lighting industry seems perpetually torn between the old and the new. Almost every display at LIGHTFAIR 2017 featured older, HID-style housings alongside newer, slimmer, built-for-LED fixtures. LED fixtures have certainly claimed the lion’s share of the market, but HID fixtures and housings are still ubiquitous. It was clear enough that the HID standard is a hard habit to kick.
And, as LED technology comes closer and closer to being the one-and-only lighting option, certain LED components have dominated the market. MeanWell drivers for example, have sprung past the competition and have almost become an industry standard. This is similar to how Advance had become the industry standard for fluorescent ballasts. For chips, just about every company touted their Samsung, Lumileds, and Cree LEDs, while virtually no new chip brands were mentioned.
Innovation Is Incremental
The absence of new and/or revolutionary form factors and the standardization of components led to more incremental innovation. The top LED chip manufacturers are increasing their light output to 200 lumens per watt or better, so almost every luminaire emits between 120 and 140 luminaire lumens per watt.
Cost of Luminaires
LED chips continue to fall in price, so much so that the cost of chips is now often less than 30% of the total cost of the luminaire. With chip prices declining, the cost of luminaire housings is becoming more relevant. In other words, while the prices of LED luminaires are falling, the cost of the luminaire housing is not. Overall, the costs of luminaires under 100 watts have not decreased as much as those between 100 and 300 watts, since the cost of the housings are a larger percentage of the total luminaire cost. The costs of luminaires like high bays between 100 and 300 watts, have significantly decreased. Luminaires over 300 watts are declining less than the others, as the form factors and engineering are still progressing. At higher wattages, there is still significant product differentiation.
Options Are Standard
Many features that were once expensive add-ons for LED fixtures are becoming built-in standards. Examples include 0–10v dimming, photocells, motion sensors, and even integrated widget-type controls that tie in occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting. In some instances, it is more cost-effective for manufacturers to build the options in; customers now have the option to utilize the option or not at no extra cost.
Specifications Are Suspect
With manufacturers pressed by low prices and limited differentiation, manufacturers want to provide superior luminaire performance specifications. This is making the need for accurate data more important than ever. Many specifications are either inaccurate or inflated to make the fixtures seem better than they may actually be. In many instances, published lumens and wattages do not align with data from independent lab test results and/or IES files. Rated life, measured via LM70, remains important. One luminaire may achieve 140 lumens per watt by overdriving the LEDs, rendering its LM70 rated life to 50,000 hours, while a better-engineered luminaire may achieve the same lumens per watt and be rated LM70 at 400,000 hours.
With limited differentiation between LED luminaires, luminaire manufacturers are looking to add controls to their fixtures. Basic widgets are the most commonly found controls. They are low in cost, can be easily integrated into LED luminaires, are programmable, and can manage occupancy and photocell functions (including daylight harvesting). Companies that specialize in controls are developing more advanced systems with iPhone apps and wireless network controls.
ROI and Controls
ROI on controls remains a challenge. LED luminaires can save 60% to 85% on energy. Controls can save 20% to 50% of the remaining 15% to 40% of energy used. In other words, controls remain expensive and complicated relative to potential savings. Widgets may make sense for smaller organizations in some instances, but more complex controls are only viable options for large institutional users during peak demand periods. In general, controls remain a “solution looking for a problem.”
Solar LED Luminaires
Solar-powered LED luminaires, specifically systems integrated on a single pole as opposed to those using solar farms and external batteries, are desirable for off-grid applications. When it is cost prohibitive to run power from the grid to a specific site, solar-powered LEDs may be worth considering. While many solar-powered LED luminaires have so many extraneous parts and arms they appear to have been designed by Dr. Frankenstein, some companies are increasing light output, lengthening rated life, and boosting durability and improving appearance. Expect to find solar-powered LED luminaires lighting walkways, parking lots, and even sport lighting, in 2017.
Speak to an Access Fixtures Lighting Specialist about Choosing the Right Fixture
Access Fixtures is your factory-direct source for all light fixtures needed to suitably illuminate your property. We want to make sure you get the exact fixture for your needs, your budget, and your goals. We are passionate about lighting and love what we do—we’ll get you an answer. To speak with an Access Fixtures lighting specialist, call (800) 468-9925.