The Replacement Dichotomies
Side One: It is acceptable, if not desirable, for LED luminaires to be replaced at the end of their service life. This is a common position among a wide range of LED product manufacturers. They make the case that extracting performance and costs from LED products requires a level of integration that cannot be accomplished using modules. This further forwards to concept that modules restrict design freedom, that integrated products are free to create light source forms to suit the intended end-product design, without restriction of standardized sockets or modules. Therefore, it is proposed, that the highest performing SSL products will be integrated units, replaced at the end of their life with the next generation of even higher performing product. The model often used to illustrate this approach is that of televisions, where the entire units are replaced, rather than serviced, with newer generation products.
Side Two: The single most active market in solid state deployment is that of the direct lamp and fixture replacement space. This includes screw based lamps made to imitate the light output and distribution of obsolete technologies, and extends now to bi-pin linear forms to replace fluorescent sources. Oddly enough, the one lamp form that is not addressed, is the one most universally despised in commercial and residential markets alike – the plug-in CFL lamp – but let us not be distracted by this obvious and blatant oversight. This replacement lamp direction appears to make the statement that the existing infrastructure of sockets is not replaceable, that demanding building owners and end use customers to replace existing fixtures is a burden beyond acceptable limits. This also forwards the concept that the existing socket forms within compromised products, is acceptable, regardless of its severe negative impact on SSL product performance, design freedom and appearance.
See the dichotomies? What is being proposed is that it is unacceptable to consider that all existing infrastructure of obsolete lighting product be replaced with new technology – while simultaneously proposing that at the end of an SSL products service life, it is acceptable to expect the same customers replace entire fixtures to restore lighting and update to the latest iteration of technology. This same dichotomy also states that the use of modules is an unacceptable restriction on design freedom, while simultaneously stating that retrofitting LED sources into compromised form factors and sockets designed for obsolete technologies is a valid and desirable market approach. Further hidden inside of these issues is the dichotomy of costs. It appears that the pursuit of the replacement lamp paradigm is hobbled by customers who refuse to accept the concept of an $8 lamp to replace a $1 lamp, while the replacement luminaire model appears to indicate that customers of the future will find it acceptable to bear the cost of labor and materials to replace entire luminaire inventories, over simply replacing a low cost module or insert. Complicating this dichotomy is the idea that in the future, the same cost reduction strategies used to make affordable whole-fixture replacements seemingly acceptable, could not be applied equally, if not more effectively, in reducing the cost of replacement modules, making the concept of whole fixture replacement less attractive.
Paradoxes Show Failures in Logic
Lighting customers today are little changed from lighting customers 100 years ago. The goal of the vast majority is to realize acceptable lighting performance at the lowest possible initial and long term cost. Even though there are those who wish to see a future of lighting where decision making is made on objective basis, comparing operating expenses to initial costs, and basing decisions on rational, rock solid logic, this has never been the case in any market, least of which the lighting market. Lighting may be the myopic pursuit of a few, who see it as the center of the known universe, to the rest it is but one of thousands of other considerations of building ownership and maintenance. Further, solid-state lighting is not the only technology grabbing headlines today. For homeowners, within the blend of games, smart phones, entertainment displays, new cars, toys, and other distractions, lighting is not even an afterthought. For businesses, the blend of skepticism born from decades of marketing hype, blend with distrust for federal intrusion, local regulation, and soft economic conditions means that talk of lighting energy costs too often fall low on the list of immediate need, to those with ears ringing from past promises un-kept.
The reason we have the dichotomies described here is that their are too few involved in the direction of SSL deployment who are actually experienced and sensitive to the actual lighting customer base. Committees populated by manufacturers, congressional lobbyists acting on behalf of corporate marketers, federal, local and state agencies and utilities creating policies to capture federal funds – all comprise a fools foundation, where idealistic and monetary goals are pursued with little real recognition of the underlying realities that shape the market. Governments and corporations are more alike than either wish to admit. They are both so blinded by their own myopic agendas, they frequently fail to see their way to an achievable solution. Most become so introverted, they form the opinion that the reason their approaches meet objections from those they impact, is that the ignorant masses are simply unable to grasp their brilliance. The greater the objection, the more brilliant they believe themselves to be.
