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Soraa to ENERGY STAR: Light quality vital for LED adoption

The GaN on GaN LED specialist has asked the EPA not to repeat mistakes made on compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
To ensure the long-term success and widespread market adoption of LED lamps, Soraa last week urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program to address light quality.

In particular, the firm is concerned about colour rendering, in its new lamp specification.

Support for higher colour rendering has been expressed by the California Lighting Technology Centre; Shuji Nakamura and Steven DenBaars; the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD); Northeast Utilities Companies (NSTAR); and lighting designer Chip Israel; who all filed formal comments on EPA’s Draft 3 product specification for LED lamps.

“Poor light quality ruined many consumers’ confidence in compact fluorescents,” says Mike Krames, CTO of Soraa. “The ENERGY STAR qualification must be associated with LED lamps that provide a better quality of light; otherwise, the program will start to lack credibility with end-users and the low adoption rate history of CFLs will be repeated by LED lamps.”

In comments filed with the EPA on May 17th, Soraa told EPA that while ENERGY STAR is not a mandatory standard; the agency must recognise that it has become a de facto standard for utility rebate dollars critical to lowering the initial cost of LED products.

In the absence of a second high colour rendering index (CRI) tier, it is likely that, similar to the historical situation with CFLs, the vast majority of lamp products will be engineered to perform close to the lower boundaries of quality requirements as set in the ENERGY STAR lamp specification for cost reasons, as shown in the figure below.

Light output vs. colour rendering index (CRI) for both PAR Lamps (left) and CFL (right) from the ENERGY STARQualified Lighting Product List (QLPL), compared to conventional light sources (red ovals). The current standards drive the industry to predominantly produce modest colour quality lamps, which do not address the colour quality barrier to adoption

Left unaddressed, this lack of high colour quality lighting products will lead to a stalling in consumer adoption of energy efficient lighting technology, similar to what has been observed to date with CFLs.

“To persuade consumers to purchase LEDs instead of incandescent lamps, LED lamps must be seen as high-quality products worth the initial higher price differential. Therefore, LED lamps must closely replicate the colour rendering of the incandescent and halogen lamps that they replace,” explains Ravi Parikh, Energy Services Specialist at Burlington Electric in Vermont.

“The Soraa VIVID is such a product, providing superior colour quality while improving energy efficiency. As a utility, we are always willing to consider higher incentives for projects utilising lamps such as Soraa’s. We want to ensure customer satisfaction by reduced energy bills and maintained - if not, improved - quality of light. There is no need to sacrifice quality for efficiency. It is critical we understand the value in both.”

To provide a more balanced portfolio of ENERGY STAR lamp products on the market and mitigate colour quality as a barrier to wider adoption of energy efficient lighting products, Soraa proposed to the EPA a second high CRI tier with differential efficacy requirements taking into account the inherent lumen per watt trade-off as a function of CRI for phosphor converted white LEDs.

Soraa proposed to keep the existing minimum efficacy requirements, but raise the colour quality to a minimum CRI 90. For lamps with CRI between 80 and 90, Soraa proposes to increase the luminous efficacy requirements.

Soraa says its proposal will increase overall energy savings through enhanced adoption of higher light quality lamps as well as through higher energy efficiency in lamps of modest light quality.

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