For those who believe whole fixture replacement at end of service life is acceptable – I propose that what will actually happen is that lighting levels in affected spaces will decline steadily well below acceptable levels, demanding new legislation be put in place to enforce minimum light levels in all spaces in an effort to require reluctant customers to replace every fixture they own on a regular basis. With the cost of labor significantly more than the cost of the replacement product, rationalizing whole fixture replacement costs becomes less and less logical as the cost of luminaires drop. When the skill level is changed from simple re-lamp/re-module to whole fixture tear out and replacement, the cost of labor and time invested increases exponentially, resulting in a harder and harder case against replacement. The end result will be declining lighting qualities over time, as replacement is put off year after year, including the period when individual fixtures begin to fail from driver/power supply loss. One has only to visit any large scale commercial or public structure to see the level of tolerance to failed individual luminaires. Couple this with declining lumen output, and one can see where this is going. This has all the earmarks of repeating the mess Mercury vapor products caused, where dimly lighted fixtures remained in service, long after the light levels had dropped below acceptable levels. While the TV model is compelling, one is likley to buy only one TV as a replacement, costing a few hundred dollars every few years. When the cost of replacement is several thousands of dollars in that same period, the resistance to this model will increase exponentially. This will be particularly true of large commercial facilities, where the cost of labor and disruption to operations is compounded.
For the believers in Edison sockets and bi-pin linear retrofits, I suggest that this is handing manufacturers of conventional luminaires a free pass on technology. They can continue to make obsolete product as long as there are retrofit lamps to fill the gap. Rather than being these entities into the new technology, having them invest and participate in the deployment of SSL as a whole, they can avoid change and stay on the sidelines for as long as the retrofit lamp is available. Here is another nugget of thought. As retrofit lamp costs drop, there will be (already are) manufacturers who drop pursuing SSL integrated products, pass on considering any LED modules in development, to return to installing Edison sockets and fluorescent tombstones in products as a cheaper and less costly path. Further, since UL listing of incandescent products is significantly faster, less painful and less costly, dumping LED in favor of producing Edison socket product is a rational approach – allowing their customers to continue to make the same choices in light sources they do now.
Dichotomies and paradoxes exist at times when many parties are pursuing their own myopic paths with the same conviction as those in direct opposition. This is further enabled when those affected are not directly and fully considered or engaged, and further fueled when those affected are not valued at all. Regardless of the fallacies of marketers throughout SSL, who dream the dream of the day when trillions of light fixtures are treated like the latest release of the iPhone, this is a very unlikely and undesirable model for building lighting systems. As we integrate controls and automation into this scene, the issues become more complex and difficult.
The first real solution is to stop the further introduction, production, and distribution of lamp sockets designed for obsolete sources. The Edison socket cannot pass current UL standards of safety, so can easily be targeted for elimination. If not by outright ban, then by requiring each socket be fitted with an appropriate disconnect devise that cuts power any time the lamp is unscrewed. Add to this the requirement that the socket be made of thermally conductive material, in order to facilitate their use as a platform for SSL sources, while maintaining proper wire temperatures. These two requirements will simultaneously increase the pain of continued Edison socket use, while making those that do remain safe and usable as the SSL platform they are becoming. Additionally, create a new tombstone style socket specific to LED retrofit lamp use, with appropriate listing and mechanical/electrical safety to reflect their actual use as retrofits into existing sheet metal fluorescent housings. Add the requirement that these sockets must be used in conjunction with the replacement of the ballast and lamp in order to avoid the entire luminaire be re-listed under UL standards.
The second real solution is to escalate the effort to create socket-able modules for SSL luminaires. While there are certainly limitations to this approach and impacts on lighting fixture design freedom, it is inescapable that under the current state of “design freedom” the vast majority of end products now are nothing more than re-hash of existing fluorescent and incandescent product. Apparently, design freedom does not correlate with exercising it, so there is no case to be made to avoid use of replaceable LED/SSL source modules in downlights, troffers, linear strips, industrial high bays, task lighting, accent lights, and other forms where existing products based on replacing luminaires now using light bulb technology. For those products where this is impractical, such as thin line linear, and architectural feature lighting, standards for wire connectors should be developed to differentiate and facilitate replacement of these products without needing complete tear-out retrofitting. This will simplify the application of SSL for a larger population of luminaire manufacturer, while eliminating the need for whole fixture replacements in the future, for those who find this an unacceptable concept.
Further, until standards for LED package voltage and current are established and adhered to, driver manufacturers will be unable to resolve the diversity they face from the infinite array of products they attempt to support. It is time to set aside the pursuit of market differentiation to create proprietary strangle holds on customers, in favor of at least a starting foundation of shared specification products that module, luminaire, and driver manufacturers can apply in economic and uniform fashion.
Revolutions are great things. However, as the founders of the US discovered, and many countries are now realizing, when revolutions take the form of a free-for all anarchy, there is no productive end. In the US, founders pulled the country together using various tactics that, individually, were ideologically compromised, but binding of the largest number of contributors. The SSL revolution within lighting will require a similar approach. And just as any revolution requires the power of guns and money, if the end result is not better for the people being fought for, it will never succeed. Finding a path that does not make brash, unrealistic assumptions about what customers will and will not do in the future, and understanding what place lighting plays in the lives of those paying the bills, is a great first and necessary step.
In an effort to create the highest possible performance in a portable lighting product, assembling the right combination of components is essential. Obviously the process begins with an efficient LED suited to the lighting effect desired. The LED must then be matched with an efficient driver. Finally, the driver must be fed power from an efficient power supply that converts incoming AC line voltage to clean DC power. Efficiency is generally found in matching the load of the LED to a driver designed for that load with no necessary over-capacity. Then, mating the driver to an efficient power supply matched in size to the driver’s operating load is necessary to produce the highest combined efficiency. (more…)
When the electric lamp was introduced at the turn of the century, the first push for product was to create retrofit kits for gas lamps. They ran one wire down the pipe and used the pipe steel as the neutral/ground. The first fittings screwed into the gas lantern where the mantle and burner mounted. This was seen as an important first step. So was the business of creating new electric table and wall lamps that looked like candle holders, oil lamps, and gas lamps from lanterns to shaded products once shielding a glass enclosure for the flame based light source.
In 110 years since, the commercial market has abandoned all of this to use the new technologies, from incandescent to fluorescent and HID, in new product forms enabled by the technology. This is why the commercial market today is reasonably efficient, given the state of the source technologies in use. It is also why most commercial lighting will be all new product designs using SSL in new ways. While it seems retrofit PAR lamps are a good fit, in fact, most lighting upgrades are installing new products, dedicated LED product, from cove lights to display, and recessed down and troffer lighting. Most commercial products today could not exist within the limits of gas lighting, while even more cannot work without fluorescent or HID. Soon, there will be a growing range of SSL product not possible otherwise – as it should be.
On the other hand, pandering to the residential market has produced a condition where the design vocabulary remains founded on retrofitting of gas, oil, and wax light source technologies. Table lamps and sconces today in this segment would look as home in 1889 as they do today. Retrofitting these exposed lamp products with CFL has been a disastrous mix of bad performance and horrible lighting quality. Retrofit versions of one of the only new designs to strike residential – the ceiling bent glass light – is truly awful when lamped with CFL. <br><br>I am amused and a little bewilderment that we are going to use LEDs to retrofit the electric lamps that are just retrofits of gas and oil lanterns. This causes consumers to make the direct comparison in the exact same fixture, between two technologies of completely different lineage, often resulting in dissatisfaction. Part of the failure of CFLs as retrofits, is they cannot stand up to a direct comparison with the beloved incandescent lamp, in the same product, side-by-side. New products that offer no direct comparison, allows the new technology to deliver new value, on its own terms. The incandescent lamp is a wonderful light source, if you ignore life, fragility and energy use – which is exactly what the residential market has done for 50 years. LEDs will never produce an exactly equal one-for-one replacement, they will always be compromised as a retrofit, as the retrofit architecture compromises the technology to fit an obsolete form factor. However, there is infinite opportunity in deploying SSL products that beat incandescent lamps for light quality and aesthetics, that make the old burner lamps look like big black phenolic rotary phones.
Consumers replace old products all the time, of value well beyond that of table lamps and a few sconces. From phones and entertainment gear to cars, furniture, and homes (average stay is just 7 years, so there is no truly inseparable connection between the content of any home building), pressing for a replacement of the old lighting junk, only delays adoption. Manufacturers should be focusing on deploying products that entice customers to move from their old obsolete product to new and better energy efficient products. This has been played out in the telecommunications market, entertainment market, electronic game market, computer market, automotive market, etc… It can be put in place here, if that is made the focus. In street lighting, the leading solution selected is all new LED street lights, not retrofit lamps – for good reason – it is the best approach. Same applies to garage lighting, down-lighting, cove linear lighting, display case lighting, and a growing range of new SSL products being installed to replace obsolete incandescent, fluorescent and HID products. Change is not an issue – when it delivers good value. When retrofits are seen as the preferred solution – this indicates a failure of the market to deliver lighting products of greater value than the compromised retrofit solution.
It my own view that the money being offered by the government as a reward for creating a direct replacement lamp should be spent in stead on awarding manufacturers who innovate new and improved high efficiency lighting to replace incandescent products of all types, including delivering new products that satisfy residential aesthetic interests without continuing a third generation legacy of obsolete light sources.
I respect those pursuing quality retrofit lamp offerings, and accept that my views are not yet widely shared. However, that does not mean I agree with the approach, or promote it as a valid or desirable approach, as there is no such thing as universal truth. We should all feel free to pursue this transformational period in any way we feel is the best fit. In the end, what wins will be what sells, which will likely be a broad array of product from retrofits, to all new products that change lighting in some way.
The sooner we take on the task of moving from horses dragging wood wheel carts around dirt roads, and look ahead to putting SSL to work in new ways to deliver exciting new value, the sooner the interest in retrofit lamps will fade – just as the interest in rabbit ears on console televisions, 8 track tapes, pong games, and stand alone PDAs has. This takes a concerted and focused effort, not a short sighted vision using seemingly easy paths.
Think about this: As we discuss this issue, recognizing that the incandescent lamp is obsolete, the availability of retrofit lamps is enabling decorative residential product manufacturers to continue to make, market, and sell all new products with Edison sockets. With no pressure to change, and plenty of excuses not to, when exactly do we make the real transformation from one technology to another? While fitting retrofit lamps into valuable legacy products does make some sense – allowing new products to continue and advance this as a new product approach is ridiculous.
For these reasons, I do not directly support, nor do I support my tax money being spent on subsidizing, the advancement of retrofit lamp deployment as a priority. If it is going to exist, it should do so on its own as a short term patch, with every other effort focused on moving forward, encouraging manufacturers to move away from obsolete platforms, and rewarding innovators for leadings us into the future.
The challenge is not getting consumers at all levels to swap light bulbs in familiar products – the challenge is in creating new value that is irresistible to them, that causes the market to abandon its familiar obsolete products to capture this value for themselves. This will not come from clumsy fix ups and compromised solutions.
I am personally exhausted with the constant barrage of PR hype clowns that have invaded the entire SSL market space, it’s like a bad virus that feeds on active brain cells like some zombie brain eating monster that insists on howling at the top of its lungs whenever it thinks its done something interesting. The lighting market has always had a little bit of a stomach pit inducing illness, with claims made that are silly and obviously not founded on the reality normal humans are forced to exist within. However, what has been happening over the last 5 years coming from the SSL universe is an all new illness, it’s far more aggressive, and more painful.
Part of this is due to a change in paradigm regarding marketing. In the past, lighting companies employed in-house marketing people, who used local marketing agencies to place ads, or do some graphic work on catalogs. I know, as this is the function I performed for three leading product manufacturers for almost 20 years. We communicated to our target audience through reps, catalog sheets, web sites, trade shows, and an occasional letter campaign. Few actually used big PR agencies with broad marketing campaigns aimed into the wind. Know why? Simple, they are really expensive, so were never even considered as affordable, let alone useful. Most have zero knowledge of the market, think that that lack of knowledge is not an issue, and cost more for a few press releases than most total marketing budgets for an entire year. It takes the funding of venture capital to back a company with the funds needed to spend what they do on PR, while at the same time producing the need to broadcast their message to the world at large to support investors who are outside this market. The result, we now have a pile of non-lighting PR agencies with bullhorns, blaring whatever their customer companies (also non-lighting people) tell them is news to our once relatively quiet lighting world. The resulting din is akin to a neighbor who can’t seem to listen to music without cranking the dial up on an expensive amp to “11″. To make matters worse, the music selection is like bump-bump rap, the same noise, over and over and over, drumming and pounding messages of efficacy world records and earth shattering performance that will save the planet from certain destruction by incandescence, and fluorescence.
To make all of this even more painful, is that this virus is unpredictable. One day I get pounded with three releases that when exposed to the light of day squirm off the screen and hide under a table. You’ve seen them, the claims of a 12W LED product with a CBCP of 4,000, and 800 lumens beating a 70W Ceramic Metal Halide producing 22,000 CBCP and 2,100 lumens – or the claims that the LEDs used will last a lifetime, or that if everyone used the product, our teeth would become whiter, and our skin smoother. Anything goes here, from claims of efficacies of 180 lumens per watt (at some stupid CCT), to performance comparisons that are simply fiction no matter how you look at it. Then, the next day, you get an interesting release about a color control system that, well, oddly enough… actually provides something useful and interesting. Unfortunately the ratio of garbage to inspiration is heavily weighted toward the landfill side of the formula.
The cultural shift that surrounds solid-state is not founded on anything the electronics gurus believe. Contrary to the impression that we are slow-witted laggards, we lighting people will absorb and put SSL, to use, just as we have every other useful technology that has come before it. When the SSL providers actually produce lighting product (not just the LEDs, not just an electronic gadget, but a real live luminaire product) we will find uses for it, IF it works, produces a benefit beyond just using LEDs, and if the price makes sense in balance to the benefits realized. By this, I mean benefits in lighting terms, as we define it, not in terms of PR baloney, engineer pipe dreams, or marketing department trickery – I mean in real terms, using real data, real photometric tests, etc… The electronics gurus give us too little credit here, and don’t see where the real culture clash is founded – a huge difference in the perception of money.
The difference between an SSL start up and a lighting industry start up is spectacular. The vast majority of lighting industry startups began from the personal checkbooks and savings accounts of individuals, who worked their way into a market one step at a time, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, and rarely with much fanfare from expensive marketing entities from New York or Chicago executive towers. We are talking about real world, grass roots, dirty hands startups. Solid-state startups, at least by the time we see them, have a lot more money at hand… a lot. Most have more cash from venture capitalists than most lighting company startups realize in total sales after 20 years of effort. Having a starting fund of $20M is not unusual in an SSL startup, while I personally know of dozens of lighting manufacturers who started with less than a few thousand, scraped out of personal savings.
The result of all of this, like the invasion of South America by the Spaniards, is the spread of SSL Hype Clown Virus. A lyric from a recent Pink! album (Funhouse) illustrates this well… “This museum’s full of ash, once a tickle, now a rash… this used to be a fun house, now its filled with evil clowns….” Unfortunately, behind all this overly aggressive and ridiculous press is a population of really creative technicians, who are making strides and inventing new things we will all come to put to work. It’s kind of like having a best friend married to a loud and obnoxious partner – in the end you avoid them both to maintain sanity. There is a part of this happening in the adoption cycle of SSL. There are more than a few potential customers who are so sickened by SSL HCV they can’t see the great technology behind it.
There needs to be some effort to vaccinate this market from the most aggressive forms of the PR sickness. This can only come from the solid-state providers themselves, reigning in what has become a real evil-clown parade, leaving behind horse apples and associated stench. We lighting people are not going to respond to this positively. We have heard so much trash talk, been promised the impossible, and seen so many ridiculous claims, that we’re becoming deaf to the noise, reducing the effectiveness of any releases going forward anyway. Might as well try a new angle – clarity, realistic statements, backed by independent test results and data we can all put to use. Fire the high power marketing agencies, spend the money on more product, and communicate to us all like the professionals we are.
With Lighting Science Group acquiring Lamina, Philips absorbing Color Kinetics then Genlyte, and Cree absorbing LLF, on top of Acuity acquiring Io, and other similar combination over the last year, it would see that solid0state market is already trying to gel up. Are we really already at the point where its time to focus on market share over innovation? Is this technology already at the point where we know where this is all going, and its time to build the big conglomerates to satisfy the mainstream demand with already known product? I don’t think so (more…)
The Lighting Facts web site, sponsored by the DOE is an outstanding addition to the tools needed to address product characteristics for lighting customers. On the site, there is a pledge for those interested to become SSL Quality Advocates. This is a good start, as is the sites lisitng of manufacturers and partners.
On the site is a product label concept that does a nice job of putting some of the information needed in graphic, easy to read form.
There should be four more items added to the label (more…)
While the efforts of the DOE, EPA, IALD, IESNA, NGLIA, etc… are certainly productive and useful, they are too inwardly focused when it comes to dissemination of information. Consumers, who make the purchase decisions in the retail market remain blissfully ignorant in the absence of information targeted at them. Solid-state lighting will suffer if we do not make a direct effort to educate and grow awareness of this technology and how to identify good products over bad, and what is reasonable to expect from it.
There is a lot of noise in the market trumpeting the general idea that LEDs are the ultimate solution. To amplify this, technically challenged press reporters have offered that LEDs last forever, have no heat, and use no energy. This sets customers up to be exploited by manufacturers of poor performing products ,making big claims, wrapped around cheap products to profit from the hype. Without realistic information in hand, customers are being set up to be taken advantage of in this cloud of ignorance. This ultimately leads to disappointment. In the end, we all suffer from the negative impact this has on customer perception.
All people are consumers first, including engineers, architects, (more…)
The following two quotes say more than I can (gathered from recent news releases and related blogs).
“We are not spending one dollar on research and development for compact fluorescents,” said Kaj den Daas, chairman and chief executive of Philips Lighting. Instead, the bulk of its R.& D. budget, which is 5.2 percent of the company’s global lighting revenue, is for L.E.D. research.
From General Electric:
GE spokesman David Schuellerman replied that “GE Consumer & Industrial and GE Global Research have suspended the development of the high-efficiency incandescent lamp (HEI) to place greater focus and investment on what we believe will be the ultimate in energy efficient lighting — light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).”
For anyone in the lighting and energy industry, (more…)
The only way to benchmark the good and the bad of LED lighting in typical home environments is to put them in place and live with them. These images show that even current LED devices can work, producing attractive, if not dramatics effects, and some energy saving . This is a summary of one test project.
The original lighting in the main stair and entry hall included (3) 50PAR20 NFL lamps and (3) 75PAR30 NFL lamps, mounted in track heads. These were dimmed to roughly 30% of full light output, and were measured to consume a total of 265 watts. The LED retrofit lamps are operated at 100%, since no suitable dimmers have been found to control them. The LED products consume a total of 36 watts. This represents and energy savings of 86% over the halogen lamps replaced. The cost of the LED lamps was $164. With an annual energy cost saving of $18, payback is over 10 years. However, with no loss of color and quality, the contribution of (more…)